Game changing trends in SEO for 2018

We are only in April and yet I have a prediction for the rest of the year. Now I’m not saying I’m Mystic Meg but with the recent changes of everything in the world of SEO it is not a giant leap to say I can predict where this is all heading.

SEO has always been a bit of a complex science and staying up with the game is just as challenging now as it’s ever been. Google has always said they want to lead the way to a safer and higher quality web. They want to give the best results to their users when they search.

For as long as I’ve been working in this industry (which admittedly is not that long) Google has been King and therefore where they lead others are bound to follow.

To help you understand and maybe even stay ahead of the game here are my list of top trends that I can see changing the face of SEO this year.

SERPs is becoming so much more!

Many people who come to me tell me they just want to be Number 1, because then they are getting the most traffic. Well, with the rise of the newest features to SERPs this is no longer always the case.

Features such as Local Packs, Knowledge Panels & Featured Snippets are changing the way people search. They are big and pretty and they are stealing searchers attention and clicks from organic listings.

Local Pack Rankings

We’ve had Local Pack rankings now for a while, that lovely little box you get at the top of search showing all the companies local to you or the area you specified that match your query. This is a great thing as you may have a hugely competitive market, or may be battling the big boys for the top positions. Local Pack will get to the top of search result even if you are not ranking Number One, and with a lovely little star rating showing next to your name.

Your Local Pack ranking are directly linked to your Google My Business account. A tool that I honestly love so much. It has been updated recently to have new features like posts, the more info you give it the better it will work for you. It also shows up when people directly Google your business on the right hand side which is a great little bit of advertising for you, all free of charge.

All these changes are great and give you even-more chance for your clients to see your brand.

Increasingly Personalised SERPs

Google, Bing and Yahoo are all personalising their search results in many ways. Search engines use information about the users such as Location, Search History and Interests to help tailor search results to them.

This can work in your favour, if you are getting traffic to your site and most importantly your articles. The search engine will remember the users that have been to your site before and will bring it up again for them when they next search another term relevant to your brand. Quickly you will become their preferred knowledge base.

Structured Data makes your pages more interesting

Now, I know that Google has never actually confirmed that structured data is a ranking factor, and let be honest in all likelihood it’s not. But lets just forget about Google and all its lovely algorithms for a moment, I know that’s not something I say very often, if all at all (Huge Google Fan-Girl) but just bare with me.

Structured data is a way of formatting the code of a website, HTML to be specific. It tells search engines how to display listing within SERPs.

In real terms, it makes things prettier.

It gives the searcher more information, meaning they are far more likely to click on your page. Rich Snippets controlled by structured data has been proven to improve click through rate by 30%.

To get this for your site, you will need be able to edit code or get in contact with your website designer. There are few different ways to do this but most SEOs,( myself included) go with schema.org

Link-less Mentions

Backlink collection is nearly the number one thing most SEO’s will spend their time on. But this may be changing soon. Though it has not been confirmed by Google as of yet, it certainly looks as though link-less mentions of your brand could end up becoming an off-site signal of huge importance.

Google and other search engines can easily identify a mention of a brand and use it to determine a sites authority. Currently this is no more than a rumour running around the SEO world but it seems there is good reason to believe Google really is paying attention to this.

Forget slow and steady, Faster is winning this race

Okay I admit it, this bit isn’t exactly a prediction.

We know it’s coming.

We’ve known for a while.

Google has told us so if anything I’m simply the messenger but nevertheless it’s important. From July 2018 Mobile speed has become a ranking factor for Google.

Three seconds! That’s how long your page has to load, anything more and your going to start seeing your rankings fall.

You can check how your site is performing with Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. It’s a great tool and even gives you a list of way to improve your speed, straight from the horses mouth.

RankBrain Updates are making it harder for the cheaters to cheat

Now it depends on who you are, as to how you will feel about this next one. But it’s getting harder to convince Google you have great content if you really don’t. And the the penalties are even harsher than before.

Google uses a number of way to assess content and determine if it’s “comprehensive”. By looking at billions of pages across the web Googles RankBrain learns which terms are related to one another. This means it begins to understand and know what to expect from content on any given site.

So if you are sticking to your brands identity and writing quality articles about the things you do and nothing else you will be rewarded, but if you are trying to cheat the system and write low quality, high key-worded content you are more likely to fail than ever before.

