For the digital marketing and SEO-enthusiasts among us, the upcoming new year heralds a time of not just unbridled mince pie eating and merry-making, but also a time in which to set out our SEO strategies for 2018 (no, seriously).
Start 2018 with a bang by taking on board any or all of the recommendations in our list of the top SEO tends to watch out for:
1. Mobile-First Index
Step aside Jon Snow, winter is not the only thing that’s coming; there’s the Mobile First Index too. After nearly two years of trials and algorithm changes, it finally looks like Google’s Mobile First Index is ready to be unveiled in 2018.
Previously, mobile search results have mirrored that of the desktop, but should this change go ahead you will begin to see search results very different to that of the desktop, choosing search results based upon metrics more favourable to mobile users.
Hopefully, the days of mobile responsiveness being an afterthought in web design should be confined to 2017. On average, 57% of web traffic comes from mobile devices. As marketers, you must ask yourself why would you not want to properly optimise your website for that?
So now you ask, what changes are we expected to make? Well for starters, your site must make the seamless transition to a responsive website design, supported by timely page speed times and optimised with those informal long-tail search queries your student base are likely to ask.
2. Artificial Intelligence
Since the launch of Google’s AI system, RankBrain, we have awaited a revolution (think more sophisticated search engines, less ‘Rise of the Robots’) in how Google operates. Well, 2018 may very well be that year.
With Rankbrain, Google will be able to better understand the data we publish across our websites and will be capable of understanding user intent in more detail. The implications of this include a greater knowledge of semantic meaning of words in website copy, as well as changes in how it deals with voice and image requests.
Currently, Google relies upon user search history and behaviour to better inform what results to serve to a user after they search a query or selection of keywords, but going forwards, Google should be more almost eerily accurate in predicting what you mean when you type your query into that all-important white search box.
While the jury is still out for how we as marketers and SEO’s can keep up to speed with this, it is important we keep an eye on our rankings and look for fluctuations in our online visibility, especially in the run-up to Clearing.
3. (Clever) Link Building
People may squabble over the rules, or disagree with the result, but no-one is suggesting to completely stop playing the game of link building. While the days of ‘spammy’ link building are thankfully almost entirely behind us, link builders in recent years have had to be on their A-game and be careful of the type of links they pursue. However, that is not to say that it is yet to find that winning formula – so where does leave you?
In 2018, the acquisition of quality of links rather than quantity will continue to be high on the agenda. As student marketers and SEO’s, this could mean securing links from student review sites, alumni groups or academic outlets, rather than links from websites with little or no relevance to your institution. It’s easy to get distracted by the prospect of links from websites with high domain authority, regardless of whether it is relevant or not, but you must keep your eye on the ball. Google has been clear that it is the relevance and value of the link offers to your users that really counts, not high DA’s.
4. Voice Search & Digital Assistants
It may come as a surprise, but as many as 1 in 5 searches originate from voice searches, and in 2018 we can expect this to increase even further. We can also assume that while companies like Amazon & Google continue to embrace and invest in digital assistants, voice searches won’t be going anywhere – in fact, it is believed by 2020, 50% of searches will be voice searches.
As digital assistants evolve, we as marketers and SEO’s must do so too. To be in the conversation as it were, you will need to ensure the copy on your website is in tune with the natural language of your customer base. For SEO’s this means optimising your website by addressing the questions students are likely to ask with the aid of long-tail keywords and the creation of FAQ pages answering a plethora of student queries. This is where keyword research is really handy.
5. Visual Search
There is no doubt that imagery will be high on the agenda in the coming year given the huge investment overseen by the likes of Google, Bing and Pinterest in trying to create a more visually-led search engine.
This should come as no surprise as already a substantial proportion (maybe as high as 1 in 4 searches as reported at 2017’s BrightonSEO) and rich visual content boasts higher than average click-through-rates. Image searches are not just for people wanting to take a look at a product or service before buying it – or even looking for hilarious memes for that matter – but can also have its uses in education. For example, think of the prospective student curious to know what your institution looks like, or if the halls of residence are up to standard.
If 2018 is to be nothing else, it will be the year in which we let Google and Alexa into our homes as digital assistants and into our minds with artificial intelligence and RankBrain. For SEO’s and marketers, 2018 presents us with more challenges and opportunities for us to engage and communicate with prospective students, whether that is via visual searches or link endorsements from partnerships struck over the course of link building.
If you need help in 2018 getting your institution website or brand ranked on Google and other major search engines, then contact us today to speak with an expert and request an SEO review.