With the holiday season well and truly behind us, it is only natural, for those of us involved in the search engine optimisation industry at least, that our thoughts turn to the trends we expect to dominate SEO in 2018. Which existing trends will gain even more momentum over the coming year, which current practices will fall out of favour and what new trends can we expect to see come to the fore in the next 12 months? For the answers to these and any other questions you may have about SEO trends in 2018, please refer to our short guide below. In it, we summarise what we feel will be the most important trends to look out for and integrate into your SEO strategy this year.
5 SEO Trends to Watch in 2018
The following 5 trends are those that we feel you should pay most attention to when planning your SEO campaign this year. Some may be more relevant than others to your particular market sector but all are worthy of further exploration and merit serious consideration in our opinion.
Visual Search – All the major players in the online search engine arena are currently putting a great deal of effort into developing and refining visual search functionality for their respective search portals and there is a very good reason for this. The Internet is becoming more and more focused on visual content – still images, videos and animations – as it evolves. Search engines that make it easy for users to find matches for these graphic elements will therefore become increasingly important over the coming months and years. What this means for webmasters and SEO specialists is that now is the right time to start putting as much effort into optimising your visual content as you currently put into optimising your textual content. The two types of content are now of equal importance and, as we stress below, should complement rather than contradict each other.
When creating a strategy that places greater importance on visual content, you need to consider not just how to optimise the image and video files that you use so they are visible in SERPs but what type of multimedia files are most relevant to your existing content, i.e. which images and videos will add real value to the textual content on your site. What you should avoid at all costs is the gratuitous use of multimedia files which are not relevant to the written content on your site: focus instead on videos and images that are likely to be of genuine interest to your target audience. Once you have selected the images and videos that you feel will add the most value to your site, make sure they are property tagged, using relevant, informative descriptions, to increase the chances of them featuring highly in multimedia search results.
Featured Snippets – Featured snippets, or rich snippets as they are sometimes known, are concise answers to commonly asked questions, taken from web pages and displayed at the top of SERPs. Google’s software analyses trillions of pages in its search for these rich snippets and the benefits of having a snippet taken from one of your websites are obvious: immediate exposure to a vast online audience, resulting in a massive increase in the number of visitors to the website from which it was taken. The questions could relate to subjects as diverse as the 1969 moon landings, recipes for popular dishes or the origin of common phrases: the list of possible topics is virtually endless. Given that Google is actively developing the section of its SERPs devoted to rich snippets, testing new features to expand on its functionality, we think that this trend will be one of the most important to watch in 2018.
If you wish to target featured snippets over the coming year, you need to consider which of the topics that are immediately relevant to your website and your business are of most interest to the general public. It is these topics that you need to analyse, with the aim of identifying key questions that you could answer succinctly in the content on your site. Google have just introduced a new Rich Results Testing Tool which allows you to check whether or not a specific page supports rich results. As with the multimedia content discussed in the previous section, you should avoid anything that is not relevant to your business or the existing content on your website when you are attempting to create potential rich snippets for Google to pick up and feature at the top of its SERPs.
Link Building – No summary of SEO trends over the past decade was considered complete without a section dedicated to building links to websites and this summary of 2018 trends is no exception in this regard. While link building is certainly not a new topic of conversation as far as SEO professionals and their clients are concerned, we mention it here because it remains a vitally important component of any effective SEO strategy. When you build a new website, it is crucial to build quality links to your new site as soon as possible, to ensure that it is competitive with similar sites in the SERPs for relevant keyword searches. As you develop your website and it becomes better established, you should remain focused on cultivating links of the highest quality from the most relevant and authoritative sources on the Internet, to keep your site at the top of the results pages.
You can expect to attract a certain number of one-way links from other sites if the content on your website is well written, informative and relevant but without an active link-building strategy of your own, you may still find it difficult to compete for positioning on SERPS with the most popular sites that cover the same topics, or are in the same market sector, as yours. Focus on developing long-term relationships with partner sites rather than simply requesting links that you feel will benefit you in the short term.
Semantic Search – If you need a primer on semantic search, there are many excellent online resources that you can consult. What we would like to discuss here is not what semantic search is but why it could have a huge impact on the world of SEO in 2018. By better understanding the context in which natural language queries are being made, search engines can provide more relevant results that are personalised to be of greatest use to individual users. The benefits to users are quite obvious: if search engines better understand what it is they are really asking, they will obtain the answers they are looking for quickly and easily. The connotations for webmasters and SEO professionals may be less obvious but they are of equal importance, as we discuss below.
Optimising for semantic search is not a straightforward task but the most important thing to bear in mind when attempting to do so is that Google uses semantic analyses to rate content as well as to decide whether it is relevant to users’ search queries. In other words, if your content is artificially manufactured to fill space and attract traffic from search terms that are not relevant to the core topic of your site or the individual pages within, it is likely to be penalised by Google. The best way to target semantic search, going on what is known at the time of writing, is to create comprehensive content that seeks to answer every possible question on a given subject. Assuming the subject is highly relevant to the main focus of your site, or your market sector if it is a commercial site, this approach should yield positive results. You should, of course, include the most relevant short and long-tail keywords in your semantic search content, which you can identify in the same way you identity important keywords for all content on your website.
User Experience – As Google places greater importance on user experience (UX) it is only natural that webmasters who wish to attain high rankings in SERPs follow suit and there are good reasons for doing so. Websites with relevant content that is easy to read and easy to navigate are generally ranked more highly than sites with poorly focused content and complicated navigational structures. With Google itself striving to provide a better user experience, with a customised newsfeed on its homepage, there can be no doubt that UX will play a pivotal role in SEO, not just in 2018 but for many years to come.
Those are the most important trends we think you should focus on in 2018 but there are others that deserve a mention, not the least of which is mobile-first indexing, which Google made sure everybody knew was coming over a year ago when they announced the testing of a mobile first index.
If you would like to ensure your 2018 SEO campaign is a resounding success, please do not hesitate to call and discuss your needs with one of our resident experts whenever you have a few minutes to spare. We look forward to helping you achieve all your SEO goals in the future.
About the author
A specialist in Google Ads, and with a wide range of SEO skills and experience, Michael has a particular interest in Local SEO strategies for small to medium sized businesses. When Michael is not working hard increasing conversions for clients Paid Advertising campaigns he enjoys traveling, dining out and watching Formula 1 and football.