Google’s quest is to show results in the best interest of the searcher – Faster, better, relevant, and useful. And that should be your quest too! However, Google wouldn’t just find out you’re creating amazing content which is the best fit for their searchers.
She won’t just find you. You have to let her know. That’s what SEO is all about.
One of the best ways to predict and understand how Google works is through experiments and experts. Over the past few weeks, We had the opportunity to interview SEO experts and get their best tips and advice for the changes in the SEO landscape for 2018.
Here’s what we asked the experts:
What are your predictions for the state of SEO in 2018? Do you see any major trends that could potentially reshape the current landscape?
Let’s learn from the expert advice we’ve compiled for you and use it to boost our search rankings in 2018!
Google adopted a “mobile first” policy, and it was not immediately clear what that would entail. But it is becoming clear. We are seeing pages that are not mobile-friendly being discounted in the desktop rankings.
I am seeing the difference in traffic trends between my mobile-friendly sites and the ones that I haven’t got around to updating in a few years (someday, it’s on my very long to-do list).
We are seeing this also with government pages that have not yet been made responsive.
Everybody will be affected sooner or later. It’s partly from the volume of mobile searches and partly that Google doesn’t want to give desktop users a link that will show poorly when they are shared with someone on a mobile device (my assumption as to Google’s motives).
In fact, many e-commerce businesses will start using AI paid advertising systems which help them to increase sales of their products. A.I will improve many online marketing tools in 2018.
Nearly everyone will have an Alexa or Google Home at both work and home; many will be experimenting with more cutting-edge assistants, such as Jibo, Temi, and Olly. Hands-free search already exists, but users are still required to use their hands to interface with websites and web content that their assistants navigate them to.
With connected home technology working in harmony with Dots and Home Mini’s, users will finally start the separation process from their phones and start seeing the sky again.
By the end of 2018, I predict search engines will start testing features that rank websites you can interact with by voice when a search is performed by a confirmed assistant or voice-only device. We saw this with Accelerated Mobile Pages and Google’s lightning bolt in mobile search results.
Desktops at home will likely continue to go obsolete thanks to innovations in Virtual Reality (VR) technology to allow users to search hands-free and beam to any nearby Bluetooth-enabled monitor.
Mobile-first will roll out as promised, but likely after improvements in mobile ad formats have been fully tested. It will definitely be an exciting year for the SEO community, where many will shift from organic to paid roles and many will shift from marketing to technology teams.
My prediction for SEO in 2018 is similar to what happened in 2017… I believe that backlinks will decrease in value while your content quality, your ability to serve searcher intent, and your on-site user experience will increase in value.
Also, I believe that Google will improve its ability to analyze and assign a value to different media types such as video. Video is becoming (if it isn’t already) the most preferred way to consume content.
In addition to that, voice search will continue to play a bigger role from here and into the future as well. I’m not too concerned about “how to optimize for voice search” because I believe it will involve a very similar approach.
At a 30,000-foot view, those who can fulfill searcher intent the best will win in traditional and voice search.
I don’t see anything on the horizon that will reshape the current landscape. The big changes are already with us. At least in part. Rather, we will see the continued evolution of search. The major factors as we see them at Bowler Hat, the SEO Agency I run in the UK are likely not terribly surprising. Mobile, voice search, user experience, and of course the foundational pillars of SEO being technical SEO, content & links will not go anywhere.
One major factor that is reshaping the SEO landscape is how Google is reducing the value of organic listings. Often, a users answer is provided directly in the search results. And now with the continued growth of featured snippets such as Answer Boxes and People Also Ask results, it can be harder than ever to get to the actual standard search results.
This is evolution at the speed of light. Things change quickly. But your average search engine user hardly notices. But the eagle-eyed SEO folks out there are used to change. To do great SEO in 2018 and beyond is to be on the lookout for change. Don’t forget the SEO basics. But then look for change, so you can not view it as a threat, but rather see it as an opportunity to be seized.
SEO in 2018 will reward those brave and dynamic enough to stay abreast of the changes.
Google is focusing more and more on the quality of content and providing the best results for a given keyword. They are doing this by using a lot of complex algorithms related to language and also testing using their RankBrain AI.
What does that mean for you in 2018?
Your content needs to be sure to address the intent of a specific query. You can do that by knowing exactly what users expect to find when they type that into Google, but it also pays to check the top 10 as well. That gives you a clue as to what Google expects to see in a search result. It could be that if your result is completely different to what is currently ranking (in terms of content and form) you may not have a chance at all.
You also need to forget about focusing on keywords specifically and just use them as topics instead. This is an ongoing trend since the introduction of Hummingbird, but it is becoming stronger as the years go on.
