SEO is a complex science, and each year, Google is trying to change its algorithm to improve their product offering. This means that year after year, businesses have to go back to the drawing boards, tweak some of their strategies and throw some to the wayside altogether. This year has been no exception and we’ve seen many changes that will change the way we’ll have to approach SEO forever. Here are some of the new trends that will change how we do SEO from now on.
If you think organic search rankings are still king in 2018, think again. SERP features (featured snippets, local panels, knowledge panels, and so on) are now becoming the star of the show. They are now occupying more and more of the SERPs real estate and you now have to compete with them for visibility.
In this day and age, you have to do some extra work to see which features are overshadowing your results and if your results are getting picked up as well. You can use a tool like RankTracker from SEO Powersuite to check which features are triggered by your keywords as well as the features in which your results appear. From there, you can see if you can manage to get featured in one of those snippets as well.
Maybe you can manage to get in the featured snippets section or the local pack for instance. Doing so could make the difference between your results being actually seen or just becoming background noise.
The Need for Speed
We all know that speed is becoming increasingly important in today’s SEO world. Not only are site speed and performance major ranking criteria, they’re also one of the cornerstones of good UX.
If you haven’t noticed, Google is doing everything in its power to improve user experience, and you just can’t cut it anymore with sites who slack in that department. If your site can’t load in less than 3 seconds, you’re toast, simple as that.
The first thing you should do is perform a page speed test. Google’s free pagespeed insights tool will allow you to test various pages of your website and gives you a note based on your performance. You’ll also get a few suggestions you can use to improve your results.
Latent Semantic Indexing
There was a time when all you needed to do was carefully place long tail keyword phrases (remember those?) into your content, direct enough link juice to it, and you had a chance to compete for low competition keyword phrases. But boy have things changed…
Google isn’t as easily duped these days and it’s hard to get away with sub-par content. This in large part due to latent semantic indexing. Latent semantic indexing uses data from billions and billions of pages and analyses which terms are likely to be grouped together and which ones aren’t. This allows the algorithm to quickly identify pages that have been doctored for SEO and penalize them.
This why it’s more important than ever to focus on organic, free flowing content first and foremost. Not only does manipulating keywords end up ruining the flow of your content but it could actually end up hurting your true SEO potential.
The Dominance of Voice Search
Voice search is a thing now and is much more than a novelty like it was not too long ago. This means that we simply cannot afford to ignore it as part of our SEO efforts anymore. As a matter of fact, according to research that was conducted by Behshad Behzadi of Google, voice search is growing at a much faster rate than text search at the moment. And according to Google, over 40% of adults and 55% of teenagers perform at least one vocal search every day.
This means that content will have to be reimagined with vocal SEO in mind from now on. This means more focus on conversational content that answers questions. Gone are the days of keyword focused content. We now have to shift towards user intent. Search engines are evolving to understand context and search for content that actually answers questions, prioritizing it over content that doesn’t.
Putting Mobile First
It’s now official. Mobile is now the primary source of web traffic and searches. This means that mobile can no longer be ignored and that anybody who still has a desktop first approach will be left in the dust. And this will be made even more evident since Google officially laid out its mobile-first index.
According to a study by Brightedge, a whopping 57% of all web traffic comes from mobile devices nowadays. And it’s still surprising how many people today still don’t realize that search results can rank differently on desktop and on mobile devices. As a matter of fact, according to the same study, 79% of all keywords and 47% of keywords that ranked between 1 and 20 in search results ranked differently on mobile devices.
More and more importance will also be put on mobile user experience and site speed will be just as important on mobile devices as it is on desktops. Google made it very clear when it unrolled its accelerated mobile pages that it meant business and that those who fail to adopt a mobile first approach would be penalized.
There’s also a difference in the nature of the content that will be showcased on mobile devices. Mobile search will put more emphasis on context, and local search will have even more visibility and importance. This why working with local SEOs will become even more crucial. Local SEO services in Montreal and other major cities will have to be prioritized over outsourced SEO in order to be competitive from now on.
SEO is constantly evolving and it’s up to webmasters to stay on top of recent changes and adjust their game plans accordingly. There’s no telling where 2019 will take us, but one thing is for sure, we can expect Google to focus more and more on user experience and crack down on old manipulation techniques that undermine their efforts.