Voice Search is Listening

You may not have even thought about it before now, but it’s here and getting bigger than ever. With 25% of all UK homes now having a smart hub, that’s a whopping 16 million users. And that’s just Smart Home devices. Google reports that 55% of under 21’s and 40% of adults use voice search on their devices every single day – meaning Voice Search is the real deal.

Learning how to rank within Voice Search can be somewhat of a learning curve for most people but it’s not as difficult as you may think, though it will mean integrating some new keywords specific to that area. There are plenty of tools out there that can help you do Keyword Research, my preferred one is SEO PowerSuite, it has a great bit integrated within it that allows you to find common questions people are asking search engines.

So that’s it that my predictions for 2018. Good Luck with your ranking and remember to watch this space!

How To Rank Higher In Google. Part 3 – What is Rank Score and How to track your progress?

In the last blog I taught you where to get backlinks from and how to structure your anchor text. So now that you have great content and links headed back what’s left. Well essentially that is entirely up to you. You could continue to do this with each blog you write or just leave it to do it’s own thing. But what about tracking your progress?

Well there are a few things that can track your SEO growth.

  • Rank Score
  • Alexa Rank
  • Google Analytics

Each of these, will tell you something different about your SEO progress and whether of not it is truly as effective as you want it to be.

What is Rank Score?

I briefly touched on this in the earlier post but it is a large factor in SEO. There are a few different rank scores across the web, like SEO Power Suites Domain Strength or Moz’s Domain Authority. While they have different names they all tell us pretty much the same thing.

Most third party ranking scores are based off of Google’s very own PageRank, named after one of the founders of Google – Larry Page. PageRank is a algorithm used by Google to determine the importance or authority of a webpage. The higher the score the more important Google thinks the page is. Therefore the more highly it is ranked.

So how do PageRank work?

Well PageRank ranks web pages according to their importance, or ‘link popularity’ -determined by the number and quality of the page’s backlinks. The idea is that every page on the web has a vote (that can vary in weight, depending on that page’s own Rank), and that it can cast its vote for other pages by linking out to them. The weight of each vote is diluted in proportion to the number of links on the page.

For example let’s say page A has a Rank of 10 and links out to 5 other pages. According to the original Google PageRank formula, Google would consider that 85% of the page’s PageRank gets passed on to the pages it links out to. Thus, each of the 5 pages it links to receives 8.5 divided by 5, or 1.7 out of the page’s original score of 10.

In basic terms the more authority a website has the more power its backlinks holds and the easily it will rank. PageRank is built up with the good quality content and high powered backlinks. With this in mind and some good foundation content you can really watch your Rank Score grow.

Remember all we have spoken about in the previous blogs when it come to attaining backlinks and don’t forget about social media. While sharing your content isn’t going to directly effect your ranking, it will get you some more recognition.

What about Alexa Rank?

Alexa Rank is a global traffic rank given to a website on the basis of how well it is performing relative to all the sites in the entire world. Simply put, the lower the Alexa rank, the better the estimated traffic to the site. For example Google has an Alexa rank of 1, but if your site has a score of over 100,000 is not bad as it may seem, as this is your ranking amongst the billions of sites worldwide.

Alexa is a good way to track your progress, check your Alexa rank every 3 months and see if your rank has improved. Check out your own Alexa Rank.

Will my website build effect my rank score?

Unfortunately, yes. If you have a badly built website you may end up working much harder simply to gain a few steps up. When Google looks at your website it doesn’t see the beautiful fonts and pictures, that we see. It sees the code of your website, the bare bones of it.

Often if your website was made by an online website builder the code will be terribly messy. This is due to the fact that these website builder use pre-built templates. These templates are then covered in more code to change the colours and make it fit your brand. While the final result may look beautiful to a human it is far from it to a Google bot. So much so that your ugly code may result in your hard work being ignored by Google and ultimately your SEO may be a waste of time.

So what if my code is already good?

Well then you will be fine and Google will pay you all the attention you deserve. But what does your site look like to humans. If your site is ‘aesthetically challenged’ then while you may rank highly actual humans may ignore you.

Ultimately you want a site that is coded well and looks great to humans too. While it will cost you more, a custom built website will be much better for you in the long run.

