With 2018 right around the corner, now is the perfect time to reflect on what an eventful year it has been for organic search! As Google continues to refine its enigmatic search algorithm to deliver users the most relevant results, SEO professionals and pundits across the globe have taken note of a growing number of SEO trends and strategies that are poised to be the future of SEO.
As with any industry, it is our responsibility to stay aware of any emerging SEO trends so that we can incorporate them into our strategies and ensure we are providing our clients with creative, industry-leading strategies and business advice. As SEO professionals, it is our duty to keep our clients informed of these industry trends as well.
While SEO at its core will remain relatively unchanged, it is clear that the best organic search strategies of 2018 must cater to Google's increasing preference for websites that value speed, security, mobile-friendliness, and usability. Before we review the year in SEO, let's take a look at the SEO trends that you should be aware of that we expect to continue in 2018 and beyond.
SEO in 2017 Overview: What Happened?
In August 2017, it was reported that 57% of all traffic is from mobile devices. So, it's only natural that Google announced their "Mobile First" indexing algorithm, where content is crawled and indexed from website's mobile-rendered pages, rather than the desktop version of the pages. Throughout 2017, Google also continued with their strategy of becoming a destination rather than just a gateway to other sources.
We saw this in a few key areas prominently display at the top of the search results:
Google Shopping Results
This is Google's Shopping network, where advertisers can list products for prominent display in the search results.
Google Shopping ads are showing up more and more at the very top of mobile search results.
Local Search Results
With the new "Mobile First" indexing algorithm, Google tries to more accurately match the user's intent with local listings. These are usually generated from the organic search index, however, Google does allow one paid listing to appear.
Google is displaying local results if it determines local search intent.
Answers to People's Questions
These are called "featured snippets", where Google finds the most relevant answer to the searcher's queries, pulls the content from the website, and displays it right on the search results page, rather than just displaying a link to the website and the information.
Optimizing for questions and answers is more important than ever.
SEO in 2018: What to Expect
Google has Started Working Its Muscles for a Secure Web
Google has started pushing sites to switch to secure connections to help protect visitors' personal information and data. In 2018, providing your users a secure connection is a large part of the Google search algorithm. Having a secure website served over HTTPS gives websites a boost in the algorithm, and gives secure sites a "bump" in the search results over unsecure sites. Google has proven this commitment to a secure web by rolling out unsecure warnings in their Chrome browser in October 2017.
Visitors now see Red Unsecure Warnings on any pages that have sign-up or sign-in forms on pages that are unsecure.
We have moved multiple clients to a full HTTPS website with great results. One client, an eCommerce business, saw a traffic increase of 35%. Another client, a lead generation software company, saw a traffic increase of over 175% after moving to full HTTPS (year-over-year).
Page Load Speed is a Huge Advantage
As Google moves further toward the "Mobile First" search experience, they have started giving much more weight in their algorithm to the user experience (UX) visitors have with your website.
The faster your mobile pages load on mobile devices, the higher you can rank in the search results. Google now gives a significant boost to pages that load quickly versus slow loading pages. You can gain substantial ground on your competitors, and quickly gain first page rankings simply by having page load times that are faster than their pages.
Research shows that with mobile device usage, the users' behaviors have changed. For every one second of load time, it's calculated that you can potentially lose up to 20% of your conversions.
One way to guarantee increases in mobile traffic and revenue is to build out mobile-optimized pages on the new "AMP" platform (accelerated mobile page). These pages are consistently ranked at the top of mobile search results.
Structured Markup of Web Content
One way to make sure that the search engines understand your content, is to use structured data in your HTML formatting. Google and the other search engines have all agreed on Schema Structured Data as the preferred method of markup. Basically, schema markup is a huge collection of taxonomy and shared vocabularies webmasters are recommended to use to mark up their pages in ways that the major search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo!, Yandex and Baidu) can understand.
Google utilizes structured data in a few different ways to help enhance your search listings. Google displays structured data in a few different ways, like the large Knowledge Graph panel in the right column, and Featured Snippets (example below). Rich snippets showing in Google's search results can increase your click-through rate by 30 percent. And, of course, increases in clicks from the search results also help to boost your rankings even higher.
Other 2018 SEO Trends to Watch Out For
Voice Search and Digital Assistants
Due to the overwhelming use of mobile devices, and now the growth of digital assistants (Amazon's Alexa and Echo, Google's Home and Home Mini, Apple's Siri, etc), voice search is expected to continue to grow at a rapid pace throughout 2018. According to Google, 20% of searches already come from voice queries.
A good 2018 SEO strategy must include optimizing for more natural, long-tail keywords, in order to capture those mobile and digital assistant users. Just think, what do you say when using your voice search?
Brand Authority Measured by Mentions, as well as Backlinks
Search engines use the number of inbound links to a website (also called backlinks) as a primary measurement of authority for that site. In accordance, over the years SEO's have spent large amounts of time building inbound links, and some have even tried manipulating this part of the search algorithms.
Bing has already confirmed that they are using brand mentions, even those without physical links, as part of their search algorithm. Google's Panda patent, and several leading SEO experts agree, Google is already doing this, as well. So, brand mentions are becoming almost as important as inbound links to your website.
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