It’s no secret that technology has become an integral part of our everyday lives — whether it’s in our pockets, on our wrists, or talking to us from the kitchen. As technology continues to get smarter, so do the ranking algorithms that determine if and how your website ranks on Google. Now that we’ve already established how to set goals for your business in the new year, your next plan of action should be reevaluating your business’ search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. How should marketers make sure their business’ website is equipped to stay ahead of Google’s ever-changing SEO algorithms in the new year? Read on to find out the 2018 SEO predictions these 25 experts are anticipating over the next few months.
Rank ‘0,’ which is also known as the featured snippet, is the search result which appears above all other organic search results. This is a huge opportunity for smaller, younger sites, who lack the link equity of some of their larger competitors and want to steal some of that precious search real estate. Focusing on more natural long-tail search keywords, or rather answers to questions with clear short answers can attract the Google crawlers and pull you to the top of the search results.
Tim White, Demand Generation Director at Datahug
The biggest trend in 2018 will be the major emergence of voice search. Search has slowly moved in the direction of queries and the simplest way to ask a question is to speak it instead of having to type it. Google has made this simple with the addition of the Google Home device which apparently has been selling at a rate of 1 per second since October 19, 2017 (Tech Crunch).
Voice search along with home automation integrations are here because if robots and AI can do our work, why should we? A great place to start is with SEMRush’s Keyword Magic Tool to search for questions related to the topic you’re looking to optimize. SEMRush is the tool that continues to expand as the all-in-one SEO tool.
Peter Kim, Marketing Strategist at Ready Artwork
The biggest SEO trend of 2018 will be a bigger focus on user experience. Many of the search engine algorithms are putting a much bigger priority on ranking websites that provide a good user experience. The reason for this is these algorithms are becoming more sophisticated in their ability to track user’s actions. Metrics like time on page, visiting multiple pages, and satisfying user intent will only be more important in the future. This is what keeps people coming back to a particular search engine.
Sean Farias, Director of Account Strategy at Campaign Creators
When it comes to search, it becomes more and more obvious that achieving success is impossible if you aren’t leveraging any other non-SEO-related (in the strictest sense of the term) channels – Social Media, PR, Influence Marketing etc. If content was indeed the king before, great content nowadays won’t get you all that much traction, unless you go under an influential domain name. I’d say now is the day when digital PR becomes increasingly important for anyone who wants to perform well in the digital realm.
In fact, we recently conducted a study of our own on Google’s Ranking Factors (if you’re curious, here’s the link) that concluded that brand authority is of paramount importance if you ever want to get to those top-10 positions in Google’s SERPs, and without a strong brand you are not likely to rank for high-volume keywords.
And, as a result, of this trend towards channel diversification as a necessary pre-condition for digital success, we can see more and more budgets invested in Social Media, where SM efforts are relatively less costly and efficient, with more features being added across various SM channels.
Olga Andrienko, Head of Global Marketing at SEMrush
Google’s increased focus on voice search, featured snippets and structured snippets will result in a re-thinking of strategy for digital marketers in 2018. Ultimately, mobile and question-answer based content is the way of the future as search engines continue to try to provide answers on the first page of their search results rather than promote click-through to other websites.
Additionally, link building through comments sections, guest posts and other manipulative forms will lose effectiveness as Google continues to reward organic links that drive referral traffic while penalizing spammy links as an SEO tactic. It’s all about getting smarter and more legitimate as SEO continues to become more and more white hat while marginalizing black hat tactics.
Nate Masterson, Marketing Manager at Maple Holistics
Voice search will continue to grow in popularity, partly spurred on by the surge in sales of voice activated smart home devices such as Amazon Echo and Google Home. Voice search hasn’t yet made significant strides into ecommerce but 2018 could be the year it does. How search engines go about delivering transactional content over voice will be interesting and could force retailers to change the way they present product information.
When Google updated their Penguin algorithm at the end of 2016, one of the major changes they made was to devalue spam links rather than apply a demotion penalty. Put simply, Google’s algorithms are smart enough to recognise when a link is unnatural and they simply ignore it. With this in mind, there is much debate as to whether a disavow file needs to be maintained and continually updated. It does seem that during 2017, because of Penguin, the disavow file lowered in importance and became less of a focus for SEO’s. That being said, Google still issue manual penalties so if there are potential harmful links pointing at your website I would always include them in the disavow file just to be safe.
