As 2017 comes to an end, we’re looking forward to 2018 and what developments we believe we may see in SEO over the next 12 months.
2018 will continue to see less attention given to the importance of traditional SEO practices such as high quality content creation and links, however, these two areas should still be core pillars of any overall strategy as we head into the New Year.
Industry focus will continue to be on topics such as AI, AMP, voice search and mobile first. It is apparent over the last few years that Google has dropped fewer major algorithm updates such as Panda and Penguin. These were widely recognisable and came with an ease of simplicity when deciphering the issues at hand and implementing tactics and strategies to counter any negative impacts. Now it appears Google is less focused on penalisation and more focused on reward for websites that offer the best user experience.
There are a myriad of new initiatives, emerging technologies and search engine feature updates that will have a large impact on the organic search landscape. Below are the four key areas to look out for in 2018.
Expect mobile traffic volatility
There is one obvious project that all webmasters should have firmly on the 2018 radar, the mobile first index. Google’s Gary Illyes confirmed in August that “we have some ideas for when this will launch, but it’s probably many quarters away.” So, websites should be planning for this in early 2018 so they are ready for this update whenever it arrives in 2018.
Ultimately, Google will start displaying mobile results based on what is seen (indexed) on the mobile version of the site as opposed to the current desktop first approach. Businesses that underestimate this update are likely to suffer drastically. Subsequently, the gap in some industries could widen further between websites that currently dominate share of voice and those that are lagging.
Google has released a step by step guide on migrating to the recommended responsive platform. The ‘importance of mobile’ drum has been beating for a few years now but this is certainly the biggest shift Google has taken to demonstrate its importance.
Personal assistants to have greater influence on SEO strategies
With the incredible growth of in-home assistant devices Google Home and Amazon Echo, coupled with the existing mobile based virtual assistants such as Siri and Cortana, voice search is at the highest adoption rate ever. As recently as May, Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai confirmed that 20 percent of queries on its mobile app and on Android devices are now voice searches. As society becomes more comfortable with in-home technology, it is likely to have a positive impact across mobile devices.
With this increased adoption of voice search, SEO strategies should look at:
- More conversational and natural phrasing of search commands.
- Using schema and knowledge graph information.
- Understanding your buyer’s journey and the questions that arise at each stage.
Our National Head of Experience, Dan Tobin, is writing a series on Voice Search which you can find here with further insights on voice search and how it will play in our everyday lives as a consumer.
Google play a bigger role as a publisher
With the continued rise of featured snippets and quick answer boxes, there will likely be less search traffic for a host of Q&A and information based websites in 2018. According to Californian based Stone Temple Insights Consultancy, almost 30% of Google search queries show Featured Snippets. Google will be increasingly playing the role of a publisher as opposed to the middleman between search intent and website content. Visitors expect to see the answer to their queries instantly in search results, so CTRs across some verticals may also decline. With this in mind, less emphasis may be placed on positions 1 to 10 and more on obtaining position 0. Editing your content format to a list, table or Q&A will see companies skip the queue and jump right to the top of the SERPs.
The need to be fast and agile
Technology is moving at a rapid pace, even more so than I realised until recently reading ‘Homo Deus – a brief history of tomorrow’. The final chapters of this mind-blowing book explore the extent to which Google and personal assistants will play in our everyday lives. Machine learning will undoubtedly continue to make huge strides in 2018. In many cases, marketers will be unable to detect every change and nuance that will invariably impact our overall strategies and daily tactics.
Additionally, speed is a crucial phrase that should be at the forefront of every company with aggressive organic search KPIs and growth targets. Talking speed is two-fold, in both site and page speed. Companies need to continue to be agile in a responsive sense to configure, update and make changes to your existing content and existing SEO tactics in line with the changing SERP landscape (answer boxes, snippets and knowledge graph). Companies who react the quickest, are likely to see incremental and highly worthwhile gains.
This is not to say that the likes of AMP or Progressive Web Apps and other emerging platforms will not see significant growth in 2018.But the measured level of positive impact at this stage is uncertain considering the level of investment required to complete such projects.
Search in 2018 will see drastic changes. From the introduction of the mobile first algorithm to the ever present need to be agile, 2018 will be a big year. Businesses need to keep the customer and user experience at the forefront of these changes to capitalise and continue to grow.
Author: Jadon Stewart, Experience Director