So 2017 is well and truly over and as always it was a turbulent year in the world of SEO. We might not have faced the harsh Google algorithm updates of the past but search engines are constantly evolving, with featured snippets and HTTPS taking much more prevalence this year (see all 2017 updates on Moz).
What’s next for SEO though? Here’s a quick summary of the key topics you should be aware of for 2018.
Mobile First Index
Just this month Google announced a further update to the ‘mobile first index’. It might seem like there’s a mobile update every year; "Mobilegeddon" hit in 2015 with a follow up in 2016, but the share of mobile searches to desktop is only going to keep increasing and Google’s newest development is testament to this.
The new ‘mobile first index’ will mean that Google crawls and indexes the mobile version of a website first (rather than the desktop version) to provide the best results for all users. In some cases the desktop and mobile versions of a page will be very different in appearance, functionality or load time.
For many site owners little action needs to be taken, with responsive websites already set up appropriately for Google. There are a few elements to consider for other types of sites though, covered in the full update on the Google webmaster blog - https://webmasters.googleblog.com/2017/12/getting-your-site-ready-for-mobile.html
Another trend that has been discussed much over the past few years, voice search is being adopted more and more. This is thanks to the growth of searches on smartphones or through devices like Amazon Echo or Google Home. As ever, the best way to keep up is to get involved.
Whilst this should not fundamentally change the way that businesses approach traditional SEO there is still an opportunity to be more visible in the growing ‘informational search’ space. Google have driven this with the expansion of the knowledge graph and answer boxes for certain queries, and many of the voice search mechanisms rely on these top results.
Unsurprisingly voice search queries are usually longer; whilst a typical text search query is around 1-3 words, voice search involves more conversational words as well as long tail questions. Planning for this may involve looking at wider FAQs (more “how”, “what” and “where” content) or more informative pieces relating to your business, with ‘general’ and ‘local information’ two of the biggest areas for voice search users.
It’s also been predicted that by 2020 around 50% of all searches will be through images or voice so 2018 in certainly the year for businesses to adopt this as part of their SEO strategy if they aren’t already.
What else will be important in 2018?
Next year will not just be limited to what is essentially ‘mobile’ and ‘content’ as every update for the past few years has been, but more the evolution of both. A lot of this might come from the mobile first index and growth of voice search, but both highlight Google’s intent to continue to serve the best results and websites to its users.
Even if voice search does not become part of your SEO strategy, providing users with more relevant content will help them to discover, use and convert through your website. All websites should take advantage of relevant structured data (markup designed to help search engines understand information on your site) as this can vastly improve Google displaying featured snippets.
The Penguin link algorithm has been working in real time since the end of 2016 but anyone building links to their site should still regularly ensure they’re adhering to Google’s guidelines and general best practice. And like any key business asset, websites and SEO need to be well maintained to ensure they perform well. Don’t forget to neglect basic technical SEO checks and keep on top of basic errors, as focusing on plans for voice search and mobile will all mean nothing if Googlebot or Joe Public can’t access your website!
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