Ok Google. What’s in store for SEO in 2018?
There are already clear SEO trends that will change how businesses approach digital marketing in 2018.
Voice search and mobile search are more important than ever, and the link-building strategies of yesteryear are due for an update. It’s also time to consider the growing impact of AI and machine learning on search.
Here’s what you need to know about some of the top SEO trends in 2018.
Search has gone mobile. 57% of web traffic, including most Google searches, comes from mobile devices. But when it comes to generating search results, Google’s algorithm still looks at the desktop version of a page to decide if it’s relevant to the user.
That’s about to change.
Google has been experimenting with a mobile-first index since 2016. The mobile-first index is exactly what it sounds like: it looks primarily at the mobile version of a site’s content to understand its data and rank its pages in the results.
So, when does Google plan to deploy the mobile-first index in full? No one knows for sure, but many predict that the shift is coming in 2018.
The good news is, there’s still time to prepare for the mobile-search index. In addition to optimizing sites for mobile web browsing, businesses should start to consider how mobile search differs from the desktop.
Mobile searches are all about context; they’re usually made on-the-go, after all. That changes what kind of information searchers are looking for and how they go about finding it. Some keywords rank differently on mobile, and local SEO has a substantial impact on mobile results.
This also ties into the voice search trend, since voice queries often come from mobile devices.
Voice search is one the biggest SEO trends in 2018. According to Google, almost a quarter of searches made through the Google App on Android devices are voice queries, and the increasing adoption of digital home assistant devices is fuelling more voice searches every day.
Currently, most voice search queries fall into the category of ‘housekeeping’, like asking Siri or Alexa to play a voicemail, look up contact information, or set an alarm. But a growing number of voice searches relate to goods and services. The voice query app Hound found that 22% of voice searches relate to local information, like shopping and services; expect that to grow in 2018.
Voice searches are drastically different from the kinds of queries people type into a box. The phrases tend to be longer, often coming in the form of complete sentences. The tone of these queries is more conversational than a search you would type out.
Here’s an example. Say you want to know how late Starbucks is open next weekend. The typical Google search query is usually cold and efficient; something like, Starbucks Saturday hours. A voice search, on the other hand, would sound more like, Ok Google, how late is Starbucks open on Saturday?
The content of voice search is different as well. Voice searches are more likely to be about topics in-the-moment, like information about local businesses and services. On the other hand, people tend to avoid ‘sensitive subjects’, like social networking and health, when it comes to voice search.
The rise in voice search will have an enormous impact on the approach to SEO in 2018. Pages will not only need to target short keywords, but questions rich in long-tail keywords. More than ever, appealing to your audience will mean producing content that speaks their natural language.
It might seem daunting, but this trend opens a world of opportunity for local businesses to appeal to customers on-the-go.
Link-building is one of the pillars of powerful SEO. Search engine algorithms treat backlinks as endorsements, a thumbs-up to your relevance and quality of a site.
But not all backlinks are equal. The algorithm weighs the freshness, authority, and relevance of links, and poorly-sourced backlinks reflect back on your own site in the eyes of the search engine.
Last year, Google began looking at certain link-build strategies with greater scrutiny. Google now warns against leaning heavily on guest posts or syndicated posts for backlinks, especially those stuffed with keyword-rich links or penned by unreliable authors.
This trend emphasizes the importance of a diverse link-building strategy. Fortunately, there are more ways than ever to get your content out there.
Your backlink profile should consist of links from many different types of sites: HTML pages, blog posts, social posts, and more. Look for opportunities on Q&A sites like Quora, local news outlets, third-party review sites, and niche platforms that relate to your industry.
Think of it not only as link-building, but building relationships as well. These connections are critical to building a strong SEO strategy in 2018.
Featured snippets have only been around since 2014, but they’ve become such an integral part of Google search that it’s hard to imagine life without them. Almost 30% of results pages now display featured snippets, which pull quick bites of information from a web page relevant to the search query.
And people use them — a lot. Featured snippets have an average clickthrough rate of almost 33%.
More importantly, pages that land in the snippet box appear above the top-ranking result on the page. While the majority of snippets come from the top ten results for the query, only 30% come from page number one.
That means pages that optimize for snippets have a chance to draw traffic that would otherwise go to the top-ranking result.
So, how do pages earn a place in the featured snippet box? While sites can opt out of featured snippets, there’s no way to opt-in. The algorithm decides which pages to feature in much the same way it ranks results organically. However, it does favour content that offers quick, direct answers in language that matches the searcher’s intent. Lists, graphs, and Q&A-style content are also popular.
What is RankBrain? In short, it’s an artificial intelligence system Google uses to help sort search engine results. This AI is a part of Google’s overall search algorithm that picks through billions of web pages to find the ones that best answer a person’s search query.
RankBrain attempts to uncover the user’s intent behind their search. It looks at various signals, such as the searcher’s location, their previous searches, and what other people are searching at the time, to deliver more contextualized results.
As Google gets better at tailoring search engine results down to the individual user, businesses will have to be more aware of the steps in their audience’s buyer journey. That will determine the kind of questions they’re asking. Optimizing for RankBrain AI will mean delivering the right answers at the right time, using language that reflects the query.