2018 SEO Marketing Trends: Voice Search, Comprehensive Content and ‘Linkless’ Mentions
Last week we outlined the biggest digital marketing trends for 2018, giving you, dear reader, a nice little industry-first insight into what kinds of elements to get on top of next year.
Now, we’re narrowing things down.
Amidst the countdown to Christmas, we’ll be tackling the biggest trends to sweep over the different sectors of digital marketing for 2018. From SEO to PPC, content marketing and web development, we’re going to dive into the latest predictions and give you some tangible suggestions to take on-board in preparation for the new year.
The evolution of SEO
We’re kicking off this series with your favourite digital marketing acronym: SEO. Since the launch of the world’s first website in 1991, the art of search engine optimisation has gone through more transformations than David Bowie. From stripped-back, bare-bones usability to the engaging and personalised content we see today, websites have undergone immense changes. What’s driven those changes, you ask? Well, with the barrage of websites post-1991, it was the need for an efficient results-sorting system. Enter: SEO – a way to filter and organise websites based on keywords.
But enough about the past; this blog post is all about the future. Let’s get digging into what SEO trends are forecasted to dominate next year, and how you can go about implementing them into your business strategy.
Okay, 2017 may have been designated ‘the year of voice search’, but this form of marketing is only gaining more and more traction as technology advances. The ease of giving a verbal command and having your handheld device or smart home hub deliver the necessary information is hugely appealing, making everyday activities like driving and cooking super-simple.
Given the improved rate in which voice commands are now accurately captured, the growing prominence of voice search is certainly understandable. Where Google’s word recognition accuracy rate stood at below 80% in 2013, that rate now exceeds 90%. While these kinds of figures are pretty impressive, Chinese web services company Baidu has stated that voice search will reach game-changing status when it can attain a 99% voice recognition accuracy rate.
And, thanks to the impressive speed of the current rate of improvement, experts forecast voice search to make up 50% of all searches by the year 2020.
What you can do about it:
Keep in mind that users who engage with voice search are likely to ask full questions. This means that voice search calls for a whole new keyword research routine: one that is centred on normal, conversational sentences as opposed to clunky query lingo.
Tools such as Rank Tracker are particularly useful in discovering questions voice searchers are likely to ask. Under ‘Keyword Research’, select ‘Suggest Keywords’, then choose ‘Common Questions’, enter your keywords and voila – you’re presented with a comprehensive list of likely questions users will be researching via voice search.
The quality of your content remains a huge ranking factor, and something that you should be paying close attention to in the new year. Search engines are committed to pleasing their users, which means they want to direct them to the most in-depth and relevant content available. One way for platforms like Google to assess the quality of a webpage’s content is via Latent Semantic Indexing.
In case you are yet to encounter this term, Latent Semantic Indexing – LSI – helps search engines identify the context in which keywords are used, thereby enabling them to deliver more accurate search results. Search Engine Land neatly describes the process:
“By looking at billions of pages and terms used in them, Google learns which terms are related and builds expectations as to the terms that are likely to appear in a given context. This helps Google decide whether a piece of content is ‘comprehensive’.”
As it’s becoming increasingly harder to prove to Google that you have great content, it’s vital to your marketing strategy that you fully grasp the relationship between a user’s search intent and your specific keywords. In other words, you need to understand the importance of a piece of content and the context it belongs in.
What you can do about it:
There are a few ways you can go about finding LSI keywords to implement in your SEO campaign:
- Enter your keyword in the search engine bar. From here, take note of the ‘context keywords’ that automatically appear next to your keyword, as these offer a good indication of which terms are most popular in search queries.
- Use the LSI Keyword Generator. Of course, you can always go straight to the source (so to speak) and type your keyword into the LSI Keyword Generator to receive a healthy list of related keywords.
- Check out the SERPS Keyword Research Database. Similar to the LSI Keyword Generator, SERPs’ rank tracking software enables you to punch in your keyword then view a list of related terms, including their search volume and CPC rates.
