Is your SEO Strategy ready for 2018?

Well, that’s another year done and dusted. Google has released a few minor updates and one very significant one just days ago, announcements that can change the face of SEO have been made, and it’s now time to prepare your strategies for the new year.

As such, we thought we’d cover all of the important things you need to consider when putting together your SEO strategy for the next 12 months. So, let’s take a little look, shall we?

Google Maccabees

We’ll start with the aforementioned major update released mid-December; Google Maccabees. Named by Barry Schwarts due to the close proximity of the release and Hanukkah, Google Maccabees has been confirmed by Google, but no official details of the update have been officially announced.

At present, it is widely believed that it affects websites with the following issues:

  • Use of keyword permutation landing pages
  • Lack of Schema

This means that, for example, if you have multiple pages set up to target different variations of keywords, then you’re probably in for a bad day. On top of this, Google Maccabees also shows how heavily Google is pushing the use of Schema.

The other aspect of Google Maccabees is that it appears to also include phase 1 of Google’s switch to a Mobile-First Index. This means that, when the switch has been complete, Desktop rankings will be based upon your website’s Mobile rankings, rather than separately.

What to include in your SEO strategy

Based upon what we know so far about Google Maccabees, you should be looking at your site’s architecture and structure, ensuring that you don’t use keyword permutation landing pages.

If you are, then it is time to rework your website’s content so that you can remove these – you’ll then need to put a full redirect strategy in place and restructure the overall site architecture to accommodate for these changes.

Then, you’ll need to look into having Schema installed onto your website. This should be done by an experienced developer, as it involves significant changes to the code of your website and you need to ensure it is implemented correctly, without error.

  • Ensure your website is responsive and mobile-friendly (of course it is, right?)
  • Clean up your site architecture and remove excess landing pages
  • Create and implement a full, accurate and relevant redirect strategy
  • Implement Schema on your website

Visual Search on the horizon

One of the big announcements of the year happened when Google revealed that the Google Lens will be released as part of Google Assistant for the Pixel phones “very soon”.

Google Lens uses the camera on your smartphone to read what you are pointing it at and then search Google for that object, landmark or product. This, in turn, opens up a whole new world of SEO as we move towards Visual Search – which will likely overtake the also relatively new Voice Search in the near future.

As Google Lens is able to recognise (most) objects, text, landmarks and more, image optimisation is naturally going to become more important. However, the most important thing to get right is Schema, as Google uses Schema to understand more details of the page’s content and relevance. For example, if you are write about the Empire State Building, you could use Schema to let Google know this is exactly related to the building. Then, you’ll have a better chance of appearing for Visual Searches.

What to include in your SEO strategy

The upcoming release of Google Lens just goes even further into how important your Schema implementation really is. Whilst optimising your content and images remains a vital aspect of SEO, Schema is quickly becoming an imperative part of any SEO Strategy.

So, again, you should ensure that an experienced developer is used to add the various different Schema types to your website. You should also implement all relevant types of Schema, rather than just the most obvious one. For example, an e-commerce website should obviously use the Product Schema, but using Organisation Schema is also highly recommended as it can help for brand related searches.

  • Ensure that your content and images are all correctly optimised
  • Implement all relevant Schema on to your website

Don’t forget about Voice Search

Despite what I’ve just been talking about, Voice Search is still really important. This is because, until Google Lens and Visual Search becomes widespread and available to all, then the next step for most people is to move to Voice Search.

Therefore, it is imperative that you start optimising for the new wave of searches that are already starting to grow in. For example, how many people do you know who have and use Google Assistant, Cortana, Siri or Alexa? I bet there’s quite a few, right? Well, every time they look for a recipe, product or anything else, they are using Voice Search.

So, obviously, this is going to continue to grow in terms of reach as more people start to use the various assistants available through and for smart devices. Therefore, you need to start making use of it within your SEO Strategy as well.

What to include in your SEO strategy

This is where things become a little more complicated with content optimisation if you haven’t been keeping up with the overall trend and sticking with the old and outdated method of optimising for keywords, and not for people. You see, whilst we type things like “seo Cambridge”, we don’t speak like that.

Instead, people will be searching using their normal way of talking, such as “where can I find an SEO agency in Cambridge”. Whilst, technically, optimising for “seo Cambridge” will mean you can appear for that search, you’ll likely be very low down in the results.

