6 SEO Trends for 2018

With the holiday season in the rearview, it’s time once again to predict SEO’s biggest trends through the new year. The previous year was a big one, with mobile-first results and localized optimization among the most critical shifts of 2017. What challenges will 2018 bring? More importantly, what can SEO marketers do to stay ahead of the curve?

With the holiday season in the rearview, it’s time once again to predict SEO’s biggest trends through the new year. The previous year was a big one, with mobile-first results and localized optimization among the most critical shifts of 2017. What challenges will 2018 bring? More importantly, what can SEO marketers do to stay ahead of the curve?

I’m predicting the rise of a couple new SEO trends, and I also believe a handful of factors from the previous year will become top priorities in digital marketing strategies. Read on to see the top six anticipated SEO trends for 2018..

1. Page Share Becomes Critical

Earning the top organic search results on coveted search terms used to be the golden goose of SEO. In many cases, it still is. In 2018, though, expect this to change as Google refines its featured snippets, Knowledge panels and other SERP elements displayed above the organic listings. SEO marketers should already be familiar with page share — it’s the concept of optimizing for as many SERP placements as possible, rather than winning a single top-ranked search result. The more Google supplements its above-the-fold search results, the more important page share will become.

Also, consider the impact of mobile SEO on page share optimization. Smartphones supplanted desktop and laptop PCs long ago as the preferred devices for searching the Web, and Google’s mobile SERPs leave even less room for organic listings. Knowledge graphs now appear on most of the research-oriented searches that small businesses depend on for organic traffic. It’s time to optimize for those placements to avoid being pushed into digital obscurity.

2. Long-Tail Keywords Will Dominate

Long-tail keywords are finally becoming mainstream. For years, digital marketers used long-tail keywords as less-competitive sources of both paid and organic traffic. That was before the start of 2017, when a Pew Research Center study found more than three-quarters of Americans owned smartphones, and also before most new smartphones launched with voice-activated digital assistants.

Thanks to this technology, searching the web today is as simple as asking a question. More people are transitioning to this technology, too. Google’s Behshad Behzadi reported that 55 percent of teens and 40 percent of adults use voice searching on a daily basis. This opens a wealth of possibilities for opportunistic SEO marketers who research which questions their audiences are asking. Remember this form of question-oriented targeting when planning your content going forward.

3. Need for Speed

Page speed was already important in 2017, and it’s going to be big again in 2018. Google solidified its preference for mobile websites last year with its decision to move to a “mobile first” algorithm. Going forward, page speed will be a critical factor among digital marketers vying for the best SERP placements.

Faster is always better. You can find free online speed tests to learn how quickly (or slowly) your pages are loading.

4. Structured Data

I’ve already explained how page share is becoming more important than organic results. However, organic results are still vital. They bring scores of visitors to websites, and they’re also prime pieces of page share.

In 2018, New Challenges for SEO Await

In December 2016, I wrote about search trends for 2017. As 2018 is about to begin, it seems appropriate to look back at how accurate my trend analysis was and peek forward into what challenges await in 2018.

voice search
“Sorry, didn’t catch that,” Creative Commons license. | Credit: Flickr by Ruth Hartnup

Moving into the digital age has left me regretting my tradition of breaking out the new desk calendar during the last weeks of the year. I have kept both daily and weekly calendars for many years; and each year, I would spend an hour or two moving birthdays and significant dates to the new calendar. I also used the time to pause and reflect on what the new year would bring. The blank pages in the calendar were always an invitation to set lofty goals and make large plans.

In December 2016, I wrote about search trends for 2017. As 2018 is about to begin, it seems appropriate to look back at how accurate my trend analysis was and peek forward into what challenges await in 2018.

At the start of 2017, three strong trends/challenges stood out:

  • The imperative for faster site speed
  • The need to put mobile first in all SEO plans
  • The push for secure sites

How have these played out? Did site owners move on these imperatives? What new imperatives await in 2018?

Site Owners Are Still Working on Making Their Sites Faster

Site speed is now a confirmed ranking factor particularly for mobile sites — which is where most of the traffic growth is. If your site does not load in less than three seconds, you still have work to do.

The SEO literature is filled with information on how to speed up the venerable desktop search, but the frontier is mobile. It is a frontier that is increasingly settled by those who have understood the linkage of speed to success in search, usability and conversion.

Achievements are being made. But just as world records will fall in the 2018 Olympics, so, too, will site owners achieve even greater speed in 2018.

To stay in the game in 2018, don’t let up; continue to seek improvements on site speed.

Mobile Is First, It Hears a Voice

The continued growth of mobile is now being fueled by voice searches. Faster than fingers and perfectly adapted for multi-tasking searchers, voice-driven mobile searches will be a major trend in 2018.

Voice search is showing strong adoption by younger searchers, the digital natives, who think off of the box on the desktop.

Highlighted in my 2017 analysis, the need to go fast and mobile is still an imperative in 2108. This has not changed. Mobile is still a fast-hot trend.

The use of accelerated mobile pages (AMP) has been growing, but there are still significant challenges for creating these thin, fast pages for feature-rich commerce sites. The use and applications for AMP will continue to grow and improve over the next year.

Google has recently announced that starting in February 2018, it will be enforcing content parity for AMP users. Some site owners looking for the proverbial easy way out have been creating teaser pages that are AMP that require that user to click again to get all of the page content.

An example might be a news site that gives just a single paragraph on the AMPed page, but forces the user, who wants to see the entire story, to click again.

AMP was developed as a means of creating fast, lean pages — not teaser pages. In 2018, expect to see Google continue to protect the integrity of the AMP initiative by insisting that AMP users play by the rules.

As an SEO Trend, Secure Sites Have Jumped the Shark

A quick breeze through search results will show you that most top-ranked sites are now secure. If your site is still not secure, a pity to you and your impaired search results.

Today, having a secure site is a must if you want to enjoy the fruits of holding top spots in the search results. It is no longer trending. It has gone mainstream.

What New Challenges Lie Ahead for 2018?

For 2018, the question is the answer. As voice search grows, the language and syntax of search is changing. Search queries are no longer just short syntactically challenged typed Boolean strings.

Increasingly, queries are conversational questions: “Where is the nearest supermarket?” This query might be spoken into a handheld device or even a nearby digital assistant.

In response to this new line of questioning, Google now features question-and-answer snippets in the search engine results page. These featured snippets include links to the source of the answer. This is highly prized real estate, and search marketers will be well-served in 2018 to focus on having quality content that answers questions.

In 2018, the changing SERP page cannot be overlooked. Google recently expanded the length of the descriptions that appear in the results to provide more descriptive and useful information for users. This is a key must-do assignment for 2018. Review what Google is presenting in the results page for your key performing pages. Look at the snippet. If it generated by Google, consider if it is what you really want to see. For key pages, give them a rub and scrub, buff them up a bit so that they perform better and watch the results.

From this view, 2018 will be more challenges, but the results will be incremental. It is time to review your individual responses to this changing industry and turn the page to the new year with new, big plans in mind.