An SEO Wizard’s Bag of Tricks: Things to Do in 2018
Even though SEO has been around for decades now, it’s still a complex subject for most people. For those who don’t really understand how Google works, SEO is nothing short of wizardry. It’s like a magical book of spells that specific people know how to use to trick the world’s most popular search engine into favoring their own (or their client’s) site in search, instead of their competitor’s.
By those who aren’t really familiar with modern digital marketing practices, these individuals are often referred to as “wizards”. Heck, Rand Fishkin, one of the most well-known SEO professionals today, took the whole situation to the next level by calling himself “The Wizard of MOZ”.
For the sake of this story, let’s humor these ludicrous interpretations and say that SEO professionals are actually wizards, in a way.
If this is true, it means everyone can become an SEO wizard.
As you probably know, people are not born wizards, they become one by learning and practicing magic.
In this particular case, the magic in question is SEO.
However, becoming a wizard is no easy task. The path to becoming an SEO wizard is filled with various obstacles and challenges. The better you get, the harder the journey becomes. As many things begin to hinder your progress, you’ll be forced to learn faster, work smarter, and think of ways to reinvent the entire magic of SEO for yourself.
There are no simple instructions on how to become an SEO wizard. No. You have to constantly read, adapt, learn, and try new things. It’s a repetitive process that demands a curious mind and an undying thirst for knowledge.
In order to prepare you for the upcoming year, I have decided to share my 2018 SEO spellbook with you. In the following segments of this article, I’m going to acquaint you with some of my favorite SEO tricks that will surely help you improve your organic reach before you can finish saying your hocus-pocuses and abracadabras.
1. Powerful Content Campaigns, Designed for Specific Users
Content is still powerful. It’s still one of the best tricks in every SEO wizard’s book of magic. According to numerous sources and statistics, more than 2 million blog posts get published every day. You can say that we are drowning in content. Even though a lot of people have admitted they now only skim through blog posts and that we are basically being bombarded with all sorts of content – the truth is, there is still need for more. Google still wants more content. The users do too. The engine still likes to see that you have an active website that frequently provides its users with a lot of useful information.
Emphasis on useful, of course.
Data says that longer blog content tends to perform better in search, and the average word count per article continues to increase. The demand for visual content has also experienced significant growth in these last 12 months and so has the need for the paid promotion of your content.
Content still generates traffic, that’s a fact. Believe it or not, 90 percent of B2B buyers trust the content and use it to help them shape their opinions and decisions concerning specific products and services. The same study has shown that these people are interested in reading more content from industry leaders. Companies that blog frequently still receive far more traffic than those who only blog a couple of times per month. That is why content will continue to be a top priority for most inbound marketers.
According to everything written above, if you create smart and powerful content, and optimize it for search – it will continue to bring fresh leads to your site. The only thing you need to adopt (if you want to make content a big part of your SEO strategy for 2018), is an approach that will ensure success in this department.
This brings us back to the whole 10x content concept.
If you want to create something that will bring you traffic and help you rank high in search for your desired keywords, you need to produce content that is at least 10 times better than anything that can currently be found in search for the same keywords.
But this is just one type of content you need to be producing. The key is to have a plan and work your hardest to meet your objective. For example, in our company, we produce the following types of content:
- 10x content/skyscraper – well-optimized authority content that provides the best and most detailed answers to some of the industry’s burning questions. Studies have shown that these kinds of posts generate 6 times more traffic than standard articles.
- Link-earning content – well-optimized, evergreen, user-friendly resources, not just blog posts, that generate links from other sites like crazy. They usually come in the form of ultimate lists, infographics, case studies, research, white papers, statistics, etc.
- Link-building content – you can read more about this particular type of content in the following segment of the post.
- Easy-win content – material designed around relevant long tail keywords, important lower difficulty topics and themes.
- Persona + use formula – well-optimized content, meant for encouraging those who are familiar with the service/brand/product to finally make a move and see the value of investing in a particular product/service.
- Potentially viral content – material that provides different, unique, and interesting insights into popular topics, that will get people sharing and talking.
That is our plan.
Regardless of what you are doing or creating, it’s always best to do the research first and look for easy-win topics or those that are currently trending. Once you find your subject, do your best to create something genuinely useful, educational, evergreen, and unique.
