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2018 – SEO & Content Trends

Happy New Year……..(and welcome back to work day).

If, like us, you are reaching for the coffee, revisiting those “parked 2017 to-dos” and completing last years’ time sheets – give yourself a break and spend 15 mins reading our (obligatorily) 2018 SEO and Content Trends.

The 3 Biggest SEO trends impact in 2018?

A Technical Renaissance –  SPAs, PWAs and Headless CMS

I think we are on the cusp of a ‘new’ wave of web design – the rise of the SPA.  In 2018, businesses will look to standout by creating richer experiences using Java Script frameworks such as Angular, React and Ember etc.

SPAs are web apps that loads a single HTML page and dynamically updates that page as the user interacts with the app – GMail is probably the best example of this. However, there are loads of great brand examples emerging. SPAs are fast and easy to navigate for the user, while developers benefit from templates that allow them to customise, test and optimise pages efficiently.

Over the last 12 months we have taken on an increasing number of remedial SPA projects, as sites have tanked without appropriate SEO considerations in place. The issues of getting crawlable content in the DOM takes me back to the old days of trying to rank framed or Flash based sites – SPAs gone bad, can go really bad.

Google are really pushing PWAs, and for good reason. By adding a service worker and a manifest you can bring your website or SPA out of the browser to work like a native mobile app – accessible from the home screen. Say “Hello” to full screen browsing, push notifications and “Goodbye” to the need to maintain web, iOS and Android codebases.

To facilitate and future-proof for a multi device world, I expect more businesses to adopt headless CMS.  A headless CMS is a central content repository from which you can publish content to a host of digital platforms: web, mobile apps, in-store displays, VR, wearables and IoT devices.

Ultimately, these technologies enable us to create better experiences for the end user and will keep technical SEOs in a job for years to come. Win – Win.


Our Research Obsession

Studies show we are consuming more content than ever. We research every little thing, very quickly, on mobile, in hundreds of ‘micro moments’ throughout the day. Big tickets such as buying a house or car, have always been considered purchases but what about toothpaste or salt?

Call it a by-product of having the world’s biggest library in our pockets that we want to know about everything. We want to know “does charcoal toothpaste whiten teeth?” and (what are the) “health benefits of Himalayan pink salt?”. Incidentally both are rising searches up over 200% YoY.

This change in user behaviour along with brands looking to tap into the next cohort of customers (Gen-Z) will shape our content future strategies. Gen-Z are said to become more valuable than the experiential-first millennial. Gen-Z are motivated by authenticity and heavily favour peer to peer/influencer reviews over out-dated ads.

When the two collide, brands and publishers will need to give customers what they want – more content. SEOs and Google have long talked “Content is King” but the research obsession will make it “Emperor”.  Expect mass digital storytelling and heaps of video in various format.

A recent YouTube survey claims that 4 in 10 millennial subscribers say their favourite “understands them better than their friends”.  Scary…


Voice search – the next frontier

It’s the 2017 2018 buzz term that’s not going away! We are at peak mobile penetration in the western world. The next frontier for the big tech companies is “the battle of the living room” with Comscore predictiing that “50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020

Amazon’s bestselling product over Black Friday was Echo Dot (powered by Alexia), which is crazy considering Amazon account for around 55% of total sales on that day.  Google have cut prices on their Home and plan on releasing more models this year to compete. Microsoft Invoke and the Alexia-enabled Sonos have also joined the party, but perhaps the biggest splash will come with the launch of Apple’s HomePod ion 2018. Their acquisition of Shazam and the rumoured retirement of iTunes downloads indicates that they are shifting to “stream-first-thinking”.  Expect a mass-market campaign and the typical fanfare to follow suit.

Despite the proliferation of devices, I don’t expect the actual voice search mechanic changing too much from what it is now.  Wikipedia and Google/Bing’s featured answers do a pretty good job of telling us “how old is [insert favourite actress’s name]”. Where brands can win, is building engagement and advocacy via intelligent, value ad, 3rd party Apps – known as (Amazon) Skills or (Google) Actions.  Like the early Mobile race, the “the battle of the living room” will be dominated by brands scrambling to make sense of the new format and ever evolving user behaviour. The challenge will be to create something that seamlessly integrates with our lives, because, like mobile apps, I expect we’ll install lots of Skills/Actions and never use them.

Digital content creators have been here before. We’ve shifted from creating rich desktop experience to fast but narrow to responsive mobile sites, but the biggest challenge will be shifting to a screen-less environment where we still need to surprise and delight.


Evolution of the SERPs in 2018

Google has recently lost six advertising slots, so they need ensure the SERPs are still an appealing place for advertisers. A way to do to this is to ensure people spend more time on page, therefore expect to see Google and Bing to continue to transition from being search engines to becoming answer engines. To do this expect to see deep, more visible integrations across wider keyword set – not just core commercial terms but much longer tail conversational terms.

I expect to see Shopping become more prevalent beyond further up the funnel. On average, if you have a competitive price, they provide enhanced CTR or revenue for the platform.  The Knowledge Graph and the PAA will continue to evolve and aggregate and embed more content from multiple sources, including YouTube. Local business listings will be huge in a mobile-first SERP and back to acting as a two-way Social channel for brands, in a more meaningful manner than the awful G+ attempt.

I predict PPC moving to 5 slots as data will show we are getting more comfortable scrolling larger screened mobile devices.

Hopefully, the longer organic snippets will stay, if Google’s test and learn data holds up. Expect all sorts of UI tests.

Also ran trends/declines:

  • Native Mobile Apps – downloads and usage will continue to decline as mobile websites improve user experience (Google’s mobile-first indexing will accelerate this) and new responsive technologies, like PWAs and SPAs we discussed earlier, will provide immersive, app like experiences via a browser.
  • Internet of Things (IoT) – is going to be a slow burner and one which will be defined post battle of the living room and by your choice of smart home ecosystem.  Does anyone care that they can turn the kettle on with their phone? It’s not like it pours it and brings you a biscuit?!
  • Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) – so much of iPhone X launch and ultimate success will hinge around the adoption of VR/AR. So, expect the biggest company in the world to make it happen, just not this year.  Like the year of the mobile, it’ll take 3-5 years before the mainstream fully adopt.

Happy 2018 from twentysix team!