SEO

Alongside great content and high-quality backlinks, there are other SEO trends on the rise that you should incorporate into your strategy for 2018.

As Christmas gets closer, it’s time to start thinking ahead to the New Year. Here, I’ll be covering the key trends for SEO in 2018, including the latest on ranking factors, how new technologies are affecting search, and the tactics that you can incorporate into your strategy to help ensure you stay ahead of your competition.

  1. Evolution of the SERPs and Increased Competition for Visibility 

Earlier this year, Moz published some interesting data that showed that a third of searches result in no clicks at all. Rand Fishkin stated:

If we look at all search queries (not just distinct ones), those numbers shift to a straight 60%/40% split. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that over time, we get closer and closer to Google solving half of search queries without a click.

In other words, Rand predicts that CTR will continue to fall even for #1 rankings, as Google releases features that make clicking any result unnecessary. So, why is this happening?

Well, it appears that in general, Google is trying to keep searchers on Google for as long as possible. We’ve seen a huge increase in the appearance of SERP features such as featured snippets, the “People also ask” feature, as well as an increase in the number of ads. Ultimately, of course, the goal is monetisation, with Google aiming to make as much cash out of the search results as they can. On top of this, the increase in the use of mobile has also affected CTRs from the SERPs, as 57% of search on mobile results in no clicks versus 35% on desktop. SERP features have been around for a while now, and they will only continue to grow in prominence and importance as we move into 2018, with Google continually creating and testing new ways to present the organic search results.

But don’t despair! This doesn’t mean SEO is no longer vital to any digital marketing strategy – it simply means we’re going to have to be smarter and more strategic in how we discover organic opportunities for our businesses.

Key takeaways for your SEO strategy:

  • Thoroughly research SERPs for your specific industry, content themes and keywords – what kind of results are keywords in your niche delivering? The screenshot below displays the search results for “Samsung S8” – we’re presented with a shopping feed, top stories, search network ads, product details, images, knowledge graph, people also search for… it’s very crowded! Knowing what works well in our industry, down to specific keywords, is vital for ensuring you’re able to compete.

SEO in 2018 - Samsung S8 Search Results

  • We can’t just rely on optimising content for keywords to make it onto a SERP. Start work on your featured snippets strategy if you haven’t already – further info here.
  • Use SEMrush or other tools to track how visible your site is for featured snippets.
  • Markup your content as structured data using schema.org to ensure Google understands your website and its presented in the SERPs as fully as possible. Check out this beginner’s guide.
  • Once you’re ready to get started, use our step by step guide to implement various different types of schema on your site using Google Tag Manager.

2. Continued Importance of RankBrain and Machine Learning to Google’s Algorithm

I first wrote about RankBrain back in 2015 and since then we’ve discovered a lot more about how it works and how important it is as a ranking factor. It’s become clear that it is strongly linked to UX signals – most significantly, click-through rate and dwell time. We know now that if you click on a #3 result and spend a while on the page – for instance reading a whole article – then RankBrain will notice and give that result a boost. If you (and a lot of other users) click on #1 and bounce off straight away, conversely, Google is likely to kick site off the top spot.

Key takeaways for your SEO strategy:

  • Focus on improving title tags and metadata – not optimising for keywords, but making them more enticing to the user, in order to boost CTRs.
  • Ensure that your on-page content is compelling, your site loads extremely quickly and you provide a flawless user experience. Depending on the type of content, there are lots of things you can do to boost dwell time. If you’re creating an article, for instance, you’re going to want to flesh it out as much as possible, possibly include a video, ensure your first paragraph hooks the reader, and include user queries and answers.
  • A lot of websites are optimising pages for “best practice” but this means there is a lot of similarities in the SERPs – similar title tags/meta descriptions. So you need to make your listing stand out, through creativity and differentiation.

