Your SEO Checklist for 2018
It's the start of a new year and it's time to review your SEO priorities. Looking back over the years, we see various changes that Google make that SEO managers must follow, or face certain death. There was the Panda updates and then Penguin from Google. These updates have often sent SEO mangers into a frenzy of ‘what ifs’, ‘hows’ and ‘whens’ and indicate the constant evolution taking place. SEO is a process, not an event, and as such managers must constantly review, assess and redefine the priorities for SEO.
1. STRUCTURED DATA
Structured data markup is the technology behind the semantic web and Google’s rich search results. The semantic web is an improved web which delivers more relevant search results to users and more qualified traffic to websites. Structured data is a way of enriching content on a web page that makes it more machine-readable by linking entities together. Vocabularies like Schema.org (vocabularies are the structures you add to your data) allows search engines to create those fabulous rich snippets that contain data like star reviews, opening hours and prices. Not only do they make your search result more eye-catching, they also improve click-through-rate (CTR). Despite numerous studies showing pages that use Schema markup ranked four times higher in SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages), the adoption of structured data has remained slow, which means that sites that use structured data will ultimately perform better in 2018.
2. SECURE YOUR SITE WITH HTTPS
In 2014 Google announced that sites that were SSL secure were going to be given a slight boost to rankings. Adoption was relatively slow to begin with because many believed that it would only really impact E-Commerce sites. It is estimated that around 50% of sites that appear on page 1 of Google are SSL secure sites (including non-ecommerce sites), and is predicted to be around 65% by the time 2018 rolls around.If your website still isn’t secure by now, you’re basically leaving rankings on the table. Not to mention leaving your site vulnerable to spam and mock sites with your content, that is just plain annoying.
3. TARGET INTENT MESSAGING
Search intent is what the person using a search engine hopes to achieve through their search. People generally have four (depending on how you want to count them) when the use Google:
- Geographic search: Users want to go somewhere, but don’t know where it is or how to get there. The "place" they want to go could be an actual physical location like a store or it could be a specific page on a website.
- Informational search: Users want to answer a specific question, solve a problem or just find general information on a topic. These people make up the majority of search engine users at any given moment.
- Transactional search: Users want to take a particular action. In the marketing world, this is often called "commercial intent", looking for an actionable outcome, like buying a product or servie on
Optimizing your website content to match your audience’s search intent was vital to SEO in 2017, and it’s only going to get more important for SEO in 2018.
4. SLOW LOADING WEBSITE PAGES
The biggest reason for page abandonment is slow loading websites. If you're found via a web search and your page does not load, user moves on period. They rarely if ever come back. Google also queries your site for speed, and now also evaluates site speed as part of its ranking criteria. Here are some of the biggest culprits that bog down websites:
- Unnecessary plugins, tracking codes, advertisements and on-page widgets. These are especially bad if any of them block your main page content from loading. Load any news site and you see what I mean, annoying!
- Bloated image resources. This has been my pet peeve since the adoption of digital cameras! Optimizing for the web is mandatory. Using HTML to change the dimensions of images is a common mistake. This doesn’t impact file size and therefore doesn’t improve speed. Instead, use your photo editing software’s compression to optimize images for the web. Many programs have "save for web" options when exporting.
- Uncached assets: Caching tells browsers to store files to load for the next visit. This means users don’t have to wait for an image or stylesheet to download every time the visit a page. This can vastly reduce wait time for repeat visitors. Check out Google’s guide to leveraging browser caching.
- Uncompressed assets: All modern browsers support gzip compression, which is a method of zipping files to reduce their size by up to 90 percent. Gzip compression needs to be enabled on your web server. Google’s got a great set of resources on how to do this.
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