As we’re recapping and wrapping up 2017, over the course of which we’ve witnessed a couple of Google updates including Fred, whose habit of targeting low-quality backlinks, worthless content, and excessive ads caused quite a stir, causing numerous websites to experience a huge drop in traffic, it’s time to hear what SEO luminaries predict for 2018.
Although machine learning and artificial intelligence will undoubtedly continue to shape the future of SEO, there are some other trends that don’t necessarily rely so heavily on sci-fi scenarios but will nevertheless have a powerful impact on SERP. Here’s some food for thought concerning your next year’s SEO strategy.
Know your ROI
Although it has become a standard marketing procedure for driving quality traffic to websites, SEO is still perceived as some kind of ghost-in-the-machine process. Many entrepreneurs still don’t get how it works, let alone how to calculate its ROI. According to Rad Basta, the executive chairman of the Hong Kong SEO agency Elevate Digital, this is the main reason why many business professionals are reluctant to invest in SEO. They turn to PPC instead, as this strategy delivers some quick results, while its ROI can be easily tracked. Easy come, easy go is the best way to describe the effects this short-lived approach has on overall branding efforts. On the other hand, with reliable analytics tools and the right metrics, it’s possible to identify the ROI of your SEO efforts and enjoy their long-term benefits. Hopefully, in 2018, the transparency of SEO ROI will convince business owners that this strategy is worthwhile.
UX will matter even more.
Back in 2016, Google revealed that RankBrain would be one of its three most important ranking factors, alongside links and content. Brian Dean from Backlinko says that this machine learning system, which helps Google rank websites by measuring how users interact with them, will become even bigger in 2018. RankBrain will take its cues from dwell time, which is by the way 3 minutes and 10 seconds for a top 10 result, and CTR. This means that if your content isn’t relevant to the search, and if it doesn’t provide unique value to your target audience, you’re toast. In other words, in 2018, user experience will rule the world of SEO.
The rise of voice search
Hi, Cortana, read me these instructions about how to change a flat tire.
A survey by IT research company Gartner estimates that by 2020, almost 20% of all phone interactions will rely on virtual personal assistants (VPAs). If you think that this prediction is way too much HAL 9000-esque, bear in mind that almost 44% of adults and 50% of teenagers use voice search on a daily basis. Naturally, Google as the most popular search engine has to stay on top of the latest tech trends, so the company tweaks its algorithms to provide the best and most relevant voice search results. Barry Schwartz, CEO of Rusty Brick, is convinced that the internet search giant will give webmasters analytics on voice search queries related to their own content, and offer valuable insight into how to optimize their websites properly, as it promised more than a year ago.
Visually rich content will explode.
Forecasts said that 2017 would be the year of video, and that was true. Although 87% of online marketers use video content, there’s still much room for improvement. Marcus Sheridan of the Sales Lion believes that companies will realize the extent to which video is essential for SEO. More than 500 million hours of video watched every day on YouTube make this platform an indispensable part of every SEO strategy regarding driving more web traffic. The fact that as much as 57% of videos watched during the first quarter of 2017 were played on smartphones indicates how powerful this medium is and how much potential it holds for SEO.
Tap into the power of influencer marketing
Teaming up with a couple of influencers from your niche could skyrocket your traffic, and that’s why guest posting should be one of your top priorities in 2018. Building (and earning) quality backlinks is a surefire way to expand your audience and capitalize on targeted referral traffic. All this, in turn, will generate organic links, thus signaling Google that your content is relevant and valuable. Although Google, according to Gary Illyes, the company’s webmaster trends analyst, doesn’t take social media into account when it comes to ranking, the shareability and popularity of your blog posts do impact your ratings. This provides an enormous potential for attracting links, not to mention how beneficial an association with an influencer will be for the overall visibility of your brand.
The domination of mobile
Mobile data traffic has grown 18-fold over the past few years, and this trend will continue in 2018. Companies who don’t optimize their websites for mobile will be hit by Google’s mobile-first index, which has been announced for 2018. Aleh Barysevich, a social media expert, predicts that only fast and responsive websites which offer search-specific, personalized content will be able to make it through the scrutiny of Google’s algorithms and reach the top of SERP. Using conversational keywords will boost your rankings, as search engines will be able to pick up strong signals sent by mobile voice assistants.
The evolution of the SEO landscape in 2018 won’t feature too many earth-shattering events. Instead, it will follow the existing course and fine-tune popular digital marketing trends.
Oscar Waterworth is content marketing and link building professional, a writer and one of the editors at Bizzmarkblog. I have been building links and writing content for the past 3 years.