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If you’re new to Search Engine Optimization (SEO), after conducting any amount of research will quickly reveal that this is a rapidly changing field of practice.
This constant change makes SEO a major challenge, as does the over 200 factors in Google’s algorithm that takes careful experimentation to figure out which ones might affect the search query you’re addressing.
The way people use the internet is evolving with every new piece of technology released and Google is working relentlessly to ensure they remain the number one tool for organizing and presenting the world’s online information.
New features have created a search engine results page that looks much different to the one we would see a decade ago. Search engines, not only Google, aim to improve the quality of search results and provide its users the exact content that will fulfill their intent.
The team here at MARSWorks are in constant discussion about the trends we’re seeing in SEO and we want you to join in on the discussion!
Here is our list of six SEO trends that will be urgent to address as we all navigate through 2018.
1. Mobile-First Index
Google has been experimenting with a mobile-first index since 2016, with plans to roll this out for everyone in the near future. What this means is that Google will create and rank its search listings based on the mobile version of your site first, and fall on the desktop version if there is no mobile version.
Why is this being done? As increasing amounts of searches happening on mobile (over 50%), Google wants its results to represent the majority of its users – those on mobile. Their current index continues to show desktop results for mobile users, which doesn’t make sense given this trend.
Google still hasn’t given an exact timeline for the launch of the mobile-first index, but Gary Illyes did say that they initially were thinking end of 2017 but now it will probably be in 2018.
How do you make sure you are ready for the mobile-first index? There are a few key things to consider as we move into 2018:
- Responsive website design and development is an approach that MARSWorks uses, where your website content is the same for both mobile and desktop displays, yet displayed differently to accommodate the difference in screen size. In this case, you shouldn’t have to change anything and you will be prepared for the mobile-first index.
- If you do have a separate mobile site, you should ensure that the content and links are similar enough to the desktop version so that search engines can continue to rank your site the same as it did for the desktop version.
- Make sure to add and verify the mobile version of your site if you haven’t.
2. Voice Search
With more and more searches being conducted on mobile, there is another phenomenon that has followed. As voice recognition technology has become more precise and easy to use, mobile users are naturally using voice to search on Google. Voice is easier, more efficient, and hands-free. Google has reported that 55% of teens and 40% of adults use voice search daily on the Google app. But why does this matter for SEO for 2018?
Essentially, the way users word their queries is different when using voice. We’ve been optimizing our websites and following our rankings based on single keywords or phrases – such as “laser clinic Ottawa” – because people type their queries in this fashion. However, with voice, we are seeing more long-tail search terms such as, “what is the best laser clinic in Ottawa.”
In future SEO efforts, one should consider how searches may be said, rather than typed. Understanding the intent behind what your users are searching for and ensuring you answer those specific questions on your website is important. Instead of having landing pages centered around one keyword, creating content rich pages that answer a multitude of related queries will be necessary. We will address the new approach to content more in the following section.
3. New approach to content
As Google evolves and becomes increasingly better at understanding search intent, it relies more on context and other factors to return the best results to the user. Going beyond keywords to create content rich landing pages requires more complexity in your content and approach and is something on which every website should focus.
With this in mind, you may be asking yourself, “how long should my blog articles be?” Most SEOs agree that creating longer quality pieces less frequently will continually be more beneficial than the old strategies of spitting out numerous short pieces with “thinner” content.
The idea going into 2018 is that you should really dig deep into the mind of your users and understand what the intent is behind their search queries – that is what Google is doing and therefore what you should also be doing. As Google becomes better at understanding search intent, it will be better at finding content that matches that intent rather than focusing on keywords. Create content that satisfies the intent with a holistic approach.
Naturally helpful content will have you favored by Google and you’ll begin to see your landing pages show up in the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) features like the Featured Snippet. I’ll explain this in the following section!
4. Rise of SERP features
As Google looks for ways to create a better experience for its users and provide the intended results, we’ve been seeing many additional features developed over the past few years. The SERP is not what it used to be, to say the least.
Aiming for #1 in the organic search results isn’t necessarily the top priority for SEOs going into 2018. With the introduction of the featured snippet, the so called #0 spot is taking precedence in SEO strategy. If you can rank there, it is even better than number 1.
If you use voice search on your mobile device, Google will even read out the answer in the featured snippet to you. As voice search becomes more prominent, and Google becomes better at understanding search intent, the regular rankings will become less important as the featured snippet provides the user with the information they are looking for automatically.
Moving into 2018 it becomes important to target these SERP features or get left behind. By focusing on local SEO, you can find yourself in the local pack ranking for searches in close proximity to your location. If you want to get yourself a spot in the featured snippet, you should try creating content that answers specific questions in a simple yet fulfilling way. Look at what is making it into the featured snippets already for related search terms – that is Google literally telling you what type of content they are want to see!
5. Structured Data
Schema.org provides a set of tags you can add to your HTML. This has resulted from a collaboration between Google, Bing, Yandex, and Yahoo!. This gives your data context, allowing the search engines to provide their users the best search results possible. This structured data will display in your websites snippet on the results page which is proven to increase CTR by 30 percent and indirectly increase your ranking.
Although this isn’t new for 2018, more SEOs are using this tactic so it is definitely a competitive tool. Any in any case, the more context we can provide to the search algorithms the better chance you have at ranking for the search queries you desire.
We all know that page speed is critical. The reality is, if your website doesn’t load fast the user is going to bounce quickly. People just don’t have the patience for that anymore. With expectations so high, Google is not going to serve your website if it doesn’t load quickly. In fact, they expect pages to load in under three seconds.
This has always been something that SEOs focus on, but going into 2018 it becomes more urgent especially as the age of the mobile-first index is upon us.
There are many things that can slow a website down and Google provides you with a page speed test that will give you clear recommendations on how to resolve some big issues. There is also a Chrome plugin called Lighthouse that can take you into deeper detail if you have a Progressive Web App.
Google has also launched AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) which is an open source project helping webmasters create fast mobile pages. This is to solve 2 major problems:
- Poor UX on mobile due to slow loading pages, and,
- Increasing use of ad blockers on mobile devices.
Currently AMP is more ideal for publishers and news sites, but all industries can start experimenting with it. Speed is huge, and when the mobile-first index rolls out you will want to make sure your website, information, and content is accessible. Google is giving us a clear way to ensure that!
Search Engine Optimization is complicated. It was in 2017 and it will continue to be as we navigate through 2018. We’ve been aware of these topics working through the past year and maybe even earlier, but they are becoming increasingly important to address in your SEO strategy as Google evolves and new features are developed. The way people find information online is changing and successful websites and Search Engine Optimization efforts must change as well. It’s better to stay ahead of the game then fall behind!
If you are lost in the ever-evolving digital world but need to get your brand out there in front of your target audience, MARSWorks can help. We’re your digital production studio and can ensure your unique online presence is there to strengthen your brand and grow your business. Contact us today!