Track your efforts and optimize your content campaigns according to the numbers and always think about the “link-worthiness” of your work. Don’t just pursue top-of-the-funnel content, create material that influences people in every stage of your buyer’s cycle.
2. Earn and Build Links (No, It’s Not the Same Thing)
Link building will still be one of the most valuable tricks in every real SEO wizard’s spellbook. In 2018, it will become more important than ever to create a strategy that seeks out quality links all over the web. It doesn’t really matter how good you get at creating 10x content or how well your work in that particular department starts to pay off in incoming links – you’ll still need to do a lot of link building on the side to ensure success.
As I already pointed out in my “The Difference Between Link Building and Link Earning” article, these two concepts are not really the same. Even though they look like two sides of the same coin, I have already explained that the first practice revolves around creating links, while the second one focuses on developing valuable resources that encourage people to FREELY AND NATURALLY link back to your site or particular pages.
If you want to maintain a steady growth and grab as much traffic as you possibly can in the upcoming year, you’ll have to add both of these strategies to your marketing mix.
You can earn top quality links through the 10x content that you’ll start (or continue) creating on your blog and specific landing pages, and you can build your links where your efforts will actually mean something.
However, regardless of the fact that 10x content has the power to earn you some quality links, it still demands that you work on its promotion. Creating the best piece of content for a given keyword is not really enough to help you climb to the top of Google’s SERP for a particular theme or topic. Especially if you don’t have a strong domain authority. If you have a small website, going against big names like Ahrefs, MOZ, Kissmetrics, and HubSpot won’t be easy. You cannot expect your content alone will beat them for the top positions. A quality piece of content (depending on the niche and industry, of course) will organically earn around 30-80 links. If you want to outpace the big guys, you’ll need to get more authority. Even if you do create the best-in-the-class content for a specific keyword or combination of keywords, you’ll still need to keep manually building links for it if you want to see it on top. This isn’t the fastest growth model, but it works.
Even though link building has earned itself some bad rap in certain marketing circles over the last couple of years, it’s still one of the most effective and intelligent strategies for driving traffic to your site. The only thing that has changed in this game in the last year is the very reason why pros build links. There is no longer a need to aim for new links that don’t really bring value to your site or pages. If your link building efforts aren’t aimed at helping your brand increase its authority in your niche or market – you should immediately stop what you’re doing.
The best links don’t necessarily come from popular sites. If you want your link building efforts to pay off in 2018, you’ll need to look for coverage on sites that are relevant for your business. Referral traffic from those particular sites won’t just help you increase your site’s organic search ranking. No. It will also help you drive quality visitors to your site that have an extremely high potential of becoming your loyal fans/paying customers.
Having all that in mind, we can wrap this segment up by saying that your 2018 link building strategy should be oriented towards building relationships with relevant websites that have the power to help your brand develop powerful contacts, and not just highly rated links. Your link building efforts should be focused on improving your exposure, without hurting your brand’s reputation.
3. Re-Optimize Your Existing Content
Before you even start to think about spending your time and money on creating new content, you should always first try to get the most of what you currently have. As someone who has a business website with more than a few blog posts and content pages, I don’t need to be a bearded wizard in rags to know that you have more than a couple of diamonds in your inventory that could use some polishing.
The process of re-optimizing content is not really magic. You don’t have to flash your wand or keywords around and say ludicrous words in order for it to work. Nope. In fact, it’s quite simple. The process starts with creating a list of all your pages/assets that have the potential of bringing more quality traffic to your site. These pages usually come in three groups:
- Low-performing pages (in terms of traffic and engagement) that target mid to highly competitive keywords.
- Blog posts or pages that cover important topics, but are now outdated.
- Information-rich pages that should be earning you links, but aren’t because of bad UX and UI.
Once you locate these pages and classify them in the appropriate groups, the idea is to start working on improving and transforming them into valuable assets.
I lied before – this is where “the magic” happens.
Depending on which page you’re updating, the protocol often goes in a similar order:
- Fix the entire content structure, make it easily digestible and user-friendly. Focus on bringing more value to the topic, and maybe even introduce related topics.
- Optimize the title tags for better CTR, which has always been important, but is along with dwell time and other user satisfaction indicators becoming even more critical.
