Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is more challenging than ever.
We’re an SEO company and we work primarily with local small businesses. Since Thanksgiving, there has been no less than four search algorithm changes from Google. Companies that do what we do have reported large variances in search results for the websites they track over the last several weeks. We’ve seen the variances too but we’re happy that our websites are, for the most part, settling in higher on the SERPS then they were when the updates started occurring.
What’s going on, why all the changes? We think Google is getting closer to their primary goal, which is to deliver the best answer to any specific query a Google search customer makes. Previously, when you asked a question on the Google search page like “What’s a good Italian restaurant near me”, Google would list a series of websites and web directories that would provide choices for the enquirer to select from. We believe Google aims to give a spoken response through your auto speaker, Bluetooth device or headphones to a query. So a query “What’s a good Italian restaurant near me” would generate a voice (male or female, your choice) saying Izzo’s, 40 reviews. 4.3 stars, pizza and Italian dishes, 100 Main St, 555-555-1212. Do you want to call and place an order”?
That’s where we think Google is going but how can your company be the answer. What do you have to do to make sure your business is the “Izzo’s” in your industry? Here are some important trends that you need to follow in 2018.
The continuing development of voice search.
Meet the Google Assistant. If you have an Android device, you already have. The Assistant is conversational, it can ask questions and contribute to a conversation. To plan for a fully operational Google Assistant you will need to embrace long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords are 3 and 4 word phrases that present a very specific query. Long tail keywords will deliver less traffic but more motivated prospects. They are far more likely to produce a positive result for you when voice search is activated. An article in Search Engine Watch suggests using a micro-targeted long-tail strategy.
Pay close attention to SERP features.
Being number one on the search page is no longer the primary purpose of your search efforts. Google wants as much information as possible on their search pages. They are accomplishing this goal through SERP features. SERP features include things like featured snippets, local packs, knowledge panels and so on. SERP features are taking clicks away from your website by giving searchers the information they need without leaving the search page.
According to Stone Temple Consulting, nearly 30% of Google searches show a Featured snippet. Companies need to strategize about how they can get their content into the Featured snippet that results from a search of one of their keywords. The Google answer box has a click through rate of over 20%, so it is a worthy goal to get your content in there.
Long-tail keywords is one answer. The more specific a query is, the better chance your content will be chosen for the snippet if you answer the question completely. Organizing your content to provide quick answers to “how” and “why” questions can give a big boost to your click through rate. Doing this will require you to learn more about your searchers intent and how to respond.
Site speed matters.
It is well known that over 50% of all Google searches are done on mobile devices and that Google favors fast loading websites. Use Google’s Page Speed Insights to find flaws in your website design that may be slowing your site down. Many platforms, including WordPress, use scripts and plugins that may not be useful for your needs or goals. Have your webmaster audit your website and determine if there is code on your site that can be deleted without adversely affecting the function or usefulness of your site.
Most websites are still built on a desktop. While most new websites are built with responsive design, it behooves a webmaster to view the site on different devices before publishing the website. Having customers and prospects find flaws in the mobile version on their phone or tablet is embarrassing in the least and costly besides. Most mobile visitors will not return to a website that does not provide a worthwhile experience on their mobile device. Engagement and bounce rate are ranking factors for SEO.
Get an SSL certificate
Google announced in 2014 that HTTPS would become a ranking factor. It had an impact. According to Tech Crunch half of web traffic was encrypted as of February of 2017. That figure has surely gone up. In addition to better SEO, having an SSL on your website gives added assurance to your visitors that their personal information is protected. The best part is that SSL certificates have become inexpensive and easier to attach.
If you’re a local business owner and take any of these steps, your ranking will go up. Take them all and your business will improve significantly. You’ll be on the first page for the keywords that matter to you. If you need help, give us a call. If you want to know how we can help with Local SEO, you can click here.