The Definitive Guide To SEO In 2018

This is the ultimate guide to dominating Google’s search results in 2018.

And let me be clear about something:

This is NOT a lame “SEO in 2018” predictions post.

Instead, you’re going to see tested strategies that are working right now…and will work even better in 2018.

So if you’re looking to up your SEO game this year, you’ll love this guide.

Let’s dive right in.

SEO in 2018

Chapter 1:RankBrain & User Experience Signals

RankBrain and user experience signals

Last year Google announced that RankBrain was their third most important ranking factor:

“In the few months it has been deployed, RankBrain has become the third-most important signal contributing to the result of a search query.”

And as Google refines its algorithm, RankBrain is going to become even MORE important in 2018.

The question is:

What is RankBrain, exactly? And how can you optimize for it?

Google RankBrain: a Dead-Simple Explanation


RankBrain is a machine learning system that helps Google sort their search results.

That might sound complicated, but it isn’t.

RankBrain simply measures how users interact with the search results…

…and ranks them accordingly.

For example, let’s say you search for “cold brew coffee” in Google.

Cold brew coffee

The #4 result looks especially enticing. So you quickly click on it.

And when you get there…wow! It’s the best darn article about coffee you’ve ever read. So you devour every word.

RankBrain is going to take note…and likely give that #4 result a rankings boost.

On the other hand, let’s say that you do the same search. But this time, you click on the #1 result without even looking.

But the content is TERRIBLE. So you bounce from the page after a few seconds. And you click on the #4 result to find something about coffee that’s actually worth reading.

RankBrain will also notice this. And if enough people quickly bounce from that result, Google will boot it from the #1 spot.

As you can see, RankBrain focuses on two things:

1. How long someone spends on your page (Dwell Time)
2. The percentage of people that click on your result (Click Through Rate)

Let’s break each of these down.

RankBrain and Dwell Time


Dwell Time=how long a Google searcher spends on your page.

As it turns out, RankBrain pays A LOT of attention to Dwell Time.

In fact, the head of Google Brain in Canada recently confirmed that Google uses Dwell Time as a ranking signal. He stated that RankBrain measures when:

“someone clicks on a page and stays on that page, when they go back”

Dwell time

And a recent industry study by SearchMetrics supports this statement. They found that the average Dwell Time for a top 10 Google result is 3 minutes and 10 seconds.

If you’ve spent any time digging through your Google Analytics, you know that a 3+ minute Dwell Time is legit.

And it’s no coincidence that pages with awesome Dwell Time tend to rank best. In fact, RankBrain is upranking these pages for that exact reason.

This makes sense if you think about it:

If you spend a long time on a page, you probably like the content on that page.

And if enough people feel the same way, Google will uprank that content to make it easier to find.

If you want to improve your site’s Dwell Time, check out this video:

RankBrain and Organic Click Through Rate (CTR)


Google Engineer Paul Haahr caused a stir in the SEO world when he put up this slide at a conference:

Paul Haahr

This slide basically says:

“RankBrain sometimes ranks pages higher up than they “should” rank.

And if that page gets an above-average CTR, we use that as a sign that the page should get a permanent rankings boost.”

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, if no one clicks on your result, why would Google keep it on the first page?

And if your site is getting clicked on like there’s no tomorrow, why would Google keep it buried in the #9 spot?

If you want a few simple strategies that you can use to boost CTR, check out this infographic that I recently made with Larry Kim.

Boost organic click through rates

(Click Here for Full Image)

Speaking of click through rate…

Chapter 2:Become a CTR Jedi

CTR Jedi

If you want to master SEO in 2018, you need to become a CTR Jedi.

Yes, because of RankBrain.

But also because of:

Google ads

And:

Google lists

And most deadly of all:

Google wiki

In fact, one industry study found that organic CTR is down 37% since 2015.

It’s no secret why: Google is crowding out the organic search results with Answer Boxes, Ads, Carousels, “People also ask” sections, and more.

And to stand out, your result needs to scream “click on me!”…or else it’ll be ignored.

This video will help you boost your CTR using what I call “The Click Magnet Method”:

Chapter 3:Comprehensive, In-Depth
Content Wins

In-depth content

In the old days, Google would analyze your page to see how many times you used a specific keyword.

In other words, they focused 100% on your page’s content. So the Google spider would visit your page to check if your keyword appeared in your:

  • Title tag
  • URL
  • Image ALT text
  • Description tag
  • H1 tag

To be fair, they still look at that stuff. But today’s Google is MUCH smarter than it used to be.

So instead of only measuring content, they now focus on context.

What do I mean?

Remember: Google’s #1 job is to show their user the BEST result. And in most cases, the “best” result isn’t a piece of keyword-stuffed content.

Instead, the best pages cover an entire topic in-depth.

With in-depth content, a Google searcher gets everything they need in one place (one stop shopping).

In fact, my recent ranking factors study found that in-depth content tends to rank best in Google.

Content topic authority

How To Write Comprehensive, In-Depth Content


So: how can you write the type of in-depth content that Google wants to see?

First, publish content that’s at least 2,000 words. That way, you can cover everything a Google searcher needs to know about that topic.

In fact, our ranking factors study found that longer content (like ultimate guides and long-form blog posts) outranked short articles in Google:

Content total word count

Add LSI Keywords to Your Content


Once you’ve put the finishing touches on your 2,000-word monster, add LSI keywords to it.

LSI keywords are words and phrases that are strongly associated with your page’s topic.

For example, let’s say that you just published an article about The Paleo Diet.

LSI keywords would be terms like:

  • Nutrition
  • Caveman
  • Weight loss
  • Recipes
  • Grains

And when Google sees these LSI keywords on your page, they think: “Awesome! This page obviously covers this topic really well.”

How do you find LSI keywords? Here are three simple ways to find ‘em:

First, use a nifty free tool called LSI Graph.

LSI graph

Just enter your target keyword into the tool, and it’ll show you a bunch of LSI keywords that are associated with that term:

LSI graph results

Add any of these that make sense to your content.

Second, use good ol’ Google. Just search for your target keyword. Then check out the “Searches related to…” section at the bottom of the search results.

Related searches

The words in bold here are LSI keywords.

Finally, you can hack the Google Keyword Planner for LSI keyword ideas. Here’s how:

Pop your keyword into the Google Keyword Planner. And click “Get Ideas”.

Keyword planner

Then, scan the results. Many of these are LSI keywords.

Keyword planner results

Just like with the other strategies I showed you, sprinkle LSI keywords from the Google Keyword Planner into your content.

Chapter 4:Get Ready for Google's Mobile-first Index

Google mobile first index

Last year Google announced that they’re switching over to a “mobile-first index”.

In other words, Google will consider the mobile version of your site the “real” version. And this will be the case even if someone searches from a desktop.

This move makes sense. Today, 60% of Google searches are from a mobile device. And that’s only going to grow in the future.

Even though Google’s Mobile-first index isn’t live yet, it’s coming any day now. That’s why I recommend prepping for it now.

How to Prepare for Google’s Mobile-First Index: 3 Simple Steps


1

Make Your Content Consistent Across Desktop and Mobile

You know how sometimes people hide content on the mobile version of their page?

Here’s an example:

Consistent content

Well, that’s going to be a BIG problem when Google unveils their mobile-first algo.

Once Google goes mobile-first they’re going to consider the mobile version of your page the “true” version. That hidden content is going to be 100% ignored by Big G.

That’s why you want to display 100% of the content from your desktop version to mobile folks too.

For example, when you visit this post on the Backlinko blog from an iPhone, you get the same amazing content that desktop users get 🙂

Actionable SEO techniques

As you can see, there’s nothing hidden behind buttons, menus, or expandable sections.


2

Move From m. to Responsive Design

Do you have a mobile “M.” version of your site? Google recommends switching over to responsive design.

So do I.


3

Make Sure Your Site Kicks Butt On Mobile

I see lots of sites that technically work on a phone or tablet. But they’re a huge pain to actually use.

As I talked about in Chapter 1, RankBrain closely measures how Google users interact with your site.

And if peeps have a hard time using your site with their phone, they’re going to hit their “back” button without thinking twice.

How do you know if your site is legit mobile friendly?

I recommend checking out the nifty Mobile-Friendly Test tool from Google. Just enter a URL into it, and the tool will let you know if your site is mobile-friendly:

Mobile friendly test

They’ll even hook you up with recommendations that you can use to up your mobile game.

Mobile friendly test results

Chapter 5:Go-All In With Video (Or Get
Left Behind)

Video SEO 2018

Online video is EXPLODING right now.

In fact, according to Cisco, online video will make up 80% of all online traffic by 2021.

80%!

And that may still not satiate the world’s demand for video.

Despite the fact that there are more videos out there than ever, HubSpot states that 43% of people want to see MORE video content.

In short:

If you’re not creating video content, you’re missing out. Here’s how to take advantage of video’s SEO benefits in 2018:

Tap Into YouTube


YouTube is already the world’s 2nd largest search engine.

