As 2017 begins to wind down, it’s time to begin planning for 2018. Rather than presenting some radical predictions on what’s next for SEO, it’s more useful to address what’s working now, and how that trend should continue moving forward.
The heart of any forward strategy is still the same: the user remains front and center. It is incumbent that, no matter what stock is put into the following trends, marketers must keep their user’s interests at the top of their minds in doing so. Because no matter what the digital fortune tellers predict, content that users find useful and interesting (meaning: content users actually read and consume) still rules the day.
A Look Back: 2017 Predictions
Before jumping into what’s next for SEO, it is important to take a step back and look at what marketers predicted to be the hot trends in 2017. Publications like SearchEngineWatch.com and Forbes predicted 2017 would be a year of continued growth in the following trends: increased mobile usage (including the rise of Accelerated Mobile Pages, or “AMPs”), voice search, and optimization for user intent.
Many of these predictions came to fruition. For example, with regard to AMP pages, Drupal.org presented data gathered on a weekly basis since 2016 that now shows the usage statistics for AMPs is at an all-time high, with no sign of slowing down. Mobile was, and continues to be, a major consideration. Likewise, voice search technology continues to make steady improvements.
SEO in 2018: Dwell Time and More
The Internet is an increasingly mobile and an always-on experience, and many of the trends predicted for 2018 fall into that line of thinking. It should be no surprise that much of what worked in 2017 will continue to be relevant. With that in mind, here are the trends that are likely to be critical to a digital-first strategy in 2018.1. Creating Content with Google RankBrain in Mind
The old adage about content being king and creating content specifically for the users still rings true and Google RankBrain is forcing marketers to continue taking this advice seriously. RankBrain in a ranking signal that takes into consideration the click-through rate of a link and how long a user spends on the page. Baiting a user into clicking content will not improve rankings if the content is thin and dull. Google wants its users to soak that content up. Marketers will serve themselves well if they shoot for a goal of an average read time of three minutes and ten seconds (the average Dwell Time for a top 10 Google result).2. Link Building
Link building can be a dirty word in some SEO circles. The type of link building marketers should focus on in 2018 is not the same link building of the past. Lame links that don’t add value or help you build an authority with your particular audience demographic are wasted money. Instead, the focus should be on building relationships with other authorities in the same space. Marketers should consider opportunities to guest blog and invite guest bloggers to contribute to their site. The goal is to create a robust and balanced backlink profile, not to simply gain one or two “good” links for their ranking boost.
3. Aim for Position Zero
Featured Snippets and Featured Videos are going to continue to rise in importance. Marketers refer to this as being in “Position Zero” (because the snippets appear before the first actual result on the SERP). Digital marketing and SEO in particular is becoming less about the coveted real estate of being in a Top 5 position in the SERP and more about being the trusted authority whenever a user queries the search engine about his or her problem.
SEO in 2018 will be another year of evolution. Marketers can expect to see the trends above dominate their strategies in the coming year. Of course, the future is never cut in stone, so marketers should be on the lookout for other emerging trends and stay nimble as those trends emerge.