Christmas is around the corner, and with it the promise of warm days. Before you head out to the beach, take a moment to read this article and find out what’s in store for 2018 in terms of SEO and SEM.
Voice search and digital assistants
The rise of digital assistants has opened up a brand new market which is changing the nature of search queries. According to Google, 20% of all searches are now voice queries.
As the technology of voice recognition isn’t always reliable yet, it is to be expected that this trend will only grow as it improves. The impact on SEO and Adwords strategy will be a shift towards using a more natural language and place a greater emphasis on question structures. It will also be more important than ever to favour long-tail search keywords.
Link building isn’t new. In the ever-changing landscape of optimisation, it is one of those comforting, familiar strategies that is always worthwhile.
If you already have quality links towards your website, keep up the good work and try to find new partners to add to them. If you don’t, it is time to pick up the phone or email and start building up relationships. The key principle here is ‘quality’. Getting backlinks from popular websites is great, but more importantly those websites must be relevant to your business or they won’t add value to yours.
In 2018, guest blogs will come under scrutiny under the watchful eye of Google. Back in May 2017, the company warned publishers that it would take a closer look at how guest blogs were used to create backlinks as they are often little more than an excuse to add links to questionable sites, as well as the source of spam. So be warned and always, always, aim for relevance.
It is a common mistake to optimise websites thinking first and foremost about web bots rather than people. Yes, the greatest site on earth will be worth nothing if nobody can find it but, at the end of the day, it is human beings you have to win over. This is done with relevant, engaging content, a clear navigation structure and an overall user-friendly experience.
Keeping an eye on your visitors’ browsing behaviour can be revealing. You may find that certain pages have a high bouncing rate which would indicate that they are failing to interest visitors and are needing some attention for example.
Monitor your website’s load speed and readability can also improve user experience. If it is too slow to load, you are very likely to lose visitors even before they have seen your website as they wil hit the Back button of their browsers and go somewhere else rather than wait.
Furthermore, as people increasingly use their mobiles to browse the internet, you need to make sure that you provide an outstanding user experience across all types of devices, not just desktops.
Google’s mobile-first index
Talking about mobile devices, 2018 may be the year when Google finally releases its mobile-first index.
This move is consistent with Google’s recent strategy to favour websites that are optimised for mobiles. Stemming from the increased use of mobile devices in searches, this index will mark the beginning of a major shift where ranking will be determined from content found on mobile version of websites.
Companies that don’t have one need not worry though. Google will still index their desktop version. But companies that put together a skeleton mobile website with less content than their desktop version should address it before the algorithm is released as they could see their ranking tumble overnight because their content-rich desktop site will no longer be indexed.
Adwords campaign could also be affected if they don’t make sense with the pages of your mobile website, so make sure that your content is consistent over the different versions of your site.
Featured Snippets and Quick Answers
Featured Snippets and Quick Answers have become so popular with consumers that companies are competing fiercely to meet Google’s standards.
Lists, tables and graphs work well as does creating content in Q&A format. Not only does it engage users more, but it also makes it easier for Google to extract the right content to show as Featured Snippet. Using ‘How to’ and ‘When’ question words has also been shown to bring significantly higher Click-Through Rate.
The rise of visual search
As human beings, we respond to visual stimuli more than any other type so it is only natural that images and graphics would attract our attention more than plain text, even in serach results. Over the last few years, Google has changed its algorithm to give more importance to images and you only have to think about the success of sites like Pinterest to be convinced.
In 2018, businesses need to integrate rich visual content in their digital marketing strategies from the start and think of it as a ‘must-have’ rather than a ‘nice-to-have’.
AI and machine learning
Artificial intelligence is no longer a science-fiction concept. Machine learning has been seeping through many aspects of our everyday life without us even realising. It is also changing the way search keywords are ranked, bringing a more personalised user experience and contextualised results.
Obviously, you wouldn’t expect Google to be without its own proprietary AI. RankBrain is expected to transform the search landscape and perhaps even change vocabulary as SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is replaced by AIO (Artificial Intelligence Optimization).
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