If there’s one thing for certain in the land of SEO in 2018, it’s uncertainty. The web is riddled with articles and blog posts from SEOs everywhere serving up confusing and contradicting advice on the topic. Then there’s the all-seeing all-hearing Googlebot that can without warning levy some unforeseen penalty that will relegate you to the depths of page 5 where you’ll never see the light of day.
It can be scary, I get it.
Regardless, there are still effective strategies that can employed by any business to help keep them relevant and visible in SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages). Some of them are old standbys, some are new tips and tricks, but here’s a definitive list of 3 strategies that will work for your SEO strategy in 2018 and beyond.
1. Your Content is Everything
If you’ve read more than 3 blogs about SEO, you’ve undoubtedly heard the phrase ‘Content is King,’ but what does that even mean?! What most people don’t understand is the underlying reasons why content is king. I’ve seen many companies buy articles from offshore writers on Fiverr, and wonder why their content isn’t getting them ranked.
It’s not the quantity of your content, or how many keywords you can stuff into 300 words or more. It’s the quality! The entire idea behind content marketing as it pertains to SEO is creating content worthy of generating natural and organic backlinks. It’s about creating a piece of content so awesome that people will see it’s value and want to link up to it. We call this a ‘linkable assett’ in SEO.
But, how can you create a linkable assett? This is the hard part, and it will take a bit of creativity on your part to figure out. A good start would be to ask yourself what you have to offer that others don’t, be it knowledge, product, or service, and create content around it. Here’s are a couple infographics we created last year, one showing average rent prices in Boston by town and another showing average rent prices by T stop. We created these using rental data from our apartment database, and they scored us some killer backlinks from Curbed Boston, Americaninno, and NBC Boston. That’s what true content marketing in SEO is all about: creating something brilliant that others will want to feature or use as reference.
2. Backlinks – They Still Work
This is been a topic of hot debate in SEO land for decades now. Google has waged war against shady and unscrupulous link building tactics, and for the most part they’ve won the battle. That doesn’t mean you can’t buy links anymore, you just have to do it with a bit of discretion. Long gone are the days of buying 10,000 links from India and watching your site go from zero to hero overnight. Now it takes time, it takes patience, and it takes tact.
The fact of the matter is backlinks will never be removed from Google’s algorithm because they are the single most important factor in determining domain strength. They can’t get rid of it, but they’ve gotten smarter on how to separate the real from the fake.
You can forget about forum and message board links, and even sidebar and footer links are for the most part worthless at this point. The only links that matter now are links that appear within the content of a webpage. We call these ‘contextual backlinks’, and they are SEO gold.
How do you get them? Guest blogging is probably the most widely used way of scoring these backlinks, and it’s a very effective way to get it done. But there’s other things you can do. Get involved with community organizations, membership usually comes with a backlink from their site. Syndicate your best content pieces to local media. You’d be surprised how many links I got from simply sending my posted content to other publishers. Do a press release once every 6 months, sponsor a scholarship for your local university, and scour the web for sites that would consider linking to you. Here’s a great playbook on some unique ways to build backlinks.
This is where you have to roll up your sleeves and get dirty. You may even have to pick up the phone and pitch someone on why they should link to you. But these first two points, content and link building, are where 90% of your SEO effort should be in 2018.
3. Schema Markup & Rich Snippets
In 2011, Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Yandex teamed up to create a universal code to help their search engines interpret and understand content on the web. What was born was a universal language called schema.org, and at this moment their are tens of millions of websites that use it. Simply put, it’s a way to tell the search engines what your content is about.
Keep in mind, this won’t affect your rank. What it will affect is your click-through-rate, and how good you look on a SERP compared to your competitors.
The most obvious and commonly used schema code is the LocalBusiness markup, which gives Google valuable information about your business. Mostly all of the big players like Zillow and Trulia now are using the SingleFamilyResidence markup for their individual property listings. It will be interesting to see how Google uses this markup to show results for apartment searches in the future.
One type of markup that’s being severely underused is the AggregateRating markup, which is what Google is using to show star ratings in SERPs. Look at the following search result page and tell me which one you’d click on:
If you said the HotPads listing, then you’re like 90% of other users who rely on reviews to make buying decisions online. These add-ons to your Google listings are called “Rich Snippets”, and websites that have them enjoy a much higher than average click through rate than those that don’t. These Rich Snippets are created solely from the Schema markup on your page.
HotPads is the only player in Real Estate I see using the review markup at this point. So, if you’re a local agent or agency, this could be a great way to compete against the big boys. It will be hard to outrank a Zillow or a Trulia, but you’ll attract a lot more attention to your listing if you have a big juicy five star rating underneath it!
When it’s all said and done, to succeed in SEO in 2018 the only thing that will help you move the needle is great content and aggressive outreach to build links. To succeed in SEO, you’ll have to be resourceful and create some content that’s truly intriguing. And if you lack the ingenuity or the time to get it done, that doesn’t mean your up the creek without a paddle, you’ll just have to hire someone who can!