And like any online video platform, it’s growing fast (The Huffington Post reports that the amount of time that people spend on YouTube is up 60% compared to last year).

In short, more and more people are searching for stuff on YouTube… and skipping Google altogether.

So if you want to get more traffic from SEO in 2018, I recommend creating and optimizing content specifically for YouTube.

It’s a search engine that’s too big to ignore.

The best part? Most marketers are too lazy to make videos. So it’s pretty easy to get your videos seen (assuming you know what you’re doing).

For example, my channel has fewer than 20 total videos. And those 20 videos generate over 100k views per month.

Video SEO growth
Google search with video

(And as you might expect, a good chunk of those viewers turn into website visitors, leads and customers).

It gets better: when you publish SEO-optimized YouTube videos, you’ll own more Google real estate.

Why? Well, for starters: 55% of all Google search results contain at least one video.

(And almost all of those videos are from YouTube).

Here’s an example of what I mean:

YouTube SEO

And considering that Google owns YouTube, expect even MORE YouTube videos in the search results in 2018.

In fact, Google has started to blend YouTube results into Google Image search:

Video results

Embed Video Content Into Text-Based Blog Posts


If people want to see more video, why not give it to them?

That’s why I recommend embedding video content into your blog posts. In my experience, this can give you a serious dwell time boost.

Here’s an example of this in action:

Embed video content

Chapter 6:Pay Attention to Voice Search

Pay attention to voice search
Is voice search “the next big thing” in SEO? I doubt it. That said, the popularity of voice search IS growing insanely fast.

For example, check out these eyebrow-raising facts:

  • 40% of adults perform at least one voice search every day (source)
  • Voice searches performed in Google are up 35x since 2008 (source)
  • 20% of all searches on mobile are voice searches (source)

Knowing that, smart SEOs are starting to optimize some of their content for voice search.

Including me 🙂

How to Optimize for Voice Search


Voice search is still super duper early.

Even so, there are a few things we DO know about how voice search works… and how to optimize for it.

1

First, your content needs to be on the first page.

Kinda obvious, but it’s worth pointing out.

2

Next, it helps A LOT if your content appears in a Featured Snippet, like this:

Google ranking factors

Google’s algorithm has already put together a convenient little snippet.

And from my testing, Google voice search (especially Google Home) tends to spit out the text inside of the Featured Snippet.

3

Finally, include a question (and answer) in your content.

The vast majority of voice searches are question based (“How do I do a pullup?” or “Who starred in Shawshank Redemption”?).

When that happens, Google usually picks a page that contains a) the question and b) the answer.

For example:

When I search for:

Google voice search

I get this answer:

Google voice search results

And when I go to the actual page, I see that the content includes my question and a short answer:

Ketogenic diet

Just what Google’s voice search algorithm wants to see.

Chapter 7:Don't Forget: Content and Links
Are Key

Content and links
With all that said…SEO is still all about content and links.

Without amazing content, you’ll never get links.

And without links, you won’t crack the first page.

And if you’re not on Google’s first page, RankBrain, Voice Search and the Mobile-first algorithm won’t matter. Those only come into play once you already rank for stuff.

In fact, Google recently came out and said that content and links are their #1 and #2 ranking factors:
Google top ranking factors

And when we recently analyzed 1 million Google search results, we found that the number of sites linking to a page correlated with rankings more than anything else.

Number of referring domains

In short, content and links will still be the foundation of SEO in 2018.

And once you have a handle on that, it’s time to optimize your site for the new SEO trends that I outlined in this guide.

Bonus chapter:Quick Tips for SEO in 2018

SEO tips for 2018
In this chapter I’ll show you a few quick win tactics that will work especially well in 2018.

Create Visual Content (Especially “Embeddable Images”)


Just like video, visual content is growing fast.

In fact, a recent poll found that 37% of marketers stated that visual marketing was the most important form of content for their business.

And thanks to sites like Pinterest and Instagram, visual content should continue to see growth in 2018.

How can you take advantage of this trend?

Create more visual content… especially “Embeddable Images”.

In my experience, “Embeddable Images” can do just as well as a fancy infographic…if not better.

(Embeddable Images are images that are easy for other sites to embed into their content. When they do, they’ll usually link back to you).

For example, here’s a simple visual that I included in this guide.

Embeddable images

It’s nice…but pretty simple.

Even so, people LOVE embedding this image in their content:

And because of that, that single Embeddable Image has generated a handful of high-quality backlinks to my site.

Embeddable images results

Publish Unique Data


Bloggers and journalists LOVE unique data.

And if you can hook them up with a stat, a survey, or an industry study, they’ll throw links at your feet like rose petals.

For example, I recently published this study of YouTube ranking factors:

YouTube ranking factors

This content contains has lots of data that people can cite (like the fact that the average video on the first page of YouTube is nearly 15 minutes).

And cite they do! This page has racked up backlinks from over 180 different domains in under a year:

YouTube ranking factors results

Encourage Comments on Your Site


Do blog comments help your rankings?

The answer seems to be: “YES!”.

Last year Google said that community (blog comments) can help “a lot” with rankings.

Encourage comments

And this year Google said that “Comments are better on-site for engagement signals for SEO than moving to social.”

In other words, Google wants to see that you have an active community on your site. And they’re likely to pay even more attention to this ranking signal in 2018.

Go On Podcasts


Podcasts are one of my all-time favorite ways to build links.

It’s like guest posting… without all the BS. Just show up, provide value, and you get a sweet backlink:

Podcasts for SEO

And podcasting’s popularity is growing like a beanstalk. In fact, 67 million Americans listen to at least one podcast per month (that’s up 14% vs. last year).

That means that there will be even MORE opportunities for you to get links from podcasts in 2018.

Now It’s Your Turn

Conclusion

So that’s how I’m preparing for SEO in 2018.

Now I want to turn it over to you: Which of the steps from today’s guide are you going to implement first?

Are you going to optimize your content for dwell time? Or work on making your site more mobile-friendly?

Let me know by leaving a quick comment below right now.

  1. As always, nicely executed Brian! I’m loving your new graphic designs in this guide btw.

    Re: video for SEO — For on-page SEO, embedding a video can increase dwell time and user-engagement metrics. But it still seems like Google doesn’t give much importance to what is actually in the video audio even though they can auto-generate closed captions. SEO + video is still heavily underweighted in Google’s algo imo. Do you agree?

    1. Thanks Tom. Yes that’s completely right. I don’t think Google puts much weight into what you say in the video that’s embedded.

      It’s more about increasing UX signals.

      1. Agreed. Which is still kinda strange to me as video and audio have become increasingly important over the last several years (in addition to images) — which Google has the technology to understand — but doesn’t apply to their ranking algo.

        Which leads me to believe, that even though it has zero or close to zero weighting in their algo for 2018… Perhaps by 2020 or 2025 it’ll have heavier weighting?

        Kinda the same story with social signals… Their weighting is SO low, but importance to normal human beings is so high. One client can’t believe that Google doesn’t take into account the actual traffic coming into a site (referral, direct, etc) and that it has zero impact on ranking. He has a fair point, and I can hardly explain to him why that is actually the case.

        Didn’t mean to make this into a mini-blog post, lol. But curious to hear your take on this and how Google seems to be a little slow to adopt these seemingly important factors into their ranking algo.

        Thoughts?

  2. Hi Brian,
    thank for that awesome work!
    Now I know that voice becomes stronger every day. But I wonder how voice search may boost sales in an e-commerce shop…

    And: I noticed that you play around with fonts in your articles. Are there any reasons for that? Do you test with fonts e.g. “avg. time on page by different fonts”?

    Best,
    Daniel

    1. You’re welcome, Daniel. In my experience voice search isn’t used as much for shopping (except for Amazon Echo). So it’s more for getting your content discovered.

      To your 2nd question, we usually use the same font for posts. And another for guides like these (to make them easier to read).

  3. Great post, Brian. Question for you: is there a formatting/html difference between an embeddable image and a regular one? Or is it just about making sure you use valuable images that will make sense when used out of context in other places?

    1. Kyle, good question. Exactly: the main difference is that embedable images can be used on other websites to explain concepts, show data etc.

      1. So how does it work – you create an unbranded image that can be used on other sites and then what? Do you offer an embed code, the way some infographics do?

        I’m sure many others would be intrigued to know!

          1. Hey Nimi, it’s that the image displays a lot of helpful information, which makes other bloggers likely to use it in their content.

  4. Hey Brian,

    Great article. Have seen some decent results from voice search this year, looking forward to more in 2018.

    Adding videos to my to-do list in 2018, I see the epic battle between Fb and YT now 🙂

  5. Hi Brian,

    It’s such a pleasure learning from you. Your blog poste are always catchy and easy to read.

    I’m definitely going to look at the LSI keywords, since I haven’t really used any in my content. Thanks!

    Rasmus

  6. LSI Graph is a game-changer, thanks for sharing.

    Can you talk at all about the UX performance of your posts? Do these full-width/no-sidebar versions perform any better than the older/2-column layout you used to use?

