Search is endlessly changing and members of the SEO community are constantly striving to keep up. From the approaching arrival of mobile-first indexing to the importance of site speed and local SEO to the advent of voice search, we’re all in for some big changes ahead. Here’s what to look out for in 2018.
“Okay Google, how will voice search change SEO?”
In the era of smart speakers; Google Home, Sonos One, Amazon Alexa, and Microsoft’s Cortana, just to name a few, voice search is skyrocketing. Currently, over 55% of teens and 44% of adults use voice search, but that’s just the beginning. Google’s search queries are up 35x over 2008, and 60% of people using voice search just started in the last year. And the two most spoken queries? “Call mom”, and “navigate home”, probably used at least sometimes in the same session.
With ever-increasing adoption for voice search, search queries will have to start being tailored to those who speak, not type. This means adopting long-tail and conversational approaches, writing content the way people talk, building out answers to more common questions, and paying attention to featured snippets. If you aren’t the featured snippet for a voice query, then you will probably go unseen, or should I say, unheard.
Speaking of featured snippets, get ready for more of the SERPS being dominated by structured data and rich snippets. For those who may not know, structured data is a way of formatting HTML to enhance how your site is listed in the search engine results.
Rich Snippets are already being used for movie listings, recipes, and reviews, providing engaging SERP listings with an emphasis on user experience. And this trend is only growing, with results becoming more relevant and personalized.
Just look at the results for, “What’s the best bottle of wine?”. This query brought up two different types of rich snippets; 1.Featured Snippet 2. Local listings for wine shops in Chicago. Not to mention, the real estate at the top of the page is taken over by paid search. The page is long, with six of the 10 first page SERPS appearing below the last featured snippet.
And Google is just getting started. With new types of structured data being introduced, such as enhanced listings for Job Postings & Salary Ranges, Podcasts, Paywalled Structured Data, and a whole lot more, the internet is becoming one big set of structured data.
Rich snippets present a lot of opportunities, but there are some drawbacks as well. With so many opportunities, you may be featured more than once on a single query. On the flip side, rich snippets are taking up real estate on the first page, with results below zero or number one being pushed further and further down the page.
Mobile first is not going away, and with the rise of voice search, the two go hand in hand. In fact, nearly 60% of voice searches are done on a mobile phone, and with the impending mobile first index, you can’t ignore the tiny computer in your back pocket.
While we’re still not sure exactly when Google will pull the mobile first index trigger, 2018 will be the year you should fully optimize your site for mobile, if only for the fact that more than 50% of search queries now come from mobile devices. So what can you do to be prepared for mobile?
- Make sure your website is mobile-friendly by testing it with Google’s mobile-friendly test. You want your mobile site to be as user-friendly as possible, with content easy to read, and accessible. Google will look at your site and give you recommendations to improve. Additionally, try the site on multiple mobile browsers in order to get a sense of how it is to use. Compare the mobile and desktop usage data to find places where mobile users aren’t being served by the mobile site.
- Speed. Ensure your site is not only fast on the desktop, but on mobile as well. Google’s Developer Programs Tech Lead, Maile Ohye, says,“Two seconds is the threshold for e-commerce website acceptability. At Google, we aim for under half a second.” While not all sites are e-commerce, this should give you a good idea of where Google’s priorities are. You can test your mobile site speed with Google’s Test My Site tool.
- Create a responsive design. Google recommends it, especially before the switch to the mobile first index.
Good User Experience
User experience is becoming a major factor in ranking signals for Google. Making sure the site is fast, easy to navigate, and engaging for visitors not only gives the site a boost in CTRs and conversions, but it signals Google which pages are more useful for visitors.
And the importance of good content is not going away. It’s more important than ever to think of the user when creating new content, making it easy to read, interesting, and relevant. The idea of creating content for search engines is gone — no more keyword stuffing, awkward layouts, or unnatural headings jampacked with keywords. Need I say more?
For many SEOs, UX was always a part of the job. With user experience and design becoming more important than ever, it’s time to level up this skillset and work with your team to create a site that’s created for the user and their needs.
Will Links Even Matter?
Don’t get too excited, links will still matter in 2018 – but looking ahead is where things might get exciting. Bing has already started using brand mentions (linkless mentions) to calculate a site’s authority, and there is a reason to believe that Google may implement this method as well.
Building links back to your site will remain relevant (for now) but the possibility of brand mentions becoming equally important is on the horizon. And for those of us who want to track brand mentions, tools like Awario are already doing the heavy lifting for us.
It’s an exciting time to be an SEO, with changes occurring at a rapid pace. This new year will give us plenty of things to think about and implement into our SEO strategies. 2018 may be the year of voice, mobile, enhanced listings, and linkless mentions, but in reality, 2018 is the year of the user.