Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has evolved over the years and what once worked for companies no longer works and continues to change at an increasingly rapid rate.  Nowadays it’s important that all companies conform to the new standards set or their website may not feature in the search rankings.  SEO is challenging for most businesses, especially the newbies.  In addition, new technical and search advancements are dictating the future of SEO beyond 2018.  It is more important now than ever for businesses to account for these developments and implement an SEO strategy that works to remain competitive in your niche.

Now is a good time for businesses, new and old alike, to hop on the SEO train and implement strategies that work.  While social media presence is important, it does not mean that SEO is out the window. Nowadays, we use our phones and computers for almost everything. If you mention a stat or fact to someone, what do they often do?  They Google it.  In fact, Google receives more than 63,000 searches per second on any given day.  If you want to be featured in those results, you need to keep up-to-date with the latest SEO trends and developments.

Be Prepared for Change – Future of SEO Beyond 2018

It’s no secret that perfecting your SEO is not easy, especially for new businesses. However, if you want your customers and prospects to find your business website and utilize your products or services, you need to stay relevant.  Changes in how you present your content, the experience you provide the user, how Google algorithms affect your position in the rankings and developments such as snippets and voice search are going to have a big impact in the near future.

SEO is nowhere near dead and since you cannot buy your spot in search engine rankings, it really is vital that you follow SEO best practices and prepare for the changes coming down the line.  Recent studies have shown that 51% of smartphone users discovered a new product or company just while performing a search using that device, showing just how crucial it is for your company to have an SEO strategy that gives you a high position in the rankings.

Let’s take a look at some of the major changes for SEO in the near future and what you can do to prepare for those changes and stay relevant.

AMP Pages for Your Website

If you have not heard of AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages), you need to take a moment and learn about it because it will influence how many mobile users visit your website.  Traditionally, Google has always relied on a single index to pull documents when a user searches words in their query.  Currently, Google is in the process of creating two indexes, which means one will be for mobile users and the other for traditional desktop users.

Since many users rely on their smartphones and other handheld devices, Google will make the mobile index its primary one.  While there is no indication that AMP will be part of how your content is ranked, AMP content will be indexed in the results and featured more prominently when a search is performed on a mobile device.

Now is the time to start looking at AMP and implementing pages dedicated to mobile users because if you don’t, you will fall behind.  Some companies have already seen the benefits of joining the AMP program. The Washington Post, for example, has seen a 23% increase in the number of mobile search users who have returned to their site within 7 days since getting started with AMP. That’s a considerable jump and a statistic worth taking into consideration when looking at the future of your SEO strategy.

Hyper-Focused Content and User Experience

While we all know that personalized and focused content has been one of the many factors of SEO for a few years, it should now be a critical element of your SEO efforts.  Personalize content to an individual’s search history or interests, will spark their curiosity and draw them in.  Ultimately this will lead to more visitors to your website and an increase in sales.

2018 will have an escalated focus on hyper-personalized content.  Companies are now able to run hundreds and thousands of content pieces in a single campaign all of which are customized to each individual and delivered to even more consumers.

For example, YouTube offers a service that allows companies to deliver thousands of videos in a single campaign.  Because of this, companies can show ads based on many factors such as watch history, apps that have been downloaded, demographics, and more.  This, coupled with the fact that video and image search will become even more dominant, creates a new opportunity for those who are able to pioneer with personalization and interactive content.

In addition, Google is putting more and more importance on the overall user experience and in order to stay alive with SEO in 2018, you need to ensure that you optimize your content for the user first and not for Google.  It’s their goal to provide the most natural, organic experience for users so that the users can find the information that they really need in the shortest amount of time.

Simple navigation and user experience will win every time.  And, long, detailed posts that add value to the reader are going to outshine over-optimized, less informative content, which has plagued the internet over the last number of years.  Care about the content you produce and you will see results in your SEO strategy.

RankBrain Algorithm Is in the Driver Seat

Google introduced RankBrain in 2016 and many SEO marketers and companies lost their minds.  This is because RankBrain is an artificial intelligence (AI) system that sorts through search results on Google.  The AI system is self-teaching, which means that it is basically able to think for itself after it has been “taught” the basics of search and user behavior patterns.

The AI will run through all of the search results and create an algorithm.  This algorithm will then be used to weed out any black hat SEO that is taking place.  The AI will then deem which search results are most relevant and they will appear in the order based on the AI’s information.

If you have not followed SEO best practices up to this point, now is the time to start because Google’s AI will make searches much more personal for the end user.

Snippets and Knowledge Graph are Changing the Landscape of Search Ranking

Snippet example - Future of SEO beyond 2018 blog

Through the introduction of snippets, Google is changing the SEO game in that th ere is more value in chasing the snippet than there is in chasing the pole position in the search results. Essentially, snippets are concise answers that show up on the top of the search result page in response to the questions users pose in the search queries and they are proving to be a game-changer now and going forward.

Of course, chasing the number one spot in the results will still be crucial in driving traffic to your website.  However, those websites who claim the snippet spot will gain about 50% of the clicks from the first page.  This is more damaging to the other websites on the first page of the results as before snippets, 30% of clicks went to the site in first place, leaving 70% to be distributed among the other results.  Now, there is only 50% to be distributed which means less traffic for everyone but the site whose content features in the snippet.

With these developments, it is critical to get in the game with snippets and see where they will make a difference for your brand.  They provide a new opportunity to be in the number #1 spot on the search results page, improving your online visibility to potential customers.

Voice Search is Beginning to Revamp Online Search

Voice search image - Future of SEO beyond 2018Digital marketing is on the cusp of enormous change because of the consumer adoption, especially of mobile users, of voice search. Voice search and personal assistants are altering the landscape we’ve all become familiar with, presenting a new challenge and also a new opportunity for digital marketers.

We all need to re-evaluate our strategies.  According to Neil Patel, by 2020, voice and image-based searches are expected to contribute at least half of all searches.  Now, that’s something worth taking note of!  Examine your strategy now and start adapting to stay ahead of the wave.  Remember to start by focusing on where your audience is, where they are hanging out,  and what questions they are asking their voice devices.  The opportunities for being ahead of the curve in this instance will be huge for your company and brand.

What to Expect in 2018 and Beyond

Many changes will be taking place in 2018 to make searching for information on the Internet more efficient for users.  It is important to note that many of the SEO changes that will be coming in the near future focus mainly on the end user – the individual who makes the search.

No matter what stage you are at right now in your company, it is vital that you focus on your SEO and the content that you produce to continue to elevate your business long into the future with an integrated customer-centric approach to digital marketing, not just tactical SEO.

If the future of SEO beyond 2018 interests and you would like to discuss your SEO or content marketing with an expert, we would be happy to help.  Feel free to review our digital marketing services or schedule a complimentary consultation.