SEO Pro 2018: Your Guide to Starting the Year with Flair

25 Jan 2018 / Freeparking Team

If you are looking to dominate Google’s search results this year look no further, we’ve got you covered with the most up to date and practical SEO strategies to start as you mean to continue, and have a very successful year with SEO.

What is Covered in this Guide?

  1. Dig Deep: Thorough Content Comes Out on Top
  2. Optimising for RankBrain
  3. Becoming CTR Savvy
  4. Video: Film or Flop
  5. Mobile First is Coming Soon
  6. Keep Links and Content at the Forefront
  7. What About Voice Search?
  8. Extra Tricks to Top the Search Results in 2018

1. Dig Deep: Thorough Content Comes Out on Top

In the past, Google analysed pages by looking at how many times a specific keyword was used. Google would search for keywords within your title, description tag, H1 tag, URL and image ALT text. Then if your site included a good amount of those words, they would assume your site had thorough content regarding that topic, which wasn’t always the case.

They do still consider keywords within the title etc, however Google has advanced their algorithm and methods a lot compared to previous years. Now, rather than measuring just the keywords in your content, Google focuses more on whether those key words are part of genuinely helpful and interesting content. This is definitely a positive thing for searchers, but it does mean more work needs to be contributed by marketers and content creators to meet the high standard of content that Google is on the look out for.

The aim for Google is to provide users with the most relevant and useful results. Generally, the best results aren’t from keyword packed content. The top sites cover the whole subject extensively, and satisfy the searchers curiosities and questions. The idea is that by providing in-depth content, the searcher will find all that they need conveniently in one place. The more in-depth your content is, the more useful it will be, and the higher it will rank. This graph based on a study completed by MarketMuse shows that in-depth data ranks better.

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Writing Rank Worthy Content for Google:

A good starting point is word count. If you aim for at least 2000 words you will be more likely to cover the things a searcher wants to know, the more the merrier. MarketMuse also studied how long content ranks against short, and found that longer content ranks higher. 


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LSI Keywords are a Valuable Addition

After completing your two thousand plus word piece of content, put in some LSI keywords as well, to give it more chance to be spotted and ranked by Google’s search Algorithms. These are phrases and words which associate strongly with the subject you’re writing about.

Let’s use Interviews as an example, if you were writing an article about Interview questions or how to pass one it would be wise to add in keywords such as: -Most revealing questions – Top 10 common questions – Best answers – Top 20 most difficult questions etc. By doing this, Google will think that you are covering a broad range of topics in the area, things that people are specifically searching for and want to read about. Thankfully, finding LSI keywords to add to your content is easier than you might think.

Here is a helpful tool you can use calledLSI Graph. Simply key in the topic or word you are targeting, and you will be shown a list of possible LSI keywords to use. 

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You can also go straight to the source and use Google search to look up your topic and see what others have been searching most related to that topic. This is also a good idea to do before even starting writing an article, if you’re writing about Interviews, you want to know what people are searching for, and meet that need. If people are asking what’s the best answer in a business interview, give them the answers they want and Google will reward you for it. You can find potential LSI keywords near the bottom of the search results page by scrolling down to the ‘Searches related to…’ and also the ‘People also ask..’ section.

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Last but not least you are able to tap into the Google Keyword Planner through your Adwords Account to gain more LSI ideas. A fully set up Adwords account is required to use this tool, however it’s free to create one and the Keyword Planner tool is fairly straightforward. If you don’t yet have an Adwords account you can get onehere. Having a paid Ad running isn’t necessary to use the tool, just finishing the set up is all that you need to do for this. Once you are logged in, select ‘Tools’ from the top bar then ‘Keyword Planner’ and fill in the form to see your results. 

2. Optimising for RankBrain

RankBrain is rapidly becoming more and more important as a ranking factor in Google. In 2017 Google said that it was the third most important ranking factor they consider. With Google constantly re writing and updating the algorithm they use, RankBrain is set to become significantly more prominent this year. This is a major factor that is very important to understand and work with in order to ensure your SEO efforts are successful.

You can see Google’s explanation of RankBrain here.

RankBrain is an Artificial Intelligence, self-learning system, which Google uses to assist in sorting people’s results in Google search. What it does is measure the ways in which people interact with the results from their searches, it then assigns pages a rank based on that.

To expand on that, if you type ‘How to make Kombucha’ into the search bar, and you are looking down the page of results and the third option has a video so you choose that one to open. RankBrain takes note of that, and will then boost that third option a bit more for the next person who searches for kombucha to find. However, it also records how long a user spends on the page. So if you click the third option, start watching but it’s not very good so you quickly go back to the search results and click the number one result, that decision will impact how much boost or not is given as well.

RankBrain Measures:

  1. Click Through Rate (The percentage of people that click on your page after seeing it in the list of search results)
  2. Dwell Time (Time spent on your page)

Click Through Rate

When a pages get a higher than average click through rate, Google sees that as an indication that those pages deserve a permanent boost in rank. Which is logical, if a lot of searchers are clicking on your page from the search results then clearly it should be more visible up the list for others to find in future too. The more clicks you receive the higher your rank.

