But unless bots decide to take over the world and destroy us all, the upcoming trends won’t necessarily harm your site’s SEO. Search engines like Google and Bing are learning to understand the content better and are aiming to satisfy users’ needs as best as they can. This is exactly what you should have in mind if you want your website to rank higher in search results next year.
Let’s see what interesting SEO trends 2018 has in store for us, and what you can do to be ready:
More websites on page 1 of Google are HTTPS
HTTPS is simply the protocol that ensures your website is being viewed over a safe connection. To be able to add an S to an HTTP web address, one needs to acquire a so-called SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate. This will make it possible for a site’s visitor data to be encrypted and secured. Google has made it clear that having HTTPS is a pretty big deal, and the search engine results page (SERP) shows it too.
Back in June of this year, 55% of sites on page one of Google were secure, according to Moz. It’s predicted that by the end of the year, this number will increase to around 66%. On top of this, the Chrome browser has started implementing warnings on sites that are not HTTPS. This can affect a user’s experience negatively, and dissuade them from browsing your site or purchasing your services. Needless to say: you don’t want to mess with HTTPS.
More SERP features are being displayed
A SERP feature is basically anything on a results page that includes more than the usual SEO title (top blue line), URL (middle green line) and description (black text underneath). Reminder: SERP is the geeky way of saying search engine results page. The example below is what we call a featured snippet, but there are many more types of features that are used to answer queries directly: related questions, local pack (a Google map on the SERP), image results to name a few.
The amount of rich snippets has tripled in the last two years, and already 87% of SERPs have some kind of rich answer displayed. These types of results tend to get more clicks than regular organic results, because of the prime real estate and eye-catching format. Hence why the competition to snag these babies is getting increasingly tight.
What does this mean for you?
Don’t worry dear reader, as getting a featured snippet is actually easier than ranking organically on the number one position. A featured snippet is extracted from any result on the first page and is usually one of the top 5 results. Google will decide whether to show a snippet based on the type of query and how the content is structured – generally text-heavy content will take the cake.
A great tip we can give you is to think about what questions your customers may have about your biz and answer them directly. An FAQ page can help you achieve this, plus it will give a clear structure to your answers. If the answer is longer than a short paragraph, you can dedicate a whole blog article to it. When responding to a question, it’s always better to give the answers directly in the first paragraph, and then expand more on it in the rest of the post. This way the search engine bot will catch the juicy stuff first. In addition, if you have a local business, you’ll want to focus some effort on improving your local SEO to be able to be featured in the so-called local pack.
More people are using voice search
What happens when you’ve got a burning question but no one’s around? Just ask your phone, all the cool kids are doing it! Seriously. Voice activated search is increasing rapidly thanks to voice recognition software used in mobile devices and home speakers. Already 55% of teens and 40% of adults use voice search on a daily basis, plus it’s predicted that by 2020 half of searches will be voice activated. The rising popularity of this trend is inevitable.
The mear fact that you no longer need to type a query in a search box to get answers makes voice search fast and convenient for busy bees. In addition, multitasking addicts have increased flexibility as they are able to ‘Google’ something while doing any other activity, like searching for “pizzerias near me” while writing a blog post perhaps…
What does this mean for you?
We’ll let you in on a little secret: most of the voiced results are actual results that are displayed a featured snippet. In this case, the same rules are relevant to this trend as well. Even though voice capabilities are better at fetching more complicated responses, the same basics apply: highly structured, text-heavy content that is easily understood by site visitors as well as search engines.
Just remember this: if you rank well organically, you’ll stand a higher chance of getting a featured snippet, and the added bonus of being read out as a voice result.
More focus is put on searcher intent
Searchers come to Google The Wise to ask for many different things. Whether it’s “why does a mosquito bite itch” or “evening party dresses,” it’s important to understand what the user’s intention is, and what type of answer should be provided. For example, if you search for the latter, I doubt you’d want the definition of “evening party dresses,” but rather, the option to purchase a dress. In this case, the results will show you a selection of e-commerce shops. Or, if you type in the query “makeup tutorial,” the top of the SERP will show you videos rather than plain text results. Why is that?
Many suspects that Rank Brain is involved in providing better results and is closely watching searcher’s behaviour. So for example, if many clicks on one result over the other, it will understand that this is the type of content the user wants to see, and it will show more of those type results. Just so you know, Rank Brain is not one of the new ‘Marvel’ villains, but it’s actually an artificial intelligence program made by Google and is used to process queries.
In addition to being able to understand user SERP behaviour, they have a mechanism for understanding semantics and relationships between topics and queries. This means that it can understand that ”evening party dresses” and “wedding guest outfit” are very similar in meaning. It’s still important to use keywords in your content, but search engines are getting much smarter, which means you don’t need to fixate on ranking but rather on the searcher’s needs.
What does this mean for you?
If you look really closely, Google is trying to give us subtle hints as to what searchers want to see as results. Back to our “makeup tutorial” example, if you know that videos are in the top results, you know you should create a video if you want to compete for this keyword. Or if you want to target “evening party dresses”, creating an infographic about “How to Make an Evening Party Dress” will not perform very well on the results page.
Your goal is to try and understand the results before you want to try and rank for certain keywords. Another great tip we can give you is to check the autosuggest results and the related searches at the bottom of the SERP. This may give you an indication of what Google thinks should be displayed, and thus you can create content to fit that query. To conclude: if the top results for a query have a consistent typology (e.g., articles or videos), it means that this is what Google wants to see. And this is what you should do.
More importance is given to mobile
Yes, you’ve heard us say this a lot, but it’s too big to ignore. Mobile matters. Period. Based on the stats (and the scene at most coffee shops), you’re probably reading this from your smartphone too. Mobile devices are not only used to check your Instagram likes but also to ‘Google’ things on the go. Already more than 50% of searches are done via mobile devices, and this number will only continue to grow.
Mobile search has grown so much, there has been a lot of talk about starting to rank websites by their mobile version, instead of the desktop one. Although the change will happen very gradually, you should know that your mobile site has an impact on your SEO.
On top of this, Google is also on the lookout for AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) pages. This format, dedicated to blogging posts and articles, enables super fast loading when clicked on from search results. On top of offering the readers a better experience, it also improves the SEO of the websites using them. A win-win situation.