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New Algorithms? No Problem: Stay Ahead of SEO Trends in 2018.

New Algorithms? No Problem: Stay Ahead of SEO Trends in 2018.

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If you’ve noticed that you haven’t been getting the same traffic you used to from organic search or social media, you’re not alone. A lot of companies out there have woken up in 2018 to see tried-and-true tactics suddenly stop working quite so well.

It’s not enough anymore just to have the right keywords or tags. Search engines, social media feeds and other tools that serve up content to their users have all updated their algorithms to prioritize usefulness as a metric.

Whether you’re trying to be found through organic search, social media, or other digital platforms, chances are your content is going to get pushed to the bottom of the pile if you’re not obviously and directly answering questions that your intended prospects are asking.

Today, let's take a look at some of the recent changes that Google, Bing and other search engines have made and examine the tweaks to major social media platforms that could be impacting your results.

Change #1: The keyword has been replaced by contextual cues and natural language patterns.

For years, the leading search engines had been working on ways to account for users' natural speech and writing patterns in search queries. Now, natural language is accounted for in search algorithms.

Most people don't type in a keyword or two, hoping to find relevant content — they type in a specific question and task Google with answering it. You may have found this article, for example, by typing, "What changes did Google make to its search algorithm last year?"

Updated SEO best practices no longer focus on ticking off boxes on a list of primary keywords you want to rank for. As searchers begin to type out questions and phrases in the search bar (or feed them to an AI assistant like Alexa or Siri), search now takes into account strings of secondary or related keyword phrases that speak to a searcher's intent.

In other words, don't rely on one search term to funnel users to your site. Task your marketing team with identifying the various ways an intended prospect might ask a question. Account for them in your SEO-tailoring.

Change #2: Metadata and site architecture are more important than ever.

Though the days when you could plug in a few target keywords into your site’s metadata and call it a day are long gone, the words you chose in your web content — copy, descriptions, metadata — still give search engines important contextual cues.

When you devise your site's description, you're essentially getting a free shot at telling Google's spiders why it should display your page first.

Some companies try to be pretty broad in their site descriptions to cast the widest possible net, but that can actively hurt your ranking chances. Why? Unless you're operating in a super-niche space, the chances are that all your competitors are creating similarly general site descriptions.

If you want to rank, both web crawlers and searchers need to know, at a glance, that you’re providing the information they’re looking for.

Web content should be tailored to answer the questions and use the language of your company's most profitable segment. Scheduled content in your initial integrated marketing campaign should closely support that goal as well.

Shore up market share within a responsive segment now and build outward from it. Subsequent content or later-phase subpages and landing pages can be used to build bridges from your initial stronghold.

URLs count, too.

If you’re creating new subdomains or landing pages in your campaigns, consider how intuitive your address would be for intended users. Spiders do look at URLs and evaluate them for fit to users' queries.

It might not be a bad idea to run some focus groups on the addresses you're considering to gain more objective insight into how URLs might be interpreted by potential searchers.

Change #3: Credibility and authority are as critical as context.

One of the key measures of usefulness, according to the digital powers-that-be, is the demonstration of thought leadership. So, search engines and social feeds are starting to penalize cut-and-paste aggregation (sorry, it's no longer so easy to start the next HuffPo); brands that bring fresh insights to users are rewarded.

If you’re answering questions that searchers are asking — in the same language that they’re asking them— but you’re still not seeing results, you may have a problem with page authority.

Google, LinkedIn, and other platforms weight results for both the relevance and credibility of a source.

Blogs, op-eds, articles, and posts that are written or are talked about by industry authorities and experts — CEOs, CMOs, company presidents, well-known entrepreneurs and the like — are going to receive a higher credibility score than, say, posts that are being backlinked or authored by an entry-level social media coordinator.

You may have noticed that this is even impacting the reach of your paid efforts with posts from your organization's more visible experts will have a wider initial reach and performing better than other content.

Change #4: Load speed matters.

If you’ve got credibility and you’re sending all the right signals, you could be getting dragged down by sluggish pages.

The faster your page loads, the stronger its search rank will be.

Another, somewhat unexpected, page characteristic that Google now evaluates for is loading speed. Pages that are weighed down by wonky code, gobs of ads and banners, animations, auto-playing vids, or (the worst offender) pop-ups are now being knocked down the search rankings.

Why? It’s simple: User experience.

Again, we come back to that usefulness metric. Pages that take more than a second to load on mobile (where most of your prospective customers are now) or are blocked by pop-ups that are difficult to click out of aren't at all useful to them.

Everyone's on the go, go, go — no one has the time or patience to slog through a site's muddy population sequence. They want answers fast. They want them now. If your page can't dish them up, customers are moving on to a competitor who can.

Need some help making sense of all the recent search and social media algorithm changes?

No worries. Here at Cleriti, evolutions in SEO and inbound are right in our digital marketing experts' wheelhouse. And we'd be happy to sit down with you and listen to your business needs.

Ready to drive traffic to your portal and elevate your online game?

Then click here. Let's chat.

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