If there’s one thing our agency has learned after nearly 20 years of business, it’s that the digital landscape changes fast. Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than when evaluating your search engine optimization (SEO) strategy.
Here are 8 emerging trends in search marketing, and what they mean to you:
Trend #1: Mobile-First Indexing
What it is: If you have two versions of your website (e.g. “site.com” and “m.site.com”), Google will begin to index the content on your mobile site instead of your desktop site.
What it means for you: If you have a separate mobile website, you need to consider merging all your content into a single website with responsive design.
A few years ago, Google made changes to its algorithm that rewarded “mobile friendly” sites in Google search rankings, and with good reason: In 2017 alone, over 50% of searches were performed on mobile devices.
Google is now in the process of rolling out mobile-first indexing. On March 26, they made it official with this announcement. Essentially, Google will look at your mobile site as their primary website. That means Google’s bots will crawl your mobile site first, and your desktop site second.
For company websites, this means merely being “mobile-friendly” is no longer good enough to rank higher in Google search results; you must be mobile-first. If you only maintain a desktop site, it will be indexed as your primary, but the lack of a mobile site will hurt you in all search rankings.
Trend #2: Growth of Expanded SERP Features
What it is: Search engines deliver way more than “10 blue links” like they did in the early days of the Internet.
What it means for you: Your SEO strategy needs to involve great content, but also more technical SEO expertise.
You’ve noticed the change yourself, even if you….well, didn’t notice it. Searches in Google or Bing deliver a variety of content, including an image carousel, instant answers (called “featured snippets”), related questions, and even tweets or other social posts. The prevalence of these rich SERP features is rising, too. Google has recently begun featuring more than one quick answer for some searches:
Showing up in these search features is critical for successful SEO moving forward. While there is no easy “opt-in” to get your website featured in these results, a strong SEO program can win you some by consequence. If you’re already ranking highly for keywords that display these features, a little more content optimization can go a long way. Additionally, strong technical markup of your website can win these traffic-driving results.
Trend #3: Personalized SEO
What it is: Different users get different results when searching for the same thing.
What it means for you: Not much. If you continue to write user-focused content, you will continue to do well.
Just as Google and other search engines are using personalization more often to get more accurate search results for their users, user personalization has become more prevalent in SEO. Digital marketers have mountains of data available at their fingertips. From basic demographic personalization to work-related personalization, and even psychographic personalization, we are able to build detailed customer profiles. This level of personalization helps us not only more accurately target potential customers for our clients, but also to deliver a tailored user experience on our websites.
As we had written in an earlier blog post, personalization has shown to be mutually beneficial for both the consumer and the business, allowing us to deliver a richer online experience to users, and achieve a higher ROI for our clients’ websites.
Trend #4: Voice Search Strategy
What it is: More and more searches are happening “by Voice” through Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant.
What it means for you: If you adopt best practices to optimize for voice search, you can beat your competitors to this fast-growing opportunity.
With the growing abundance of connected devices entering the market with smart assistants like Alexa, Siri, Google, and other AIs, voice search is growing more prevalent every day. Put another way, the way people search the internet is changing. Studies show that over 40% of adults use voice searches, and some predict that over 50% of searches will be via voice by the year 2020.
Voice search is designed to interpret user intent, so the challenge for SEO professionals is to optimize content for questions that users are likely to ask. The nuance here lies in the difference between how we type questions, versus how we ask questions when speaking. These are fundamentally different queries, so content that answers the user’s question with conversational phrases and keywords will rank higher in voice search results.
Trend #5: Video SEO
What it is: YouTube has become the world’s second largest search engine, and more videos are showing up in Google Results.
What it means for you: Investing in quality video and providing quality transcripts can improve your SEO.
Video traffic over the internet has exploded. In fact, Cisco predicts that by 2021, over 80% of all online traffic will be video. According to a study by SmallBizTrends, companies who utilize videos enjoy a 41% increase in traffic over those who don’t. That’s why we offer the creation of video content as a service for our clients.
Likewise, video increases organic traffic by up to 157%. These are numbers which should not be ignored. In addition to creating videos for YouTube, embedding quality videos into textual content can help drive traffic to your site. Videos can also increase users time-on-page, making Video SEO a major consideration for 2018.
Trend #6: Link Building
What it is: Link building requires a more focused approach than it used to, but it can still pay dividends.
What it means for you: Just because something “sounds old” doesn’t mean it’s an outdated practice. Link building still works!
Although some professionals still yearn for the early days of link building SEO, it’s still alive and prospering. Link building should still be a major component of your SEO toolbox. Search engines treat links as endorsements of your website’s authority. As far as the search engine is concerned, high-quality links from more authoritative linking domains indicate your website has equally high quality.
More and more, SEOs focus on obtaining these “quality” links. What constitutes high quality? A backlink from a site which is closely related to your website’s area of focus. A good backlink profile for your website will include external inlinks from a variety of sources, such as web pages, blog posts, and social media posts. So while the value of link building has changed over time, it’s still around and should always be part of your ongoing SEO strategy.
Trend #7: Mobile Site Speed
What it is: Site speed is a ranking factor in Google searches, thanks to a renewed focus on Technical SEO.
What it means for you: If you’re in a competitive industry, taking steps to make sure your site has faster load times could produce more leads, conversions, and sales.
Site speed has always been a major factor influencing the development of websites. UX experts already know that slow loading pages lose conversions, but site speed will become even more important in the years to come as Google incorporates more technical SEO into their ranking factors moving forward. The latest change to Google’s algorithm that highlighted this shift was called Speed Update, aimed at improving mobile search results.
Remember Mobile-First Indexing? The premise is fairly straightforward. Google will look at page speed in terms of increased or decreased user experience and this will factor into search rankings. Although a site with great content can still rank high in the SERPs, it’s a good idea not to overlook the importance of page speed.
Trend #8: User Experience (UX) and Search Rankings
What it is: User experience is becoming a more important factor in Google’s search rankings.
What it means for you: Even the greatest content can be ineffective for SEO if it’s published on an outdated, confusing website.
If you’re interested in building a successful SEO strategy of your own, let’s chat.
There has been a consistent theme with most of the trends we’ve highlighted so far: With the exception of link building, they all come back to user experience (UX). Whether it’s site speed, personalized SEO, meta data, or even Google’s RankBrain, every SEO tactic goes back to delivering the best possible experience for users. User experience has never been more important to SEO, and a user-friendly site that has digital accessibility and contains high-quality content always has been, and always will be, a must.
This year’s innovation and technological advances are exciting, and we’re excited to tackle the SEO challenges that lay ahead. As always, getting higher SERP rankings to achieve more organic search growth will require good planning, thoughtful content and design, robust digital strategy, and a dedication to remaining ahead of the curve by staying on top of emerging SEO trends.