    I love this layout, but I wonder if losing the sidebar hurts at all.

    1. You’re welcome, TJ. Yup, LSI Graph is a very cool tool.

      I’ve tested this A LOT and found very little difference in terms of dwell time or conversions. That said, every site is different so I recommend testing it on a few pages to see how it works for you.

    1. ::Looking up what Chapter 3 says::

      Yes exactly! I meant do to that 🙂

      But seriously, Jason — glad you enjoyed the guide and are giving video a shot in 2018.

  7. Thanks Brian. This is the way it should be. Not sure if everyone is listing to you though but keep preaching it cause you’re dead on.

    Ranking today has more to do with meaningful and useful content than SEO voodoo link crazy linking techniques and spending your time on keyword density and other technical items.

    Make sure your site is built properly and submitted to the Search Engines without errors. Then naturally write and promote your content and the traffic will come.

    1. Curtis, that’s very true. RankBrain especially has changed things up. That said, as I point out in Chapter 7, backlinks are still super important (Google has come out and confirmed this). So yeah, it’s more of a balance between the two now vs. trying to game the system all the time.

  8. Great post! We are very strong on the content front but could use some help with video. Any tips, hacks, etc for getting started with video production?

  9. As usual, incredible article, Brian. You never fail to amaze me with the content that you put out and the value that you provide. I’ve implemented comprehensive, in-depth content for clients across industries for some time and they’ve all been seeing all-time highs in rankings, visitors and conversions. Thank you – Keep crushing SEO!

  10. Great stuff Brian! Love the tips and insights. Btw, really enjoyed the visual design that broke apart the chapters as it made it very easy to read.

    I do think it is going to be interesting to see how voice search evolves the next few years.

    1. Thanks Chris.

      I agree. I’m not all in on voice search like I am with video. But more people are searching via voice on their phones (myself included). And that’s a trend that’s going to impact SEO. As you alluded to, it’s not clear HOW this will impact things. But it’ll be interesting to follow it.

    1. Thanks Fabio. It’s definitely a ranking factor (Google has come out and said so). That said, it’s not a game changer because so many sites are HTTPS now.

  11. That’s again a gem article from you. Love your post always it’s been indepth and inspirational. I don’t know your technique how you are keeping me hunger to read next line and I’ll end up with complete article. Awesome.

  12. Hi Brain,
    What to do with those articles which cannot be written in 2000 words or more?
    Do we need to drop the idea for which, we cannot write 2000 words?
    Looking forward to your answer.

    1. Vicky, I wouldn’t sweat the word count that much. It’s more about being comprehensive than hitting a particular number of words. So if only takes 600 words to get the job done, so be it.

  13. Thanks for the predictions! 🙂

    Mobile first and video are what I’m going for. My mobile traffic recently surpassed desktop and it’s only going to grow. I believe websites that aren’t super fast on a mobile and that have a good UX will be left in the dust in 2018 🙂

    1. You’re welcome, Asher.

      Totally. Because Backlinko is B2B we only get around 15% of our traffic from mobile. But with Google’s Mobile-first algorithm, EVERY site has to be mobile-friendly to rank.

  14. Brian, you always deliver value. I appreciate all that you do. I’ve been putting your ideas to work all of 2017 and I’m seeing the results. Based on what I’ve read above, 2018 is going to be a lot of fun for those of us that implement these strategies. Keep up the great work sir!

    1. Nice! Yup, 2018 is more of the same… plus new stuff. So if you keep up what you’re doing and implement some of the strategies from the guide, you should be good to go.

  15. A great guide Brian. We have some great rankings, but we are always looking to improve and see what the future holds for SEO.

    We do a lot with video so can highly recommend a focus in that area. Your voice optimisation is something we’ll definitely be concentrating on. Thanks.

  16. Hi Brain,
    Great article as always. Very insightful indeed.
    Machine Learning (ML) is key factor for search engine nowadays. The thing with ML is its algorithm gets better overtime with more data. We don’t know exactly what the algorithm looks life. We can easily speculate Dwell Time and CTR is very important factor as you mentioned it.

    Its better for bloggers to embrace the changes and move ahead towards 2018 and hope for better success with your guidance and help!

    1. Tilak, well said. We don’t know the exact ways that ML changes the algorithm. But we do know what’s possible to measure (dwell time, CTR etc.). So it’s smart to create content that’s optimized for those factors. And the best way to do that is usually to create the best content on that topic.

  17. Great content as always, Brian.

    My main takeaways are to:

    1. work to improve dwell time; and

    2. perform a post-production LSI sprinkle.

    Cheers

  18. It’s good to hear that content and links are still the key elements of ranking. Thank you so much Brian. I just learned a lot of new things here. Looking forward to more amazing article in 2018.

  19. Thanks for sharing this awesome content Brian.

    I’ll be adding videos to my contents in 2018, improving my CTR, getting quality links and I’ll also optimize my contents for Google voice search.

  20. Hey Brian, not only #6 surprise me, but almost all points suprise me. Thanks for your sharing.

    Can I ask something that I really want to know, how do you layout this article so it’s eye-catching?

    1. You’re welcome, Sulham. The guide is custom designed and coded, so a lot goes into it. More than I can describe here in a blog comment

  21. Not only is your article packed with great actionable content, I also loved looking at your design, formatting, subheadings etc. Easy to read & visually pleasing – great learning all round.

    1. Thanks Alison. Glad you enjoyed reading it.

      I’ve found that readability and formatting make a big difference in dwell time, bounce rate etc., which as I mention in Chapter 1 is really important right now.

  22. Wow… I was eagerly waiting for this.
    Actually I am building a new site. I was little bit confused about SEO. Now I think I can do SEO own self for my site. Thank you for this helpful post as well.

  23. Thanks Brian, You are hands down my goto site/guy for SEO, I have not opened up one email about SEO until I saw yours today and I’ve received loads of them! I have built my own sites and others and got them ranking on page 1, mainly through your tips.

    For 2018, I am adding video and then going to optimize for voice search by adding questions and answers. I will also be taking a close look at the usual suspects and re-reading your guide for 2018 over the coming days/weeks. Thank your so much, your tips have literally changed my business for the better!
    Jeff

    1. You’re welcome, Jeff. Sounds like a plan. You really can’t go wrong with video. Of course, there’s a barrier to entry with it vs. text-based blog posts. But in my experience, it’s well worth it.

      Also, congrats on your success!

  24. thanks Brian, That’s great! preparation for 2018.

    but i think chapter 5. Go-All In With Video (Or Get Left Behind).
    how to solve this problem if i can’t make a great video content.

    and….

    ….where my PDF for this great posts ?

  25. Hi Brian,

    Great stuff here, thank you very much…

    One thought comes to mind, aren’t ads going to trump the “RankBrain” results anyway? How do you compete with ads, even if your content provides more value than someone who pays to have their result above yours? I guess nothing has changed in that aspect, just something I was thinking about…

    We are definitely going to be implementing these techniques for our SEO clients in the coming months. I’ve already spoken to our content creation team, letting them know we’re going to be “beefing up” our content strategy, and I sent them all this link to read haha!

    Thanks again Brian, as always, very valuable content.

    Shawn
    fencepencil

    1. You’re welcome, Shawn. Good point there. There’s no doubt that ads are stealing clicks from the organic results. That’s a fact.

      That said, even so, Google is still by far the best source of traffic online. Hands down. That’s why I still focus on it.

  26. Brian great content as usual!
    Do you think G ranking factors are the same for all Googles? I mean for example for google.it is all this stuff valid? Or this is only for English based websites?
    Thank you
    Ciao
    Andrea

    1. Great question Andrea. Every Google is a little bit different. But in general, the algorithms focus on the same things (links, UX signals etc.).

      1. Thank for your answer Brian!
        Regards ranking factors I trust a lot in CTR!
        Do you have a personal and general CTR hit for the first 10 spots in serps? I mean a minimum CTR for each spots that Is a good one. Is this a licit question or CTR change depending on the niche ?
        Thank you
        Andrea

        1. There really in’t a minimum because a “good” CTR depends on the number of ads, SERP features, the niche etc. Instead, I just focus on improving my CTR over time.

  27. Hey Brian:

    Videos….

    Even though,it is bit time consuming to create a quality video, it is more than worth it. Great for traffic and SEO as well.

    Whats your take on FB videos for SEO?

    Awesome article as usual 🙂

    1. Hey Tom, yes definitely. Totally worth it.

      I actually don’t like FB videos. They’re half life is days or hours. YouTube=months and years.

  28. Pure value as always Brian!

    Last wednesday I was in a conference of the Spain and Portugal CEO of Google and she talked about machine learning going “everywhere” (not just the Google Home) like a VA that “guess” what you need before you even ask for it.

    So I think the future to get traffic is a combination of:

    1) Great content: instead of spending 5 hour per article and write 10 articles each month, spend 50 on ONE article and let it spread!

