The 6 major algorithm changes Google is making this year – and how businesses can adapt

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How can a hungry startup keep ahead of the constant changes to Google’s algorithm? Startup News spoke with some local and national experts…

In its constant craving for relevance and domination, Google implements hundreds of changes to its indexing algorithm each year which can make real differences to search results.

While most of these changes are minor, some are major enough to significantly impact the sales and marketing efforts of hundreds of Australian startups where appearing at the top of Google for certain golden phrases is the be all and end all.

Davide Defendi, Head of Strategy at Sydney’s digital marketing agency SEO Shark (seoshark.com.au) highlights the six major changes Google is making to this year, and provides recommendations for how businesses can prepare for these changes.

1. Mobile-first index

Google’s mobile-friendly update has slowly, but increasingly, prioritised websites that are optimised for mobile devices.

It has already split its index into desktop and mobile, but this year, it has switched to mobile-first indexing. Regardless of how optimised your desktop website is, if it isn’t mobile compatible, you will be pushed down in your rankings.

Are you sure are mobile first?

2. Greater focus on featured snippets

Google has already begun expanding featured snippets this year.

Featured snippets (also known as ranking position #0) is a special search result that appears above regular results. An example is when you search a question, and the first result provides you with a direct answer from an authoritative source – you don’t need to click on a link for the answer.

Example of a Google “snippet”

Ranking for featured snippets, which have Google’s vote of confidence, gives your website a significant traffic boost as users are far more likely to gravitate towards these results. To give your site the best chance of ranking for one, ensure your HTML code features structured data which works as an instruction to Google for how to display a featured snippet for one of your pages.

3. The rise of voice (and conversational) search

Ever since the introduction of virtual assistants like Google Assistant, Cortana and Siri, the level of voice searches has skyrocketed.

With voice recognition technology now better than ever, users are starting to perform a majority of product and service searches with their voice. For your business, this raises the importance of mobile optimisation as well as the need to target natural speech phrasing in your SEO keyword strategy by using long-tail keywords.

Zion Ong from local SEO company Alyka has a view on this subject too.

“From our research, keywords that are fast gaining popularity are conversational keywords such as: where is a pharmacy near me?
what are the best running shoes to wear? what is a kid friendly chinese restaurant?”, Zion told Startup News.

“So conversational keywords are now really important to rank for and we believe that this trend will continue to ramp up in the future.

“This trend also coincides with the rise of voice search. People are talking into their smart devices more and more and the types of queries they are asking are more conversational.”

4. Unlinked mentions

Google is continuing to improve the semantic intelligence of its algorithm in 2018.

As a result, any mentions of your brand, even when not explicitly linked to your domain, are helping your SEO. Your business should try to generate as many positive mentions of your brand across as many domains as possible to increase your rankings. The higher the domain authority of the site you’re mentioned on, the more weight the mention will carry for SEO.

5. Secure sites

Google has officially announced that while HTTPS sites are better for security, they also provides a ranking boost for websites.

Google actively punishes sites that don’t have SSL encryption – pushing you down their rankings. To avoid this from happening to your website, get an SSL certificate to ensure that information provided by your visitors is kept safe. SSL certificates will need to be purchased but are a low-cost addition for your site.

6. High quality, authoritative content

In 2018 as ever, Google will continue to reward businesses that produce relevant and engaging content designed for people to read, rather than solely to inflate the relevancy of a domain.

This kind of content generation is becoming one of the primary tactics used in effective SEO campaigns. Your business would do well to hire a copywriter that can help you to create authoritative and engaging content that will attract users to your site.

So what should marketers do? Here are 3 quick tips from Zion Ong:

  1. Create more, fresh content on your websites
  2. Create more content around the specifics of your product or service. Include reviews, specs, comparisons, store location details, lifestyle content …
  3. Insert FAQ pages into your site containing rich question and answer content.

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About Alyka

Established in 2006, Subiaco-based Alyka is a multi-award winning full service digital agency focussed on gaining client results. The team offers website audit and development, SEO, digital marketing, mobile apps and UX. For more information, visit www.alyka.com.au and listen to their own podcast, ‘Ask Alyka‘, on all your favourite pod platforms.

About SEO Shark

Established in 2007, Sydney-based SEO Shark is a highly reputable digital marketing agency which has achieved SEO results across its portfolio of multinational clients, ASX-listed companies, and SMEs. It boasts a 4.9/5 Google rating, a 4.9/5 Facebook rating, and an 8.8/10 Trustpilot rating. For more information, visit www.seoshark.com.au