Below are my thoughts on the future of SEO in 2018 that will have an impact on content creation strategies for big and small businesses alike.
Trend 1 – Natural Language Processing
What is natural language processing (NLP)?
Traditionally a domain of computer science, natural language processing is a field of artificial intelligence “concerned with the interactions between computers and human (natural) languages, and, in particular, concerned with programming computers to fruitfully process large natural language data.” (according to Wikipedia)
In 2018, the ability of the Google search algorithm to move beyond keyword recognition into semantic meaning is quite astounding. Google has been putting immense amounts of research into orienting the algorithm towards NLP, and scrolling through their findings is quite illuminating.
Why does natural language processing affect how my site ranks?
For two reasons.
1 – Because more people are searching with their voice rather than via text. Google has always adapted their algorithm to reflect the changing patterns of search behaviour, and a move toward natural language comprehension has been in the works for years since mobile came to replace desktop as the dominant search platform.
2 – No longer are keywords king. Today, topics are king. Now it is all about answering specific questions rather than incorporating keywords at a specific density on pages you want to rank for that keyword with.
The general orientation with Google algorithms has always been to properly interpret search queries. For many years the computational capacity of the algorithm was not developed enough to understand searcher intent when a question was entered into the search bar. A SERP would produce a list of sites with relevant keywords related to the question, and this was the extent to which it could understand searcher intent. The issue was that, if the search query was at all vague or too long, the algorithm would not produce accurate results.
Today, the algorithm is smart enough to interpret long questions with specific requests, and this means the content on your site no longer needs to be overly reliant on keyword density and keyword hyperlinking. Content should be focused on answering questions and solving problems while incorporating keywords naturally throughout the text.
Trend 2 – The Answer Box/Featured Snippet
Google has instituted an answer box for a lot of question-related searches. Interpreting what best-practices go into landing this coveted answer box slot will take up a lot of an SEO’s time in the coming year.
What is the answer box?
According to Google, the answer box (or answer summary) is “a snippet extracted programmatically from what a visitor sees on your webpage.”
The answer box is usually a portion of a complete text that would otherwise appear in the results page, but in this form is highlighted and extracted for the ease of the searcher.
Here is an example of an answer box when I type in the question: “what is content marketing?” …
It appears as though the answer box is designed primarily to answer specific questions entered into the search bar.
Or, to quote Google: “when we recognize that a query asks a question, we programmatically detect pages that answer the user’s question, and display a top result as a featured snippet in the search results.”
What does it mean for my search strategy?
Google’s answer box has shifted the focus away from strictly keyword content production towards dealing directly with questions. It is a more accurate reflection of search query structure, which often comes in the form of a question anyways.
The importance of questions is certainly backed up by some initial research into search query trends with the answer box. Stone Temple Consulting looked over 1.4 million queries and found that questions had a 480% increase in the percentage of keywords in snippets. These keywords were also most likely to appear within the paragraph structure of a page rather than as a headline, or page title.
Trend 3 – Increased Meta Description
It has been forever since Google last updated the chunk of text they accept in the meta description. For clarities sake, remember that the meta-description is the text that appears under title and URL of your pages in a SERP…
Only recently have Google increased the number of characters allowed in a meta-description from 160 to around 300. What does this mean for your organic search going forward?
According to SEO expert Paul Teitelman, the new character limit allows you to take “immediate action” with your organic search strategy. Stressing how simple it is to make the change in the backend, Paul points out you can “pack in more keywords as well as a call to action at the end. If you are an e-commerce site, you can put your keyword-oriented descriptions in there and finish off with something actionable.”
The change has immense practical significance for organic search ranking and conversion potential for an average small business owner. Putting highly descriptive meta-descriptions on all pages of your site (including your blog!) offers two benefits. First, it is easier for Google to pick what to display in the search results if the on-page keywords match the title and meta-description. Second, it gives the searcher exactly what they are looking for: informative content.
These are some of the SEO trends to keep pace within 2018. At the end of the day, optimizing your site for organic search ranking remains a complicated assortment of tasks that is nearly as hard as actually surfing a wave!
Contact Article-Writing.co to team up for insight into how we can push your future of SEO content strategy to new heights in 2018.
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The ultimate goal of content marketing is offering your target audience information and materials that will engage them and motivate them to choose your business.
Seems easy, right?
Often, companies will simply share general content to please everyone. But let’s be honest: you can’t win them all. And that’s okay!
Rather than throwing a line and hoping the fish will bite, create Thought Leadership content strategically catered to your target market. Consider the people who would genuinely need or care about what your business offers, rather than wasting time, effort, and resources on creating general, unfocused content. Successful content marketing involves promoting your products and services to the people interested in the subject matter, who will read the content, click on your company website, and take action.
As an executive of an organization, you are a valuable piece of the brand. Consumers want to know about the human presence leading companies, in order to understand more about the company’s values and goals.
Take advantage of your position as an industry expert and share extra content to attract more attention to yourself as an industry leader and your company. Your quality content will build your reputation as a reliable voice to earn your consumer’s trust. However, if it’s not focused on your target audience, you won’t earn many conversions from your content.
Consider these techniques to guide your Thought Leadership content so it can expand and strengthen your loyal consumer following:
- Identify your target audience by reviewing your current consumer data and identifying who is investing in your business or reacting to your thought leadership materials so far. Look for trends to find why these people are interested and if others like them haven’t been reached yet.
- Conduct customer research to learn how they will respond to your thought leadership content. Request participation in surveys, polls, social media comments, and more to learn about your existing impression on your audience and how you can improve your platform.
- Create target audience character profiles. Identify their interests, demographics, pain points, needs, and desires, and write to them.
- Find where your current and potential audience is active online. Catch their attention by being active and sharing your content marketing materials on these platforms.
- Pull inspiration from other Thought Leader examples. Research other executives within your field who implement successful content marketing through their personal platforms. Learn what qualities make their content attractive and why readers respond to it positively. These examples can offer a base for you to visualize what you want to achieve.
- Recognize your strengths as a Thought Leader. Often, leaders aren’t necessarily aware of the unique talents that give them an advantage in their industry until asked. Reflect on what topics you know best and how to input your insights to humanize your materials, make them original and more engaging for your audience.
Case Study: How Strategic Content Marketing Can Broaden Your Audience
In our client strategy calls, our team will interview our expert clients to learn about their industry expertise and find out what’s meaningful to them, their business, and then identify who we believe to be their target audience. We use these insights to inspire our content subject matter and tone to create impactful content for their current and potential consumers.
For example, our client, Dr. Nitin Desai, approached our strategy team to create content to promote his COVID Pre-Check app. His innovative software is intended to help employers ensure their employees who enter the office are COVID-free, providing a safe environment by eliminating the chance of spread.
Our team of strategists recognized that with Dr. Desai’s thorough professional knowledge around the COVID-19 virus, he had the potential to become a reliable voice in a culture of people seeking answers. We created content for Dr. Desai that focused on sharing COVID-related insights to reach a wider audience, which has been a successful mission. Our thoroughly planned content reflected his industry expertise, which brought him attention from various media outlets and publications, including Forbes.
By reaching out to our professional content marketing team, Dr. Desai achieved his goal of promoting his groundbreaking app, while also positioning himself as an authoritative voice in his field. Our team learned about his voice, discovered what was meaningful to him and his target audience, and optimized this to create focused, engaging content that broadened his consumer scope.
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Let us help you strengthen and broaden your consumer base for continued professional success. Book a call today.