3. Don’t Rely On “Old School” On-Page SEO Tactics

Adding keywords into your on-page metadata, throughout the copy and in link anchor text is fine, but it will only take you so far (and that’s not very far, to be honest). The latest SEMrush ranking factors survey found that:

  • 35% of domains ranking for high-volume keywords don’t have the keyword in the title. This suggests that Google’s algorithms are getting better at understanding context/synonyms, and/or that keywords in the page title are becoming a less important ranking factor.
  • Very few links contain a keyword in the anchor text — in fact, even among “Very High” volume keywords, only 8% of link anchors included a keyword. This may suggest that keywords in anchor text are not a major ranking factor, but it also might be a reflection of SEOs adhering more strictly to link building best practices that see anchor text links as spammy.

Interestingly, SEMrush found that user signals and (direct) website traffic were actually the highest predictors of top rankings. Olga Andrienko theorised that this was because top-ranking sites (i.e. those on page 1) are all doing on-page optimisation well, meaning that Google needs new criteria to differentiate among these sites.

Key takeaways for your SEO strategy:

  • You need to create brand love by ensuring your website provides exactly what your customer is looking for and more. Through great UX and content you can improve engagement and get customer coming back again and again.
  • Don’t try and rely on on-page optimisation alone – it just won’t cut it in 2018.

4. Further Growth of Voice Search

Currently, 20% of mobile searches are voice-driven, and “50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020” according to comScore.

A major driver of this growth is the fact that Google Home, Alexa, Siri, and Cortana have demonstrated around 92% accuracy in understanding the human voice. More and more, consumers are embracing the technology, with Amazon’s Echo becoming their most popular product during Christmas 2016. And the popularity of digital assistants and voice search only looks set to grow further in 2018.

So how will voice search affect us as digital marketers? Read our guide on how to optimise for voice search.

Key takeaways for your SEO strategy:

  • Optimise for conversational language – make sure that within your content plan/strategy you’re building in this type of language e.g. questions.
  • Use tools such as Buzzsumo’s Question Analyser to find customer questions which are gaining traction in terms of shares and to understand how your audience is articulating their questions – don’t just opt for a generic long-tail approach.

5. Arrival of Google’s Mobile-First Index

Google has started slowly rolling out the mobile-first index and it should certainly be a key priority for any digital strategy in 2018. What does it actually mean? Essentially, Google is changing how it views websites, switching from seeing it as first and foremost a desktop site, to a mobile site. This means any content that can’t be seen by users on your mobile site will not be counted by Google, or contribute to your rankings.

This approach makes sense when we look at the stats – more searches are now being performed on mobile than desktop; for instance, in the food and beverage industry, the figure is 72% on mobile. On top of this, we have the mobile-first generation coming into the spotlight, and as this article suggests, capturing Google’s attention.

Key takeaways for your SEO strategy:

  • If you’re not already, start working on a mobile-specific strategy for your site.
  • Ensure your site is fast on mobile and potentially roll out AMP.
  • Ensure your site has a seamless mobile user experience.

6. Think Beyond Google

Obviously, Google is going to be at the forefront of your mind when it comes to SEO and in 2018 you should think more widely about the opportunities within the Google sphere (not just the organic listings) such as Ads, featured snippets, shopping and other SERP features specific to your industry which could give your brand more visibility.

However, you could argue that as it becomes ever more competitive to gain this visibility, and as Google continues to evolve and monetise the search results, it’s advisable to cast your net a bit wider, and look at other options, for instance – Amazon (55% of product searches today start on Amazon, not Google), Bing (powers a lot of voice searches, with Alexa relying on Bing, not Google), YouTube (video is continuing to rise, and demand for video content is growing across both B2B and B2C), and Pinterest (for B2C products).

 

Whilst the above are all good to keep in mind for 2018, don’t forget that great content, a seamless user experience, high-quality backlinks and a technically sound website are still 100% key for any SEO strategy. But by staying up to date with the latest trends you can stay ahead of the game, and utilise both established and newer tactics.

 

2 responses to “6 Key Trends and Tactics for SEO in 2018”

  1. Robyn says:

    Great information, thanks!

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