Will King, SEO Manager at Find Me A Gift
Search visibility is becoming more difficult and complicated every year. With the competition rising, and machines analyzing each query, best practices will only get you so far. That’s why the trend for successful SEO in 2018 will be personalized data-driven analysis. This approach turns the best practices on their head by doing real testing and correlation analysis to see what’s working today. It eliminates guesswork and delivers actual data on what the top sites in the SERPs are doing. It answers the why and helps build a game plan for the how. Research like this would have taken teams of people and hundreds of hours to compile before. Using tools like CORA by SEO Tool Lab, one person can do the same type of analysis in minutes. In the right hands, this data makes top rankings for any term as straightforward as a checklist.
Paul R. Dillinger, CEO of SuccessAmp LLC
With more and more entrants into the SEO and digital marketing space, differentiation and technical excellence is becoming essential. The key to SEO success in 2018 is to create content less for Google and more for the real people that make up your target market. As Google continues to align their algorithm with how people decide what content to read and share online, I’m convinced this strategy will lead to success. If you’re after more traffic, then your goal needs to be keeping your content informative but with an increased focus on entertaining while educating. Engagement is going to be a key differentiator in 2018. It’s essential to find the balance between providing the answers people want while giving them a good reason to hang around and keep reading the rest of your content.
Eugene van der Watt, Online Marketer at Know It All Learning
I predict you’re going to see a bigger emphasis on local directories, other than Yelp. When starting brands are just trying to get up and running so it’s tempting to get going on their website, their social media accounts and their Google My Business and Yelp accounts and move on from there. But there are a lot more local directories that improve local visibility. And competitors probably aren’t on them. Expect to see changes here. I also think there will be an emphasis on reviews. Reviews really do matter. Credibility should be at a premium and brands are going to have to think of a way to incentivize customers to leave one. Not a monetary reward. Just something that makes them feel special. A genuine thank you for their time. In keeping with the trend of locality, I think there will be an increase in need for local content creation. Everyone is creating content for their industry but how many are creating content for a specific market? Really drilling down to the specific needs and issues for a local market. It may not attract a ton of traffic but the quality of the traffic would be terrific for visibility.
Michael Mason, Owner of Perfect Chaos Films
I think we’ll continue to see major tech firms struggling with their moral identity. In terms of Google and other search engines, they’ll need to determine ways in which to provide the results people want to see in their searches without sheltering them from what’s happening in cultures and communities outside of their own. That may mean alterations to algorithms that seek to generate results that provide a broader view of the entire picture. In 2018, legitimacy will be incredibly important. From a SEO content creation standpoint, that will mean legitimizing the content we create by linking out to trusted resources and trying to address a single piece of content from different points of view. The quality of links pointing to content will remain a key measure of that content’s legitimacy, but I think the strength of social shares may be dialed back until issues of legitimacy are dealt with by the major social networks. I think Ahrefs will continue its drive to become an all-in-one SEO solution. They started out focused on links, but I think they’ve got their eye on major industry players such as Moz and Raven.
Geoff Hoesch, CEO of Dragonfly Digital Marketing
In 2018 I see the increasing use of voice search. Due to all the in-house assistants such as Google Home and Echo and for mobile devices Siri, Cortana, Alexa and Google Assistant, you are going to be seeing more companies targeting those types of conversational searches by increasing the amount of question/answer content on their websites. We may see a huge rise in the FAQ type pages on websites in 2018, which is a great page for these types of quick question/answers. Companies need to start thinking of non-visual optimization if they are going to want to compete in 2018.
Jeff Moriarty, President of JMoriarty Marketing
Voice search will finally make a noticeable mark on how and where people search. The continued growth of products like Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa will especially impact e-commerce consumer product brands. Google will answer more queries directly on the search results page, which will lower the amount of organic traffic coming to sites from google overall. Examples of this trend include the growing numbers of queries with answer boxes and features like questions/answers added to Google local boxes. While this may mean small SEO strategy changes for most brands (i.e. trying to get the answer box), media brands may be most impacted by even a 5% dip in organic traffic.
