With the holidays getting near, everyone is getting ready to ring in the New Year. Before we all put on our party pants for New Year’s Eve and shout a countdown to midnight, let’s start with another countdown of what 2018 will bring for SEO.
So much went down throughout 2017 that evolved our SEO strategies, and if you’re following what’s been trending, then some of our 2018 predictions won’t be a big surprise.
Next year will integrate more evolving tech, from voice search to artificial intelligence. We’re peering into our little “SEO crystal ball,” and these are the seven trends we predict will dominate in 2018.
1. Voice Search
While voice search certainly took hold in the last couple of years, expect this trend to explode in 2018. We’re all relying more than ever on personal assistants to answer questions and help us with day-to-day tasks, and the rise of Amazon Echo, Google Home, iPhone’s Siri, smart watches, speakers and lots of other assistants and devices will continue to rule in the year ahead.
For your site’s SEO, you’ll have to keep on shifting your focus from shorter keyword phrases to longer ones.
How do people really phrase their problems and needs? Optimizing your keywords for voice means closely considering how people really talk and ask questions and, well, think.
2. Featured Snippets
One of the implications of the rise of voice search is the demand for concise answers. These are now coming in the form of featured snippets.
We can expect these nicely packaged answers to continue showing up across search results pages and via voice searches in the upcoming year.
Google and Bing are pushing featured snippets pretty hard so that they can give one “best answer” to the questions people ask, and right at the top of the search page. That tells us featured snippets should be a huge focus for you, too.
Think about it: If users are now going to get a single, strongest answer to their searches, then you want to be the one who’s the source of that answer to edge out your competitors.
3. Mobile First
We’ve told you it’s coming, and 2018 is its official due date. Google’s mobile-first index will definitely be a game changer. Sites that are responsive and work perfectly across every device will be winners in 2018, when Google will begin to see your mobile site as your one and only site.
This may be the year when mobile completely takes over SEO. Actually, it’s already technically taken over, with well over half of searches happening on mobile. In 2018, that percentage is bound to skyrocket, making desktop-only sites truly a thing of the past.
If your site’s not responsive, there are steps you can take now to bring your mobile site up to speed so you don’t lose in steam when Google starts to roll out mobile first this coming year.
4. More Relevant Content
With an increase in artificial intelligence and voice search, Google is working harder than ever to understand the relevance of your content, as well as how useful it is to audiences. The content you create and tweak will be crucial to how well your site ranks and draws in traffic.
In 2018, we’ll see more sites putting time, effort, and resources behind content strategy and creation that brings in users and is more deeply relevant to their searches. We’ll also see more specificity in topics covered on sites and blogs that hit on very detailed user interests.
This all means you’ll want to hone in on your audience personas to proactively build out articles and resources that meet their needs.
5. Context and Focus on User Intent
Right along with making your content more relevant comes understanding searchers’ intent. In 2018, we expect that more sites will begin optimizing for terms that might have more than one meaning and for the intent behind specific queries.
One way to do this well is to do your research. Use sites like Quora and Wikipedia to understand different phrasing and words that have alternate meanings so you can make their context clear on your pages.
You should also get as detailed as possible about the specific people and products you write about, using unique information that no one else will share.
6. Personalized Search Results
We predict that personalized search results will be a huge emerging trend in the year to come. Integrating data from users’ search history, interests, geographic location and other factors is on track to become more widespread.
Google, Bing, and Yahoo already heavily personalize results. That means that when people search for keywords related to your site in your geographic location, you want to appear in their results the first time so that you become their preferred entry. That will help ensure you also appear in their future searches.
You’ll want to refocus on leveraging a strong mix of branded keywords with unbranded ones that help people fall more deeply in love with your brand.
You can also revamp your customer journeys and use them wisely to better personalize based on your audience persona details, from their locations to preferred devices and more.
7. Brand Mentions Without Links
We all know the power of backlinks. That said, we’re seeing an onslaught of mentions without links. Google’s recent patent and some insights from SEO experts tell us that search engines are likely already factoring in link-less mentions into rankings.
Using your branded keywords can help search engines rank you more favorably. They also work when other people use them to mention you on their sites and social media channels, regardless if they’re linking back to you or not.
You’ll want to be sure you’re returning the favor and mentioning other relevant sites and partners, too. Don’t forget to ask customers and users to submit reviews about you to sites like Yelp to help boost your overall mentions.
Hopefully you’re already using a tool to check for backlinks pointing over to your site, but you might want to invest in additional tools to monitor mentions of you happening across the web.
A good one is Awario, which uses a real-time index of that shows you your most authoritative mentions first.
A new year is sure to bring innovation and even more high-tech gadgets and tools to the market, which will only make SEO even more sophisticated.
Are you ready for these 2018 predictions? What did we miss? Are there other trends, strategies, and technologies you expect to be even bigger in the year to come?