Digital marketing and SEO is pushing back towards a more traditional form of public relations, brand building, understanding of customer audiences through artificial intelligence, more visual content and the mobile first indexing of websites.
This follows the change in end users doing more searches from their mobiles for local products and services, and from the increase in the technology of artificial intelligence being used by search engines in order to build more relevant searches.
The web is becoming increasingly more tailored, rich with visual stimulus and increasingly responsive to both individuals and targeted groups in the same niche. Traditional SEO is falling away as a way to build SEO, as backlinking and age of the domain as quality markers falls away to more realistic and organic types of quality markers such as customer reviews and social sharing flags.
The trends to watch as SEO develops over 2018 include:
Deeper Customer Understanding
Digital marketing agencies are working more increasingly with business owners in order to nail down what “tribe” they are servicing, and going to far as to create customer avatars.
These portraits of ideal customers include age, gender, income, marital status, family information, housing situation, type of job, the car that the ideal customer drives and goes into incredible profiling and detailing of both psychographics and demographics.
This is in order to truly understand what the customer is searching for in terms of answers to their pain points or current situation. A business owner who fails to take the time to work with a digital marketing agency is missing a valuable opportunity when they could be receiving a huge return on investment in their marketing dollar by creating an ideal customer avatar.
Understanding markets, and not trying to simply push a product towards somebody or a group of people is about going into a huge amount of research about where the ideal customer is located, and how to target the local customer.
A sale is made through a process of understanding the market, and then presenting the compelling reason to buy, and adding huge amounts of value to the client’s life.
Generally people purchase products and services in order to make their lives easier, safer and more convenient. When you consider what type of situation has created in a customer their desire to purchase your product, it becomes far easier as a business owner to go after the right audience.
Understanding customers also goes towards creating unique content that helps build brand trust; when you are truly speaking to the audience as though you really comprehend their situation and can help them evade the current issues, sales conversions become a strong reality. Expect a greater depth of understanding of the customer down to what type of hot drink they like to consume in the morning.
Enhanced Local Search
Google has been building a lot of artificial intelligence into their searches; when a person is logged into their Google account, their previous searches have been accounted for, and a profile of what is more relevant to their search string can be built from pulling previous information and profiling searches.
This has led to a greater emphasis and push towards a priority of local searches on Google, Bing and Yahoo, meaning that businesses that fail in focusing on local search are missing out on valuable opportunities to build a profile in the local market.
Local dollars are valuable, and given that a given geographical population has a preference to support local business, having listings in business directory and trades and services directories will help push a local company to the right potential market.
With the increasing prevalence of searches on mobile devices, and location information being integrated into searches as well as previous history, the most relevant companies that provide a particular product or service will be presented in the search engine results pages to an end user.
Google My Business
Currently only 44% of businesses have claimed their Google My Business listings; these are micro sites provided for free by Google that help to organically build SEO and put a business into local searches.
With a valuable tool being available, it makes sense to ensure that business owners ensure that they work with a digital marketing agency in order to create a proper branding and presence in this tool on Google.
Other similar marketing and advertising tools include Bing Places for Business. This is similar to the Google offering; meaning that it is another opportunity for companies to build their SEO in the local area and have all their products, services, company information such as opening hours and location available.
Structured Data Inclusions
Enhanced search engine results pages have over the last year been trending towards carousel displays of images with snippets of information, Google Knowledge Graphs, ‘breadcrumbs’ or small excerpts of company information and display cards which feature in the top area of the SERP.
These enhanced displays on search engine results pages have been built from the search engines compiling information from structured data read off a web page from a search engine crawler. Structured data is written in machine-readable languages such as JSON-LD, Microdata and RDFa.
Schema.org and W3C Consortium have been working with Google and other search engines in order to standardise structured data languages. This helps to ensure that the speed that a search bot goes through a website is much faster.
Structured data similar to a database language in much easier for an artificial intelligence to categorise and analyse, meaning that results get displayed to a SERP much faster. This speeds up mobile searches.