Site Speed

Another factor to take into account is site speed. How fast pages load and whether or not your pages load correctly on mobile phones.

Luckily for us, Google supplies us with two services the first of which is Page Insights.

This tool scans your site’s coding and give you a report. Covering your site speed and mobile friendliness. With Google Insights you can identify ways to make your site faster and more mobile-friendly.

The second tool they provide is The Mobile Speed Tester

This tool differs from Page Insights as it focuses solely on mobile access and does not look into the actual coding of your site. It also covers much more information and tracks how you compare to other websites in your industry.

Both of these tools are hugely useful as over half of all web traffic is now on mobile and if you load time for your website is slow most people will give up and go elsewhere. Site Speed has also recently been identified as one of the factors Google uses for ranking so improving your site speed can help hugely with your SEO rankings.

Check out your site on Google Insights  and Mobile Speed Test now.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is possibly my most favourite tool. Not only is it updated constantly and so it’s arguably the most reliable and comprehensive tool, but it’s also free!

Google Analytics is prefect for tracking everything on your site. Plus it’s super user-friendly. You can set up all kinds of views, goals and filters to completely customised it for your needs. You can track everything from gender to interests about the people that come onto your website. As well as what pages they are looking at and where they have come from. This is prefect for tracking just how popular a blog you have written is

If you set up Google Search Console as well, it opens up even more great features for Google Analytics. Including being able to track the exact keywords that are bringing people into your site. The more you use it the more you will wonder how you could ever do without it.

Sign up to Google Analytics here.

Its called Search Engine Optimisation not Google Optimisation

The thing you need to remember when it comes to ranking is that Google is only the very tip of the iceberg. Do you really just want to know how to rank higher in Google? Or is there more you could be covering. There are hundreds of search engines out there and Google may not even be the best one for your company. YouTube, Yell, or Pinterest may be a better use of your efforts.

Find where your customer base is and discover what they are really looking for from a business like yours.

Before you start your own SEO work, you need to ask yourself a few questions first.

  • Why do you want to rank higher in Google?
  • Do you want more customers or maybe more online recognition?

SEO cannot ever promise you an increase in sales but it can definitely promise an increase in website hits and if you content can stand up to size then sales should naturally follow.

Remember whatever you decided to focus on for your SEO it is a constant job. You must stay up to date with your rankings and follow the trends. As well as keeping on top of algorithm updates from Google themselves. (Follow us to stay up to date with the changes). Like anything SEO needs maintenance and cannot simply be left alone.

We hope that this series has helped you along the way with understanding and actioning your own SEO. If you would like any more information or would like to see about getting professional SEO work please get in touch.

Good luck with ranking higher and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

How To Rank Higher In Google. Part 2 – Where to get Backlinks?

Last time we talked about Backlinks and what they were, as well how they help you to rank. So you may now be thinking where to get backlinks and improve my overall rankings?

Where to get backlinks from?

Well if your content is good and you are promoting it on social media then you should start getting some organically. Unfortunately Social Media Shares, Likes and popularity hold absolutely no value to search engine ranking, however there are still a few places to collect backlinks for yourself. Here are the 5 simplest to gather:

1. Directories

Directories are easy to find and there a literally hundreds of thousands of them out there. Create a profile and of course a link to your site. If you can find niche directories that either focus on your geographical area or your industry, this will mean they are more relevant and therefore more powerful.

2. Blogs Comments

Some blogs don’t allow this and many give NoFollow links however there are still some that do. Find blogs that cover your industry and comment on their blog along with a link to your site. Do not spam though, make useful comments and make sure you fully read the article, and are actually contributing to the blog whether you agree with the content or not.

3. Editorial Links

Editorial Links are links your gain from writing off-site on a blogging platform. Sites such as Blogger offer a service where people can post their own articles to the site. Your name will be included with a link to your site in the editorial notes. These can often be quite useful and hold some good value as the site offering this often have high authority. This is not to be confused with Guest Blogging.

4. Forums

Like Blog Comments and Directories, the more relevant to your site the forum is, the more powerful the backlinks you gather will be. Actually contribute to the forum though, don’t use it as a advertisement and try to avoid ever selling your services. Just help people out or answer questions, have your site URL in your signature but avoid doing much more as you may get flagged for spam. Simply prove you are the fountain of knowledge in your industry.

