What a year 2018 has been. Facebook has been at the centre of a huge scandal that has changed the platform forever, taxi company Uber rolled out (and quickly recalled) self-driving cars, over 200 million people have been fighting each other battle royale style on Fortnite and Google has gotten even smarter. That’s right, the impossible has become possible, and the new Google landscape means that SEO has become a whole new ballgame. Read on to discover our end of year SEO round-up, where our SEO expert Rob Goodison has compiled a list of tips so that you can be at the top of your game for the new year.
RankBrain is a machine learning platform that Google uses to determine which search results are most relevant for searches, and it is responsible for tweaking the algorithm and assigning rankings. It works by putting queries though an interpretation model that applies different possible factors, such as, the location of the search, personalisation, and the actual words in the query to identify what the query is actually looking for. Essentially, it works by trying to provide the best, and most relevant, search results for a user’s query.
Google announced that RankBrain is Google’s third most important ranking signal, meaning that it is hugely important to optimise for it. The main things it looks for are:
Mobile sites should be your first priority. Whilst mobile-first indexing isn’t new, it’s becoming best practice to think of the mobile site as the ‘real’ website. This is because mobile website traffic now accounts for over 50% of all online traffic worldwide. Mobile indexing refers to Google using your mobile site as the starting point for its index and the foundation of how it determines rankings. Google has previously stated it has begun to prioritise mobile sites and that having a mobile friendly site’s content indexed will probably help the site perform better in search results.
UX design is the key to improving user behaviour metrics. Optimising your site for users will improve the user journey, and you’ll see an increase in metrics like: time on site, interaction with content, and a decrease in bounce rate and exit rates. Site speed is hugely important as an overloaded website with a slow page load speed will lead to a drop in sessions. The better your site’s UX, the more users will favour your site over others. Split testing ideas to find out what makes your UX better is definitely worth trying.
The majority of all queries have a YouTube video in the search results, so make sure that you’re making the most of this feature. These videos could even be used to generate links through creating embeddable content. Google algorithms have changed to prioritise websites with video content. For example, having video content on your page drives a 157% increase in organic traffic, and doubles the amount of time people will spend on your page.
Sometimes referred to as position 0, featured snippets are the instant answer cards that appear on search results. (Try typing in to Google, ‘who is Elon Musk’, and you’ll see what we mean).
In a document published in 2015, Google revealed that expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness (EAT) are some of the most important characteristics when it comes creating high quality content and ranking. Increase EAT by:
In-depth content is still the best way to rank well and generate links. The one-stop approach works best. Try to answer the initial user query and any secondary queries that are related, therefore a user won’t have to visit any other sites If your content can give them everything they want to know in one place. All-in-one content will increase user engagement, barring any site issues.
Keywords are less important (sort-of as you should still include them in your strategy to help Google understand your site). They used to dictate rankings and be the sole way in which Google would decide which search results were relevant to queries, but now keywords are just a small part of the machine that is improving user signals. Due to RankBrain trying to determine the real intent of your search, keywords are becoming more redundant as it looks into
Now, because of RankBrain, it’s important to consider your web page itself as much as the keywords you’re trying to rank for. Google looks at the context of a search as much as the content on your page, so keywords are becoming more redundant in the process of pairing difficult queries with results. For example, if someone were to search for “coffee”, they could be looking for A) a coffee, B) delivery or C) coffee facts. The search term is not specific enough so Google wouldn’t know exactly what a user is trying to find out, but RankBrain can help to eliminate this problem by pulling through external factors of the search rather than relying on keywords alone.
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