Whilst we’re all for championing LSI-friendly keywords, keep in mind that your goal is to choose words that add context without overstuffing your content. If a given keyword doesn’t sound natural, get rid of it.
For years, links have been hailed as the holy grail of trust for search engines. While link juice certainly still wields a great amount of power in the optimisation of webpages, we’re increasingly seeing a shift towards linkless mentions.
An online ‘name-drop’ holds substantial weight as an off-page ranking factor. This trend has kind of floated around the digital sphere for a few years now as a result of the crackdown on manipulative, black-hat link spam. However, 2018 is predicted to further prod SEO technicians towards recognising that simply talking about a business is enough to boost your rankings.
This means that any mention of your brand – from news stories to reviews, forums, blog comments, podcasts and video transcripts – is beneficial, regardless of whether a backlink to your website is included. In fact, linkless mentions are often a more long-term investment, working to spread your brand name via one of the oldest and most popular marketing hacks in history: word of mouth.
What you can do about it:
Of course, the best way to get your name out there is by producing and disseminating great-quality content. In doing so, other successful websites and bloggers will be happy to give your brand name a mention if you can establish yourself as a power player in your industry. Remember: the next natural step for any consumer that’s genuinely interested in your brand is to look you up themselves.
Furthermore, if you want to take additional action and keep track of how and where your brand is being mentioned online, you can use a web monitoring tool such as Awario. This platform also lets you join in on real-time discussions and spread your brand’s word to new audiences – triple bonus.
Focus on user experience
How often have you clicked on a website but exited it after struggling to navigate your way around?
Naturally, any business with an online presence should dread a high bounce rate, as it indicates that while you manage to grab you consumers’ attention, you cannot maintain it. Your website might have all the right SEO ingredients, but it simply won’t rank if it doesn’t offer a user-friendly design.
A seamless customer journey is becoming more and more important, with 88% of online consumers not returning to a website after a ‘bad experience’. Following on from those stats, it might interest you to know that the customer experience is expected to overtake price and product by the year 2020.
Hence, offering users the most straightforward pathway through your website is simply the best way to turn a visitor into a customer.
What you can do about it:
Good UX design comes down to a whole bunch of factors, including parcelling all the necessary information up in a neat and concise way, sticking to plain and simple colour themes, ensuring a super-quick load-speed and optimising your site for mobile devices.
However, just like any other pillar of digital marketing, the epitome of good UX design is perpetually evolving. You need to continually critically assess the design and layout of your website, and ensure you’re making it as simple and engaging as possible according to the latest trends. (More on this in next week’s blog post).
AI and machine learning
Last but not least, the final ranking factor making our 2018 list is the rise of artificial intelligence. Whilst the likes of AI and machine learning have already disrupted the way search results are ranked, next year is predicted to bring further changes that could seriously switch things up.
As it currently stands, keywords and metrics are already becoming increasingly automated, along with real-time data aggregation solutions. According to Forbes contributor AJ Agrawal, “AI and marketing are going to be inseparable in the near future”, with the possibilities for automated content meaning an increased accuracy of keyword inclusion and optimisation. Sure, it may sound ideal, but bear in mind that plenty of consumers will still yearn after a human voice from an actual writer.
In terms of how AI and machine learning might impact data, the likely shifts are going to be mammoth for the industry. AI will be able to aggregate and organise keywords and search terms, as well as pinpoint how to best use these terms. This effectively means instantaneous updates, where search terms are churned through in a matter of mere seconds before spitting out the ones that will deliver the highest ROI according to real-time data. Unsurprisingly, developments such as this are expected to totally alter current methods for search term strategy and analysis.
What you can do about it:
Simply put, keep your finger on the pulse. The AI revolution is well and truly upon us, and if you don’t get ahead now, you risk falling behind indefinitely. The future is bursting with possibilities, and the quicker you latch on, the better chance you have at outclassing your competitors.