5. Guest Blogging

This, like editorial links is where you post a blog on someone else’s site as a guest blogger. This is different to editorial as you will generally be in communication with the site owner and therefore you can have full access to edits. Also the blog will likely be in the same industry as you and therefore hold more power than an editorial link. These are the hardest links to get (unless you have a close personal friends with the authority sites handy), however if your Blog Comments have been used fully the blog owner may recognise your knowledge and invite you to guest blog.

What about Anchor-Text?

Anchor-text is the text that makes up a link. Not to be confused with the link itself.
http://clockworkmoggy.wpengine.com – This is a naked link with no anchor text.
Clockwork Moggy – Web Design, Branding and SEO – This is the same link with key-worded anchor text.

Anchor text used to be incredibly powerful as you could tell Google what a page was about before it even looked but with the last few Google updates this is not longer the case. Google has decided it doesn’t like to be told what to do and so now sites with too many backlinks using key-worded anchor text have be penalised for spamming. Now it is recommended to use either naked links (like the one show above) or branded, where you use your company name as the anchor text.

Like this –  Clockwork Moggy.

An optimum Anchor Link percentage was recently released to help people position their backlinks correctly.

  • Branded anchor text: Such as your company name: 70%
  • Naked link anchors: IE Images, or standard hyperlinks: 20%
  • Generic anchors: IE ‘Click here’: 5%
  • Latent Semantic Indexing, partial match anchors: IE synonyms of your main Keywords or Long tail keywords: 1-5%
  • Exact match anchor text: Your exact Keyword: less than 1%

With all this in mind make sure you are targeting the right sites. You should start to see a improvement in you rankings.

Don’t forget to check out our final blog in this series – What is Rank score & How to track your progress?

How to Rank Higher in Google. Part One – What is SEO?

Over the course of this blog series we hope to teach you a little about the mysterious world of SEO and ultimately how to rank higher in Google. Helping you understand both how it works and how to action it yourself.

So how do you rank higher in Google search results? The simple answer to this question is Search Engine Optimisation. Search Engine Optimisation or as it is more often known as, SEO, is the process of optimising a piece of content for ranking. SEO consists of a number of processes but at a very basic view SEO is just 4 simple steps.

  1. Research Keywords. Find a keyword that is relevant to your company and that lots of people are searching for each month. Avoid using generic terms such as ‘Builders’ instead use ‘Builders in London’.
  2. Research competitors. Find out who is currently ranking for this keyword. Read their content, how do they write? Is it good? What does their website look like?
  3. Create a piece of content around this keyword. Be it a quality blog post or a service page, just make sure that it is significantly better than what is currently ranking for the Keyword.
  4. Gather backlinks. Arguably the most difficult step. Make sure that they are relevant for this content and your business overall.

And that’s it.

Of course the actual implementation of this is a little more difficult but it is certainly nothing magical.

How to Rank Higher in Google. So how exactly does SEO work?

Well there are a few factors that search engines like Google, take into account when it comes to determining your rank. Google is a little secretive on what exactly these are, claiming to have over 200 hundred ranking factors. But luckily for us we know the ones that really make the difference.

1. Content

The specific content on a page is a huge factor in not only where it ranks but what it ranks for. If you want to rank higher this is where you need to start.

Google has what are known as bots. These are little pieces of programming that run around the web searching people’s websites. When you ‘Google’ something and head onto a website, you are not actually looking at the live internet but rather a indexed version made by Google. Google won’t tell us exactly how often these Bots crawl the web but we know that pages with higher ranks scores get crawled more often than those with a lower rank.

Content is so important, you can’t expect to write a boring post and still rank. You need to make sure that you are putting out quality interesting content. Things that your customer base want to know. People often ask me “How often should I blog?”. This not really the question they should be asking. How often you blog is irrelevant. I know people who blog once a week but never rank for a single thing and I know people who hardly blog once a month but rank highly every single time.

When writing make sure you have researched your keywords correctly. Try to answer a question. Make yourself the knowledge base in your industry and avoid selling yourself constantly. If you write quality content you are more likely to impress people and they may just give you an all important backlink.

People often complain that their job is too boring to write interesting content about, but I have never once found this to be true. While you may think this, your customers may not. They have questions about your job, about how you do it or even how to do it themselves. Don’t be afraid to tell people how to do it themselves. It proves you know what you are talking about. Studies have shown 74% of people who research how to complete a job themselves end up getting professional help in the end. Then when it comes to choosing that professional they are more likely to return to you.

