Search Engine Optimization has always been a bit of a moving target. Between algorithm changes and the development and implementation of advanced machine learning, it can be hard to keep up with what actually matters in the realm of SEO. You may find yourself asking–what are SEO best practices in 2018?
Recently, I had the opportunity to attend the annual MNSearch Summit in St. Paul, MN. The summit is an event put on by the Minnesota Search Engine Marketing Association where local SEM minds can meet with industry experts and peers to discuss emerging trends and changes. One of the presenters this year was John Mueller, Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google. Always a wealth of knowledge and good advice, John spent a little time reviewing a list of some of the core things you should be tending to in order to best optimize your site for Google.
- URLs – At the heart of it all, make sure you’ve got good, clean URLs. Getting to a 404 error page doesn’t produce a good result for the user (or Google). If your URLs aren’t clean, you’re missing a strong base. Also, be certain you’re submitting your site map and URL structure to Google as well to ensure you’re getting indexed. This is really at the core of SEO best practices.
- Meta Data – Yes, folks, page titles and meta descriptions still matter (after all, it helps tell the story of what pages are all about, both for Google and the searcher). However, Mueller did say we can stop stressing out too much about the length of meta descriptions. Instead, focus on writing something good that gives the searcher the best information about what your page has to offer.
- “Win” with Images – In case you’ve been living under a rock, Google has added quite a bit of robust search capability with images over the last 5 years. People often search through images in results, and Google often displays images as a part of the main search result pages (SERPs). But to perform well in this area you need to tell Google what your images are. Utilize alt tags and add captions to boost available data—this can be especially important for retailers because there is so much information available to searchers when they click on an image.
- Content – Hopefully you’ve heard this by now, because it’s not going away. Good, quality content that people want to read and find useful will continue to stay at the core of SEO best practices in 2018 and beyond. Write clearly, add value, serve a purpose. And along with that, be mindful of the framework around it: don’t clog your site with an overabundance of ad space or interstitials. Also, you won’t see keywords as a stand-alone part of this list, because good content should naturally include the right keywords.
- The Need for Speed – Site speed has certainly garnered more attention this year as Google released their highly anticipated Speed Update in July. Based on studies, we know that websites that perform poorly in terms of speed don’t provide a great user experience, and as a result, people are more likely to abandon a site. If you haven’t before, it’s time to start looking at your page load speeds on your website and ensure you’re delivering a fast-performing experience.
- Structured Data – Schema markup has been around for some time, but stay on the lookout—Google continues to introduce new markups to help improve the search experience. Special structure for data such as recipes, hotels, voice search, and more help ensure your information has the best chance of showing up in the right format, at the right time.
- Backlinks – Although Mueller didn’t speak much regarding backlinks, industry experts all agree that links to your website from other high-quality domains are very important. Links signal a high value to your site and your content, and that should always be in your goals. Remember that if you create good content, good links should follow.
Optimizing for search performance will likely always be a complex process (after all—it’s the one of the ways Google helps to keep spammy sites out of your search results). But by following these SEO best practices in 2018 and after, you can help ensure a quality user experience on your site. And that’s something that Google and other search engines are always in favor of providing.
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