Are you still struggling with increasing the rankings of your website? Don’t worry; you’re not alone. When it comes to digital marketing, change is the name of the game. Now that it’s 2018, you need to start updating your current strategies if you want to stay competitive.

To keep you from lagging behind this year, I did some research about common SEO trends 2018. Check out these trends below and use them to your business’ advantage. Let’s get started.

1. Quality backlinks

Yes, links will remain to be important this year as it has always been. However, remember to pay attention to the quality of links than quantity. Rather than building hundreds to thousands of links without considering where they came from, look for highly trusted websites.

Link building this year will take more time and effort. You need to pay attention to several factors before you decide whether a website is worth acquiring links from. These factors include website relevance, content quality, and website profile. When it comes to website profile, consider important metrics like Domain Authority, Page Authority, Trust Flow, and Citation Flow.

A powerful link building strategy to leverage is relationship building. I think link building needs to be called “link earning” now. In fact, successful link building is about building genuine relationships that help you earn quality links down the road.

First, you should identify people in your niche who share your beliefs and interests. Next, start a conversation to get noticed. Comment on their blogs, link to and share their content.

Now don’t throw away the traditional practice of sending outreach emails. If you do a blogger outreach to guest post, make sure to personalize your letter. Establish rapport with your message. Offer something of value. Show that you are worth building a relationship with.

2. Voice search

Another one of the common SEO trends 2018 to pay attention to is voice search. Current stats reveal that 20% of mobile searches on Google are conducted through voice.

It’s no secret that more people look for information online by speaking into their devices. Mobile users want to accomplish tasks in an efficient and less time-consuming way.

SEO will experience a huge change because of voice search. How so? When people use voice search, they use natural and conversational language. Knowing these natural search queries helps you provide search better experiences and rank for featured snippets.

Remember that users’ behaviors vary by device. People on mobile using voice search are more likely to use action-oriented language. For example, to find out an establishment’s store hours, a person might say, “What time will Papa John’s open today?”

Gear your website towards voice search by including longer, voice-friendly phrases in your content. Include long-tail keywords. Consider question phrases that start with how, why, where, when, and what.

3. Google’s answered boxes or featured snippets

Try to search for something on Google. Notice that aside from the top ten search results, there’s this featured box that shows you a quick answer to your query. Let’s say you’re looking for the best blogging platforms in 2018.

The screenshot above shows a featured snippet, commonly termed as Google’s answers box. Note that though a featured snippet occupies position 0, the optimized page may or may not belong to Google’s top 10 results.

As you can see, the first position of Google isn’t as important as it used to be. Optimizing for the Google Quick Answers box creates more traffic opportunities. As a serious business owner or marketer, you need to provide the exact answers your prospects seek for.

So how do you rank for this coveted spot to improve your SEO?

Don’t forget keyword research. KWFinder is a useful keyword research tool that will show you “question type” search queries. Use the category Questions to get these kinds of keyword suggestions. Answer The Public is also a good tool.

Another thing you can do to get more question type queries is to head over to “People also ask” section. You will find this below a featured snippet after you enter your topic into Google. Do your best to expand your topic by answering these questions.

4. Machine learning

Have you heard about the Google RankBrain algorithm? If you haven’t, this algorithm entails the use of machine learning to provide the most relevant search results to search queries. If you’re wondering what machine learning is, it’s a form of artificial intelligence where computers learn to respond to human interactions.

How does machine learning as one of the most important SEO trends 2018 impact your strategies?

You already know that Google values user experience more than anything else. Positive user experiences lead to higher engagement which, of course, helps drive sales. As a website owner, your efforts need to be geared towards user experience.

One strategy would be to not just optimize your content for keywords. More importantly, pay attention to your readers’ intent and needs. When they search for your keywords, do they see results that address their problems?

Another technique would be to identify barriers that prevent your users from finishing a task. Speed up your website. Reduce the number of clicks that people have to make in the checkout process. Reduce the number of your form fields.

5. Mobile-first indexing

On November 2016, Google announced that they were experimenting with mobile-first indexing.

2018 is the year when all of us should be prepared for this mobile revolution. While there is still no exact date for this indexing method to be rolled out, we should start implementing techniques that satisfy the majority of searchers who are mobile users.

Here’s a screenshot that shows what Google says about mobile-first indexing:

What this mobile-first indexing means is that Google ranks your site based on its mobile version. If you optimize your site for mobile, you’re sure to rank better for both desktop and mobile. If not, your rankings and traffic will most likely plummet.

There are a few important ways to get your website ready for mobile-first indexing.

First of all, use a responsive design. This design ensures an optimal viewing experience by adapting to the screen size of a user. I’ve written a post where you can find WordPress themes that ensure responsiveness.

