By Mia Harrison

We are halfway through 2018, and it is time to look back on the predictions made at the end of 2017 to find out what really works for SEO in 2018.

There are many obvious changes that can be made to a website to improve SEO. These include keywords, H1 tags and content. There are also many other changes that are coming into place that need taken into consideration. We will be looking at some of the less obvious factors to take into account when working on SEO in 2018 and beyond.

1. Mobile-First Indexing

As we all know by now, Google is ever changing to make themselves more mobile friendly. This is due to an increase in users searching from mobile phones. Google isn’t excluding desktop-only websites, and will continue to rank these in the results page. But this does mean pages with a more mobile-friendly interface will result in higher rankings, even if the end-user is using a desktop to complete their search.

These changes are slowing rolling out to websites that Google believes are ready for the change. This, no doubt, will continue to roll out over most web sites as time goes on.

2. Voice Search

With the rise of personal digital assistants — such as Amazon’s Echo and Google Home — in households across the world, voice search is becoming an important factor to take into consideration when dealing with search engine optimization.

In 2016, more than 40% of adults used voice search on a daily basis according to Location World. Voice search will have an effect on the keywords used by a searcher when looking for a specific product or service. This will lead to a need for longer, more specific keywords.

When asked a search request, digital assistants will take the answer from position zero, also known as a featured snippet. A featured snippet is a short answer to a searcher’s question. The information comes from a web page containing a larger amount of information. During the second half of 2017 and now the first half of 2018, optimizing for featured snippets has increased and over the past year articles explaining how to optimize for featured snippets has increased by 178%!

3. RankBrain

It was in 2016 that Google announced RankBrain as being the third most important ranking signal.

RankBrain is the AI algorithm that Google put into place to sort the search results positioning when a live search is conducted. RankBrain is able to make changes to the algorithm without any human interaction. RankBrain will look at the keywords that have been searched and from this will decrease or increase how important ranking factors are, such as content, backlinks and the domain.

Rankbrain will then look at user satisfaction. If the bounce rate of a page is high, it will then be pushed down the rankings and a new algorithm tried, if this has better user satisfaction it will remain that way.

RankBrain isn’t technically a ranking factor that you can systematically optimize, but it is something that should be kept in mind when working on your SEO strategy and trying to get that top placement.

4. Comments on Blog Posts

Comments on blog posts have a bad reputation of being spammy for a web page and bad for SEO, but with new filters and add ons in place, the comments have become a safe place to go again.

User-generated content on Google can go a long way when it comes to ranking. Having an active community on your webpage will get you brownie points from Google. Useful, responsive comments show Google that you are doing something right and making your users happy. Which means it will then want to show your content more often, for the same response.

Interestingly, comments can be taken from a web page and used in the featured snippet to answer a query. Now is a good time to take the conversations happening on your social media back to your website.

5. Searcher’s Intent

Searcher’s intent goes hand-in-hand with keywords. Searcher’s intent is the goal someone has in mind when typing or telling Google their query.

You have to understand what the user means by their search to be able to reach them. There are three types of queries: navigational, informational and transactional.

  • Navigational search is a search entered when looking to find a specific web page.
  • Informational searches are the ones that cover a wide range of topics, including ‘How To’ posts.
  • Transactional search is when a user is searching with the intent to complete a transaction/purchase.

The wording used in a query will give Google information about the searcher’s intent. If you have a blog on how to solve a problem, make sure Google knows about it.

Optimizing your pages based on searcher’s intent can be a great way to improve user experience and reduce your bounce rate; something that RankBrain is watching for.

Have you had success experimenting with other SEO tactics this year? Share your tips in the comments.

Photo credit: Handwritten SEO on paper from winui/Shutterstock