Just when you thought you had it down, Google went and changed the rules of the game… Conquering the ever-evolving SEO algorithm seems like a never ending feat and, just when you thought Google would slow things down in 2018, they decided to up the ante.
As the search engines work towards delivering the best possible results, some ranking factors shift up a gear, while others fall away. This means that as a consumer your experience is made more user friendly and relevant, but as a marketer you’re faced with a complex nightmare.
In case you battled to keep up, here are some ways that the SEO algorithm evolved this year.
Developments in Voice-Over Search
When was the last time you said, “Okay Google…” to your phone? While looking for directions to a destination? Or, while looking up a recipe for ‘healthy, sugar free, gluten free vegan brownies’? My guess is it wasn’t all too long ago…
It’s safe to say that we have become very comfortable with the idea of talking to our phones. And in fact, some studies predict that an overwhelming 50% of all searches will be done this way by 2020.
Needless to say, Google had to make some tweaks to accommodate this. Voice search calls for a new way we think about keywords, because how we type a search term and how we say it are very different. Voice searches are more natural. We speak in full sentences and ask questions. In 2018, marketers had to adapt their style of content in a way that answers those questions.
Luckily, there are a number of tools that have integrated voice search queries into their software. Tools like Rank Tracker are great ways to research the questions voice searchers are using.
Backlinks have always been Google’s “trust” factor. The more your site has, the better it would rank in the SERPs – simple as that. However, SEOs have found ways to work the system often using black hat means to gain more links than their competitors.
While Google has been clear about weighting backlinks from authority sites higher, they may also be associating linkless mentions with equal weight. Bing is already using backlinkless mentions, which was confirmed by Duane Forrester in 2016. So, it is safe to assume that Google has also adopted this approach as a ranking factor.
Changes in SERP Features
Are you still pushing to be number 1 on Google for a specific search term? Then, I’m afraid, you’re missing out on a big piece of the ranking pie. Following on from the previous year, we saw a rise in SERP features that are catching the searchers eye and clicks in organic listings.
With the evolution of the algorithm of these search features, it is important to track your site’s ranking within them. There are a number of SEO tools such as SEMRush or SERPBook that can track these positions for you.
In order to better your chances of being featured, optimise your content for structured data. Use Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool, which allows you to highlight valuable content on your web pages so that Google pays special attention to it.
A word of advice when it comes to SEO and algorithm changes: don’t panic. To their core, Google aims to create the best possible user experience for searchers.
So, why shouldn’t you?
We don’t anticipate Google slowing down any time soon, but as long as you continue creating valuable content and keep user experience in mind, you have nothing to worry about.