What can 2018 throw at us that can top the un-ending dystopian nightmare of 2017?
Thankfully, in this article we’re concentrating solely on SEO (..and breathe). We’ve already looked at the big trends from this year, now let’s look into the crystal ball with the help of some search experts.
I think we’ll see Google push again at local marketing. This will likely mean even more improvements to Google Local but I think we might also see expanded use and tests with coupons and codes in PPC.
There is a common opinion I’ve seen growing which I think is partly as a result of the market and regulatory changes that happened in 2017 (Google’s TAC – Traffic Acquisition Costs – increasing, and their loss in the EU dispute) and partly as a result of the incredible UI changes Google has rolled out as they’ve gone mobile-first, card-based, and ML-powered. The received wisdom is that it is getting harder and harder to get organic traffic from Google, and that more and more clicks go to either ads or Google’s own properties.
I predict that we will see some brands pull back from organic search investments as a result, and that it will hurt them in the long-run.
The reality (from clickstream data) is that it’s really easy to forget how long the long-tail is and how sparse search features and ads are on the extreme long-tail:
- Only 3-4% of all searches result in a click on an ad, for example. Google’s incredible (and still growing) business is based on a small subset of commercial searches.
- Google’s share of all outbound referral traffic across the web is growing (and Facebook’s is shrinking as they increasingly wall off their garden).
The opportunity is therefore there for smart brands to capitalise on a growing opportunity while their competitors sink time and money into a social space that is increasingly all about Facebook, and increasingly pay-to-play. I think that is going to be a trend through 2018.
Recently some of the biggest brands are waking up and realising that as we begin to move towards voice, and move further away from the keyword game, the SERPs landscape and the content produced will change dramatically. Like with Mobile-Geddon, we will see a Voice-A-Geddon.
Are brands ready? How will Google (and Amazon) respond to this? Will position one be the new page one? And how will advertisers deal with this? Will organic be considered ever more important?
What will be the commercial impact for those who are prepared vs those who are not?
We’ll see more measurement of conversational UX/voice search. I can see Google creating Analytics for voice commands – for example a way to measure the most common intents and conversation patterns:
Me: OK Google, tell me what films are showing in Leeds tonight
Google: OK Mike, films are X Y & Z
Me: Tell me about Y
Google Synopsis for Y is …
Me: Book me some tickets for Y tonight
This example could measure the conversion rate from Google home devices, of those people that ask for a synopsis what percentage go on to book tickets. If on Alexa, what entities and utterances have been used by category and therefore work out intent per product category?
Data and privacy
I think we’ll see ongoing focus on data and privacy. This will manifest with the likes of GDPR, new EU privacy rules (which the UK may or may not get in on) and data security. Helping to keep the latter in focus will be various governments increasingly concerned with cryptography and perhaps with legislation struggling to keep up with the pace of technology.
This loops back to search marketing because some of the analytics practices used by big brands in the US and the UK are enough to make you blink.
GDPR will make life more difficult for agencies, there’s greater risk to agencies and clients in sharing personally identifiable information (e.g. PPC, email marketing etc.). The new E-Privacy regulation may have a huge impact on analytics tools such as Google Analytics but still too early to be certain.
Faster, Google-centric UX
We’ll see further moves towards a faster mobile friendly web. Features that allow you to access products, services information without leaving Google in preparatiob for voice search. There will be less reliance on links with a potential move towards sentiment and mentions
‘War for the living room’
Lastly, I think we’ll see tech brands ramping up the war for the living room. This will manifest through hardware pushes such as connected TVs, personal assistants like Alexa and even VR. I’m not confident enough to predict whether there will be much progress on that front beyond the advertising campaigns I’m expecting but if I had to pick a winner I could always roll an internet connected dice for you.
In the world of marketing, there are plenty of trends for leaders to stay on top of. From PR trends that affect their branding on a larger scale to the content marketing and social media tools that affect their day-to-day communication, leaders have a lot on their plates.