Dwell Time

RankBrain gives a lot of focus to dwell time. A recent study done bySearch Metrics  , and also a statement from the head of Google Brain Canadahave shown that RankBrain does in fact measure dwell time as a key factor.

On average the time spent on a page reached through a Google searches top ten results takes three minutes and ten seconds, from the time the page is opened until when they close it or go back to search. That is the dwell time you should be aiming to meet or beat. 

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The pages that have high dwell times do in fact tend to rank best. Which is completely understandable because if a significant amount of time is spent browsing a page, that is a strong indication that the user most likely enjoys the content or finds it helpful. When a good number of people all spend time and therefore like the page, Google puts up the page rank, ensuring it will be visible and simple to find for people searching for the same thing.

We have found this article by Impression helpful:‘5 Easy Ways to Increase Dwell Time for Improved SEO Rankings’ , if you would like to look more deeply into this area of SEO, which we advise you do. 

3. Become CTR Savvy

CTR is crucially important if you are working to boost your page rankings this year. This is largely due to how RankBrain works as mentioned previously. But also due to the following factors:

Paid Ads Displayed First:

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Answer Boxes:


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And Carousels:

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A recent industry study has discoveredorganic click through rate has dropped 37% since 2015. This is because Google is busy overshadowing organic search results with paid ads, answer boxes, carousels, and also things like the ‘people also ask..’ section.

In order to stay in the forefront your page needs to really shout ‘CLICK ME’ within the list of search results. One way to get more organic traffic fast is using the CTR Magnet Method, explained in an entrepreneur classhere, to help boost your clickability. 

4.  Video: Film or Flop

Online videos are taking over the internet at the moment. By the year 202180% of all online traffic will be videos (credit: Cisco).

Even though there are far more videos online than in all of internet history, Hubspot has said43% of internet users would like more videos available online. Creating videos is the way to go. If you are not already making them semi regularly, you will miss out on a large chunk of viewers and potential customers. Every business will benefit from videos being an important focus this year, and into the foreseeable future too. 

YouTube: The Tried and True

Behind Google, YouTube is the second biggest search engine worldwide, and is constantly growing, in fact the average time spent on the site has increased by a whopping60% in comparison to the previous year according to The Huffington Post.

We are now seeing more and more users skip Google search altogether and simply go straight to YouTube to find what they’re looking for. Especially because there is more demand for video content now than ever before. In order to gain higher traffic volumes this year we strongly suggest making and optimising videos for YouTube specifically.

At lot of marketers still lack the drive and skills to create videos for YouTube as a marketing strategy. Meaning that it is not hugely difficult to get a good amount of views on your videos, assuming they are made well. A channel with only a few videos, can still bring in over 100,000 views in just one month. From those views, they will be able to convert a good portion of them into customers and visitors to their website. On top of that, when SEO optimised videos are put out, you are able to reach and even wider audience.

YouTube is an excellent platform to take advantage of for SEO experts because55% of all Google search results pages have one video or more, the majority of those being YouTube videos. 

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As you can see from the Coke vs Pepsi example above, there is a ‘Video’ section in a lot of Google search results pages now, often near the top of the page too. Google, being the owners of YouTube, no doubt want to promote them in as many ways as they can, this being one of them. It is a fairly safe assumption to make that we are likely to see more and more YouTube videos in Google search this year and onwards.

Another example of new ways Google is promoting YouTube within their searches is the fact that they have begun incorporating YouTube videos into the ‘Images’ search results, like so:

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Surprisingly, the first results, and nearly half of the top results shown here, are actually YouTube videos. This goes to show just how much emphasis Google is now putting on YouTube, and helps to cement the motivation and reasoning for marketers to become more skilled at using YouTube videos to boost their SEO rankings, it is simply too big to ignore anymore.

Add Videos to your Blogs

The demand for videos is increasing; we as marketers need to do our best to meet that demand to stay on top in the industry. One way to do this is embedding video content into your text blogs. Having a video included can definitely increase the dwell time on your page as well, which as you know will help you rank higher in RankBrain. It looks visually appealing and can draw extra interest to your blog posts, a long text block split up with pictures or videos is generally a good idea to maintain focus, interest, and also to further explain or demonstrate your points.

Take this travel blog for example:

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The video is the main focal point in this blog post. It achieves what it set out to, I did in fact stop to watch that video while I was looking for examples of videos in blogs for this guide. And I also had a look around the site in case there were other good videos in other blog posts there. The strategy can have a really positive impact and keep people on your page longer, and dwell time is like diamonds when you’re trying to impress RankBrain.

5. Mobile First is Coming Soon

Google has announced their plans to change to a Mobile First policy soon. What this means for us is that Google considers the Mobile Friendly version of your website to be the actual site, even if a searcher is using a computer, the mobile version still counts as ‘The’ site in the eyes of Google. This is due to 60% of current Google searches being initiated by a mobile device, and it is predicted to continue growing in that direction as time goes by.

