There are some seriously interesting developments in the digital marketing world of SEO coming in 2018, and you should make it your mission to get to grips with them sooner rather than later! Search engines are evolving at a rapid pace and us digital marketers need to ensure we are completely on top of them and understand the changes they are making. Getting left behind in the minefield of SEO could be detrimental to your career and worse, your business. Fortunately, you are in the right place. Here’s a list of Atomic’s top 6 most anticipated and influential changes coming to SEO in 2018!
Voice Search is Beginning to Dominate
Unconvinced voice search is taking over the way users of all ages are searching for their content? Google recently reported that 55% of teenagers and 40% of adults are using voice related search on a daily basis. The surge in sales for smart speakers also surged in 2017, another very influential cause of increases in voice related searching.
When we search the likes of Google, Bing etc., we search using improper and truncated language and focus on keywords, as opposed to typing exact entire sentences, questions and so on. We do not type our searches as we would say them. Do you operate like this when questioning Siri for example? It’s highly unlikely you don’t! You speak to your device as if you were speaking to a human in everyday conversation, and more often than not, the results yielded are absolutely on-point. So, what does this mean for us digital marketers? Well, the biggest shift is relating to our keyword strategies in what we wish to rank for. SEO Yoast has written a superb article on exactly how to prepare for this.
This amazingly interesting atomic shift in the way search engines operate we feel will be an absolute game-changer, especially in terms of ranking. Linkless ‘backlinks’ essentially refer to search engines qualifying backlinks for keywords and phrases that do not actually contain a link. For example, if a website referenced the phase ‘Atomic Digital Marketing UK’ but didn’t actually link to anything, this would be a linkless ‘Backlink’. Over the recent years, search engines like Google and Bing have developed the ability to judge a website’s reputation using any reference to a brand, anywhere on the internet, combined with the sentiment it is mentioned in. Google filed a patent for this back in 2014 under the term ‘implied links’, and it is thought that 2018 will be the year that these search engines will really get the ball rolling on this.
Featured snippets have been a bit of a buzz word in the world of SEO ever since the rise of Voice Search in 2016. What is a featured snipped though? Featured snipped are designed to fundamentally give a concise, clear and comprehensive answer to the question the searcher is asking. Have you ever searched for a recipe and the likes of Google present the answer to you as the top result? This is a featured snippet! Digital assistants like Google Assistant or Siri are vastly improving their ability in parsing long-tail, highly specific, human-sounding voice queries and so now is the time to begin optimising your content to cater for this. Moz has written a great article on how to optimise your website and content for featured snippets. Read it here!
Personalised SERP Developments
For decades the likes of Google have been pushing the development of personalised SERPs with more and more users looking for that personal experience in almost every platform they use. With the developments of voice search, increased convenience of search and increased availability of location, search history and ‘interests’ data, we seriously think that search engines will develop massively in 2018 with regards to the personalisation of SERPs. So, what does this mean for you?
Really, we don’t really see this as much of a disadvantage at all. When a user searches something for the first time, by default the search will unbiased. Once the user clicks on a specific link that link will likely become that users preferred ‘entity’ and so it is only when the user re-searches that term that the search engines will likely rank the previously clicked website higher. The key here is to obviously ensure you are the entity the user clicks on first!
How I hear you ask?! Well, whilst Google and other major search engines are rapidly improving the personalisation of their SERPs, so too are the marketing tools you use. Digital Marketers now have the increased ability to target extremely defined audiences and offer provide the technological tools to really dig deep into the analytics and profiles of users. It is this data and these tools you should be using if you want to prevail on top and keep in-line with the personalisation developments of SERPs.
Survival of the Fastest
This one goes without saying. Loading speeds are everything when it comes to providing content to your audiences. Not only is this a major ranking signal to search engines, it is also a major UX factor. Users want there content, and they want it fast! (What a bunch of inpatient people we are!) It has been found that 40% of users will abandon the page if it takes over 3 seconds to load which potentially converts to huge losses for any business. Prior to working for Atomic, I was CEO of The Chairman’s Bao. When starting out, we had major latency and loading time issues, with some pages taking in excess of 13 seconds to load. It turns out the reason behind this was solely down to some extremely poor web development during the start-up phase of the company, a problem which manifested itself and worsened overtime. That said however, once we identified where the previous developer had gone wrong, we managed to completely eliminate the problem with pages now loading in under 3 seconds. The increases in conversions, site usage and ultimately profitability were astronomical. I can safely say, speed is absolutely key!
Fundamentally, you cannot expect search engines to understand language like us clever Homo sapiens do – this is where ‘structured data’ comes in and it’s in your best interest to get familiar with it. Structured data is a HTML mark-up in the form of code. For example, you could use it to list all the important data regarding a recipe: average rating, number of reviews, time to cook, number of calories and so on. As evident from the image below, formulating structured data in on your pages will give the user the ability to showcase a rich snippet (or snippets) for example.
Not too long ago, Google’s search pages look like the picture below.
…a long list of boring and uninviting blue links formatted in such a way which may drive you to the brink of insanity. These days however, Google’s SERPs look a lot different. Thank god. They have now evolved into well formatted pages containing a plethora of useful information for almost anything you search, and often without the user even having to click a link as discussed in the ‘featured snippets’ section of this article.
Google now has the ability to enable rich features for your webpage in SERPs if it can interpret the content of the page correctly, and if you explicitly provide additional information in the page’s code by applying the principals of structured data, you too can feature your products and business like this. Google provides a good introduction to structured data and how it can be applied within your websites code here.
There are many more SEO changes coming this year which we will try and bring you up to speed on soon. Until then, get cracking on the above and you will likely be one step ahead of your competition already.