Time stops for no-one in the world of SEO, and as new technologies evolve, so does the way we search the web. There are some exciting changes afoot. Don’t get left behind – here are the 7 top seo trends to keep an eye on in 2018.

Voice recognition

Voice recognition has become part of every day, and more and more of us are shouting out for Alexa, rather than turning the lights down low ourselves; or asking Siri to identify a song. The technology has gone from clunky to complex in a short space of time, so it’s only inevitable that voice search will be one of the most significant trends in 2018. Google currently claims that 1 out of 5 queries are voice searches – that’s 20% – and it’s set to increase. Based on recent research by SEO Tribunal, 50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020.

Voice Recognition
Voice Recognition

This means that natural, long-tail search terms and more natural language are likely to take precedence in the battle for authority. Perhaps this spells out the nearing of the end for the awful, clunky keyword combinations that SEO writers continuously face – prizing in phrases that would never fit into a natural sentence. I’m sure that writers and readers alike will not mourn their loss!

As for accuracy increases in digital recognition of spoken level language, the more we will rely on voice to search the web. It’s not just mobile devices (which we’ll be discussing later). Home hubs and the IoT devices have adopted this technology as the interactive platform of choice, using more natural language syntax to search the web on our behalf.

Link building

Diversifying your link relationships will grow in significance in 2018, with a focus on quality rather than quantity. Link building is a long-term strategy, and we should encourage and create backlinks from sites relevant to niche.

Guest blogs, of course, are an effective method of cross-pollination, developing mutual relationships; but Google has clocked on. They suggest that heavy reliance on guest posting looks spammy, thus reducing the authority of the link and potentially damaging a brand’s reputation with the search engine – which learns.

This highlights the need for a broader and more diversified link building strategy. Aim for a complete backlink profile.

Link Building
Link Building

User Experience

UX stands for User Experience, and it’s the buzzword for 2018. It’s the drive for websites to deliver an excellent experience for the people engaging with them; and by that, we mean speed. If we can provide a great experience for the user, they’re going to stay, engage, share and buy.

A good UX means that users will engage with your site for longer, and longer stays help search engines discover which pages are useful; prioritizing them over others. Consider your site’s speed, its readability, and, ultimately, its navigation structure.

Is it easy to find every page on your site, or are some poorly signposted?

Does the behavior of your current visitors give you any clues as to which pages are most effective? Does a visit result in a conversion, or is it just a 30-second glance?

Can you make it easier for visitors to discover other geographic spaces within your navigation structure?

In the future, and indeed in 2018, search engines will be prioritizing web traffic; not just by recognizing a rise in hits, but by analyzing which sites are maintaining traffic by engaging with users for longer, with more significant conversion rates.

As mobile increasingly becomes the go-to platform for searching and browsing, there’s a higher need to enhance compatibility across all devices.

Providing a convenient segue into –

Mobile-first index

Mobile-friendly sites are usually an afterthought. But 2018 is the year where any brand of their biscuits will put mobile first. Google may very well launch their “Mobile-first index” in 2018, so it’s good to be prepared. And even if they don’t in 2018, they will in 2019. The first to the post catches the early worm (and other mixed analogies).

Mobile-First Index
Mobile-First Index

statista.com released some interesting data recently, relating to the distribution of time versus dollars spent, by platform; dividing that up into desktop and mobile. Mobile includes smartphones and tablet devices.

Although “dollars spent” on mobile devices is significantly lower, the time spent on mobile is greater. To remain competitive in 2018, they’re going to have to make some significant improvements to the mobile UX, to convert that time into purchases.

A study by BrightEdge recently identified that 57% of all web traffic now comes from mobile devices – the ratio will be significantly higher for Millennials and Generation Y. More importantly, there’s a significant difference in the way that keywords rank for mobile, as opposed to desktop. Until everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet here, there’s a significant advantage to anyone who focuses their energies on mobile-first for 2018.

The fact of the matter is that mobile users search when they’re waiting: at the station, at the doctor’s surgery, for their cappuccino. It seems that small talk in the queue is forever dead. It might seem like idle time, but it’s time where you can be providing engaging content, that looks great on mobile and works perfectly for the mobile platform.

Mobile searches are about content, and more of those searches are executed via voice; with the long tail- and natural language search terms.

Local SEO is expected to become big in 2018. As mobile searchers do their seeking on the go, there’s an opportunity for brands to market their business on a location basis.

Featured snippets and Q&A

A featured snippet, for those not in the know, is the answer to a search query, which displays at the top of the search results.

Gaining a position in the featured snippets section relies on a specific combination of factors; opening up the race to the top. There are some great tips exploring how to get to the top here.

Featured snippets and Q&A
Featured snippets and Q&A

Lists, graphs, tables and Q&A pages make it easier for Google to extract data that translates to a featured snippet. It’s certainly worth presenting data visually. Similarly, you can reach to the top of the SERPs by considering Google’s Answer Box, which is a type of snippet where Google aims to respond to a question in a more engaging way, following a “how” or “what” type question.

Visual search

Visual search is the next big thing in SEO. The internet, by nature, is point and click; it’s visual – so it makes sense that we start to point at things outside of the virtual universe – and click. Bing, Pinterest, and Google are currently investing in the development of visual search engines to capitalize on this new trend.

Your SEO strategy for 2018 could consider the manner in which we consume visual content and the way that search engines are capable of looking beyond the text. Rich, engaging visuals won’t just make your site look prettier, they’ll increase your search criteria.

Machine learning and AI

Voice search and digital assistants are the most obvious example of new interfaces that enable the user to search the web in new, more intuitive ways. And as more users interact with search engines via voice, the more search engines learn about how we ask and what makes for a successful search.

SEO is set to change, and it’s not driven by people in offices tapping away on computers anymore.   Google’s rather unpleasantly titled RankBrain (the term “rank” in the UK means “nasty”) is already observing our every search-move and learning how we ask questions. And it keeps an eye on us once we’ve made our decision to see what we do next…

There’s no single way to optimize for RankBrain, but the methods we’ve identified in this article should give you a pretty strong flavor of the latest trends in search behavior; guiding the changes we need to make, to keep on top of our use of SEO, as the language of commerce.