    2) LIQUID content that can be easily distributed of marked up for Google use (being it in Snippets or voice anwers). Break your content into small pieces, then create more content pieces out of it!

    And of course a beautifully mobile optimised page. 🙂

    Talking about mobile, what do you think of PWA?

    I personally think they are the reasonable near future and that we should be prepared for them, but Apple seems to be reticent about it (obvious reasons I guess..)

    Cheers and thanks for your content! I am just launching my site! 🙂

    1. Interesting, Ric. Makes sense that Google would implement more ML into their products.

      And yup, I agree 100% on those two points. It’s a deadly 1-2 combo. I actually don’t have much experience with PWA. Do you?

  29. Great content

    But I need to understand something.

    When you write an in-depth article, that you know has more quality than most of your competitors, but still, your competitors are still outranking you, what will you do

    I it because they have a higher domain authority than you?

    1. Thank you. Yes, that’s right: links are still key. Having the best content (or most in-depth content) isn’t enough to rank. You still need links.

  30. Absolute. Gold. As usual – already shared with anyone who would listen 🙂

    I’m curious – sometimes with your chapter-based guides, you have them all on a single page like this one, but sometimes they’re separate pages with an overview page as a sort of intro + table of contents, like the Keyword Research for SEO Definitive Guide.

    Any reason for the different approaches? Maybe based on wanting to rank for several separate main keywords vs. just one main keyword?

    Thanks again for putting this together – already excited for the 2019 update!

    1. No problem, Tyler. Happy to help.

      Good question. It depends on the topic. If a topic is REALLY huge (like keyword research), it’s impossible to cover it all in a single guide. But for something smaller (like SEO this year), I can tackle it on a single page.

  31. Nice post Brian.
    Truely mobile search is going to rule the coming years. Your site looks awesome on mobile.In fact, I read your posts only on mobile because I love those visuals and responsiveness on mobile.
    Thanks for sharing

    1. You’re welcome, Vijay. I agree: mobile is definitely the future of SEO and will be more important when Google implements their mobile-first update in 2018.

  32. Hey Brian,

    Fantastic article as usual.

    With Google pushing their Google Home, I think Voice Search will become extremely important in 2018.

    However, it’s high time to become a CTR Jedi 😀

    1. Thanks Udit. That’s right: Google Home might be huge. Even if it’s not, more people are using voice search on their phones. So it’s likely to be big time either way.

  33. Thanks for all of the great tips & tricks Brian! Your content is always clear, thorough and most of all detailed. Gee I wonder what the dwell time on this article is (LOL)? One of your best I’ll bet. Go Get Em’ Rank Brain… Also, what do you call this content form? Infogram? Infoblog? Blogograph? It’s catchy and consumable for sure. Thanks for the great insights!

    1. You’re welcome, Charles. Hoping for a good dwell time on this one.

      I actually don’t have a catchy name for this format quite yet. But Blogograph has a nice ring to it 🙂

    1. Yes, that’s true Paul. Google recently said that they’re 3 main ranking factors are: content, links and RankBrain. So I’d say RankBrain is becoming more important as 2018 rolls around. Yup, there are always new ways to get backlinks. You gotta be creative 🙂

  34. As always very useful and actionable info. Well put together.

    Is there a resource that you could suggest for building out blog posts that have unique data points in different industries?

    Thank you.

  35. Hey Brian

    Thanks for this, very useful indeed.

    Just wondering I noticed that you use 19 H1 tags rather than just 2(which is what I was told was recommended). Can you explain your reasoning?

    Many thanks
    Rob

  36. Great post Brian, we are starting to see what looks like more voice related results for our clients over time. A lot of this fits in with local search/local SEO for businesses already, shops, restaurants etc. and is sensible to write, optimise and rank for; e.g. “builder in XYZ….” etc.

    More frequently these results seem to be thinking out loud type queries; e.g. “pizzeria near me”, or “my closest gardener”. Other than optimising GMB and pages for local search, so you rank the business well locally in the 3 pack and search, is there a way you can write and optimise pages for these sort of voice queries?

    1. Good call there, Paul. There are LOTS of voice searches in the world of local SEO. And quite a lot if informational searches to “How do I X” etc.

      I actually don’t think you need to change much of your local SEO optimization for local search. Google is good at interpreting these queries and bringing up the best 3 pack. So I’d focus on getting in the 3 pack for your main keyword. And when someone searches for something similar via voice, I’ve found Google shows the same results.

  37. Thanks for this article. My traffic has gone up a lot this year, and I think it’s because I have long articles that generate good dwell time (5-7 min).

    Q re CTR: what’s the best way to study it? I just looked at the search console in Google Analytics and am perplexed. If I just look at the content part of GA, my top page has 12K uniques from google in past 30 days. But if I look at search console part, it says 222 clicks for past 30 days. I see a CTR there, but since there is such a discrepancy between the two counts for visits/clicks, I’m not sure what to think.

    1. You’re welcome, LK. It’s honestly not easy to figure out. But I recommend focusing on the GSC because it has the best CTR data. if you see pages that are ranking in the top 3 but getting a low CTR, I’d work on those. That can usually get you the biggest gains.

      GA pulls traffic from all sources by default, so you may see traffic from social media etc.

      Hope that helps.

  38. Thank you Brian, this is awesome! About publishing studies, how do you gather all this unique data? How did you get access to behind-the-scenes data from 1.3M videos to analyze? We recently published an infograpghic on a client’s blog but it’s just data we quoted from other sites, not unique. I wonder if you can get your own stats when you have a small site.

    1. Hey Ester, really good question. The study I referenced was NOT easy to pull off. That said, it was worth it.

      An easier way to collect unique data is to conduct a survey on a hot topic. For example, “What Millennials Think About X”. This is pretty easy to pull off with something like Google Surveys.

  39. Thanks Brian, this really is great. Every time I read a post or guide by you, I’m super inspired to get creating.

    Two questions if I may:

    With Google, on desktop my site is 4th for my specific keywords, but on mobile it’s ranked 10th. It’s a WordPress site that seems to fit mobile nicely enough, and the Google Developer tool says it’s Mobile Friendly. Is there anywhere else I should check to try and figure out the difference in ranking?

    Your images are great! Do you guys make them or is there a huge image database I should look into to jazz up my own posts?

    Thanks so much!
    Adam.

    1. You’re welcome, Adam. That could be because you’re signed in on one device or the other. If that’s not it, Google will roll out a mobile-first index that will make those differences much smaller. They’re all custom made 🙂

      1. Thanks Brian, I’m sure it takes a full day or so to reply to every comment, but I absolutely appreciate your dedication.

        I think my problem was that my desktop was using http://www.google.com.au but my phone was using http://www.google.com – but I was worried that my site would be knocked down to 10th with a mobile-first index. Thanks for helping.

        Hats off to your graphics peeps/team/dude or chick, they are spot on!

  40. Awesome post Brian. Looks like you went all out for this one, it’s nice to see something more actionable then the usual “here’s what I think could but probably never will happen posts”.

    I loved all the tips, especially when it comes to tips on dwell time…good stuff. The only other thing I’m doing for 2018 is something I learned from you, “cleaning duplicate content and ‘dead weight’ pages,” a tip I got from one of your other posts: https://backlinko.com/seo-checklist

    I’ve been getting pretty crazy results for some clients by taking it a step further and actually parsing server logs with Screaming Frogs Log Analyzer and then blocking any unnecessary URLs in robots.txt. Not only do the “dead weight” pages drop out of the index pretty quickly, but it’s also had a huge impact on the crawl budget…which has be especially helpful for client’s sites with 1,000’s of pages.

    1. Hey Jeff, LOL yup. I see those “here’s what I think could but probably never will happen posts” all the time. It’s like: even if you’re right…what do I actually DO to prepare for that change?

      That’s why I decided to change things up. Also, thanks for sharing your experience there. I’ve also noticed that it helps to clear out junk, dead weight pages.

  41. Brian, well done sir!

    Interesting stuff – especially the voice and video stuff. Crazy eh?

    Looks like I’ve gotta re-watch that YouTube course you created (First Page Videos) and churn out some videos!

  42. Brian,
    Great content as always.
    I think I will start with adding bucket-brigades in combination with better sub headers. Already try to write long quality posts and I see that it works. 2018 is going to be a great year.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Edward

  43. I have a startup in a boring but huge industry, universal joints yes the things in your car
    So as a startup I need as much help as I can to get some B2B traction.
    Will never have the money to compete against the big guys so I love what you do to help us little guys

  44. Hi Brian,
    I was wondering why you had been quiet lately…
    Now I know.
    This guide is awesome!

    Also, I was wondering, what are your thoughts on HIGH bounce-rate, AND high dwell time for a specific page.

    I heard Rand Fishkin form Moz saying something like we should not rely ONLY on high bounce rate (since the dwell time is high). High dwell time normally means the user liked the page and possibly found his answer.

    Any thoughts?

