Out of these trends there are a few important ones that are set to have a big impact, and you will want to keep a close eye on them over the course of the year:
Voice search continues to grow
Already 1 in 5 searches come from voice queries, and as Google Assistant rolls out to more smartphones, voice activated speakers and other devices – that number is likely to continue to rise. The convenience of voice search means that eventually it may even become the way most searches on mobile devices are carried out, and that in turn means that SEO can’t afford to ignore it.
Based on the current trend it is already worth starting to optimize content for voice search by using long-tail keywords and a more conversational syntax.
Featured snippets in more search results
Over the last few years features snippets have started to be displayed in more and more search results and have gradually become the new ‘number one spot’. In fact this trend may be affected by the popularity of voice search as well – as featured snippets are what it returns as answers to queries.
Considering featured snippets already appear on so many search queries, there is no time like the present to start optimizing for them and structuring content so that Google is more likely to turn it into a snippet.
Mobile-first indexing rolled out
Ever since 2016 the number of Google searches on mobile devices have exceeded those on desktop devices. However up till now Google has ranked webpages based on the desktop version of the page.
All that stands to change however, as Google recently announced that the first wave of their mobile-first indexing initiative is underway. As it is implemented, the mobile version of webpages will be used for indexing and ranking – and mobile-friendly websites will undoubtedly get a boost.
Arguably this move could be one of the biggest shifts in Google’s index for some time – and aside from optimizing for mobile you should watch it closely to see how things develop.
Site speed bumps websites
Another big update that recently rolled out was Google’s ‘Speed Update’ that effectively extended site speed as a ranking factor for mobile searches. It has been a factor in desktop searches for some time, and will essentially now affect websites that are slow to load on mobile devices as well.
In the past Google has indicated that it would like pages to load within 3 seconds. That figure makes sense seeing as after that point you’re likely to lose a lot of visitors, and now may face a slight ranking penalty as well.
‘Linkless’ mentions gain weight
Brand mentions that don’t include a link are starting to be used as a ranking factor, and Bing has confirmed that is the case on their search engine. While Google hasn’t formally stated anything yet, some SEO experts believe they are using them as well.
Eventually this trend could depreciate backlinks, or at very least frame them in a much larger context.
Make no mistake while these are the current trends that you should be watching – others may be just over the horizon. That is why it helps to have a team of SEO experts such as Probella to stay on top of trends as they emerge and ensure that your website is optimized to handle any changes to how search engines rankings work.