Michelle Kubot, Marketing Director at AmbrosiaTC.com
The biggest SEO trend for 2018 is going to be a focus shift from keywords to topics. We, as SEO experts, have been chasing quality keywords for a very long time. The formula used to be simple – find a high volume keyword with low difficulty, write a lengthy post, wait for 2 weeks and you are done. Now there is complete shift of focus from this methodology. The Google algorithm now sees the depth of content as well. We now need to write a series of posts to cover a topic in depth and interlink all of them to optimize our rankings in the search results. This means now websites will need to drill down on a topic in depth to stand out from the competition. One or two articles will likely go unnoticed. Though not exactly tools, I think PR platforms like HARO, PRNewsWire, SourceBottle, MyBlogU etc. will likely see a massive increase in usage. Since now there is a need to create in-depth articles, the content strategists are looking for inspiration on these platforms. Instead of creating articles from scratch, we can now gather insights from industry experts, organize data points and present it. Thus saving themselves from hefty research and writing tasks. The obvious benefit of earned media and backlinks is also bringing more bloggers and entrepreneurs to these platforms.
Yogesh Jain, Founder of ConceptAllies
I think that semantic content will be a key player in search results in 2018, with the importance of longer pages and related keywords in those pages playing as a major factor. Consider that an article that is about one topic would generally have related keywords in it, and therefore show that it is related to the targeted keyword term. An example of this might be to have a page about cars, having information about transmission, engine etc, would be relevant to that topic. Seeing other related terms like these will allow Google to determine that the page is not simply an SEO page, but a page that is created to be targeted at
visitors about the key topic.
Paul Purczel, SEO Specialist at Adelaide SEO
The featured snippets are here to stay. I believe in 2018 we will see more queries displaying featured snippet text. It will be critical to write content that is well optimized in a Q&A style format if you want to have a chance of appearing in the top search result.
Bob Ellis, Owner of Bavarian Clockworks
More and more people turn to mobile voice commands to quickly and conveniently find what they’re looking for. The searches can be ultra-specific, looking for particular services that are nearby. Search queries like “Chinese food near me” or “best auto mechanic near me” provide the perfect opportunity for local SEO to capitalize on potential customers. Links with the city or area in the anchor text are best when it comes to “near me” searches.
Harrison Brady, Communications Specialist at Frontier Communications
The biggest trends in SEO in 2018 are simple: user experience, mobile, and rich snippets.The only thing happening in SEO is that Google is getting closer to their goal – providing the very best results for a given search query. In order to rank, all you need to do is provide the best result. That means a great user experience (fast load times, good layout and design, conversational tone, etc.). Additionally, your site’s mobile experience has to be good. Over 60% of search traffic comes from mobile devices and soon Google will be moving to a mobile-first index. Finally, more than half of all searches feature a rich snippet. That’s the additional information (like star ratings or pictures) or the feature box (which gets pulled from your content). In a nutshell, if you want to rank, focus on releasing high-quality content, building links to that content, and continuing to improve the reader experience.
Local SEO: 2018 will see Google continue to further monetization of the results page, especially in local search. I expect the 3-pack to be almost 100% pay-to-play in major US cities. A massive crackdown on GMB spam is looming. Long gone will be the days of submitting for Google my Business and merely being mailed a postcard. I foresee Google moving to stricter verification measures, as they have already tested in some markets.
Reviews: I see reviews increasing as a ranking factor, if not becoming the number one factor. Google’s review system is broken, it would not surprise me if they make a significant acquisition in the review vertical in 2018. Yelp? They will also crack down on fake reviews, and review spam that is out of control on the Google platform.
Link Value: Mentions / Brand Mentions will gain more value as Google continues to devalue backlinks as a direct linking factor. Organic and local links will be at a premium. No-follow links, once frowned on, will be accepted as quality links.
Bradley Shaw, President of SEO Expert Brad Inc.
In 2018, the biggest trends will be voice search and replacing traditional off-page SEO tactics of obtaining backlinks by posting general content that relies solely on specific keyword phrases. This is being replaced with topical content that is comprehensive and of exceptional quality that addresses customers’ needs. Also, SEO, social media and paid traffic will begin to blend into a combined strategy. With the continuous Google updates in 2018, businesses have to evaluate if their current SEO strategy is worth the investment. The focus will shift to ranking for keyword searches that convert traffic into leads or sales; as opposed to simply being a technical page one accomplishment based upon competition. Google is reducing the number of backlinks it’s indexing in its database and now provides PPC ads, instant answers, Google News and social integrations above the organic listings. The result is that organic clicks have been reduced to 24 percent.
