2018 is here and much like last year, SEO is expected to be constantly changing. To help you narrow down what SEO best practices you should focus on first, we have compiled a list of 5 spotlight SEO trends to concentrate on this year.
Learn about and optimize for artificial intelligence
Artificial Intelligence (AI) scares a lot of SEO experts, but it is helping search engines become more advanced. AI tools have already been implemented within most search engine algorithms in the past couple of years and will become even more advanced in 2018. Much of the fear of AI comes from the idea that it will change how marketers optimize for search. However, studies on recent implementations have shown that AI will not change any fundamental SEO best practices, but will however emphasize the importance of creating optimized, relevant content.
In 2015 Google introduced us to RankBrain, which is an AI system Google uses for processing searches. RankBrain finds patterns between searches to understand how words and phrases relate to each other. By processing these searches and essentially “learning” what they mean, RankBrain can understand more complex search queries. Once it understands the user-intent of searches, Google can then populate the most relevant webpages to a user’s search, even though these pages may not necessarily include any keywords from the search itself.
With the rise of AI systems expected in 2018, creating informative, relevant content will be even more important. Long gone are the days of creating a page around one keyword phrase. Google has and will continue to learn the contextual meaning behind searches. So, creating content that holistically describes the topic at hand and therefore includes many relevant keywords, not just one, will be key.
Get ahead of mobile-first indexing and go responsive
2018 is the year that experts and agencies have predicted the launch of mobile-first indexing. The largest confirmation came in June of 2017 when Google Webmaster trends analyst, Gary Illyes, revealed that yes, “It’s going to be a big change, but don’t freak out.” Although he didn’t give the exact date, his acknowledgement of it was enough reason to put a spotlight on mobile-first indexing in 2018.
Mobile-first indexing will mean that Google will start to index mobile pages ahead of desktop pages. Google has ensured that this does not mean desktop content will stop ranking, but rather that corresponding mobile content will rank first.
Therefore, having a responsive web design is more important than ever. Google has suggested that if you are thinking about making your website responsive, that you complete this initiative before mobile-first Google indexing officially launches. They also made sure to mention that if your website is already responsive and your content is designed to serve and prove the same usefulness on all devices, your rankings will not go down because of mobile-first indexing.
A study released by Stone Temple Consulting in 2017 revealed that 55% of all traffic is coming from a mobile device, and it is likely that this percentage will only keep increasing in 2018. If you have been putting it off, 2018 is definitely the year to make your site responsive since it will increase your rankings now and will continue to do so through most foreseeable Google index changes.
Familiarize yourself with Schema.org
Adding schema.org markup to pages on your site will help local SEO in 2018 and beyond. For businesses with either one location or hundreds, optimizing local business data on your website using schema markup will help your pages rank higher in search engines.
Schema.org, or structured markup, is added directly to a pages’ HTML markup and helps search engines better understand and display your location, hours, events, products and so much more. Think of it as you telling Google the story you want their users to read.
Structured data has continued to become a part of many websites’ SEO strategy and for good reason. For many marketers, implementing schema goes beyond their skillset so don’t be afraid to enlist the help of your trusted digital agency.
Optimize website images
Our world has become wonderfully visual. However, for search engine optimization in 2018, it is not enough to simply include an image on each page of your site. Like content, your images and alt text need to be relevant to the topic of the page and helpful for the visitor.
When search engines crawl a site, they need to be able to read your images, and they do so through alt text. The only way crawlers know exactly what an image is, is if the alt text contains a relevant description of the image.
For instance, if you are a real estate company and included an image of a couple walking into a house on your “First Time Buyers Guide” page, an SEO best practice is to describe that image rather than labeling it “couple and new house”. A more relevant description may sound something like, “Young woman and man walking into white cape style house with black shutters. A sign in front reads ‘sold’.” Adding keywords in your alt text descriptions can help in your organic rankings as well.
While optimizing images is best practice for SEO, it also is essential for ADA accessibility. For those who are thinking about making your website conformant in 2018, don’t wait any longer. Once implemented, you can avoid ADA accessibility penalties as well as see overlapping benefits of improved site user experience and overall health of your site.
Measure your content against voice search queries
Do you speak to your devices? We have seen an increase in voice search queries in the past year, especially with the rising popularity of devices like Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa. Voice search can bring about big changes to search, and is predicted to have a growing presence throughout 2018.
KPCB found that between 2008 and 2016, voice searches have seen a 35 times increase. In fact, in 2016, voice search made up one in five searches on smart phones. In 2018, even more voice queries are expected to be made with the advancements in wearable technology and smart home devices. It was predicted by comScore that voice searches will be 50% of searches by 2020.
So how should you optimize for voice search queries? The same way you would for our previous four spotlight topics. Your site will capture voice queries if you have relevant content, clear topics, a conversational tone, logical page structure and long-tail keywords.
Alternate ways to ensure your site is ranked on voice searches is to add an FAQ page and a solutions finder to your site. Many voice searches are simple questions or statements that include an industry and a location. For instance, building a page that includes queries such as, “Why should I hire a mover?” or “movers in CT” on a site for a moving company. An FAQ page will encourage a conversational tone and will help answer these types of questions. A solutions finder helps optimize for specific products or services through an interactive tool. Both aid in user experience and help to match products and services to users’ needs, which in turn can boost rankings on search engine results page (SERPs).
2018 will be a big year to prioritize SEO initiatives so if you have questions or are interested in jump starting a project with us, connect with our experienced SEO strategists today.