Therefore, your strategy needs to include a complete review of the content optimisation on your website to ensure that it is user focused, and not search bot focused.

  • Review all of your content and ensure that it is focused on people and not on keywords.

Time to get local

Now you’ve obviously set up a Google My Business page already, haven’t you? But did you know that there is much more you can do than just that?

To start with, you should be include NAP (name, address and phone number) Schema on to your website, ensuring that it matches up with the details within your Google My Business page. Again, as this involves coding changes to your website, you will need it to be implemented by an experienced developer, and tested by an SEO expert.

Once this has been done, the next stage would be to outreach and build backlinks related to your target area. In doing so, you’ll be able to grow your equity for searches that take place within that region.

Back in 2016, Google released the Possum update which was a huge change to the way that local searches happen. For example, Google will take the physical location of the searcher into account when they are using a mobile device. Therefore, the search results will be tailored and altered based upon the searchers location.

Because of this, it is imperative that you build up as much equity as possible for your target area, so that you appear within these altered searches.

On top of this, you should also be creating a strong and compelling email marketing campaign to push previous customers into leave reviews on both Google and your website or third party review system. These reviews will add to the “importance” of your site and help you to rank higher in local searches.

What to include in your SEO strategy

In order to make use of the increase in local searches, and Google’s constant optimisation of them, you need to start building up equity and relevance for your target geographic area. To do this, you should build strong, high quality backlinks as well as utilise existing customers to generate honest, legitimate reviews for your business.

There are a large amount of different factors that go into ranking locally, as shown in the following infographic.

Really, you should be addressing each and every one of these in order to rank well. However, as a bare minimum you should be doing the following.

  • Ensure that you have a Google my Business page setup and optimised for your target location.
  • Build up local equity through high quality backlinks.
  • Utilise your existing customer base to generate reviews on both Google and your website or third party review system.

Sell through images

Another major update that Google released to the design and layout of search results on Mobile devices was the release of product links underneath results within Google Images.

When you scroll down below an image that contains products, Google will reference places where you can buy the same or similar products underneath. It also pulls through price information, allowing the users to quickly scroll between different alternatives and find the one they want to buy.

Naturally, this improves the user experience on Google, but also gives you a new way to capture potential customers. Whilst this isn’t available for every industry yet, currently being limited to fashion items, Google are testing it in an effort to roll it out across a much larger range of industries in the near future. Therefore, you should ensure that preparation for this is part of your SEO strategy.

What to include in your SEO strategy

In order to get ready for the full release of these additional product links, your SEO strategy needs to include price-focused Schema (yes, Schema again), as well as making sure that the Product Schema you implement includes all product descriptions and images.

Once this has been installed and tested to make sure it is implemented correctly, the next stage is to build up equity for the products you want to appear for these results. Each of these links need to be of a really high quality, as you’ll be directly competing against all other retailers of that specific product.

If you don’t have enough equity, you’ll appear further down the scroll bar, meaning you’re much less likely to see any impact from this new product listing feature.

  • Ensure you are using correctly installed Product Schema markup that includes product descriptions and imagery.
  • Build up high quality backlinks to each product you want to appear within the product listing feature.

Schema, Schema, Schema – Mobile, Mobile, Mobile

I’m sure you noticed the prevailing theme within each of the different things to prepare for. If not, it’s the title of this section. Basically, one of the biggest things to take away from 2017 is how important it is to get Schema implemented on your website correctly.

On top of that, if you haven’t sorted out your website’s mobile user experiences or, for some reason, you haven’t made your website responsive yet, you need to do just that… And you need to do it yesterday! Oh, and if you’re thinking that you having a separate mobile site means you’re safe, think again… If that’s the situation you’re in, when the Mobile-First Index fully comes into play, you’ll find Desktop users being sent to your separate mobile site from Google!

If you’re worried about any of these aspects of SEO, need some help sorting out your Schema implementation, or need to improve your website’s mobile user experience, that get in touch today!

Written by Gareth Torrance

Hello there. I'm Gareth, the Digital Marketing Manager at Brave. With almost a decade of experience in PPC and SEO, I've seen everything from Pandas and Penguins to the horrible time that was Mobilegeddon. As an Adwords Certified Google Specialist, I have lived through almost every major shift in the industry! And that makes me feel old.

RAR+
Google Partner
IDM
Bing Ads
Brightpearl Partner
Marketing Society