Mobile First Index
The increase in mobile queries surging past desktop Internet searches, and the reduction of the use of keywords in importance is making way for Accelerated Mobile Pages and structured data being more prevalent in search engine results pages rankings. This means that the mobile first index will take precedence over desktop searches.
Desktop only websites will become increasingly obsolete, and responsive AMP pages that are stored in the Google AMP cache will have their results instantly available to end users. Speed is becoming more of an issue of importance in the mobile search trend.
Given that Google analyses bounce rates off Internet pages in their analytics, having pages that load too fast or have pop-over marketing widgets means being penalised and de-ranked as these contribute to user dissatisfaction.
Google and other search engines push SEO towards being a quality user experience, so having a digital marketing strategy as well as speed, quality and design ideology built around user experience in the mobile marketplace will help increase organic search rankings.
Brand Building Over Link Building
Brand building is becoming increasingly important over link building in developing marketing strategies. Social sharing flags are of critical importance in Google’s rankings of a website, including customer reviews and testimonials.
Businesses are seeing more relevance in building ongoing customer relationships and building trust, and the hallmarks of brand building, public relations and reputation management are seeing a huge surge in development as they were previously, just deployed via the Internet and social media rather than through the broadcast and print media in previous history.
Video and Multimedia
With the huge engagement of images being 2.3 times more than a regular post on Facebook, content is being pushed towards being increasingly more visual on a website. Content that integrates SEO is being designed with rich imagery, more video demand and other interactive elements. These help engage customers better and add to user experience.
Expect there to be more video and multimedia being built into SEO across 2018 and beyond. There is also a large percentage of Internet traffic being directed towards video and multimedia; mobile optimised video is a huge potential platform for receiving a large amount of traffic and most definitely a tool to be utilised in building company branding.
Social Media Market Targeting
Social media is still strong as more people join social media sites; many businesses are seeing the value in placement of their brand across multiple social media platforms. These include Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus. LinkedIn also sees a large number of conversions as it is linked strongly in with being a business directory site and offers a platform for businesses wanting to reach other businesses and professionals.
Social sharing and viral content marketing are still seeing strong growth and relevant solutions to customer problems and targeting of the right audience is pushing content to be a far better quality and more individually targeted. This helps to increase search engine rankings by Google quantifying social sharing markers.
Decline of Conventional SEO Methods
Backlinking, keywords and domain age are seeing a huge decline in traditional ranking methods, meaning that desktop sites and sites with old content that has not been updated for a significant amount of time will be increasingly obsolete.
Google ranks in real time, and sites that have not been attended to are not necessarily viewed anymore as authoritative, regardless of the web developers or business owners claiming that their content is “evergreen.”
Google views old content, and backlinks to older sites as neglectful of being customer focused, and therefore pushes up the rankings of the locally targeted, authoritative and fresh content that offers the end user the best experience.
Natural Language Queries and Semantic Searches
As Google Home and other technologies such as voice searches on mobile become more prevalent, natural language queries will push for more emphasis on latent semantic content being built into website design.
Latent semantic searches don’t just present specific keywords in a search engine results pages, but through artificial intelligence, profiling and encapsulating previous search data aims to present the most relevant results that are contextually appropriate for a search.
2018 proves to be a year where artificial intelligence goes a lot further in understanding human behaviour, and presenting the most relevant and individually tailored search results.
The Internet is becoming increasingly more natural and organic in its approach, and as artificial intelligence is becoming more integrated into modern life, we are living in exciting times as far as SEO is looking.
SEO in 2018 and beyond is becoming far more user friendly and has more of a human touch, ironically as the technology has become far more complex, but its aim is to become more instinctive and responsive to people.
What do you think about these SEO trends for 2018? Is your website ready to tackle the latest movements in SEO? Let us know in the comment section below, we would love to get your opinion!
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Lucas is the Managing Director and the Head of SEO Strategy at SEO Shark. He has over 15 years of experience in achieving SEO results for small and medium businesses as well as multinational and ASX-listed brands. He is also an author of multiple publications about digital marketing.