Use a website builder that follows Google’s best practices. Examples are Duda, Wix, and Squarespace. Write engaging and persuasive content to keep visitors longer. Make your headlines shorter so that people can read everything on mobile at a glance.

6. User experience (UX)

Search engines like Google are becoming more complex. As SEO grows, so did search engines. In fact, people’s behaviors compelled search engines to raise the bar.

Truth be told, rankings were the only thing that mattered in the past. Today, there is more emphasis on helping businesses attract qualified prospects online and vice versa.

User experience is a broad concept that encompasses many things. User experience is all about your visitor’s journey. Everything you do online should be done with your prospects in mind. While we follow techniques that meet search engine expectations, we should remember that search engines created modeled those requirements based on what users want.

Smart marketers know that they should think beyond search engines. Common sense is all you need to make your visitors happy. Put yourself in the shoes of your prospects. How would you feel arriving at a website that didn’t meet your needs the way you expected it to? Poor user experiences lead to higher bounce rates and low conversions.

With content, consider searcher intent when optimizing for keywords. For example, person A may type in the search terms “residential roofing” to look for contractors. On the other hand, person B uses the same keywords to read roofing tips.

Your site structure and design matter too. Plan out your site hierarchy to keep your website categories organized. Make sure that your URL structure coordinates with your site hierarchy. Link together relevant pages to give users additional information on a topic.

7. Visual search

While we follow the SEO trends 2018 mentioned above, here’s one you cannot afford to miss: Visual search. While visual search is still new, optimizing your pages for it, especially if you run a product-based business, helps boost your traffic and conversions.

E-commerce retailers agree with the fact that consumers sometimes have a hard time finding products by using text queries. For example, if you were someone looking for a very specific kind of mini skirt, you wouldn’t know the exact words to type into Google.

With visual search, a person can take a picture of a product (the whole or a part of it) and upload it to Google or a tool like TinyEye. This will serve as the search query and will bring up results similar to your uploaded image.

Visual search provides a ton of opportunities for retailers. For your product images to show up, follow basic practices. Such practices include adding a descriptive alt-text, using the right image size and file, using optimized image titles with keywords, and submitting images to an image sitemap.

8. Structured data

Why should we include schema in our list of SEO trends 2018 when it has been around for a long time?

If you are not familiar with structured data (only a few people know what it’s for), it’s a piece of code which you include on your website. Its purpose is to tell search engines what your page is about. Search engines will display your page in search results based on the structured data code that they read.

Structured data makes your search listing even better. We call this search listing a rich snippet because it gives your prospects more information about your business. Below is an example of a rich snippet:

In the snippet above, readers don’t just see the title of the page and meta description. They also get additional details about the age – people’s ratings, reviews, baking time, etc.

Although structured data is not a ranking signal, website owners need to use it more. Why? Because it increases your click-through rates. Higher click-through rates influence your search rankings.

9. Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)

Fast is the only thing that’s acceptable to everyone these days, especially mobile users. The demand for fast loading websites will continue to increase in 2018. When you go mobile, you need to get rid of unnecessary code and unwanted images.

On the topic of speed, Google launched a project called Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). This project is designed to make mobile pages very fast. What gives an accelerated mobile page is its lack of javascript and optional use of CSS. It also cuts back on HTML.

Why should you consider optimizing your pages for AMP this year?

Remember that Google rewards websites that satisfy mobile users with higher rankings. A very fast website ensures that your content becomes accessible. People can read your content without having to wait for it to load. With AMP, you can also track the behavior of your users as there is analytics for mobile pages.

Here’s a guide to get started with AMP.

10. Video content

People want to see more video content, that’s for sure. Cisco predicts that by 2021, video content will generate 80% of all online traffic. If you have no plans to create video content, you’ll miss out on opportunities to engage your visitors and increase the time they spend on your site.

Google features YouTube videos, which is why you should consider video SEO. Video SEO helps your videos on YouTube get more viewers instead of drowning in a sea other videos. You can’t ignore YouTube. This search engine has over 1 billion users.

To help your website dominate SEO in 2018, you can also embed your videos in your blog posts. If you do this, your content becomes way more dynamic and interactive. Videos are effective in demonstrating steps in how-to blog posts and explaining new concepts.

No matter what niche you’re in, including videos in your posts can make a big difference in your content.

Conclusion

You may or may not be familiar with these SEO trends 2018. If you want to stay relevant to your target audience and increase your rankings, make sure to keep up with these changes. Remember that SEO is a never-ending marathon. Updating your strategies helps you better serve your audience and of course, meet your goals.

Are you prepared for these SEO changes? I hope your answer is a big yes.

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