Search Engine Optimization is and will always be a moving target. Each year search engines slightly change the way they work, rendering some strategies obsolete and making new strategies necessary.
It’s a bit like language with its constant iterative evolution. New words or phrases gain meaning and popularity, slowly becoming overused and distorted then inevitably discarded in favor of something new. Today, we’d all cringe if we heard someone say that something was, ‘da bomb’.
With that in mind, here are four SEO trends to look out for in 2018:
The Rise of Voice Search
In the past few years, digital voice assistants have really come into their own. More and more users ask Siri, Alexa, or Cortana all sorts of questions or requests. More often than not, the digital assistant transcribes the question then enters the query into a search engine before informing the user of the results.
The rise of voice search and digital assistants’ effect on SEO has to do with a shift in syntax. That is to say, the language we use to type a search versus speak a search is often very different. We tend to type short or compact search queries while the same question spoken to a digital assistant is often much longer. This means that 2018 will most likely require some shifts in keyword and key-phrase strategy as the amount of longer voice queries proportionally increases.
Local businesses should pay particular attention to trends in voice search as searches like, ‘Best restaurants near me’ becomes more competitive. More and more people passing through unfamiliar local areas will use voice search to guide them to retail stores, restaurants, pharmacies, etc.
The Year of Mobile First?
In late 2016, Google announced that it would begin testing mobile-first indexing. Mobile internet usage overtook desktop usage a few years back but Google has continued to index the desktop version of sites first while adding a lot of weight to the quality of a site’s mobile friendliness. At some point, everyone expects mobile-first indexing to become Google’s standard and after a year of testing, 2018 might just be the year that mobile-first happens.
What does this all mean?
It means that sites that have been neglecting their mobile versions are primed to suffer some harsh consequences. At this point, many websites are mobile friendly but there has always been some debate on how to focus resources. This somewhat depends on your business model but there is always the question of should you focus 80% or 60% or 40% of your web design resources to desktop over mobile. Once Google switches to mobile-first, new websites will truly start with mobile design and existing websites may need to rework their mobile site.
Long story short, 2018 is the last call to get a mobile-friendly website for your business.
In recent years, link building’s strategic importance in SEO has shifted a bit. Google has been incrementally decreasing the weight placed on the quantity of backlinks versus their quality. In the past, a bunch of links on sites with low domain authority could equal the SEO power of a single link on a site with high domain authority. This is no longer the case though, and like everything in SEO, it’s not absolute.
What this trend means for 2018 is that your backlink strategy should really be focused on quality links, not quantity. It might be helpful to think of your backlink strategy in 2018 as online PR or networking, a social task rather than a technical one.
Note that for local businesses, local citations and directories still seem to be carrying a lot of weight.
Invest in Great Content
Investing in great content has always been a smart online business strategy but in 2018 it will become an even smarter one. In the past, pages with stale or overly-optimized content could still do a lot of good for a website’s SEO. One could cater to the preferences of Google’s web crawlers by having a certain amount of words with the right keyword density on a page even if that content wasn’t particularly useful or well-written. That’s no longer true. Google has become very adept at recognizing well-written, quality content and is paying even closer attention to the age of this content. Your content strategy in 2018 should be to develop and deploy consistent, high-quality content.
Always remember that every search engine’s goal is to provide the highest quality and most relevant results for every search query. Your long-term SEO strategy should always include focusing on actually being what you’ve positioned yourself online to be. Your 2018 strategy needs to take into account that Google and other search engines are only becoming smarter and more discerning of quality. 2018 is set to be a year in SEO that is focused less on technical adjustments and more on maximizing quality.