Working in SEO can be tough even if you're a well-established SEO Manager. The ever-changing Google algorithms, constantly moving focus points and alternating importance of ranking factors can make it hard not to fall behind and drown in a flood of optimisation techniques and new SEO wonder tools in 2018.
For that reason, we ran a short survey and these are the questions being asked the most by in-house marketers about their brands SEO. By giving you the answers to your pain points of modern SEO, we want to knock down some of the concrete walls, like the thin documentation and contradicting guides, which hinder so many from implementing correct techniques and SEO best practices.
The hreflang tag is being used to let Google know which version of a page should be shown, depending on the country that it gets accessed from or the language spoken. Should a user from Italy land on your US website, for example, a correctly implemented hreflang tag could send this user automatically to a beautifully optimised Italian version of your website and give them the best experience possible.
In order to get the hreflang tag to work perfectly, the hreflang tags need to be reciprocated on all pages. This means that you need to include all hreflang tags of a page in all of its variations. An example of this is shown below.
This example would need to be implemented into every single one of these URLs in order for the hreflang attribute to work correctly. This way, each variation confirms to Google that they are just another language of the original site or targetting a different location.
Not only is it one of the key mistakes when setting up hreflang, but it could also have been used to try and trick Google. People could use hreflang tags on their site, telling Google for example: “I am the Spanish page of Facebook”, then they would copy the Facebook site, so Google accepts it and this could lead to a high increase in traffic to the scam website.
To prevent this from happening, Google requires the reciprocal tags on all language variations of your page as seen in the example above, otherwise, your hreflang tags are simply ignored and lose their purpose.
Like the great statistic below from Moz shows, it can be a bit difficult to perfectly integrate hreflang into your site. As you are reading this article right now, you already have a good start to learning about hreflang and how to be in the 'people who got it right' section of the statistic.
For a complete in-depth guide on international SEO, you can read Your International SEO Strategy Success Story: It Starts Here. A brilliant guide, it includes everything you need to know for a successful International SEO campaign.
Canonical tags are great to define which page with similar content Google is supposed to see as the original as well as also consolidating link equity into one page. This will help prioritise pages on the site as well as removing any duplicate content issues.
As we just established, the canonical tag is used to tell Google which page of similar content is the main page. Why should you now use self-referring canonical tags on every other page?
A self-referring canonical can be beneficial in several ways. First of all, this would be a strong signal to Google as to which version of the URL is the correct one, and whether people search for the URL using 'http' or 'https', as well as 'www.' or 'non-www.' This would then automatically tell Google which version is the one to count the link equity towards.
The second reason to use a self-referring canonical tag would be to mitigate the risk of web-scrapers scraping your website and uploading it as their own, especially if this would be done by an automatic scraper tool.
The third reason is that it also makes it very clear to Google which page you want to have indexed and which exact version of it.
Featured snippets can be powerful tools to generate traffic and exposure to your site by answering questions about services, simple step by step guides and important information. Often, you have to target these questions specifically to have a chance to rank for them. This gives even smaller companies the opportunity to reach these desired SERP positions.
Featured results or snippets are gradually becoming one of the most important aspects to organic search, being in position 0 allows you to instantly answer the users question while also being seen as an authority in which they should click through to read more. These snippets can be in the form of a short answer, table or list. You will already need to be in position 1-6 to obtain a snippet however once in this position you can optimise to get into position 0.
First of all check the current result, if there is a table or list you should also be using these if it's text try to include the question in a heading tag followed by a brief 35-45 word paragraph answering the question in a short summary, this can then be followed by a more in-depth answer.
In the near future, this could become more and more important. As Voice Search is on the rise and Google is testing more 'one result' searches daily, the featured snippets will be targeted by a huge percentage of voice searches whether it's for restaurants nearby, quick explanations or how-to guides for day to day problems.
NAPs are 'Name, Address, Phone number' details that you include on your website and in any other register like Google My Business, Yelp and more. The NAPs that are not directly on your website are also called Local Business Citations. In fact, any website that cites your NAPs would count as a Local Business Citation. These citations are incredibly valuable, especially for local businesses, as they are one of the three main ranking factors for local SEO, the other two being backlinks and reviews.
In order for Google and other search engines to recognise all Local Business Citations as such, it's extremely important to have a consistent layout of the NAPs. Even slight variations of phone numbers or business names can lead to unrecognised Local Business Citations.
While this may sound gruesome it's a rather simple issue to explain. The keywords you're targeting on each page should be unique to this page as you don't want to rank for the same keyword with different pages. Pages which are using the same keyword or keywords in the meta title or h1 especially would be cannibalising keywords. There are enough competitors you need to try to outrank in order to be in the best position for the keyword without having another of your own pages as one of the competitors.
A page on your website should be unique to a theme and a set of keywords, which are not targeted on any of the other pages. This is also why creating multiple blog posts about the same theme is a bad idea. At least if you do not canonicalise your pages.
In the same way, duplicate content could be an issue on your site. That could mean that part of your page or your whole page is similar to a different page. There are endless scenarios about why this could have happened. For example, test or dev pages, that are duplicates of others and that got wrongly indexed, or category pages where the child category has the same meta title as its parent category and many more.
This duplication of content should be avoided at all costs. The negative influence duplicate content and keyword cannibalisation could have on your website ranges from minor keyword competition within your own site to the confusion of search engines, whether to include or exclude pages from the index.
