Search engine optimization (SEO) is a constantly-evolving field. Google and other search engines are constantly updating their algorithms, making new SEO techniques effective and rendering old methods obsolete. At the same time, new devices and updated technology are continually changing how users interact with search engines.
So how is SEO likely to change in 2018? Here are seven trends which are likely to have a huge impact on which SEO techniques are most effective.
1. Voice search will become much more important.
Digital assistants such as Siri and Alexa have been around for a while, but their importance to SEO is growing rapidly as voice search devices become prevalent. From smartphone assistants to standalone devices such as the Amazon Echo, these voice-activated tools require a rethink of many of SEO’s most longstanding concepts.
SEO has always emphasized ranking highly on Google’s search pages, but being at the top of the search results is vital when it comes to voice search. Whereas PC and smartphone users may scan the first page of Google’s search results, digital assistants often provide users with nothing but the top result.
Obtaining this coveted top spot involves understanding how voice search differs from text search. When typing, people typically pick out a few keywords that are likely to lead them to their desired content. Voice search users are much more likely to search using complete phrases and sentences, making longtail keywords much more important.
At present, Google says that 1 in 5 searches are conducted using voice search. It is only a matter of time before voice searches match or even eclipse text searches. Getting familiar with voice-focused SEO techniques now will put online businesses ahead of the curve.
2. SERP placement will no longer be the most important measure of SEO success.
The ranking of a website on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) was once the most important aspect of SEO. That changed when Google search results began incorporating quick answers and featured snippets.
Quick answers and featured snippets appear at the top of the SERP. Optimizing for these features allows websites to leapfrog the links beneath and essentially claim first place in Google’s search rankings. Optimizing for quick answers and featured snippets involves a lot of the same techniques as optimizing for voice search and digital assistants.
Google’s quick answers provide immediate on-site answers to straightforward “What” or “How” questions, with links directing users to the website of origin for more information. To get these coveted places at the top of the SERP, blogs, and websites should focus on long-tail keywords and present information in a question-and-answer format.
Google’s featured snippets tend to focus on neatly presented content, with lists and tables being particularly popular. Tailoring web content to leapfrog to the top of the SERP will become a dominant SEO technique over the next year, having a greater impact on traffic than almost anything else.
3. Google will be placing more emphasis on how users experience a website.
Whatever your motivation in driving traffic to your blog or website, the user experience should always be the focus of your web design. Google’s algorithms already punish and reward websites based on their loading speed and ease of navigation. This trend will grow stronger in 2018, and it’s something all websites should embrace.
There is no point in driving traffic to your website if the poor design and slow loading times instantly drive that traffic away again. Any SEO-friendly steps you take toward improving the user experience will also improve the effectiveness of your website in building an audience.
4. Link building will become even more about quality over quantity.
Spamming backlinks has long fallen out of favor as an effective SEO strategy. Google’s algorithms have been continually refined to place a greater emphasis on quality backlinks while penalizing websites which engage in inorganic backlink building.
That doesn’t mean that only backlinks from top-tier websites can boost a page’s search ranking. It simply means that backlinks should be relevant and seem natural. Backlinks from small but legitimate blogs and websites operating in a similar niche can still boost Google search rankings.
The websites which will likely suffer most are those that over-rely on low-quality guest posts to build backlinks. Google announced in May that it would be looking much more closely at the quality of backlink-heavy blogs in 2018. An effective SEO strategy for 2018 will mean keeping on the right side of Google’s crackdown on low-quality backlinks.
5. Mobile optimization will be essential.
Mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets already account for more than half of web traffic. This figure will only grow in 2018, and optimizing for these devices will be essential.
Accelerate Mobile Pages (AMP) have exploded in use recently, with more than 2 billion AMPs indexed by Google. AMPs load around four times faster than other mobile web pages, improving user engagement and retainment. Their importance will skyrocket if 2018 sees the long-rumored implementation of Google’s mobile-first index.
Just as with voice search and optimizing for quick answers and featured snippets, optimizing for mobile requires a complete rethink of tried-and-tested SEO strategies. The logistics of interfacing with a phone screen or tablet means different keyword combinations rank well via mobile than through text searches using keyboards. Understanding these differences will be key to developing an effective mobile-first SEO strategy.
2018 will see the continuation of trends that have been growing over the past few years. There is nothing new about voice search or mobile optimization, but the importance of these once-niche SEO approaches will grow rapidly over the next twelve months. More than ever before, an effective SEO strategy means being ahead of the curve and embracing change.