Another thing that seems to be playing a bigger role in search results is user metrics, so you also need to start ensuring that
Just the above should keep you busy for most of 2018! Happy new year :>
Mobile Readiness: The most obvious trend (and a cloud hanging over many website owners’ heads) is the move toward mobile. Google has yet to launch its mobile-first index but a lot of people think it will happen in 2018. That means if you are a business owner who gets a lot of leads from search and you don’t have a mobile responsive site, you could end up losing ground to competitors who are more prepared.
Even businesses that have mobile responsive sites will have to take another look at their layouts and usability factors. The browsing experience is so much different from a mobile device and users have different priorities. I think once the mobile-first index goes into effect we’ll see a surge in people converting sites from m-dots and non-responsive to responsive design.
GMB and Local Search: I think in 2018 we’ll see businesses taking their local search presence more seriously. This follows along with the shift in computing trends to mobile devices. More and more people are on the go and using Google maps applications or local search in a browser to find stuff like contact information, business hours, addresses, etc. As a side effect, those people will also be seeing reviews of local businesses prompting owners to tidy things up.
Consumers are notoriously unforgiving so businesses that do not have accurate information in their GMB profiles are going to feel it when people skip them. Not showing up in local search results is going to mean that you’re basically invisible to those people using these platforms to navigate their world.
Barriers to entry for SEO are getting higher
I think it’s really only the veterans that remember Google’s early days when pretty much anyone with some spare time could figure out how to game the search engine. In 2018 and beyond, that is no longer true. It’s so much easier to spot a fake SEO or someone that is just starting out because the tactics required to gain market share are far more expensive and time-consuming than they used to be.
I think in the coming year we’ll start to see the “A” players of SEO be more well defined and fly-by-night providers will have a harder time convincing businesses to sign up for substandard service. In the same vein, I think we’ll see SEO providers start to differentiate themselves a little more from one another. So many agencies are practicing now that they need to find ways to stay ahead of the curve and be unique. I wouldn’t be surprised if we start to see unique value propositions coming out of established SEO providers.
Both mobile and SSL will become must-have’s for all sites in 2018. This puts SEOs ahead of the curve that already sees it coming and are prepared. Ultimately, this is a huge game changer for all sites.
I think 2018 is largely going to see an acceleration of the same trends of 2017. The parasitic attention merchant platforms (e.g. Facebook, Google) are going to keep aggressively sucking in content & defunding the rest of the web ecosystem while making politics increasingly polarized by seeing quick dopamine rushes as a signal of quality & relevance.
The “fake news” stuff won’t go away because reporting/journalism is largely a non-viable business model if funded by advertising.
Even the largest and most prestigious publishers will need to do heavily slanted hit pieces to gain enough distribution in the “like/share/retweet/forward” distribution ecosystem to make the ad revenues work.
In response to the “do more with less” publishing trend and the “get the eyeballs now & the monetization will come later” myth quality publishers will begin to pull back / opt out of the losing game.
The quality flight will make what remains even a larger issue on the quality front.
Panda / Penguin/ Ad-heavy SERPs / user attention shift away from blogs to the Facebook news feed / etc. have largely decimated indy publishing & diversity of thought.
And in the market, there is increasing consolidation and concentration to where the one or two remaining players can present the illusion of choice while paying Google’s increasing rents as Google aims to clone adjacent business models in fields like hotel booking.
Travel is probably the biggest money online vertical because hotels referrals is a high-margin business with a decent transaction price & an immediately spoiling good (if the room goes unsold).
So what does Google do with mobile organic search results in travel? Well, they disappear them behind a “click to show” button. Check it out here
What’s the difference between Orbitz, Travelocity and Expedia? They’re all owned by the same company.
The same sort of deal applies with Priceline, Booking.com, Agoda, etc.
Same sort of deal with Zillow & Trulia. They merged, they then launched RealEstate.com as a faux differentiated user experience targeting millennials.
About.com shut down, but the sites that were broke off of it are not whacked by Panda & have grown quickly. Some of those sites heavily overlap one another & often target some of the same exact keywords as each other. And then if you look at the broader IAC ownership lens something like TheBalance & Investopedia target the exact same keyword sets.
And then even some of the old About.com sections now compete against each other in the search results as separate websites
How about eHow… chart looking quite ugly many years after Panda
That is perhaps the single ugliest SEO chart in the world. Ever!
That’s ok though. Demand Media rebranded as Leaf Group. And they followed IAC’s lead with breaking down About.com & some of the niche eHow spin-off sites are taking off like a rocket like Pocketsense
and, once again, why not double dip?
then there are sometimes 5 of 10 search results that are syndicated articles on subdomains of newspapers they work with too.
Increasingly publishing is becoming a game of scaled churn & those who do not have scale do not last long.