If you would like to read more about duplicate content check this blog out.
Sitemaps are the directory of your website. For this reason, you should put some time and effort into getting them right and make it as clear and easy as possible for search engines to understand which pages you want to be indexed.
Even though the task seems quite straightforward, there are some tricky hurdles on your way to the perfect sitemap.
Make sure you only include pages that you want to be indexed. So, you should not have any URLs in the sitemap that are forbidden by the robots.txt. You should also not include pages that have a 'no-index' tag on them. As you declared before, that these pages should not be indexed, this would cause a paradox for the search engine. URLs which redirect to another URL or come back with a 404 Status Code should not be in the sitemap.
This also brings me to my most important point: Do not forget to update your sitemap!
When you update URLs, redirect or delete them, you should always update your sitemap as well. This way you make sure that Google is aware of the changes and new URLs can be indexed as well as old URLs removed from the search engine index.
The Domain Authority is a metric that defines how well a domain will rank on search engines and how much authority it has gained through backlinks. This metric is calculated by evaluating the amount of total external links to the domain and unique linking root domains. This results in a score which ranges from 0 to 100. The higher the score, the better the backlink profile of the website and the easier it is, as a result, to rank higher for keywords.
This score should not be used as a standalone score that you try to improve. You should rather analyse your competitors and their domain authority score and then work on improving your domain authority until it's the best within your sector. This way it will be easier to outrank your competitors. It's important to note that when using tools such as Moz & Majestic to work this out the metrics will differ vastly and are not the metrics used by Google to work out how powerful a site is. It's worth checking some links manually to work out the type of links as well as how good they are.
Link equity, also known as link 'juice', is a ranking factor which exists to understand how strong these backlinks are. When a website links to your website, then the link equity flows from that website to yours. The amount of link equity depends on the quality of the link; the higher the domain authority of the first website, the better the link equity you're getting from that backlink and effectively, this link equity is increasing your domain authority.
As a result of this, it's very important to not just get as many backlinks as possible, but that you look for high-quality backlink opportunities instead.
Everyone is talking about voice search at the moment. So how can you optimise for the biggest current trend in SEO?
Voice search is not just a small, barely used feature on Apple iPhones any more.
Here's an overview of the size of voice search, from AdviceLocal.
It has developed and is now available on every smartphone and many IoT devices like Google Home or Amazon Echo. This is changing the search world slowly but steadily, and not just the medium - the search queries themselves are changing.
Keywords have been optimised for years in a very specific way. They had to reflect exactly what people were typing into the search bars of search engines. Now that people use their voice and expect their devices to give a direct response, the keywords are transforming into conversational sentences and queries.
With voice search, we need to focus entirely on conversational sentences and questions. The days of simple Google results are over, it's becoming much more complex and the way in which people search is evolving, long tail keywords will become much more important as the way in which we search changes.
In combination with Google’s featured snippets, it will be more important than ever to produce specific content for pain-points and resolves the common issues that occur in day to day life.
This development sounds very hard and almost terrifying for SEO personnel and website owners, but if you look at the opportunities you can easily see that they outweigh the initial work it will take to convert to long tail keywords.
For local businesses, this will be a chance to improve their ranking in searches such as 'where is the nearest Chinese restaurant' or other specific local searches. As search queries will be more specific and often location related it could improve local business visibility overall compared to giants like Amazon and eBay.
As the queries of voice search are more specific and most voice solutions like Siri, Bixby, Google Home and Alexa only provide one answer, the intent analysis is more important than ever.
Getting the intent of potential long tail keywords right makes it easier to optimise your content for them. This can also be used to get an idea of which content you need to create to get your target audience to your page.
This can be a complex subject that needs a full article or guide to even begin to understand however there are steps you can start taking to monitor and improve your CRO.
Start off by making sure you are tracking as many events and conversions as you can within analytics, if using tag manager the Luna Metrics recipes already include a variety of events such as scroll tracking, outbound link clicks and calls/emails. Gathering as much data as possible now will allow you to optimise moving forward.
As well as using analytics to track usage there are tools such as Hotjar, Optimizely, VWO and Google Optimize that allow you to track and test changes to your site with ease.
You can find out what's allowed and what's forbidden by clicking here. If you'd like to use this functionality yourself, you don't need to develop the page yourself. There is already an automatic WordPress plugin to convert your content into AMP files. For more insight on AMP we recommend reading this article on Econsultancy.
The world of SEO is constantly changing and evolving, so there's no time to stand still and enjoy the view. Persistent learning about new SEO techniques is a must and we hope that this article will help to clarify some of the most common confusions. If you have any further questions, please feel free to get in contact with us.
Hreflang is tricky to implement, NAPs have to be consistent, AMP is a cool and useful feature and Voice Search is worth optimising for.
This overview will hopefully shed some light on the common SEO struggles in 2018. Make sure to read the articles we linked to and you'll avoid some of the headaches on your next project. Maybe you can even provide solutions to your client, which you hadn't considered before.
If you take away one idea from this post, it should be to never stop learning and to not get stuck in your comfort zone. Only this way are you able to provide the best SEO possible and stay ahead of the competition.
If you have any questions or would like to share your thoughts on this article, feel free to do so in the comment section below.
Sign up for our monthly newsletter and follow us on social media for the latest news.