2017 did not have that many algorithm changes compared to previous years, but it was still an exciting year. Based on trends that emerged at the end of the year, additional observations, and a dash of speculation concerning upcoming technologies, we’ve compiled a list of predictions for where the SEO field might be headed in 2018 and beyond.
1. Vastly improved video and image searches
Online interactions have gradually become more engaging. Improved internet speeds, visual-friendly social media platforms, and a general desire to see more videos and images online have all contributed to this trend. In 2018, it is likely that Google and other search engines will improve their algorithms for this type of content.
For example, Google has recently acquired a pair of startup tech companies (Eyefluence and Moodstocks) striving to better recognize visual elements in videos and images to classify them more accurately. It’s currently unclear what specific effects this will have on SEO, but a vast improvement in search sophistication seems very likely. Businesses will have to adapt to these changes or start losing customers as a result.
2. Increased proliferation of the Knowledge Graph
Over the last few years, Google has been responding to search queries with featured snippets that contain the concise answers searchers are presumably looking for. In December of 2017, however, the use of these featured snippets declined considerably in favor of Knowledge Graph boxes containing the same information. This could be foreshadowing Google’s ultimate intent to replace featured snippets entirely with their own Knowledge Graph boxes, providing more consistent answers to their user base.
3. A dramatic increase in the number of voice searches
Smart speakers such as Amazon’s Echo and Google Home really came into their own in 2017, making it likely that you at least know somebody who has one if you don’t own one yourself. These trends seem likely to continue and even speed up as newer models are released in 2018.
These gadgets allow users to conduct internet searches using only their voice and their ears, completely changing the way SEO operates. Search Engine Results Pages, or SERPs, are currently a visual format. Most businesses consider it good enough to be placed in front of prospective customers whenever they conduct a relevant search. With voice-based search, customers may be more likely to stop the search as soon as they hear the information they need. This would place much more emphasis on being among the top results instead of merely the first page.
4. Increased customization of search results
Google has long striven to create an individualized list of search results based on the user. For example, one’s search history, browser cookies, and other online activities now have some impact on every SERP that individual sees.
As voice search (discussed above), technological sophistication, and search convenience (for more data) all increase in 2018, Google will gain more of an ability to tailor SERPs to the current user. This will present a unique challenge to businesses relying on SEO in their marketing strategies, as it will become more difficult to determine how you will rank, or even what you will rank for, on these more customized SERPs.
5. Machine learning will render search algorithm updates obsolete
Machine learning is the ability of a machine to automatically learn as it is used, making continuous changes in real time instead of waiting for a major software update. Google’s search engine doesn’t currently do much of this, as RankBrain remains the company’s deepest dive into the technology.
However, Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has spent the last few years investing heavily in AI and machine learning. While Google is yet to announce that it will be a beneficiary of this research, it seems likely that it will be. Machine learning is therefore likely to play a significant role in 2018’s internet searches.
Looking beyond 2018 for a moment, machine learning is likely to replace software updates entirely in the relatively near future. The new update process will be considerably more dynamic, operating autonomously and continuously as users feed it additional information.
6. SEO beyond Google and Bing will matter
Google is still the number one search engine and is well-positioned to retain that status for the foreseeable future, but rankings outside of Google will matter more in 2018 and beyond. Services such as Yelp, Amazon, and Siri are not technically search engines, but they do guide customers toward the products and services that rank highly on their platforms. If business owners want to reach the largest audience possible, they will have to perform SEO on these services as well as Google moving forward.
7. Hyperlocal results will take off
We actually predicted this last year and were right in that local SEO, and local search results were more prevalent than ever before in 2017. However, they did not become “normal,” meaning that Google continued to refer individuals to companies without much consideration for the physical proximity between them.
2018 is likely the year where the paradigm changes completely. As more search queries are conducted on mobile devices, and Virtual Reality gains a more stable foothold in the marketplace, any company engaged in local SEO will have to do more to rank highly for hyperlocal terms and phrases.
We feel that some of the predictions above are easy wins while others are more speculative. Regardless, we are approaching 2018 with all of them in mind to determine how we can use these trends to enhance our digital marketing strategies.
With Google innovating at unprecedented levels, SEO is becoming even harder and harder. You need an SEO expert who can get you the rankings you deserve. If you’re looking for an agency offering SEO in Edmonton, you’ve come to the right place. Contact the Edmonton SEO Guy today!
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