With the new year just a month away, most digital marketing blogs and other SEO thought leaders are publishing their “Top SEO Trends for 2018” articles in droves. More often than not, these articles will contain some key SEO trends to focus on in 2018 but also reiterate many traditional ones as well.
Backlinks, rich, quality content, and focused keyword usage are essential for a healthy SEO ranking. However, these are tactics that have been crucial to search engine optimization for years and are not going anywhere in 2018 (or the foreseeable future). Let’s take a minute to move beyond these long-standing trends and take a focused look at the most critical, up-and-coming SEO strategies for 2018 and what you can do to ensure that your organic Google presence is as strong as possible next year and beyond.
Strategy #1: Focus on Creating a Superb User Experience (UX)
SEO strategy is all for nothing if visitors come to your site only to leave after a few seconds. Thus, our first vital trend for 2018 is creating an excellent user experience on your website.
It is essential for your website to have an easy-to-navigate design, quick load time, and a mobile-friendly user interface. As we will see, making sure your site functions seamlessly on mobile is no longer optional, but rather the new law of the land in the SEO world (more about this later).
The main goal of a business website is typically to draw in the largest amount of visitors possible and get them to convert. This conversion usually comes in the form of the visitor providing some personal information in exchange for receiving some sort of value in return, such as a newsletter, free course, audiobook, or study guide. Another type of conversion (our favorite kind) is a purchase. Google is increasingly gravitating towards approaching SEO and websites more as a real user and less as just an algorithm. Conversion matters!
To prove the claim that UX is a top, critical SEO trend for 2018 and beyond, look no further than Google’s recently launched UX optimization platform, Optimize 360. This should be a clear signal that Google is invested in a continued, growing convergence of user interface and SEO goals. Focus on having the best all-around user experience possible for your website and you will be setting the foundation to not only rank higher in the search engine results, but also have customers who will be much more likely to convert.
Strategy #2: Begin Optimizing Your Content for Voice Search
The next important trend that you should prepare for in 2018 and beyond is the rapid emergence of voice search. If you look closely at the rapidly budding technologies like Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google voice search, you will agree that it’s only a matter of time before voice search dominates the billions of queries made every day. Most business owners are unaware that, according to Google, 1 out of 5 searches already come from voice queries. This is vital for business owners who want their website to rank competitively.
The continued rise of voice search means that there will be a rapid increase in long-tail keyword research and a focus on natural spoken language. More and more, long-tail conversational search queries will become the norm. For example, in the past, a local business might want to rank for the SEO keyword phrase ‘downtown bars Austin’. Soon, in order to solidly rank consistently for something along these lines, a keyword phrase will perform better if written in a more conversational way. For example, the search phrase “Where’s the best place to grab a drink in downtown Austin?” is a much more natural, conversational sentence structure.
The sooner you begin taking action to implement voice search into your SEO strategy, the further ahead of your competition you will be as we move into the 2020’s, where voice search will become the norm for the vast majority of all search queries.
Strategy #3: Prepare for Mobile-First Indexing
It’s official. Google mobile searches now make up for the majority of all search queries. According to Google, between 50 to 60% of search queries now come from mobile devices. This is why the third crucial SEO strategy for 2018 is to fully optimize your website for mobile. You must optimize the mobile version of your site in such a way that it is a true equal to your desktop version in terms of content and user experience.
Note: If you have a mobile version of your site or if you have a responsive site, don’t worry. There is nothing special you need to do in regards to mobile as of 2018.
Many SEO articles today mention that a “mobile-first index” is coming soon, but what does this mean exactly? To put it simply, an index is just another name for the database used by a search engine, and Google will soon begin to index data (taking it from the site and adding it to Google’s database) from a mobile site instead of the desktop site as it has always done.
We know that most Google searches are now mobile, but Google’s ranking is still focused on the desktop version of the website. Google wants to fix this, and fix it they will. Google’s mobile-first index began live testing last year, in 2016.
An official mobile-first indexing for all websites will happen more quickly than you or I probably expect. 2018 could be the year that a full-fledged mobile-first index goes into effect. If you want to invest in SEO and truly have your efforts pay off, you must begin taking action to ensure the content, user experience, and web design of your site is fully optimized for mobile users.
Strategy #4: Begin Strategizing to Rank for a Google Featured Snippet
Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to rank in spot “0” of the search engine results page without having to pay for advertising? Google’s Quick Answers, or “featured snippets” as they’re more commonly referred to, make this a possibility. Getting your site into this highly valuable spot can do wonders for your organic visibility.
First, what is a featured snippet?
A featured snippet is a summarized answer to someone’s search query, and it is placed at the very top of the Google search results page. You have probably seen them many times before when casually searching for “how to” do something.
Example: “how to bake chicken legs”
This is going to be the first thing that you will see in Google’s search results page:
Most SEO experts agree that as voice search continues to grow, quick answer featured snippets will become more prevalent on Google search results page.
Second, how do you rank for a featured snippet?
Although featured snippets have been around for years, many SEOs and business owners are just now wising up and starting to take a serious interest in how to go about ranking for them. Let’s quickly look at a few fundamental things to keep in mind when building a strategy to rank for Google’s quick answers. For more detailed information, check out this helpful article featured in the Search Engine Journal that covers 9 Steps on How to Rank for Featured Snippets.
If your goal is to achieve a spot as a featured snippet, it’s important to know how Google operates.
“When we recognize that a query asks a question, we programmatically detect pages that answer the user’s question, and display a top result as a featured snippet in the search results.”
The core thing that you can do to increase the likelihood of landing a spot as a featured snippet is to create value by answering questions that people are asking in search engines. The following are mediums by which you can provide value by answering questions online: graphs, lists, tables, and quality Q&A information about your area of expertise.
Dominating SEO in 2018
As we move towards 2018, it is evident that SEO is rapidly moving in a new direction. Traditional SEO tactics such as quality content, backlinks, and focused keywords will remain as powerful fundamental SEO strategies for the foreseeable future. However, we must embrace new trends as well. In order to succeed, SEOs and business owners must integrate a strong user experience, voice search optimized content, mobile optimization, and focus on developing content that it’s in line with the requirements to compete for a spot as a featured snippet.