Our technical SEO partner and expert Gavin Willis talks us through the top 5 SEO trends for 2018, giving marketers advice on how to tailor their SEO strategy for the year ahead.
1 – Voice search
Digital assistants such as Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant, Cortana, and Bixby represent a growing market that can change the way search queries are performed. According to Google, 1 out of 5 searches already come from voice queries; a number that SEO experts predict to rise dramatically in 2018.
Google has always advocated placing the searcher at the heart of any SEO strategy, and the rise of voice search requires a natural approach that is closely aligned to the user’s conversational tone. This means emphasis on long-tail keywords, phrases using the 5 W’s (‘who’, ‘what’, ‘where’, when’ and ‘why’) and ‘how’.
Conversational queries go hand in hand with mobile users who are on the move, seeking local results on ‘where’ to find something.
Voice search provides a great opportunity for marketers to take advantage of a growing market that connects brands with users in a unique, relevant and useful way.
2 – Mobile-first
“Mobile first” has become a common phrase in the last few years and, in 2018, businesses that are still playing catch-up will come to see the potential of putting mobile first, rather than an afterthought.
Google’s mobile-first index was rolled out and announced in late 2016, and although some early adopters embraced change; we predict that 2018 will see a higher uptake. This will see marketers starting to provide more engaging cross-device experiences.
In 2015, Google stated that 88% of all “near me” searches are done on mobile. Since then we have seen mobile users grow year on year. Local SEO is going to become even more popular due to this growth and mobile users will demand more content while they are on the go.
This presents a big opportunity for brands and businesses to market themselves at a local level. Creating a successful SEO strategy in 2018 will mean optimising the search experience through more content and personalized and relevant answers.
3 – Link building (& linkless mentions)
For years, links have been the main trust signal for search engines — and one that SEOs have spent the most time on optimizing (and often manipulating). But, times are changing, and according to Search Engine Land “linkless mentions may soon be becoming an off-page signal of equal weight”.
Brand mentions in the form of citations form part of the linkless revolution, and back in May 2017, Google warned publishers who rely too much on guest posting for link building that there will be a closer look at guest blogs in an attempt to control spammy and questionable links.
Marketers and agencies both need to focus on creating a more diverse, natural and complete profile online, containing brand mentions and different forms of content and media.
This is great news for PRs, as it means that the hard work they do to earn coverage on will have a positive impact on SEO, even without the much coveted linkback.
4 – HTTPS
Back in 2014, Google called for “HTTPS Everywhere” as part of their plan to convince everyone that all communications should be secure by default.
HTTP is not encrypted and is vulnerable to attacks, whereas HTTPS is encrypted, offers greater security, and was established to sanction secured transactions and authorization over the web.
In April 2017, Moz reported that 50% of Google first page results were HTTPS, up from 30% nine months prior. They also predicted that this adoption rate would rise to 65% by the end of 2017, showing the importance of moving across to HTTPS as soon as possible.
HTTPS is now a confirmed ranking signal by Google and reinforces Googles emphasis on trust.
If your website is not HTTPS already, then it should to be, and your web development team need to build a migration into their roadmap, before you lose any of your hard earned ranking.
5 – Featured snippets
Considering how to get your content ranked as a ‘featured snippet’ is a great way to appear on page 1 of Google. Although they don’t actually form part of the usual first page results (and are therefore often referred to as “position 0”), featured snippets can take up to 30% of real estate on Google’s first page.
Structured data such as lists, tables and graphs tend to be listed as a featured snippet.
Google’s Answer Box is an enhanced type of featured snippet that aims to answer a question in a more engaging way and results that show up in an Answer Box can see a CTR of 32.3%.
If your website contains Q&A content format, Google is more likely to ‘read’ and extract it to show as a relevant result to the users’ queries. These questions usually follow a “how” or “what” structure and match Google’s aim to answer questions in the way that people actually ask them when they search.
How do you improve likelihood of showing featured snippets? Google have provided a great introduction to Structured Data which will help you to enable special search results features.
If you want to discuss getting your website and marketing strategy SEO ready for 2018, then contact us.