    Thanks
    Maxime

    1. Hey Maxime, yup, I’ve been spending lots of time on this one.

      Yes, that’s true in many cases. That said, it definitely won’t HURT to improve your Dwell Time. That’s why I focus on that more than just bounce rate.

  45. Hey Brian as a follower i definitely say its an advanced guide for those who are looking for truly working SEO in 2018. Going to try all these with my website with responsive design already implemented. Thanks for guiding in such a great way. Salute to this hard work.

  46. Hey Brain,

    Saw your content after a long. But again you blasted. You are really indeed.

    I tried understanding Rank Brain but before it was not perfectly clear to me. Now I must I know about it.

    Thanks for your hard work. Thanks for sharing.

  47. One of the best articles that I’ve read in a very long time! Took notes and gonna implement and test bunch of stuff you talked about. You’re a beast! Cheers, Tomas

  48. Awesome Content.

    I have recently started with videos and still in dilemma to target YT or FB for videos. I was planning to go with FB, but with current algo change in FB for trial run on supporting only sponsored post in news feed, I am in dilemma.

  49. Another great post from the genius, 1st 4 points sounds very effective. And I’ll definitely try to implement it this time and watch the results. Will let you know here after implementing these tactics.

  50. Hey Brian,
    Great!
    I was waiting for your new guide. I will try to follow your guide for next year. You Always come with the new method. Writing about voice search was very important for me. I had no idea how to created a content for voice search. Also, RankBrian is a more important part for 2018.
    Thanks

  51. Love your posts, Brian!

    I also love how it seems like the trend of your articles is to convey more and more information with images/video and less and less with text. Eventually, I feel like your blog posts will basically be infographics 🙂

    Thanks for creating great content.

  52. Unless I overlooked you didn’t mention page speed and mobile rankings. While its not a officially a ranking factor it does help with user experience and better user experience means better on page time.

    Google Pagespeed Insights is a good starting point. I prefer using gtmetrix.com. It gives a you more in-depth view of where you can improve your sites speed.

  53. The voice search is something I really can’t quite understand, but it’s probably going to have an impact. One other thing that I believe it will have impact is AI. Huge companies are investing in that and it will become a major thing in the technology world.

    Thanks for the tips Brian!

    Regards,
    Ivaylo Durmonski

    1. You’re welcome, Ivaylo. I recommend doing a few voice searches on the Google App (or Google home). It’s like 100% accurate and faster than typing (especially on a phone).

      And yup, AI is definitely going to play a bigger and bigger role in SEO going forward.

  54. Hey Brian,

    You are really a hero, I always learn something new from you and I am willing to read your contents and when I notice you have a new content I read it thoroughly.

    I was missing a lot of LSI keywords and now I think I should start focusing more on LSI then the targetted keywords because they are really important.

  55. Thanks, Brian, brilliantly executed as always.

    I notice you don’t display dates in any of these articles or blog posts. I understand why, but, have you noticed if dates omission has any effect on rankings or user experience?

  56. Once again, so much awesome info from Brian, that’s pure value.
    And so easy to understand and digest for us who are not SEO professionals or subject-matter experts.

    Definitely bookmarked for future use and reference. Thanks!

  57. I just got this in my email with the subject line “Next Year”. I opened it a soon as I finish my lunch. WOW Beautiful infographics! This is why I keep coming to your site because it is easy to read and understand. You must have put a lot of work into this. Awesome post Brian I learn a lot, thank you for sharing.

  58. wow, so generous, so much great material, another reminder that I should continue to fully flesh out some of my existing posts to get closer to 2,000 words instead of being satisfied with 900 or 1,000!

  59. Bloody brilliant as always Brian, would love your big blog posts as PDFs or epub’s. I have a 10-hour flight this weekend and they would be perfect reading on my iPad to pass the time.

    1. Thanks Chris. I’ll probably make a PDF version in a few weeks. In the meantime I recommend using iBooks to save the page as a PDF.

  60. Thanks – great article.

    I didn’t realize that Google was open about the top search ranking factors. Time to put even more work into building those backlinks and that out of this world content 🙂

    1. You’re welcome, Jakob. They’re not usually that open. So it surprised a lot of people when they announced their top 3 ranking factors.

  61. Great article Brian! We will too use LSI keywords in the future. We literally published a blog today on how to optimize a site for voice search! Thanks for sharing all this very useful information.

  62. A lot ‘o’ learnin’ I got from this one Brian! So, what makes an “embeddable image”? Is it any graphic I put in my post, and it’s just the “worthiness” aspect (value) that makes people want to share it? If they do share it, how is that done? Right click on the image for the link?

  63. Great post, Brian.

    Love how you incorporated videos into this blog post… where you talked about how good videos are for SEO.

    My guess for the future (at least the near future) of blogging is that incorporating video with the written content will be the standard. I mean, I know the smartest content creators already use video in their posts, but I’m talking about it becoming the norm across the board. Do you agree or disagree?

    Thanks for the great content!

    1. Thanks Caleb. I do agree. That said, it depends on the content. In some cases you just want a quick answer to a question. For others, you need an in-depth guide or tutorial that shows you what to do. That’s where videos can be super helpful and powerful.

  64. Hi Brian, nice share! Thank you for the information.
    I have a question for you.
    Why do you think blog comments (on our site) are very important. They are increasing outbound links and sometimes comments are messing keyword density. Is it not a bad result for SEO?
    Sorry for my english. Thanks!

    1. You’re welcome, Matthew. Good question. Google has said that the typos and content in comments won’t count as your page’s content. But having them shows that your site has a community of people that like reading your stuff.

  65. Very informative!
    This is honestly all I wanted to know, now I can continue doing my SEO and skip all the BS articles this year.

    As usual, thank you for being an inspiration and leader in the SEO world

    1. Yup, pretty much! Lots of BS SEO articles out there (especially “future of SEO” stuff). But if you just scale what you’re doing already, and add new strategies, you’ll be way ahead of most other people.

  66. It’s been a long time since I wrote a 2,000 word blog post… but it’s now on my to-do list. And adding a question with a short answer will be a must in each post moving forward. Wow, terrific article!

  67. Thanks Brian – perfect timing as always 😉 I’m currently doing a site upgrade to improve user experience, so good to hear about dwell time etc..

    One question if I may: comprehensive content on a subject of at least 2,000 words – makes sense. Is there an upper limit to this? I have a 12,000 word eBook that I’m planning to turn into a Blog post – better to publish as an epic 12,000 word post, or break it down into 5-6 smaller posts?

  68. Hey Brian,

    As always, Awesome article as always. It is clearly showing your time and hard work behind it.

    I have one question though.
    According to you, what’s the difference between embeddable image and normal attached image?

    1. Thanks Ramena. An embeddable image is just an image that people will want to embed on their site because it provides so much value.

  69. Hi Brian,
    One of the best and most comprehensive SEO guides I have come across. Thanks mate. I’m sharing it on my 9,000+ member Facebook Group, Grow your niche site.
    Cheers

  70. This guide is actually of a fair length by Backlinko’s standard, but I felt I’ve learnt so much that it gives me even more motivation to step up the game. I also realize that one thing I consistently lack is idea validation, and your products or blogposts are nothing even if you get the rest of the details right.

    On that note, since blogposts are really just a form of free product, the insights that apply to the former also apply to the latter as well. In hindsight, it’s really so obvious. Just make you wonder how easy it is to miss it when you’re in the action.

  71. Thanks Brian… It’s really great and easy readable content for us. I have learned a lot from your content .. and main thing is i have increased 80% traffic on website by using your tips only.. thanks you so much

  72. Hi Brian!

    AWESOME Guide. In fact, I KNOW all this stuff, but you put it together in a form that summarizes everything in a way so that I can honestly say: “NOW I know what I need to do!”

    Let me give something of value back:

    (This is not an advert and I am not the owner of the tool, but we are using it and it is free)

    In the section when you talk about LSI keywords, the tools and methods that you mention are “nice”, but they are not a gold nugget.

    This tool is: https://www.seolyze.com/

    Just check it out and if you are an SEO and honestly want to optimize content for LSI keywords, your eyes might probably fall out of your head if you see this 🙂

    Cheers and keep up the good work,
    Martin

    1. Thanks Martin. Glad you enjoyed the guide. I’ll have to give that a try. I think it’s on my “tools to try list” (which has 50+ tools on it!). But I’ll try to set aside some time to give it a whirl soon

  73. Hi Brian,

    Very good analysis for 2018 SEO. I agree with all points but still not sure how voice search can move into SEO. It will be difficult part for any SEO guy to implement the necessary steps in getting on search results trough voice.

    I loved points like Bucket Brigade, APP, Click Magnet Method, CTR Jedi methods too.

    Hopefully I can apply most or all of them in coming months.

    1. Thanks Sujit. I don’t think you need to go all-in on voice search quite yet. But it’s becoming more and more important. So I’d keep an eye on it.