Over and over again we are seeing broad horizontal publishing companies broken into vertical chunks & then once any sort of scale is achieved the data is used to create a second or third or fourth or fifth parallel site to create an illusion of choice while using the same sort of factory model to drive growth and saturate the system.
The narrative about the number of publicly traded companies dropping like a stone is not a myth, but something that reflects the underlying economics of monopoly driven attention merchant mechanics.
Either you have to scale, or you are soon dead.
In terms of ad-funded online publishing, a brand is mainly about presenting an illusion of choice or differentiation which masks the underlying machinery in the content factory.
And as Google gets more aggressive at scraping third-party content into their knowledge graph & featured answers, or over-promoting poorly monetized content hosted on proprietary formats like AMP, they keep increasing the chunk size of competition & barrier to entry while destroying the available returns for anyone operating above the macro-parasite level.
This is why we are likely to see a shift to more subscription-driven publishing. Not just WSJ.com, FT.com, NYTimes.com … but also smaller players who have a highly differentiated editorial voice like Stratechery.com, TheInformation.com, TheAthletic.com, etc…in addition to the sorts of content creators who use Patreon.
If you don’t have the scale to follow the news cycle and do duplicate churn articles on the trending topics & you prefer to do deeper research sharing original insights it makes sense to better align the business model with the customer rather than relying on fickle, arbitrary & abusive intermediaries like Google or Facebook for distribution.
I am too burned out to re-open the membership site I ran for many years, but the web is certainly moving in that direction. If the membership site I ran was about something other than SEO I probably wouldn’t have closed it.
I think the biggest thing to watch for in 2018 is how will voice search further impact SEO. With the increased popularity of products like Alexa, I think we will see a further increase in voice-based searches. We all know that when we type in a search query or speak it, they tend to differ quite a bit (at least they do for me!). It will be interesting if Google and other search engines can get even better at associating speech with user intent over the next year. And if so, it could have an impact on how you not only create content but how you go about conducting your onsite and offsite SEO initiatives.
The SEO landscape will be further disrupted by personalization and localization. As more data becomes available to Google there will be new ways to shape the way the SERPS are delivered. Concentration on “good content” is less important and content creation at a high-quality level is becoming cheaper and cheaper. The differentiation will come from the specific targeting of tribes with content tailored to their specific, timely needs. Small increases in the edge over a competitor are becoming more valued as the race tightens up and concepts such as psychographic profiling are now becoming mainstream.
The social media indicators will become more important in 2018 as SEO looks at the traction of posted items. For example, Twitter can massively improve your SEO linking effects and getting listed in the SERPs. If you think of links as roads back to your site then one clever tweet now, written carefully with a holistic approach and having social authority behind it can create a motorway link back to your site!
As people continue to use voice search more and more, marketers will need to adapt and optimize their search engine optimization for voice.
In past 8 years, the use of voice search has increased globally by more than 30%. Major search platforms have adapted to this trend by improving the accuracy of voice search results up to 90%. Last year alone, 20% of mobile searches in America were done using voice search.
These stats show that voice search has become increasingly important to search results. And not surprisingly so. Voice search is easy, and a relatively hands-free way for internet users to find the information, products, and services they need quickly.
In 2018, we should expect the increasing use of voice search to continue. Which means that marketers need to improve and optimize their websites for voice search as part of their SEO strategy.
As 2018 approaches us, many are thinking about how their SEO strategy will pan out in the next 12 months. Do we continue with producing quality SEO-friendly content and social media promotions of that content? What about backlinks, are those still important? The answer is yes, but it doesn’t stop there. With search engines like Google stepping up their features, it’s more important than ever to ensure that your businesses is 1. aware of the Google search features and 2. you are actually implementing strategies to take advantage of those features.
One of these features is the featured snippets from Google Answers – or as we call it Position 0. In order to rank in this coveted position 0 spot, you need to first pick the appropriate keywords then decide what type of featured snippet you want: Paragraph, lists, table, video, etc. You’ll then need to make sure that webpage is 100% optimized for your keywords and that your header tags are very concise. Of course, your content needs to be very thorough and stellar in order for Google to place you in this Position 0 spot.
In addition to the Position 0, we can’t forget about voice search, which is expected to grow even bigger in 2018. With voice search, marketers need to focus on those long-tail keywords and natural language which matches the users vocabulary. Think to yourself “How would I word this if I were to use Siri for search?”
2018 is going to be an exciting year for marketers and in particular SEOs. So much is evolving but the tried-and-true methods of quality, optimized content and backlinks still remain important.
We’ve also created the ‘SEO Mastery Course 2018’ which includes 30 lessons of actionable strategies and techniques for dominating organic search traffic in 2018.
We would love to hear and include your thoughts in the SEO Experts Roundup for 2018! If you have any ideas and insights to share with us, mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.