Search engine optimization (SEO) is never static. It’s changing all the time, partly because technology itself evolves, but also because consumer behavior shifts and adapts. Part of the marketer’s job is forecasting the latest trends, and building strategies that accommodate them. As we head into 2018, here are a handful of SEO trends we can predict with some confidence; all of them are potentially impactful for your company’s ongoing marketing approach.
New Features in the SERP
Google is on a never-ending quest to provide search engine users with the best experience possible—that is, the quickest and most convenient access to the desired information. One way they’re doing this is by changing the search engine results page (SERP) itself. The goal of this ongoing transformation is to make the SERP a treasure trove of information for the end user—but of course, this also has some major SEO implications.
There are a number of features that are now embedded within the SERP—among them:
- Local/map packs
- Knowledge panels
- Featured snippets
All of these features provide the user with information, without him or her needing to click on an actual listing. In other words, they’re actually stealing searchers’ attention, and potentially robbing websites of some clicks.
There’s no sense in fighting this trend or rebelling against these changes. What you can do is monitor them, and measure the traffic you get from these features. It’s not impossible to use these extended SERP features to your advantage, but it will take a vigilant, data-backed approach.
The Need for Speed
A second SEO trend that we believe will be crucial in 2018: Speed.
The speed with which your site loads is important for a few reasons. For one, it impacts the user experience; nobody wants to wait long for a page to load, and studies show that most users refuse to wait longer than a few seconds. Additionally, speed is a ranking signal in and of itself. Google looks more favorably upon sites that load with great speed.
The question is, how fast does your website need to be to receive an optimal ranking? Heading into 2018, Google’s desired speed is three seconds or less!
You can take a page speed test right now to determine whether your site passes muster. (There are a number of speed test applications available; they’re just a Google search away.) Chances are, though, if your page is slow to load, you know it—and you know why it’s so slow. Any problematic elements of your page, such as large images that take a long time to load, should be addressed.
The Rise of Voice Search
Arguably the biggest SEO game-changer of the past year has been voice search—and it’s only going to become more significant as time goes on. Some studies suggest that voice search will account for half of all Google inquiries by the year 2020!
It’s not difficult to understand why people are opting for voice search as opposed to typed-out search queries. The availability of services like Siri and Alexa, combined with the rise in mobile search, makes the continued relevance of voice search inevitable. The question is, what can you do to prepare for it from an SEO point of view?
The important thing to understand here is that voice search users conduct their searches differently than those who use the more conventional search routine. Voice search tends to favor normal, conversational language, not the odd, stilted queries that traditional search entails.
As such, a shift toward long-tail keywords, written in more colloquial language, is crucial. The way you structure your content can also be meaningful: Bullet points and question-and-answer formats can both help you appeal to voice search users.
Continued Rise of Mobile Use
Mobile use is nothing new. In fact, every year there are new articles written about just how big mobile has become. Today, it accounts for well over half of all Google searches—and it continues to dominate the search landscape. In other words, you still can’t ignore mobile.
So what does this mean? First and foremost, it’s well past time to make sure all your pages are mobile friendly. If you’re unsure about them, test them on a variety of mobile devices and browsers. Remember, mobile-friendliness means the page loads quickly and is easy to view, without the need to scroll, zoom, or resize.
If you do spot any mobile issues, that’s something you’ll want to address with your Web development team ASAP. Remember: When your page isn’t mobile friendly, it’s not just a turnoff to users. It could land you with Google penalties, as well.
Here’s one more key SEO trend for 2018: Structured data. This is a way of formatting HTML with a specific vocabulary, instructing search algorithms how to classify content and how to display it in the SERP. Think of the SERP listings you’ve seen that include reviews, ratings, contact information, nutritional data, and other pieces of information that enrich the SERP experience.
While structured data is not technically a ranking factor, it does have some relevance to your SEO efforts—and here’s why: It makes your listings stand out. It entices users to click through and learn more. When done right, it can be an invaluable opportunity for you to make your search listings truly distinctive.
A New Year of SEO Opportunities
Indeed, the new year will bring many opportunities. To capitalize on them, it’s important to understand these trends—and to develop an SEO plan that encompasses them.
That’s something we’d love to help with. The enCOMPASS team is always on the cutting edge of SEO trends, and we can help you incorporate them into your own marketing approach. Learn more about Search engine optimization (SEO). Reach out to us today!
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