  74. Very thorough and useful post, I have already passed on to my colleagues as well. Many good hints and ideas that we can get started now to improve our results immediately and over time…

    A question for you…

    What is your opinion of the two most commonly installed WordPress SEO plugins Yoast and All In One SEO? I have heard pros and con for each, and of course, many bloggers or store owners count on them to do the hard work of SEO…

    If they are not updated to meet the new criteria that are in use or will be in use, they could very well be hurting many millions of websites and the rankings that come with good practice SEO…

    I would be interested in your recommendation as to what to use and why, or perhaps a viable alternative. Definitely, we all need something that will be effective to keep up with these changes.

    Thanks!
    Dave

    1. Thanks David. Good question.

      Those tools really just help you change your title tags, description tags etc. They don’t do that much in the actual optimization department (in terms of writing content, optimizing for CTR etc.). So I’d continue to use whichever SEO plugin works for you.

  75. Hei Brian

    Each time you come up with the best article you can read or really benefit.
    Did you know I have only 18 articles in my new blog.

    I’ve followed some of the techniques you’ve written here and i get now 2000 Guest every day :* (AND JUST TO KNOW ) MY SITE is new

    I thank you again for your hard work and for what you have offered

    I wish you the best

    William

  76. Hi Brian,

    Great article but I think I will have to refer to this on more than one occasion! So much to take in but I you made it easy to digest!

    SEO is ever-changing I suppose so we also have to adapt. I’m pleased that I already adopt most of these methods but one thing I may have to address is post length. I write a lot of reviews for Android TV boxes but I find it difficult to reach 2000 words without nodding off (and that’s just me).

    Most of my posts are between 1000 to 1400 words. Would you recommend going back over old posts and modifying them to increase the number of words?

    1. Hey Craig, good question. I would only add more content if it makes your review better. If adding content helps your visitor make a decision (for example, by expanding on features), go for it. But I wouldn’t add filler to bump up the word count. If 1k words does the job, you’re all set.

  77. Excellent article as always Brian! 🙂

    I will focus more on the video content next year (this year I was mostly focusing on comprehensive and in-depth content).

    I am already looking forward to your articles and videos in 2018!

    1. Awesome, Gabka! Video can be tough to get going with (I struggled a lot at first). But it’s worth the effort for sure.

  78. Thanx for this awesome guide, Brian! One question: do you think making up AMP pages will have the same meaning for Google to rank sites as the responsive design?
    What I mean is if I have the website absolutely mobile unfriendly, can AMP make it mobile-friendly? Or I still need to make my design responsive to rank better?

    1. Hey Dmitry, you’re welcome. I’d say no. AMP is mostly for loading speed. If the UX is optimized for desktop, that’s going to be a problem for the mobile-first index…even if the page is AMP.

  79. Hi Brian, well presented post as always.

    I just wanted to query your assumption that content within dropdowns etc. will be devalued within the mobile-first index. This has been asked numerous times to both John and Gary and they have both always stated that content within accordions etc. will be given full value within the mobile first index as it is an acceptable way of improving UX on a mobile device.

    So unlike desktop (where tabbed, accordion etc. content is definitely devalued (but not ignored)), the content will be fine as long as it isn’t ‘hidden’, which means un-viewable rather than obfuscated.

    Malc.

    P.S. I am not confident in my use of the word obfuscated 🙂

    1. Hey Malcolm, really good question. That’s a thorny issue that I haven’t seen a straight answer on Yes, John and Gary have both said it’s OK to use accordions. But those statements were pre Mobile-first. So to be on the safe side I’m going to make all of my content available on mobile.

  80. Also….

    I would only recommend switching to responsive design if said design was actually “mobile first”. I see hundreds of sites that have implemented horrible responsive set-ups that simply set elements to hidden on mobile etc. rather than building for mobile and using media queries to enhance for desktop.

    Finally (sorry)…. Speed!!! I have queried this a few times with Google and expect speed to begin to play a bigger part on things moving forward from the mobile-first index. Last I heard they were even planning to do something around speed for launch (although what launch actually means is anyone’s guess with them rolling sites to mobile-first when they are “ready”).

    Make your mobile site fast. Actually fix those render blocking JavaScript issues. Optimise your CSS rather than serving everything on every page. Look at intelligent lazy loading / deferring. Strip out anything that mobile users don’t need / use.

    Malc.

    1. Hey Malcolm, right on there. I’ve seen that too. It’s all about being legit “mobile friendly” vs. “installing a responsive WordPress theme”.

      Yup, I’ve noticed that sitespeed hasn’t been as big of a factor as everyone initially made it out to be. But this could be HUGE with the mobile-first index. Great comment.

  81. I really enjoyed this article. And most of all, I loved the 2 points you put it out:
    – visual content
    – podcasts

    I’m writing an article on what will be the visual content trend in marketing in 2018 and found out that one of the biggest trend will be ephemeral content in social media. Will get back to you when my article is published!

  82. Question about the minimum 3:10 time on page to help with ranking: Is that time spent on the particular page/ blog post they clicked on, or time on your site that resulted from that click? Thanks! Thank you for this guide, too. I’m excited to implement it (I used a few tips from your 2017 guide a couple months ago, and wow!)

  83. Hey Brian,
    Great article. Your CTR infographic as well as article is awesome. I found something new which I never take in mind before. But after reading your article, I found these are also ranking factor.

    Waiting for your next article. Frankly, saying that I am a true fan of your content.

  84. Thank you so much, Brian. Your content is awesome and well formatted. I love how you use Power Words to improve CTR and the LSIGraph tool. I’ll have to put these into practice.

  85. Brian, great write-up as usual and this is the encouraging article to include new points in our organic search engine optimization .
    Fully agreed with you, Content and links are still important as you described.
    What are your take on “AI and machine learning”

  86. Hi Brian

    Great guide. 1 thing i would like to mention ( If i may ) is that the importance of having a secure domain ( SSL ) cant be overstated. A recent Semrush survey revealed that over 65% of websites ranking top 3 organically, all had HTTPS domains. If Rankbrain is going to look at bounce rate as a signal then i can’t see any bigger factor than this in terms of having an effect once a user lands on a website, particularly as Google is going to make it crystal clear if a domain is secure or not.

    Keep up the good work. 🙂

    1. Hi Shaun, really good point there. We actually just switched from HTTPS for that exact reason.

      I never heard anyone talk about the impact of the Google Chrome warning on UX signals. But it makes total sense. Good stuff.

  87. Hi Brian,

    This guide is spot on. Thank you for that.

    I have been using LSI a lot in my content in 2017 and have been seeing great results.

    Now I need to integrate voice search into my content marketing in 2018 and see if I can get great result from that too!

    1. Hey Charlice, awesome! Yup, voice search is becoming a bigger percentage of searches. So it’s something to keep an eye out for in 2018.

  88. Wow, Brian
    That’s an amazing piece to read.
    I am going to add below to dos in my list for 2018. Though practicing few already but more aggressive approach is needed:

    Adding videos in content
    More focus on Videos
    Images in Blog pieces
    Focus on voice search and start including questions and answers in our blog posts.

    Thanks once again.

  89. Very glad that I finally found a true leader in this space that is coming with creative ideas and how to implement them. Thanks for providing value. Looking forward to kicking ass in 2018!

  90. Great article, Brian. I like your content schedule and how your articles are in-depth and provide a ton of value.

    What software, if any, do you use to create simple embedded images for your posts?

  91. Hi Brian,

    First Thanks for a great article as always.
    Now LSI keywords and Videos will be on top of my list. I have postponed videos always but now it seems that its time to work on LSI, videos and info graphics.

    Vikas

  92. The article was really informative and covered all seo points which should be noticed in 2018.
    The infographic also helped in better understanding the content strategy.

  93. This is a value bomb! As always, absolutely love your content and this one is no exception. I love how you explained Rank Brain. Youtube is one thing I didn’t consider so far now looks like it’s a must now.

    Is there a video coming up for this post? 🙂

  94. Thanks Brian. This is the way it should be. Not sure if everyone is listing to you though but keep preaching it cause you’re dead on.
    Very interesting learning about how to optimise for voice search. But 100% agree it’s still very early

  95. Hi Brian,

    I have read your entire post and this was so helpful for beginners like me. I have a question in my mind, How many times we use our focus keyword.

    Hope to hear from you soon.
    Thank you

  96. Hi Brian,

    I really like to read your article. Great stuff.

    I have one question: You write “That hidden content is going to be 100% ignored by Big G” but I have heard in a session with Googler John Mueller that Google won’t ignore hidden content, if the user can reach that content (e.g. by clicking a button etc.).

    What do you think about that?

    1. Hey Christian, I’ve seen that too. I’m still waiting until the mobile-first update rolls out before making a final call on that. But to be on the safe side, I recommend showing the same content to mobile and desktop users.

  97. Love it Love It!

    Was just going through UX and CTR with my trainee, and telling him that’s where we were heading next year, and there you go all laid out and put down alot more professionally than I ever could! Cheers Brian!

