5 SEO Trends That Can’t be Ignored in 2018

January 30, 2018 | Maria Smart, SEO Specialist | Blizzard Internet Marketing

In the ever-changing environment of the internet, we as marketers must always be prepared for change, especially as it pertains to search engine optimization (SEO). The following is a list of trends that Blizzard believes will change the way we do SEO in 2018 and years to come. Though many of these have been on our radar for a while, they are relevant now more than ever and in different ways than before!

Top 5 SEO Trends of 2018

1. Website Speed & Mobile UX
2. Mobile is Undeniably Important
3. Rise in SERP Features
4. Back to Link Building
5. Machine Learning & Hyper Personalization

Change for the sake of change is not necessarily a good thing. These changes, however, are being implemented to provide better results for all internet users as the space continues to grow and evolve. The goal is to serve accurate content fast, and there are many little things marketers should work on to deliver results!

1. Website Speed & Mobile UX

Need for Speed

Website speed is a critical. Speed affects ranking signals, as well as user experience (UX), which in turn impacts search engine result (SERP) rankings. So, if your website isn’t fast, your website is not ranking as well as it could be. And when users do visit your slow website, and have a bad UX and bounce away, your rankings can suffer further!

How fast does your website have to be? As fast or faster than your direct competitors. Industry averages should drive your page speed optimization. If you are performing at or above industry page speed averages, then keep doing what you’re doing. If you are lagging behind, there are a variety of adjustments that can make big improvements.

2. Mobile is Undeniably Important

Mobilegeddon…Again!

Google is supposed to be rolling out the mobile first index sometime in 2018. This will change the way Google sees your web pages. Right now, Google indexes your desktop content first, serving up two different experiences depending on the user’s device. Very soon, Google will create SERPs based on the mobile version of your website. Therefore, if you do not optimize your website for mobile UX and visitors abandon your website, your traffic will begin to drop, along with your rankings. Mobile friendliness is an extremely important ranking factor.

Voice search is also more prevalent than ever. As home digital assistants (Alexa/Amazon Echo, Google Home) become more accurate and gain popularity, consumers feel more comfortable using the technology already built into their handheld devices, Smart TVs, cars, etc. You should be optimizing your website to answer questions, using natural language and targeting long-tail keywords. With the explosion of new in-home voice integration, companies will have access to an entirely new pool of data to help them better understand their consumers and target them again in the future.

3. Rise in SERP Features

The Changing Landscape of SERP Real Estate

Being number one in organic search is not as important as it once was. With the rise in SERP features such as featured snippets, knowledge graph panels, quick answer boxes, local packs and so on, searchers are diverting their attention from the number one result and checking out the catchy new feature being shown to them.

Check out the Google desktop search for “how to wash a car” below. The featured snippet, a YouTube video, is featured at the topmost valuable real estate on the page. Below that are similar search suggestions from Google with quick answers, and below that is the number one organic ranking URL for the search. Not much changes as far as layout when we look at the mobile search results for the same phrase. However, all the resources and results have changed. This time, the featured snippet is an organized list from an auto care website. Again, we see Google offering similar searches performed with quick answers rather than the number one organically ranked URL for the search phrase. Though it does have a five-star review featured snippet, it doesn’t show above the fold on mobile, meaning you must scroll to the first organic result, therefore, losing more valuable real estate than desktop. Optimizing to show in a local pack, quick answer box or knowledge graph panel should be integrated into your SEO strategy moving forward.

Tools like SEMRush can show you what URLs on your website show for the various types of Google features, and also what your competitors rank for. This is a great place to find an opportunity to grow your content and gain better SERP positioning. Creating great content using a variety of related terms that is comprehensive in nature is what Google is looking for. Look up the pages that are ranking well for the term, phrase or question you are chasing, take note of what those pages are doing that makes them rank well for those terms, and then do it better!

SERP Blizzard SEO
SERP Blizzard Blog 2

4. Back to Link Building

The Linkless Approach

Links are a long-standing trust factor considered by search engines. The time and effort that used to be devoted to link building can now be shifted elsewhere. As search engines get smarter, they can associate mentions on the web with brands, and use them to help determine a website’s authority. Linkless mentions may be becoming an off-page signal with equal weight. Bing has already implemented this technology and Google is not far behind if they aren’t doing it already!

Note: New links are not necessary if they do not add value to your website or they do not help to build an authority in your niche. Links from sources relevant to your niche are the most powerful!

5. Machine Learning & Hyper Personalization

AI & The Internet

Machine learning has changed the way search results rank and will continue to do so, especially in terms of hyper-personalization. Machine learning gives computers the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed to do so. Google’s RankBrain algorithm uses machine learning to process unfathomable amounts of qualitative data into quantitative data and learns from it by creating a database of user-driven information. Google’s RankBrain interprets the user’s query, determines search intent, and selects results from the databases to display. Therefore, it is learning what to serve users based on the various terms and phrases used in the keyword search.

It is obvious that SERP results are based not only on the usual ranking factors but also on what RankBrain has learned about your query, as well as a user’s personal information such as browser history, location, device, social platforms used and much more. All the major search engines have some form of personalization that is considered when search results are displayed, therefore there is no consistent search experience across users, devices, or locations. So, how do you put your best foot forward and get into those personalized SERPs? Get very clear on your top terms, and ensure you are showing on page one for those terms. If a user is searching for your key term for the first time, you have an opportunity to appear in somewhat unbiased results. If they click on your website, you can become their ‘preferred’ website for that term/industry and will likely show again in their similar search results. Additionally, monitoring your keywords and where they are performing best, especially in terms of device and location, then optimizing for those terms in those places to gain more presence in personalized search results is key.

Implementing Change

Many of these top 5 may have already been on your to-do list. That is great, however, it’s time to take these priorities off the back burner and turn up the gas! Many of these items, like backlink building, are probably part of your current strategy, however, as detailed above, these strategies are evolving. Adopting these changes now and implementing them may put you ahead of the curve.

2018 will be an interesting year for SEO. Traditional tactics and strategies are still effective and recommended, but there are significant changes surrounding optimizing for search that should also be integrated. Ranking for the first organic spot in search engines is not the goal anymore, and opportunities to increase your traffic outside of organic SERPs is rising. Featured snippets and voice search are just a few of the newer trends that can produce better results.

Have a million other things to do and need some help incorporating these tactics into your SEO strategy? Contact Blizzard Internet Marketing today to find out more about what we can offer to help you succeed on the web!