I hate to be the guy who adds to your list, but if SEO isn’t also on your radar, you could be missing out on serious opportunities. Thankfully, Moz CEO Sarah Bird shared lots of valuable insights on the future of SEO at this year’s MozCon. My team rounded up a few of the biggest trends she highlighted and spoke with other experts in attendance to learn more about how SEO and content will affect brands’ marketing; here are six trends in SEO you need to know about:
1. Search is taking on new and different formats.Most marketers tend to think of search as it relates to audiences typing queries into search engines, but that’s changing. You can now speak directly to Alexa or Google Home and search using your own voice in your own words. Not only is this exciting for us as humans, but it ’ s also pushing the industry to learn more about its consumers and exactly what they want.
People are searching more than ever, probably because they have more ways to perform those searches. It’s your job as a leader and marketer to figure out how to influence search results on these different platforms and formats.That comes down to getting into your audience members’ heads, understanding who they are, and delivering what they want — only then can you start to unlock the analytical and creative processes of optimizing for search.
2. New formats mean new opportunities — but not all will translate into dollars for your brand right away.This increase in search — and ways to search — doesn ’ t necessarily mean you ’ re going to be able to capitalize on it commercially. Think of recipes, for example: People could be using Alexa to search certain recipes as they prepare dinner, but showing up as a result there probably won ’ t translate into dollars for your brand every time. Some formats and types of searches reveal purchase intent, and others don ’ t; this change in search trends just reinforces how important it is for marketers to understand those differences and create and optimize accordingly.
3. Paid search is SEO’s biggest competitor for marketing dollars.
Despite the fact that people tend to scroll straight to organic results on search engine results pages, the paid ads industry is still huge, making pay-per-click one of the biggest competitors for would-be SEO dollars. Sure, PPC can be a great way to test your organic strategy or boost your high-performing organic efforts, but building out your organic SEO efforts is a more effective long-term strategy. Eventually, we’ll see more and more dollars funneled into marketers’ organic search efforts, but a lack of patience is keeping this from happening sooner.
4. Marketers have to remember the long-term benefits of their search strategies.When marketers start making search a priority, it’s not uncommon to see them focus on short-term wins — early signs that things are going well — before they spend a lot of money on tactics that aren’t getting them much closer to their goals. The thing about search is that the biggest benefits typically aren’t visible right away.
Paying to play in the short term is fine to get started, but you have to build your long-term content marketing strategy to create a foundation for your brand and your audience over time. SEO is more of a brand-building and authority-boosting tool than a strict transaction. It doesn’t help that many times, marketers are incentivized to think in the short term, like through monthly or quarterly goals, instead of one to three years down the road. If you put in the time and budget to do it right, it should land you future sales calls, not just sales calls today. Marketers and content creators would do well to remember the big picture as they execute individual search tactics.
5. Content marketing is in a great spot for the future of search.
According to Matthew Edgar, co-owner of Elementive, one of the classic functions of SEO is shifting. In the past, marketers relied on search engines to drive traffic to their sites — but with Google now displaying content on SERPs instead of directing users away from the page and to new sites, this is starting to change.
Google wants to give users as much information and content as possible on SERPs directly instead of forcing them to navigate to and from different sites. This is a powerful reminder for marketers that content marketing must be truly valuable, educational, and engaging to readers, not simply designed to get people to a specific site.
And when people do land on your site — whether they’re coming from a Google search or elsewhere — you’ve got to make sure you’re delivering a meaningful experience with high-quality content. That’s how search engines will know your content is worth ranking or displaying in the first place.
6. The fundamentals behind search will guide marketers through these trends.
Heather Physioc, director of organic search at VML, noted that while the formats of the content we create and how we optimize that content will continue to evolve, the fundamentals will remain the same. Some of the biggest changes we’ve seen have come in how people perform searches, from searches on Ask Jeeves from a desktop computer to mobile and voice searches today. There are dozens of places to search for and consume content, but at the heart of it all is exceptional content.
I get it — keeping up with trends in SEO and actually executing a strategy that generates the kind of results you’re after is challenging. But it’s well worth the effort. It helps you build your brand, attract and engage your audience, and generate leads, sales, and opportunities. Start with these trends, and make SEO a priority for your team. If you don’t, I promise your competitors will.