  98. Wow, fantastic guide Brian!
    I’m going to implement more and more comprehensive and In-depth content FIRST, which i think it’s going to attract a lot of links.
    lsigraph is a very cool tools, i didn’t know that.
    also my average CTR is 5.7% and i’m gonna make it better.

  99. A good heads up for the year ahead. The part where lower ranked sites get a chance at ranking higher for a small duration to see if they can do better at that spot is a good opportunity for many sites with genuine content!

  100. Hey Brain,
    Thanks for the awesome blog post. Actually I was not aware about the Rankbrain algo and its correlation with the google ranking.Now that make sense to me. But first I’ve to focus on creating great piece of content and building authority links, before rankbrain.Right?

    Saif

  101. Brian –

    Nice work – as usual. What resource do you recommend to visualize how your site looks on a google search page. I have found that my prepared meta tag – sometimes – does not end up being used by google on their search results page… So, I am never quite sure what snippets they will use..
    Thoughts?

    1. Hey Kevin, the only way is to do a Google search for that keyword. You’re right: Google tweaks the tags depending on the keyword. So you need to manually check to see if they use the meta tags you give it or if it makes something up.

  102. Hey Brian

    Great stuff as always!

    Quick question. You mention that Google came out and said ““Comments are better on-site for engagement signals for SEO than moving to social.”

    However, isn’t this something that could easily be manipulated?

    Would love to hear your thoughts?

    1. Hey Simon, good point. Like any signal, comments can be gamed. But most spammers are too lazy to leave fake comments on every post for MONTHS (which is what I assume Google looks at).

  103. Hey Brian awesome as always…one point you make about making sure text is visable on mobile. Do you only mean for blog articles? As hiding content behind click to expand elements can provide a much better UX on say home page or service pages etc and google has already stated that hidden content on mobiles won’t be devalued. Cheers Matt

    1. Hey Matt, good point there. Yes, I’m speaking specifically to content on a page. Navigation etc. is usually hidden for good reason on mobile pages.

  104. Hiya Brian

    Love your work.
    Sorry if this is a silly question.
    Is there a process to making an “embeddable image”
    I know some sites have below the image some code saying”share this on your site” with the code to copy/paste.
    For instance, the image you displayed If someone wanted to share that on their site, how would that link back to your site?
    I feel like I’m missing step somewhere?

  105. Hi Brian,

    Great and very informative article 🙂

    Regarding chapter 3, I have had this conviction for a long time, so this makes it so much easier for me to make content.
    However switching from one topic to a more general topic can trouble me.

    E.g. I want to write about different “Bird hunting types” and there is not that big a difference on “duck hunt” and “goose hunt”, so collecting it will make sense.
    But regarding keywords in the H1, is it then just enough to have “Bird hunting types” when ducks is a focus topic?

    How does it work with Google when you want to mix relating topics but still want a saying headline that covers all subtopics.

    1. Good question, Eva. If the topics are quite different, like in the example you gave, I’d create a different page for each one.

  106. Hey Brian
    I have remained stuck to your article for more than 15 minutes now. The concept of dwell time has thus been practically executed here 🙂
    A lot of information here is gold, and I think if followed with a laser sharp focus, can be extremely helpful. I have my site ranking on the first page for couple of content pieces(don’t want to mention the site so as to not sound like hungry for another link 😛 )
    However I have struggled to take them to the first page even when I am following the same set of levers. I believe Google does treat content differently – and the set of points may be helpful in bringing consistency to the execution technique.

    All the best for ’18
    Kaamil

  107. Hello Brian!

    Greetings from Spain!

    I find this a very interesting article. I have read it only above but I will adress it on more than one occasion for sure.

    I have a question that has been around for a long time …

    What do you think Google has more in mind in a mobile web? Is it optimized for Mobile-first Index, or is the user experience satisfactory?

    In Spain I see pages that at the mobile level are painfully optimized according to the Google criteria, but they work and are up in the SERPs.
    At the moment it seems that premium experience above web optimization.

    Once this update is implemented by Google those pages will go to waste?
    What do you think?

    Regards and excuse my English.

    P.D: The graphic section of the article is great! +1

  108. I love the design of this page, makes reading it so easy.

    BUT, I want to challenge some things you say (in the most friendly way possible). 🙂

    1. Mobile Index
    You say “Once Google goes mobile-first they’re going to consider the mobile version of your page the “true” version. That hidden content is going to be 100% ignored by Big G.”

    Google says: “So with the mobile first indexing will index the the mobile version of the page. And on the mobile version of the page it can be that you have these kind of tabs and folders and things like that, which we will still treat as normal content on the page even. Even if it is hidden on the initial view.” Source: https://www.seroundtable.com/google-content-hidden-mobile-24111.html

    2. Embeddable Images
    You say “And because of that, that single Embeddable Image has generated a handful of high-quality backlinks to my site.”

    I’m not sure that’s natural link building/earning and I feel Google would have a problem with webmasters getting hundreds of links from different entities which were all identical? The websites embedding the images may not even know they are linking to you. Google in the past recommended these kinds of links are nofollow: https://searchengineland.com/googles-matt-cutts-i-recommend-nofollowing-links-on-widgets-169487

    What are your thoughts on that?

    Cheers,

    Gill.

    1. Hey Gill, you raise some good points.

      1. With desktop ,Google has given mixed messages on how they index and weigh hidden content. But in general, their policy has been: “If it’s important, don’t hide it”:
      https://www.seroundtable.com/google-content-hiding-19495.html

      Will this change with the Mobile-index? I’m not sure. In that same hangout you referenced, John also said: “I think if it’s critical content it should be visible”. So the question becomes: What is “critical” content? So to be safe, I recommend showing everything to users that you want Google to actually index.

      2. I’m not recommending using widgets or anything shady. In fact, some webmasters may not even link to you. There’s nothing wrong with creating images that are highly shareable. Why would Google have an issue with that?

  109. Hi Brian.
    I Just got your email and reach your updated article once again.
    ..Your stuff always impresses me.
    I hope that following this definitive guide will help and improve my SEO strategies in the coming days.
    Thanks for this awesome guide. 🙂

    Regard,
    Emanuel Debbarma

  110. Hey brian your articles are so helpful . Thank you for sharing such great articles and yaa I want to ask u how challenging it is to get a job in digital marketing world as I have jst started with my DM course.

  111. Brian, you are always ahead of the industry. I am following your blog from last 2 years and you never disappointed me with you mind-blowing case studies and SEO tips.

    This guide was much needed to understand the SEO game in 2018.

    Thanks a ton.

    PS: I feel that knowledge graph is a big threat to SEO experts.

  112. Thanks for the 2018 SEO Bible, Brian!
    So excited to read it!
    Your tips and suggestions helped us reach our organic goals in no-time.
    The best thing is – with every Google algo update we’re getting stronger thanks to your tips! Cheers

    1. You’re welcome, Alen. Good point there: with my strategies you’re giving Google what it wants. So you don’t really need to worry about updates.

  113. Awesome content Brian! Two questions: 1. Do you know any cheaper alternatives to Buzzsumo for outreaching to twitter sharers (content roadshow)? 2. What do you do when you can’t find a keyword that’s getting a lot of shares- do you broaden the topic? i.e. instead of low carb desserts, you would put low carb and desserts?

  114. Seo in three words :
    Brian,
    Brian,
    Brian.

    Yes,
    All what are you saying makes sense.
    Tested and approved.
    Using few of your tips for one year and got the result.
    Thank you Brian

  115. I’m a little confused on what an embeddable image is. Is what makes an image “embeddable” the content of the image itself? As in, it’s useful and so people might want to use it in their content? Or is there something technical about the image (ie. something in involving HTML/etc?) that makes it “embeddable”?

    I’m probably overthinking it and you just mean “make useful images that people might want to use”… lol.

  116. Brian, you are a legend! This CTR #tips are so helpful and I’m sure can rank any website on the very first Google page with a bit of work there. 5 STARS from me!

  117. As per usual (always) amazing content. Thank you, Brian!

    I know I am a little late to the game, but one of my current goals is to create more video content alongside my writing.

    I have a question for you about your videos. Do you personally edit them? If so, which editing program would you recommend? If you don’t, is there a service you would recommend using for video editing?

    I really appreciate your response!

    Cheers
    -Keller

    1. You’re welcome, Keller. It’s actually not too late. IMHO, video is just getting started. I actually work with a freelancer who edits and produces my videos.

  118. Wow! This is an amazing article. LOVE chapter 3, particularly the advice on LSI keywords. I have always been an advocate for “the article should be as long as it needs to be” when colleagues and clients freak out about content length. This chapter is another great reference for those conversations.

    1. Thanks Simon. Very true: it’s not about artificially bumping up word count. “as long as it needs to be” sums up my take too.

  119. Great Post Brian.. I check your sites a few times a month and get very excited every time you have a new post or update older ones.

    I’m more focused on strong back links and number of referrals.

  120. Hey Brian. I am curious about your ranking factors study in Chapter 3. Would you explain how and in which niche did you conduct it?

