Search engines are continually changing their algorithms so that users get the most relevant results possible. Sometimes these changes are large and sweeping. In other cases, they are small and incremental. While Google and other search engines do their best to keep these changes as close to the vest as possible, it’s clear that 2018 is going to be big for SEO. Check out what you can expect over the next 12 months.
Speed Will be More Important Than Ever
There are two ways that website speed can impact SEO. The first is that Google directly measures how quickly your pages load. Not only that, they set the bar pretty high. Basically, if your page doesn’t load in three seconds or less, Google’s not going to be very impressed. Fortunately, Google’s free Website Auditor will help you to test any page that you wish. One of the factors included in that test is speed.
Page speed also has a direct impact on user experience. Their standards are high as well. If a page takes longer than a few seconds to load, users are going to become frustrated. Their frustration will lead to increased bounce rates. That’s one more way that slow websites are penalized when it comes to SEO.
Voice Search Will Increase
Currently, one in five Google searches is a voice search. Add that to digital assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Cortana, and that’s a lot of people choose voice over keyboard when it comes to searching for things online. This trend is likely to only get bigger in the near future.
Website owners will feel increasing pressure to provide relevant content, and to be responsive to natural language searches. This means focusing on long tail keywords. It also means that content creators will need to start thinking beyond, what will rank on search engine results pages.
Here’s something else to consider. Up until now, Google has been the ‘be all end all’ when it came to SEO planning. Bing and Yahoo came next. Now, with these digital assistants gaining in popularity, that may not be as true as it once was. That certainly doesn’t that Google won’t be important. It will be into the foreseeable future. However, 2018 may be the year to start considering how to earn rankings with Siri, Alexa, and other digital assistants.
You’ll Need to Make RankBrain Happy
RankBrain is an artificial intelligence engine that Google uses to determine the value of search results. This along with latent semantic indexing may be used to determine which pages are more relevant and higher quality, based upon shared features between the sites that rank highest for certain keywords. Google’s goal is to feature websites that are comprehensive.
The best way to ensure that your page contains the kind of content that Google deems to be comprehensive is to do a bit of research. Check out the pages that rank best in your area of expertise. What keywords are they ranking for. If you check several competitors, and see a trend, you may want to focus on creating content that also ranks for those keywords. For example, let’s say that you have a website that reviews global travel destinations. Much of your content ranks for keywords like, hostels, bed and breakfasts, adventure, outdoors, hiking, and cuisine. So, you do a competitive analysis and notice that similar websites are also ranking for keywords such as passports, visas, and even long tail keywords such as documents translated into a foreign language.
Focus on Structured Data Will be Mandatory
Structured data may or may not have a direct impact on Google’s search engine results. However, it’s still a very useful SEO tool. Structured data is your way of communicating to Google about the content on your website, and how that information should be best displayed.
By using structured data, you can increase your chance of your site showing up in position zero search results, featured snippets, and rich snippets. This can significantly increase click thru rates. This has been proven to result in improved search engine rankings.
Mobile Optimized Sites Will Receive Priority in Search Results
Mobile use has been outpacing desktop for quite some time now. Search engines already prioritize sites that are mobile friendly. Now, with its pending mobile first index, Google is preparing to take things even further. For the first time ever, your website will be indexed and ranked based upon the content that your mobile users see, and not the content that your desktop users do. That’s a pretty meaningful shift.
Fortunately, Google’s website auditor contains a feature that allows you to test your website’s performance on mobile. This will tell you if your site is mobile friendly, if your viewport is configured correctly, and if there are issues what the problem is. Problems may include content outside of the viewport area, use of plugins, or tap targets being too small.
You’ll Have to Fight to Get Your Links Noticed
Remember when Google search results were much simpler? They were simply pages of links and descriptions. Now, search results are full of big, attention getting information. Now users see, image carousels, maps, suggested searches, even the much coveted position zero ranking. All of these extras are eye-catching by design. As a result, your simple link and description might be missed. This is true even if you rank above the fold on page one.
In order to stand out, you’ll have to learn to create compelling and eye catching titles and meta descriptions. This way users won’t glance past your links in their search results. You don’t have much room to work with. So, the key is focusing on getting right to the point and using power words that will motivate people to click your link before the others.
It’s Time to Embrace Visual Search
Major search engines as well as social media platforms such Pinterest have all heavily invested in search visual search technology. Because video and images are outperforming text based content, this only makes sense. Perhaps surprisingly, it seems as if Pinterest has, at least at this point, created the most comprehensive and most used visual search engine of all.
However, it would be foolish to assume that will be the case for long. With visual content being so popular, all major search engines are almost certainly going to develop and improve their visual search capabilities. To prepare for this, website owners should focus on optimizing visual content for SEO.
SERP Features Will Get Even Bigger
If you’re only focusing on achieving the best organic search results possible, you could be on the wrong path. There are several SERP features that can result in a more attention getting and ultimately more clickable position. These include the featured and rich snippets mentioned above. However, there are others to consider as well. These include:
Local Teaser Pack
Adwords (Top and Bottom)
In order to qualify for these and other SERP features, Google has established both content criteria as well as specific markup requirements.
2018 is already shaping up to be a big year when it comes to all things SEO. For many, this will mean covering new ground. If your company hasn’t prepped for voice search, now is the time to get started. The same goes for visual search. Use of structured data is now a must for those who want the most coveted search engine rankings.
To remain relevant, many websites will need to be changed, and future approaches to SEO updated. However, the best way to optimize for search remains the same. Create relevant content that is well-written, and contains plenty of visual elements. Produce new content consistently, ensure that your pages load quickly, and prioritize the mobile experience.
Dina Indelicato is a blogger enthusiast and freelance writer. She is always open to research about new topics and gain new experiences to share with her readers. You can find her on Twitter @DinaIndelicato.