As we start to approach the end of the year, we wanted to touch on ranking factors for next year – a favorite topic around most digital teams coming into Christmas. We, at Talk, consider that the three main SEO ranking factors in 2018 would be content, links, and RankBrain. So let’s take a deep dive into what these mean for your business and how you can prepare for SERP success in 2018.
Content as first SEO ranking factor
Content always has been one of the most important SEO ranking factor. You already know that your content needs to be quality and focused on your target audience, but some still struggle with what to offer their visitors and how to write content that will actually improve rankings without old-fashioned techniques like keyword stuffing.
They key is to get as specific as possible. Nicheing down is good and drives quality traffic. For example, if you run a fashion business, you can write about the latest fashion trends. You can even write about particular apparel such as skirts, shirts, shoes, hats or their daily combinations. You can also divide these groups into smaller subsets – say, elegant shoes, sports shoes, everyday shoes, etc. The point is to focus on your niche and to provide quality content. Focus on being distinctive when benchmarked against your competitors content. We always say content should be content that ‘can’t be found on Google’ it should be that unique. If you are not sure what to write, start with creating a content strategy that maps out who, what, where, how and why you’re writing. Then you will get an idea of just how many niche topics there are within a topic, and how detailed you can get. It goes without saying you should also be using all familiar SEO techniques such as title tags, meta description, keywords, long tail keywords, etc.
Visual content always attracts the most attention. Don’t forget to include images, video or infographics in your content. It looks more appealing and at the same time attracts more readers. In 2018, one of the key SEO drivers of organic traffic definitely will be embedded images. A picture paints a thousand words, looks nicer and can be a good basis for your link-building, which is the second SEO ranking factor in 2018.
Links as second SEO ranking factor
Appealing embedded photos in your content will encourage others to share your content within their networks. For example, if you create a nice image where you explain something that you are talking about in the text, others will use that image in their content. They can paraphrase what you said on the image, or supplement it with their own text, or maybe explain a photo differently than you. In any case, they will link your content. Their content will link others and your link-building will grow constantly. The end result is an improved ranking on search engines, a greater authority of your website and a growing number of visitors to your site.
If you are linked to authority sites or you have a wide base of backlinks, Google will notice that and will reward you with better ranking. Links drive organic traffic, so use them a lot, as long as they are quality, relevant links (the days of blackout mass link building are long gone). Be sure to also consider links or your internal linking structure. Lead your readers through your content by linking relevant content and creating chains. Keep them as long as possible on your site. This will make them loyal readers of your content (as opposed to your competitors!).
RankBrain as third SEO ranking factor
RankBrain is a machine learning artificial intelligence system that helps Google to sort content into relevant search results. It is just one part of Google’s search algorithm. As they said, the third-most-important SEO ranking factor for 2018. The video below from Eric Enge draws a clear picture of why Google decided to create RankBrain:
Google has already improved its algorithm so much that it recognizes various word variations and synonyms, and connects various data. Behind that were people who have made keyword lists and linked different databases. Now, however, the process becomes automated and the machine itself learns from data. This is the latest technological achievement from Google and is still very much developing. It is known that the machine improves itself over time and becomes better and better in its work. This means that search engines will be more precise in delivering proper search results. It also means that it will be harder to determine what should be done for better ranking and even harder to deceive the machine with black hat SEO. Quality content, quality UX and quality online PR are only becoming more important.
One of the key metrics in Google’s RankBrain is Click Through Rate (CTR). This is the percentage of users that click on your link at the search results page. The more people click your website link, the more value Google places on your site as an authority in your industry (as is referenced in the term that the user searched initially). In light of this, it’s worth trying to focus in on an emotive copy – words connected with feelings such as happiness, anger, fear, and the like – they generally attract more clicks.
In order to balance search results, RankBrain also has a second metric called dwell time. This is the time that visitors spend on your website after they clicked your link in Google’s search results. How long they stay on your web page mainly depends on the quality of your content and UX, but also on links that provide your visitors additional reading. The longer they stay on your site, the higher your ranking results.
Therefore, all 3 SEO ranking factors are related. However, as you see, quality content is the most important. It is a basis for the other two SEO ranking factors for 2018. If you fail in developing your content strategy, you will most likely fall flat in achieving your desired ranking results. If your content is quality, you will be linked by others and certainly will be ranked better by RankBrain through higher CTR and dwell time. Focus on all three as a combination, and you’re set for success without a doubt.