We have landed in the year 2018. This is the year in which 2040 is closer than 1995. Let that sink in. This is also the year in which Elon Musk already sent his old car to Mars. At this very moment in orbit, there is a mannequin named Starman listening to David Bowie's Space Oddity on repeat. If you think about that for a while, you might start to realize that this can be a year of opportunities for many things, including Search Engine Optimization. Here are six SEO trends for 2018 that you should be aware of.
1) Voice Search
You might have noticed yourself using Voice Search a lot more in recent years. "OK Google, what's David Bowie's greatest hit?" It can be one of those questions to which you want to know the answer while cooking diner.
Although the data collection system of Google Trends was tweaked in January 2016 and there has been a dip, we can see a clear upward trend in the number of times people ask Google for the time. There is Google Home, Amazon Echo, Siri and the list is growing. A problem with Voice Search has been the countless number of different accents that users around the world have. With deep learning, a popular artificial intelligence technique, Chinese search engine Baidu is well on its way to tackle this.
In 2018 you want to optimize for Voice Search and Digital Assistants. You want to think in long-tail keywords that are very specific to whatever you are offering, and you want to use a natural language: Questions and answers. But before you get there, you want to make sure your Google My Business profile is up to scratch. According to Search Engine Land 22% of queries are about local information. If a potential customer asks a digital assistant for directions, you want them to be available. Use these tips to make your profile complete.
2) Featured Snippets
Voice Search brings us to a closely affiliated topic: Featured snippets. SEOs like to call this Position 0 on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). It is this bit of information that Google Home, Alexa and the others get their answers for generic questions from. This information comes separate from the Google Knowledge Graph.
The featured snippet in the above screenshot gives a perfect answer to the question who David Bowie is. SEOs also like to call a Featured Snippet an Answer Box. According to a study by Ahrefs 99.58% of the results that appear in the Featured Snippet, are from search results that already rank on the first page. This means, that if you are already ranking high for certain search queries, you have a good chance to get featured. Wikipedia, it being a big source of information, is often seen.
It is hard to feature on Position 0, but it is not impossible. Like many things in SEO, you will have to start with an extensive keyword research. If you want to rank for the David Bowie question, you also want to explore what else people ask. You can find this box right under the featured snippet. Next you want to make sure you have a landing page that gives a brief answer to the question you can answer. Again, you want to think in Questions and Answers.
3) Structured Snippets
If we are talking Featured Snippets, we can bring up Structured Data. This is something you already should have added to your website in 2016 or 2017 and cannot do without in 2018. As you can see in the Featured Snippet example above, the SERPs are becoming crammed. You have to go out of your way to stand out a bit more. Does this mean that you have to turn to AdWords? If you sell David Bowie records, you might want to run Google Shopping ads but the below example shows that there is more you can do.
Adding Structured Data to your content can help you stand out in the Search results. It can add extra useful information that can be the final trigger for users to click on your link. A higher click-through-rate is possible and that can have a positive result on your rankings. What's best is that it is absolutely free. Get started here.
4) Mobile First
Voice Search, Featured Snippets and Structured Data inevitably bring us to Mobile. All these developments are linked to a Google Mobile First Index. Mobile what? With the Mobile First Index Google wants its index and results to represent the majority of their users: Mobile searchers.
If you do not think Mobile in 2018, you have lost the battle before you even started it. Make sure your website is responsive, consider using AMP pages and again, make sure you have Structured Data implemented. Rather than Google spending all of its time to crawl websites, it wants to easily understand websites. The result of our search for Elon Musk shows an aggregation of results Google has found for us. In 2018 we will see this more and more often. The share button allows us to easily share the whole collection in two taps.
5) Page Speed
Mobile searchers want it now and they want it fast. Page speed has always been important but in July 2018 it will actually become a ranking factor. Then Google will launch the so-called Speed Update. This new algorithm will affect pages that deliver a slow experience to users. An important disclaimer to this update is, that slow pages may still rank high when their content is relevant.
There is still some time to prepare for the update. It is advisable to stay ahead of the game and run tests with PageSpeed Insights and implement the suggestions from Google.
6) Visual Search
Bing may not be the sexiest search engine on the block, but one of the features it released mid 2017 is pretty cool. Bing Visual Search allows you to search within an image. One can press a magnifying glass on an image and then look at different details. The below example shows that Bing can see that our image is space related.
This in itself may not have the heaviest impact on SEO just yet. However, one can imagine that when Google, Bing and the other search engines are able to recognize an image of a certain pair of shoes, that it will be very interesting if your web shop selling that shoe ranks on top in the search results. According to some specialists this could solve the Discovery Problem. That is when shoppers have so many options to choose from that they give up looking. Visual Search can limit the options.
As this Artificial Intelligence is developing further, webmasters can stay ahead of the game by simply making sure that their images contain enough metadata to explain themselves to search engine robots. A first step is to make sure that filenames are descriptive and that ALT tags are defined.
2018 will be an exciting year for SEO. If you think all of this is a little overwhelming, don't hesitate to contact me. The Falcon Heavy rocket also wasn't built by just one man.