V. Michael Santoro, CoFounder of Vaetas LLC
I don’t think there’s any question that the hot topic for SEO going into 2018 is voice search. Thanks to the proliferation of voice search assistants offered by behemoths like Google and Amazon, optimization changes are needed regarding the way people access online content. Fundamentally, you type in a way that’s distinctly different than how you talk—just like you’d probably write differently than you’d talk. Voice search will grow into 2018 and beyond and those that ignore it are shooting themselves in the foot and piling up work for themselves later on down the road when they inevitably have to go back in and re-optimize content that has been already published.
Maddy Osman, SEO Content Strategist at The Blogsmith
In 2018 we can rely on Google to continue to build technology that provides long-term value to users. This means catering to the growing number of searches being performed on mobile devices, and providing smarter results that lend more context and not just keywords. We see this already with rich snippets in search results, geographically relevant results, and more. As search technology improves and Google returns more useful results, businesses will be able to concentrate more on what they do — their business!
Andrew Sumitani, Director of Marketing at TINYpulse
In terms of content, we will see a shift towards in-depth reports, studies and content that offers a great deal of value to the consumer, rather than content one needs to sift through. This will lead to a large push towards delivering answers to questions within the first few words of a page in order to appeal to search engines’ featured snippets.Structured data is due to eclipse a lot of SEOs time, as search engines continue to present its users with all-encompassing details of a place, item or person into said structured data ‘cards’. Those with missing information will surely be less favoured in terms of ranking soon, if not already. Therefore, SEOs will need to make sure that as many bases are covered in terms of their brand, website, reviews etc.
Lizzi Hart, Marketing Executive at Graduate Recruitment Bureau
I believe 2018 will be the year of voice search optimisation. With the already evident rise of home assistant products like Google Home and Amazon Echo, more and more digital marketers will be looking at how they can optimise their website for voice. Over the last 10 years, we have become accustomed to optimise our website for relevant ‘search terms’ or ‘keywords’. However, voice search does not use keywords, and instead takes a more conversational, natural tone. Content will therefore need to reflect this, SEOs will need to ask themselves what type of questions would my customers ask, and build their content around that. As a result, I also believe the old-fashioned FAQ page will become an important page for SEO, and one which will deliver a lot of traffic to your site via voice search Queries.
Jason Scott, Digital Marketing Specialist at Archway Cards Ltd
Security is going to be at the heart of SEO in 2018. Last year, Google made major pushes towards prioritising security for users of its Chrome browser (which holds 60% of the desktop market) by introducing a new feature that flags sites using insecure forms. Now, whenever a user enters a site, Chrome checks whether that site uses an encrypted connection (HTTPS) or an unencrypted one (HTTP). If it’s encrypted, Chrome shows a reassuring green padlock saying “Secure” in the URL bar. If not, then it either has an “i” in a circle which you can click or if it’s a page where you might fill in sensitive information (e.g. a checkout or email sign-up form), then it fills the URL with a red “Not secure” button.
So, how does this affect SEO? This obvious way is that Google prioritises sites that have an SSL certificate. More subtly though is how these icons might influence site users. The red “Not secure” icon is neither discrete nor is it informative to an average user. It’s a definite warning sign though, and will likely lead to a much greater bounce rate. As we all know, Google sees pogo-sticking as an indicator that your site is not worthwhile and will penalise you for it. So save yourself the hassle in 2018 and make sure your site uses HTTPS.
Jordan Harling, SEO Specialist at Wooden Blinds Direct
Adding mark-up to websites such as schema.org has been something suggested by search engines for a few years now. I believe that 2018 is going to be the year that search engines are really going to start rewarding all that effort. Look to see more search result features pulling data from your website straight into the search result pages.
Olin Downs, Owner & SEM Expert at Social Shark Media LLC
A big trend in SEO in 2018 will be optimization of title and meta descriptions. Once you rank on page 1, gaining traffic becomes as much about attracting clicks as it is about increasing rankings. Google still uses the meta description and title in search results, and click-through rate is an increasingly important part of its algorithm. One SEO tool that I have found helpful is CanIRank. I especially like CanIRank’s competitor analysis reports, which provide specific steps you need to take to rank for a given keyword. It’s nice to have a tool that simplifies SEO and gives you actionable advice rather than just data.
Earl Choate, CEO of Concrete Camouflage
Which SEO trends are you anticipating for 2018? Which ones have you already seen picking up steam? Share your thoughts in the comments!