Best SEO practices for 2018

One of the biggest misconceptions people have about search engine optimization for their websites is that it’s a one-time thing. Once you’ve optimized your website and set up a template and process for any new content you create, that’s it, right? Not entirely. There are some solid foundations and golden rules that we can expect to see for a long time, but you also need to bear in mind that search engines are constantly refining their processes and algorithms in an effort to give their users the most relevant and most useful results when they make a query.

If you’ve found your rankings to be slowly but surely dropping down the list for your important keywords, then chances are you’ve been using a technique that’s become outdated and is no longer rewarded by search engines to the extent it once was. Here are some key areas to keep an eye on in 2018, a few new techniques you can try, and simple ways to make sure your existing content is working for you the way it should be.

Google’s RankBrain uses artificial intelligence to gauge the quality of your content

Rather than just relying on a page’s on-site SEO like title tags and meta descriptions to come up with a page ranking, Google also makes use of an AI program called RankBrain to sort its results. This program watches how (and if) users who click through to a particular page interact with the content they find there. If most visitors are clicking away quickly (i.e. if there is a high bounce rate) it’s probably safe to assume that the content isn’t providing the answers a user is looking for. Google then adjusts the website’s SERP ranking accordingly – either penalizing the site for low quality or misleading content, or boosting the ranking if users are clearly finding the page to be helpful. The takeaway? Make sure your content really answers the questions it promises to and is readable and engaging.

Update and lengthen your older content

There seems to be an ongoing trend towards search engines favoring longer content, so if you have the time, try and include more in-depth information in your future posts. That said, quality will always trump quantity, so don’t go on and on just for the sake of it, as this will impact the page’s readability and potentially bore your readers!

One easy way to take advantage of this trend and improve the general quality of your site at the same time is to update any old content that might not be as relevant as it once was. As you’re updating, you can add in any new pertinent information, increasing the length of the posts as you go!

Leverage images

Remember that search engines can’t actually “see” images – at least not yet – so it’s your job as the author of the page to explain to them why an image is relevant to the content you’re discussing and what’s contained in it. This is where alt tags become important. A good rule of thumb is to try and describe the image as if you’re explaining it to someone who’s blindfolded. You’d probably use a lengthy description which describes the picture but also gives the person some context, right? Do the same with your alt tags. What you certainly wouldn’t do is throw a bunch of unrelated keywords at them – so resist the temptation to stuff alt tags full of keywords you’re hoping to rank for, but rather incorporate one keyword if it actually helps to describe the image in question.


Don’t forget the basics

All your SEO efforts are going to fall flat if you don’t get the basics right first – making sure your site is easily accessible and provides a quality user experience. Make sure you’ve got secure site connection in place, pages aren’t returning any 404 errors, and that content loads quickly.

Remember also that more and more users are going to be accessing your site from a mobile device, so if your site isn’t optimized yet, you need to make it a priority. You can test your website for mobile ‘friendliness’ by using the Google Mobile Friendly Test. If implementing these kinds of technical changes is a little outside your wheelhouse, then contact an expert SEO provider like Ruby Digital to help you out.

Write for humans

If there’s one guiding factor you should always use in the content you create, it’s that you’re writing for humans and not search engines. Virtually every new algorithm search engines make use of is geared at rewarding content that actually helps people and punishes websites that are trying to beat the system. You can rest assured that future updates will do the same – so the easiest way to future-proof your content is and always will be to make it nice for humans to read!


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