The mobile first index has not yet gone live; however, it is expected to in 2018, any time now. Businesses should take the time to understand and prepare for the inevitable now.

Preparing for Mobile First

1. Create/Change your Content to be Consistent Across All Devices

Some companies choose to hide portions of their pages on their mobile site versions, giving the option of clicking a ‘more’ tab to see the rest. That is no longer going to be an effective way to run a mobile website, as Google will simply ignore any hidden content as if it were not there at all. 100% of your content needs to be displayed on all device versions to be seen and analysed by Google. You cannot afford to have any hidden content left behind menus or expanding sections whatsoever. There must be the exact same site for mobile as you have for the desktop version.

2. Ensure Your Mobile Site is Top Notch

There are currently a lot of websites that are simply a pain to use in their mobile versions, like trying to order a pizza and it’s so small trying to read topping choices and if you try to click on tomatoes you end up adding anchovies, it’s just not something you want and can become very frustrating. Small screen versions shouldn’t mean that everything is too small. I also find that in some mobile sites things are cut out, and I have to scroll all the way to the right before scrolling down to read a whole line, which takes longer and puts me off reading it altogether. If your site is difficult to navigate, read, or use it will have a negative impact on useability and dwell time, and RankBrain is always watching.

You can test how mobile friendly your site is using thisfree testing tool put out by Google. Who better to ask about improving your site for Google, than Google themselves. This is a good place to start on your way to ensuring your mobile site will be acceptable to Google under the newest requirements. The tool will assess your site, and also offer suggestions which you can follow to improve your mobile site. If you haven’t tried it yet it’s definitely worth a look.

3. Shift to Responsive

If your site is not already using a responsive design, and is currently only a ‘M.’ (mobile) version, then now is the time to upgrade and shift to responsive one. 

6. Keep Links and Content at the Forefront

As it always has been, links and content remain the foundation stones of SEO. A high standard of content is what will continue to give you links, which are critically important if you intend to make the first page in the Google search results. The first priority of course is getting onto that first page for your area of expertise or product etc. Without being in there, you aren’t going to be very visible at all and RankBrain and many of the other strategies, won’t come into play until after you have achieved enough visibility by being on that first page.

Google has said it many times before and the fact stands, content and links are the key to SEO and climbing the search results to reach the top. 

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After 1 million search results were analysed, it was clear to see that the amount of sites that link back to any given page directly impact ranking, this is the biggest factor to focus on if you want to see results in the rankings.

Keep in mind going forward into 2018 that content and links are and will be, the steady, strong rock to build on for SEO. 

7. What About Voice Search?

While voice search is not massively used yet, there is still rapid increase in people using it. This appears to be due to higher usage of mobile devices for searches, and things such as SIRI and the Google Home device. This type of technology is sure to increase from now on. It is wise to start optimising for voice search now.

Some Things That Can Help:

1. Including Questions and Their Answers Within Your Content

The largest portion of voice searches are questions. How do I…? Where is the closest…? Who was the main actress in…? etc. When a question is asked, Google will generally choose to show you a page which includes both the question and the answer to it. Where possible and relevant, try to include questions and answers in your content, as that is what Google’s voice search algorithm is looking for, and what will increase your visibility and rank for it.

2. Your Website or Content Must appear on the First Page of Search Results

Without being there, your content will not even be considered for a voice search answer.

3. Forge Your Way Into a Featured Snippet

It definitely makes a difference and will get you higher rankings when your content is chosen for snippets, such as Montfort has achieved with this one: 

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8. Extra Tricks to Top the Search Results in 2018

Unique is the New Black

Having new information is like gold, statistics, studies, surveys etc that anyone from bloggers to news agencies can use and re share will get you lots of links. Data that can be cited by others is valuable, and will give you significant back links which in turn boosts your rank in Google search.

Let it Show

As with videos, visual content is on the rise and very popular right now. Considering sites such as Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat which are really taking off, visual content is predicted to rise this year.

Embedded images can be equally as effective as smart looking infographics. Wherever you can add in an embedded image it’s worth doing, as they will link back to your site.

Try Podcasting

Podcasts are steadily becoming more and more popular and often show up in blogs and other sites nowdays. Even the Catholic Pope puts out regular podcasts for his followers. They are a simple, quick way to gain a good backlink.

67 million US citizens currently play one or more podcasts each month. Which has risen by 14% compared to the previous year. There will be more listeners and people searching for podcasts in 2018, jump on board.

Comments for the Win

Having comments on your blogs does help your search rankings. Have a read of ‘Why Blog Comments are Great for Google, SEO and Users’. In 2017 Google specifiedthat it is better to have comments within your site for Google to analyse engagement signals, than for comments to be on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

What this means for marketing professionals is that Google is looking at the community inside your website, they want to see interactions, and comment sections are an easy yet effective way to achieve that.


We hope you enjoyed this guide and found it helpful, please share your tips, feedback and questions with us, we would love to hear from you!

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