SEO in 2018
Authoritative Associations #1by JSB Collaborative | Human-Driven Digital Marketing & SEO
I can't believe it's 2018 already... I was hoping to have at least a few articles ready for the site by now. Even without long-form content, or this article, I still got my little 3-page site ranking for the query, 'seo rochester.' I'm pretty excited about it because I only made it on Wix. It features some just-long-form-enough-to-not-be-considered-thin-to-search-engines content about SEO, and a little bit about myself.
I'd imagine there are at least 30 or more agencies competing for this query. However, it's not very high search volume, and I'm sure search intent behind it is mostly those same SEO agencies searching for themselves to see where they rank--Rather than actual clients looking for the service... But, competitive nonetheless, I mean, this is what we do, right?
Of course, I'm going to post this and everyone on the SERP is going to challenge me and try to rank over--That's fine, lets have some fun.
This is a post about some of my thoughts on SEO moving into 2018.
I want to talk a little about why this dumb 3-pager was able to rank on 'seo rochester.' Even if it was for a short time. I mean seriously, if I didn't already say it, it's got pretty thin content from a User standpoint.
2018 On-Page Strategy:
Optimize for the things, not the strings.
Keyword Density and other On-Page elements have become more of an art than a science. You have to feel your way through it. This keeps it organic, keeps it from being spammy to users, but important to remember, also has to do with feeling your way through the interaction your Copy will have with search algorithms.
Theoretically, you want to be a few (1-2)% higher in keyword density than the On-Page average of the top 10 (100 if you're feeling the need to be particularly accurate) search results on the query for which you are trying to rank. Studies show that 4-5% is too much, and will be penalized for over-optimization. I believe that over time, this concept will only get more sensitive.
LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing):
What's very important, is to use LSI keywords frequently. If anything, spam those and be sparse with your exact terms. You want to associate your entity (thing) with these concepts and ideas, as opposed to going for the exact match query (string). Optimize for the Entity. Go even farther and write about LSI topically, and paginally, and interlink it all up to your exact term page.
RankBrain and Google's AI are only going to get more powerful and given more control over search algorithms as we move into the future.
Optimize for the Entity in Google's knowledge graph. (See Hummingbird)
Optimize content for positive User Experience (See RankBrain)
Terminate the Search
I suggest to write as you would naturally, then test the % density of your keywords after. Swap out LSI keywords for your money terms if this % feels high. Hell, swap out for LSI even if it doesn't. Use LSI to authoritatively associate back to your main terms. This is how to optimize for AI's understanding of your website because this is how it's Knowledge Graph works fundamentally. In doing so, I tend to leave the SEO out of SEO Copywriting. Write naturally.
Title Tags & Meta Descrip Tags:
Continuing this approach on to your Title & Meta Descrip Tags, don't get spammy here either. My title for my home page ranking for 'rochester seo' doesn't have 'rochester' anywhere in it. Or the descrip. Why? Why would I? Sure, I want to rank for the keyword, but it does nothing for the user outside of Rochester. Clients in India have found me on Google, why would they care about Rochester?
When you put it all together, Keyword Density, User Engagement, LSI & Organic Copy Writing, this is exactly where the science bleeds away. You have to feel your way through this, it's an art. It takes practice, and it takes SERP knowledge.
That is also to say, do your research. Competitive Research comes in strongly here.?
Going back to my Title Meta being absent 'rochester' in the tags. In this case, Rochester being a geographical area, this is where the Pigeon algo comes in. The algorithm operates differently for these location-centric ideas. There are times when you want to include it in the Title, and times you don't. It just comes down to what is best for the User. Be wary what Users are typing in.
Who types in 'SEO Agency' anyways? Does anybody really want to work with an Agency? I really struggle to understand why you would want to brand yourself like that in the first place.
So, what did I do to optimize for Pigeon here? For one, on-page, I've got my NAP in the footer, a crawlable map with my location here as well. I mention Rochester once or twice in the body copy. That's it. I see it all the time, On-Page strategy for these SEO agencies is spamming 'Rochester' 'Rochester' 'Rochester' all the time. Why? They must think it's still 2008...
Off-Page, I think this is really what did me in. I've got a very large amount of authoritative hyperlocal sites, listings and directories pointing to me. All with my NAPW fully syndicated, where possible, Services Lists, Photos, and Staff Bios published as well. I really see Directory & Listing Syndication as a publishing opportunity. You can even spam your keywords a little here... It's not going to hurt your site.
When we talk about Entity Building, this is how you want to approach your off-page. There is so much local data pointing to my site, Google has no reason not to believe that I am not in Rochester. Also consider, it doesn't rank me for being authoritative on the subject of 'rochester seo' it ranks me for being authoritative on the subject of 'seo' and knows that I am in 'rochester.' This is in part because of the Pigeon algo, but also because of Hummingbird understanding the true semantic nature of each 'thing' inside of the 'string.'
Optimize for the things, not the strings.
There is a % of the algorithm that likes the exact match signals (which basically goes against everything I have laid out above), but you have to know what you can get away with. The degrees in which these things are involved are completely dependent the query set, and function differently from SERP to SERP. In my opinion, that % of the algo will even still continue to get dialed down over time, as RankBrain takes more control. I tend to ignore this outright, at first. Dial the On-Page in as organically as possible, and revert back to less organic, stringy, exact-match strategies only as necessary. At the end of the day, what is best for the user is best for the client. That, also tends to be best for RankBrain. I believe none of this will be a factor in time.
What's more, the W field, in NAPW.
In these Directories noted above, most of them do not pass link juice over by way of do-follow linking, these sites generally no-follow their links out. It wasn't long ago, when mighty do-follow links were the most sought-after commodity in SEO.
Not only do I feel that do-follow links have been devalued, studies show that no-follow links seem to pass a certain kind of ranking signal as well. Text mentions of your Entity even, are now correlated as a ranking signal.
Why is this?
Google's algorithm changes 600 times a year because the way in which we use the internet also changes--if not more rapidly. Google attempts to create a platform in which there is some sort of 1:1 ratio between the way the algorithm serves content and the experiences we have online as users. No longer do most people start their online experience on Search Engines. The homepage is Facebook now. It is a land full of no-follow links and text mentions.People interact with these links online every day now. Is it RankBrain AI automatically adjusting the algorithm based on its reading of user signals from these no-follow interactions? Or was it intentionally placed in the algorithm by the search team manually? I don't know. Either way, it is important to remember, the algorithm changes as the way we use the internet changes.
If you want a quick way to stay updated on the 600-time/year-changing ranking signals, think about the way the masses interact with the internet. For instance, moving into 2018, the increase in Voice Search using Alexa or Google Home will make Schema markup & structured data much more important.
In this same way, Search Engines operate differently for different industries, markets, query sets, and search intent. This is why every new client project needs new full-fledged Market & Keyword Research.
If you have an SEO agency and get the feeling they have a lot of clients, make sure they aren't giving you the 'cookie cutter' approach.
For this reason, my opinion is that good SEO is executed by Individuals, not Agencies.
We'll have to get into more of that another time, though.
And this concludes Article #1 of Authoritative Associations: SEO in 2018. Thanks for reading.