Here we go, another year is upon us filled with SEO changes that all small businesses need to keep track of. This is a series of posts I have done ever other year (previous years: 2013 | 2015) to try and help people understand the upcoming search engine optimization best practices for the year. Hopefully you find this useful and have the resources to apply to your efforts!
Rankings to Focus on Content Beyond Blog Posts & Web Pages
This “trend” has been in effect well before 2018: the focus on rankings YouTube videos, images, etc. is definitely trending upwards. Video in particular has become the #1 preference for millenials and Gen Zers. According to some recent reports as about one third of online activity is spent watching video. Meaning that the newer generations would much rather get their information via video than any other format (written, image, etc).
While we won’t get deep into how to create videos (or other visuals) for your small business, here are some great tips from HubSpot’s YouTube ranking guide on how to rank your video/visual content once you do get around to creating it:
Increased Focus on Featured Snippets
You may have noticed doing your own Google searches that the first things that come up are:
- Sponsored Ads
- A snippet (answer, video, image, etc)
- actual page results
Basically, organic rankings are now at the very bottom of these other features that Google has decided to place on top of the search results. This 2nd point is called a “Featured Snippet” – which basically means your business can optimize content (whether it be a blog, video, etc) so that it shows up on search results with more than just the page title, link and meta description. It now shows a “snippet” of the content with the option to click for more information.
This is a direct graphic from Google on how it displays:
This is how it looks like as an actual result (I did a quick search on how to improve my SEO):
Why is this important? Featured snippets may not be stealing ALL of the natural results clicks just yet but they are eating into the organic results (pages that rank without being sponsored). This trend is most likely going to increase in the future. Long story short: featured snippets are a great way to get visibility on search engines. As the graphic from ahrefs snippet blog illustrates:
User Generated Content (UGC) To Become a Ranking Factor
User Generated Content (known as UGC) is anything that web users contribute to your business. Think of Google reviews: it is based on customer feedback about the business. Even images submitted by users of a specific place – all of these can be considered UGC. Why are they important?
Google is giving more weight towards user experience as it is representative (for the most part) of the business. People are becoming more trustworthy than corporations and we all know the adage “word of mouth is the best kind of marketing”. Seems to be holding true even for digital marketing. While not an OFFICIAL search engine factor just yet, UGC is already having an influence in search engine rankings according to recent research:
👕 “Specifically, the study found that if a keyword is found in reviews of your business, or if your location is mentioned in a review, those enhance your rankings in the search results.” https://t.co/tHmwL7RTUH
— 🤠 Randy Milanovic (@kayak360) December 28, 2017
Connected AI/Apps To Influence Personal Search Results
Do you have a Fitbit? Personal home assistant such as Alexa or Google Home? More than likely if your phone or personal account (whether it be Google/Gmail/Outlook/Apple ID) is connected to some of these devices, data is being stored and shared to understand your behaviour. While this will have a significant impact on advertisements (and making them highly targeted), it will also have a significant impact on search results.
Rankings of what comes up first in your Google searches will soon be influenced by apps and AI (Artificial Intelligence) devices that store your personal behaviour data.