SEO trends to plan for in 2018.

By Nick Papagiannis, VP, Search Director

It’s that time of year again, when we see an influx of SEO articles forecasting trends to look for in the new year. C-K’s SEO team has sifted through many of them and created our list of key trends to plan for in 2018.

Trends affecting your website:

  • Mobile device UX: The SEO space has been warning brands for years about having a fast-loading mobile website. Use Google’s free page speed tool to determine if your load-time score is adequate. Anything below a 75/100 is a red flag. Google has even launched AMP, another version of your website content that requires its own bare bones page for the specific use of search engine indexing and search users. If your mobile site is still loading slow, expect to see growing penalties and further drops in search rankings in 2018, particularly from Google’s long awaited mobile first index.
  • Voice search presence: Google reports that 55 percent of teens and 40 percent of adults use voice search. It’s time brands take voice search seriously and create content and experiences to capture users.
    • First and foremost, brands must provide a sufficient mobile UX (see point above). Voice searchers typically look for local content 3 times more than traditional searches, so make sure to create localized content and optimize your presence in directories and other local pages. This typically entails using advanced SEO tags (e.g., schema.org tags) that search engines reference when a more visual search results page is displayed.
    • Voice searches are typically more Q/A based and it’s extremely difficult to rank for searches if you don’t offer up content specific to that search. So, be sure to post Q/A content on your website. We’ve found that brands that are authorities in their space have an optimized website and are the first to provide Q/A content. They tend to be rewarded with a featured listing (also called featured snippets) that’s embedded into the Google Result, which usually results in significant site impressions and traffic.
  • Traditional website SEO: Continued focus on a traditional SEO is still a core area for a successful program. Long-standing best practices that remain critical in 2018 include: optimized HTML tags, URL Structures, longer-form content, spider- readable text, using HTTPS, and providing a sitemap and robots.txt files to ensure proper page indexing.
  • Optimizing for artificial intelligence (AI): With the rollout of Google RankBrain’s AI technology, our team at C-K published a SEO for RankBrain POV a few years back that speaks to general optimization considerations. Based on Google’s speculative determination in the AI area, we expect RankBrain’s influence around rankings to grow.
  • Visual search: As the web becomes more visually focused, visual search is one of the most sought-after technologies and deemed the future of search. With the announcement of Google Lens at the 2017 I/O conference, expect Google to steer users towards using their phone as a visual search device. Pinterest also launched their Lens product earlier in 2017 which offers a similar user value. Visual search continues to take shape and expect effort from the big players to push usage as they are heavily invested in it. While advanced SEO tags (e.g., schema.org tags) are set up to position brands well for visual search, SEO teams should make an effort in 2018 to ensure an optimized knowledge graph presence and optimal image tags.

Trends outside of your website:

  • Amazon: It’s now the #1 place that users start their product shopping journey. Many SEO teams have neglected optimizing for Amazon, but here at C-K we’ve guided our clients in this direction for years. Despite being much more difficult to impact in the short term, there are still optimization tactics that can be done to help brands rank organically for Amazon search results. These include providing a visual and intuitive experience (images and navigation), robust product information, great pricing, including frequently searched keywords in product attributes, garnering positive reviews and having a good sales rank. Click here for a more detailed guide to Amazon optimization.
  • Social media asset optimization: The list of social media sites providing organic traffic growth and optimization opportunities continues to grow, including Snapchat who has added some organic search features (i.e., context cards). Brands should take note of their audience and view channel reports in their analytics toolset to see what social media channels are driving traffic. From an organic search perspective, we feel YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn for the most part remain the social media sites that provide the most important SEO value or opportunities to drive organic traffic to brand sites in 2018. Be sure to follow SEO best practices when posting content. Also make sure to have a sound content promotion strategy which drives awareness of site content (via posts and in the case of YouTube, embeds). This can help drive sharing, links and mentions of content that can affect SEO rankings and traffic.
  • Trust and popularity metrics: Search engines always want to rank content that’s trustworthy, accurate and popular. Inbound links (links pointing to your content from outside websites) will continue to remain a core metric for when algorithms determine if a piece of content is trustworthy and popular, but there are rumors that the # of “Linkless backlinks” or mentions are becoming another method to determine popularity and trust. According to Duane Forrester, a former Bing product manager, Bing has been doing this for a while now: “Years ago, Bing figured out context and sentiment of tone, and how to associate mentions without a link. As the volume grows and trustworthiness of this mention is known, you’ll get a bump in rankings as a trial.” Rumor has it Google’s Panda update and patent leave many experts speculating that Google is incorporating mentions into their algorithm.

As 2018 approaches, we will keep our eye on these topics, as well as others, to ensure our clients are informed and up to date.