Stand out as interesting, informative and overall knowledgeable.

2. Backlinks

Backlinks are hugely powerful. Backlinks are links coming for someone else’s site to your own. As I said the number and quality of backlinks are one of the main factors Google uses to determine your rank.

Search Engines looks at backlinks as a way to determine the quality of your site. As it stands to reason that a site pushing out high quality content is more likely to be linked to by others, than one that does not put the work in.

When it comes to backlinks there are two attributes they are given – DoFollow and NoFollow.

DoFollow

DoFollow links are followed by Search Engine bots and therefore can give power/authority to the site they lead to.

NoFollow

As the name suggest NoFollow links are not followed by Search Engines and so hold no SEO value.  All Social Media links are NoFollow.

You want to have more DoFollow links than NoFollow links. Of course there is different types of backlinks and each holds a different amount of power.

  • Top Level backlinks – These are backlinks from the home page of a website. These backlinks hold more power than those from secondary pages within a site.
  • .GOV backlinks – Any backlink coming for a website with the domain of .gov in the UK hold huge amounts of power as Search Engines know this is a government website and therefore their link holds a large amount of authoritative power.
  • Relevant site backlinks – These are arguably the most powerful backlinks of all. These are backlinks coming from sites that are within the same industry as you.

Whenever I run my SEO workshops I usually use this analogy for Relevant site backlinks:

There is a restaurant critic who runs an extremely popular food blog, he blogs high quality and high ranking content so his site hold a lot of authority. One night he goes out to a brand new restaurant and has a fantastic meal. He writes a blog about it and how much he enjoyed the meal, along with a link to the restaurants website. Because of his popularity and high rankings the link he gives to the restaurant will allow their ranking to improve greatly. Another day he has to take his car to the garage and the mechanic does a amazing job and fixes his car. He later writes a blog thanking the mechanic and adds a link to the garage website. Even though this link if from the same blog. This link will hold much less powerful than the link to the restaurant because it is not relevant to his site.

This is why the relevance of backlinks can make such a huge difference when it comes to ranking higher throughout the web.

For more SEO information check out the next part in the How To Rank Higher in Google Series – Where to Get Backlinks?  Or check out our Online Marketing page.

Why a ‘website coming soon’ holding page is not necessarily a good idea

Whether you are having a brand new website designed and your old one is down or you have yet to have a website put up at all you should never put out a ‘website coming soon’ page.

You might think that with your brand new all singing, all dancing site on its way it’s best to let your users know and put the old site out to pasture. But this is really not the case.

They destroy user experience

While your old site might be unattractive or simply awful to use, putting up this page is even worse. While your old site might be terrible it could still hold value, still allows your users to read a little about your or find your phone number etc.

But when users are instead dumped in front of a single page with just the words “Website coming soon!”, they grow frustrated. While those words may excite you, they certainly do not elicit the same feelings from your potential client.

Google doesn’t like it

Not only do they destroy user experience and add absolutely no value to your business whatsoever but they completely nuke your SEO.

Google will index this page of just three words and it will not be impressed. If you previously had a site full of content and now have a single page any rankings your held will not only fall through the floor but will be incredibly difficult to build back up again after the new site is finally launched.

Google wont care that the new site is much prettier than the last, it will only care that you had single empty page for so long and will penalise you for a long time after for that fact. You will have to start from zero all over again.

What about new companies?

There is the misconception that as a new company you need to put something up as soon as possible, to let people and search engines know you are now around, but this is not true at all.

A ‘Website coming soon’ page will simply not rank and would you really want to point any potential clients toward it anyway?

If you haven’t ever had a website before and the first sign of your company, Google sees is a practically empty page it will be none to pleased. You will rank at the bottom of page 5000 and even when the new site goes live you will be unlikely to move much from that place. To Google, not only are you brand new, but for months you had nothing but a single page, you are hardly going to be it’s most favourite website.

As a brand new company you may – maybe – could – might, get away with having a ‘coming soon’ page but it is hardly going to help you, your company or your rank. But if you are absolutely convinced you want on just make sure it is pointing towards your Social Media pages and that those pages are buzzing with useful content for your clients.

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