Search engine optimisation and the process of influencing the online visibility of a website is constantly changing. With Google performing more and more algorithm updates, which are designed to evolve with user behaviour, we will begin to see major shifts in how SEO is performed. What is regarded as the norm today may well be the next keyword-stuffing tactic come 2020. It is estimated that Google makes around 500-600 algorithm updates each year and sometimes it can be difficult to determine which updates will influence SEO efforts and impact rankings. That being said, in this blog post we will explore what we at GFM ClearComms believe to be the top 5 SEO trends for 2018…
Where better to start first than with ‘Mobile First’. 2018 is destined to be the year that brands finally realise the full potential of putting mobile first rather than catering to mobile as an afterthought; which is what has been the usual procedure for companies up until now. If your site is not already fully optimized for mobile your rankings and organic traffic are destined to plummet. This is particularly true if Google decides to finally deploy its mobile-first index later this year. Moreover, there is a significant difference between the way that keywords rank on mobile and on desktop, so Mobile First content is needed in order to have the best possible chance of ranking well and being most visible in mobile search.
In 2018 User Experience (UX) will also become more important than ever with Google making it clear that the focus is firmly on the user, and this should consequently make more sites deliver a smooth experience for visitors. As has been the case historically, it is no longer just about ranking in search results but rather about delivering a fully-fledged, content-based experience. A good UX increases the chances of people engaging and interacting with the pages that they visit, which in turn helps search engines discover which pages are more useful for people and favouring them over others. Mobile sites that are not optimized for the experience of a user will continue to see negative consequences, which is logical given that mobile traffic is now higher than that of desktop and Google recently made it clear that they will heavily penalise sites that are difficult to use on mobile devices.
At the start of this year Google announced that as soon as July 2018 page speed will officially become a ranking factor for mobile searches. Page speed has been a ranking factor on desktop for almost 8 years now and although having a fast mobile site will always have had a positive effect on search rankings it had not been an official ranking factor in Google’s algorithm until now. The ‘Speed Update’ is set to only influence pages that deliver the slowest user experience; however, given that Google processes over 3 billion search queries a day this will no doubt still amount to a considerable of sites.
Despite the undeniable importance of site speed, content relevance is still of great importance according to Google: “The intent of the search query is still a very strong signal, so a slow page may still rank highly if it has great, relevant content.” But not just any content will generate traffic and get you higher rankings in 2018 as Google is cutting down on poor, thin content, which will lead to increases in bounce rates, and therefore have a detrimental impact on rankings. This year authority and quality of content will be the most important factors to work on and the higher the topic authority the higher the ranking. In addition, total word count will also have a direct correlation on ranking and if your content is lengthy (500-2000 words) you will have a better chance of ranking on the first page of Google.
Other traditional SEO techniques such as link building are also not expected to disappear in 2018, but it will be more important than ever to create a strategy that seeks out quality links not just any old links; which in the past had been a popular strategy with many companies paying for online directory listings. Essentially, there is no need to aim for new links if they do not add value and help you build an authority in your target niche. This does not always mean that the most valuable backlinks come from the most popular sites, but it is still essential to seek coverage from relevant sites to your industry. Many SEO experts have speculated that Google implemented a recent algorithm update to better discredit spam links or those with relatively low authority. Therefore, a successful SEO strategy in 2018 will move towards relationship building and helping a brand develop powerful contacts and links that will be beneficial in the longer term.
It is clear that 2018 is going to be an interesting year for SEO and Google’s various planned updates will result in many ranking winners and losers. As highlighted above, traditional SEO techniques are still hugely important but a number of new trends will clearly have a significant impact moving forward.
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