- Build new topically-relevant internal links.
- Improve the targeting for your secondary keywords by reviewing and analyzing each keyword you’re currently chasing on that page via Google’s Search Console.
The general idea is to figure out why some of your existing pages don’t work, and what can be done in order to add more value to them and increase their organic visibility in search. All of this will, of course, automatically have a positive effect on your traffic.
4. Make Use of Google’s Rich Answer Box
You may have noticed that when searching for a topic, any topic, Google now provides a list of results, accompanied by an information box close to the top of the page that basically displays quick answers to your search query.
This featured snipped in now a part of Google’s new Rich Answer Box system that serves to provide searchers instant, highly relevant answers to their questions.
A snippet can contain any number of things. It can be a cold fact, a historical date, a suggestion, a list, a recipe – basically anything that could instantly put an end to your search. The need for this particular feature came with a growing number of mobile users who don’t really have the time or the patience to open various sites in order to find simple information.
Pretty sweet, right?
Well, not really, if your competitor gets their content displayed in this box. Google Rich Answer gets a lot of prime real-estate in your search. It’s extremely user-friendly, and it basically grabs almost all of the searcher’s attention, if the person is looking for something simple.
Google doesn’t always promote top ranking content here. We have seen that through numerous examples.
So what’s the trick? How does one get featured in this box? Do people need to cast magic spells, sacrifice goats, or even carry dozens of horseshoes on their necks for luck?
Not really, there is a way to optimize your content for the answer box:
- Implement a schema markup code;
- Structure data properly;
- Create 10x content, in direct response to a specific query (yes, just like I wrote above for long-tail keywords);
- Create Wikipedia pages;
- Get listed on Google Maps and Google+;
- Use Google Search Console to re-crawl your pages.
That’s it. No magic, no sacrifices.
5. Mobile-First Index
This is going to be a significant change for the upcoming year. Google has announced that the company is rolling out a new mobile-first index update. This means that the world’ most popular search engine will start to calculate search listing based on the mobile version of the content, even for results that are displayed for users that search via a desktop computer. It is now evident that the team of people behind this engine has noticed the number of poor mobile sites and that they are doing everything in their power to fix this issue, and provide users who primarily search via mobile a better experience.
According to numerous studies, over 50 percent of the entire traffic comes from mobile devices, and that number is only going to grow in the near future.
Even though the people behind Google have said that this change shouldn’t really worry those who have responsive sites, to us who know a thing or two about SEO, this announcement has literally changed the world.
If you want to keep your positions in Google’s SERP for your desired keywords, you need to make sure that your mobile version is just as optimized as your desktop site. Maybe even better, because Google has publicly said that it’s now more interested in mobile.
So, what does an apprentice wizard need to do in order to win a couple of leading positions in search in 2018, and thus generate tons of quality traffic? Turn every competitor into a frog? I don’t think so. There’s a nicer way to overcome the odds:
- Use a responsive site: Duuh, this is a no-brainer, but it’s still important to mention. Mobile-friendly and responsive sites are not really the same. Don’t lose your rankings and traffic over a dumb misunderstanding.
- Optimize your content for mobile: It’s imperative that from now on you focus on providing killer content that looks the same on mobile and desktop. Make sure to use shorter sentences and smaller paragraphs in your articles. Do your best to mix up your content strategy with various types of content, like videos (which are becoming more popular and important regardless of the platform you are optimizing for), images – basically anything that looks better on mobile and makes it easy for people to digest your information through their favorite devices.
- Don’t forget voice search: While particularly important for your mobile-focused efforts, the growing number of voice submitted queries is something that will influence all types of search. People formulate questions differently when making these kinds of queries, and expect succinct answers, making brevity your friend.
The key is to prepare for the change in time and adjust your strategies to Google’s liking. If you play by the engine’s rules, you will certainly get on its good side and probably be rewarded for your efforts.
Your Training Begins Now, Young Sorcerer
Thank you for taking the time to read this article from top to bottom. I hope it has taught you everything you needed to know in order to become a real SEO wizard. Every single one of the tips mentioned in this article is directly pulled from my own book of spells. Read them closely and practice everything you’ve learned here, and I promise – you’ll see a significant growth in your organic visits.