    I agree that longer content tends to rank better but still, there are some niches that in some way are out of the general google rules. Maybe, sometimes it’s better to split a 2000 word content into two or four articles?

    Would be glad to hear what you think.

    Cheers,
    Nick

  121. Highly insightful article Brian. What is your view on eCommerce category pages when mobile indexing is fully operational? 300-500 words might be poor UX at the top of the category page, it could go at the bottom or hidden but interested to hear your thoughts?

    1. Hey George, Good question. Google definitely puts more weight on content that appears at the top of the page. So that’s better for SEO, but worse for UX/CRO. So it’s ultimately your call on what’s best.

  122. Damn, i recently just made a powerpage about linkbuilding, and ranked top 3 with my content in SERP real quick here in Denmark, but i could see that most people weren’t ready for the content, so i had a bounce rate on nearly 70% (sad face) I think it was both that my above the fold content is very borring, compared to a few scrolls down the page where the infographics starts. I might just put a video in my above the fold content now for higher dwell time.

    Thanks Brian!

  123. Hey Brian, great guide here. Thanks for the effort of putting this together.
    I definitely agree with all your points, for me mobile and voice search is where the battle will be, particularly voice search as the winner takes it all.

  124. Hi Brian, awesome guide !! I am a regular reader of your blog. I really wanna appreciate the hard work and research for every point you do for us & saving our time too… thanks a lot.
    So it’s our genuine duty to follow & implement each of your techniques you mentioned in every blog post.
    I m a big fan of yours, its a best learning resource blog for us, specially beginners like me.
    Thank you once again 🙂

  125. Hello, Brian. I enjoyed your guide very much. I am however a bit worried about RankBrain in one respect and I would like to ask you a question if you have the time.

    If RankBrain will become more and more influential in rankings, which is very likely, that means that SEO’s will start optimizing more and more for user experience instead of other factors. The problem is that preference is a volatile thing and you can end up with pages being clicked more often just because there is a cute kitty cat or little puppy on the front page. This looks to me like the perfect scenario for websites that operate on click bait.

    My question is this: If User Experience becomes a key element in SEO, won’t the overall quality and relevancy of the websites be affected?

  126. Great blog post as usual. My question would be, besides the free lsi tools you’ve mentioned in the blog, are there paid tools you can use that are better/give you more lsi terms? I’ve used lsigraph a lot, but sometimes I feel like it should give more lsi keywords.
    Love to hear what you think.
    -Justin

    1. Justin, if you’re ready to spend, MarketMuse is the best in the business when it comes to LSI keyword/topic modeling stuff.

    2. Justin, if you’re ready to spend, MarketMuse is the best in the business when it comes to LSI keyword/topic modeling stuff.

  127. I’m glad I had my coffee before sitting down for this beast. When it comes to blog commenting, is default WordPress still the best or is Google smart enough to decipher Disqus or Facebook comment systems? Thanks for this amazing write up!

    1. I would still go for WordPress default commenting system. Both of those you mention, adds a nasty script that takes up a lot of extra load-time.
      And btw. look at what others do. What does Brian do? 🙂

  128. Hi Brian. Thanks for your sharing. I appreciate your efforts.

    SEO needs some practical optimization process which ensures high productivity. As an optimizer, we must have sound knowledge about link building which increases business visibility and organic position. Your tips are really actionable to identify the essence of accurate link building and content optimization and marketing processes.

  129. What a great article and timely too as my new boss wants a forward approach to SEO for 2018, did most of my research in your one article, so comprehensive – thank you! Would also love to know your thoughts on adwords and whether it is worth the spend?

  130. Hey Brian,

    This is for the most part a great guide and it definitely looks amazing, I love the visuals, layout and a lot of the advice.

    A few things I’m not on board with:

    1: RankBrain and how you interpret what Paul Haahr says as “This slide basically says: RankBrain sometimes ranks pages higher up than they ‘should’ rank.”

    Paul Haahr was not talking about RankBrain at all when he put up that slide. He’s talking about how challenging it is to use user signals as feedback when trying to judge the quality of search results in experiments. The specific example is something that CAN GO WRONG and should be avoided, according to him.

    He’s not even talking about a situation where the algorithm would automatically improve the rank of the result that’s clicked more often, he’s merely talking about experiments. He’s definitely NOT saying: RankBrain will improve the ranking of results that are clicked more.
    Nothing Google has said about RankBrain would let you make that conclusion. It’s pure speculation and probably incorrect, as it’s not even likely that RankBrain works like that. What he does say about CTR is: We use it for experiments and we use it for personalization.

    Regarding RankBain, my own assumption is that user signals are part of the training data RankBrain gets (even though Paul Haahr does not confirm that in the talk at SMX or the discussion afterwards). If that is true, then RankBrain will see your high CTR and maybe TOS, might try to figure out what pattern causes them and MIGHT try to change it’s own algorithm in a way that ranks results LIKE YOURS higher.

    Even these assumptions are quite dubious and Paul Haahr says something along the lines of: We spent a lot of time understanding how RankBrain works and we probably don’t really know what it actually does. (quoting from memory)

    I’d be happy to change what I think if you have better source about how RankBrain actually works than Paul Haahr’s presentation, which can be viewed here btw: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iJPu4vHETXw

    2: Your use of the term LSI keywords.

    Obviously that doesn’t make any sense, as no tool developer would have the capabilities to deliver actual LSI keyword research. Something like LSI optimization does not exist. Even Google using LSI in it’s algorithm is pure speculation. Anyone who makes such claims should take a long hard look at the LSI tutorial by Dr. E Garcia (and then stop making those claims, obviously). This is the only part I can find: http://www.360doc.com/content/13/1124/04/9482_331692838.shtml

    On the other hand, every SEO knows that it helps to actually write about your topic and use words commonly co-occuring with the term you are writing about. Just don’t call it LSI.

    3: Covering a topic in depth.

    This should be rephrased to: “Satisfying the needs of the searcher in depth”. Followed by an explanation of how different types of content satisfy different needs, but each should do that in an outstanding way. In depth content is great when a searcher was looking for that and often when the intent is not clear from query and context (context as in the context in which the searcher does their search).

    4: Hidden content is going to be 100% ignored by Big G.

    Obviously not true as it’s not even ignored right now and because Google explicitly stated it will count just like any other content under mobile first indexing. https://www.seroundtable.com/google-content-tabs-hidden-change-22950.html

    But I think someone else pointed that out in the comments and you pretty much agreed.

    5: Moving from m. to responsive because “Google recommends it”.

    Google does not say “move to responsive, it’s better than m.” John Mueller says: If you plan on moving from m. to responsive, you should probably do it NOW, because it’s gonna be a bit harder to do that when mobile first indexing is live. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qMT0llp5sf4&t=25m16s

    I mean yeah, I also prefer responsive over m-dot. But saying Google recommends that is just not true.

    Sorry, don’t mean to be overly critical… but you’re in a position of authority here so I think the content of a guide like this should be as good as possible.

    1. Hey Jan, thanks for your comment. And no need to apologize. You make some great points, and it’s clear from reading your comment, that you really know you’re stuff when it comes to SEO. I’ll definitely keep these points in mind the next time I update the post.

      1. Ahh man, what a great response! Now I feel bad for sounding so abrasive.

        “you really know you’re stuff when it comes to SEO”
        – Brian Dean (Backlinko)

        Will print this out and put it up on my wall.

  131. Awesome post!

    I just watched a video from Gary Vaynerchuk where he predicted that voice search (and everything voice related) will be huge in the future, and I completely agree with that.

  132. Hey Brian,

    What exactly is “amazing” content? Articles are always suggesting that marketers create “amazing”, “outstanding”, or “high-quality content”, but no one ever really describes what that means. I also think putting a word-count on “good” content is quite dangerous. I know plenty of fluff-filled and useless pieces of content that surpass 2000 words.

    In an ideal world, I really wish that online content had some sort of a gauge or rating system, like books or movies or journalism, that rewarded content for being well-written, well-researched, or groundbreaking. It’s too easy to fool Google into thinking you have “good” content. As a writer turned content marketer, it’s painful to see what Google sometimes rewards as “good” content”.

    Anyway, let’s see if the “good” content that I write this year will be recognized by Google.

  133. Love this list and the graphics are gorgeous! As always, nice work. I will be implementing more video. I am amazed that you only have 17 videos on Youtube. Your all over the place. I would of guessed you had thousands.

  134. Thank you for such great and helpful lists. We will definitely use them in preparing our contents and seo strategy for year 2018. Btw, CTR Jedi is my favorite! 🙂

  135. Thanks for the heads up, Does AMP also include in Mobile First approach?

    And your site has amazing design and graphics (i think you already know this :D)

  136. Hey Brian,
    This was probably the first time in this entire year I read an article completely. It was extremely well-written and I am sure it has a huge “dwell time”.
    Even I, just like one of the other commentator, want to if SILO structures still work for improving rankings and in SEO of a page?

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