Here in the studio, we LOVE our seasonal scensts: pumpkin spice, apple cinnamon, and soon we’ll be smelling the warm aroma of holiday pine. As 2017 comes to a close, it’s a crucial time for digital marketers to collect and analyze the year’s work of data in preparation for the new year. Soon, our team will begin strategizing 2018 digital marketing plans for our own clients. That brings up many discussions on where we think the future of search engine optimization (SEO) and digital marketing is going in 2018 and beyond.
The world of digital marketing changes rapidly (sometimes even daily). Google updates its search algorithm 500 – 600 times a year—calculate that out and that is on average more than once per day. Much of the time, these changes are so minor you will not see any effect in your rankings; however, Google does launch big changes which can shift your results.
So without knowing what Google will do next, how can we understand where the future of SEO is going?
History of SEO: Where it has Been
SEO tactics began in the late 1990’s soon after Google launched in 1997. Two big problems arose with Google when it first started out:
- Quality of content being shown to users was poor
- People struggled to get their quality information seen
Early on, there were no specific ranking criteria. People soon started catching on to ways to get their information seen; and therefore, began keyword stuffing, buying spammy links, and creating duplicate content. This, in turn, reduced the quality of content seen.
Google caught on to the mayhem and soon developed an algorithm to in hope to pull only the best content on the web. In 2004, Google began to penalize websites using black hat SEO strategies and began focusing on white hat strategies.
While early algorithms were not anywhere near perfect, Google kept improving. In fact, many of the updates that make Google what it is today came out in the last 5 years, including the mobile-friendly update in 2015 which caused many business owners to quickly make their website mobile friendly.
Google has come an extremely long way in the last 19 years and is still continuously improving its algorithm. However, over Google’s 19 years of existence, one thing has always remained in the forefront: Google’s commitment to quality content.
The Future of SEO in 2018
In 2018, 2019, and even 2050, content will always be key. What changes; however, is the way users want their content to be communicated and the different platforms customers can find information.
1. SEO Tactics Must Include Mobile Capabilities
In 2015, Google announced it will favor websites who are mobile friendly. Why? Because that’s what users were using to find their information. More and more people were completing a search on their mobile phone, and in turn, wanted to come across answers they could read on a small mobile device.
This shift towards mobile isn’t going anywhere. In fact, over half of searches are coming from a mobile device.
SEO in 2018 is going to continue to be geared towards mobile-friendly searches. In 2016, Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) was first launched to the market and since, has become a leading way news publishers publish articles online. While Google has not said AMP pages are indeed a ranking factor, they do contribute towards major factors: site speed, responsiveness, and more. For those reasons, we are continuously seeing AMP pages have a slight boost.
2. Engaging Content is Always a Must
In a recent Q&A, Andrey Lipattsev, a Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google, mentioned that content is one of the top three ranking factors Google uses. As Google becomes smarter using artificial intelligence, quality content is increasingly important.
In 2018 and beyond, content needs to unique, relevant, and engaging. Structured content that is easy to read and navigate isn’t just important now but will be even more important in the future.
3. Importance of Inbound Marketing
One phrase digital marketers often hear is SEO is dead. This is far from the truth; SEO is a crucial tool for digital marketing success. In Google’s early days before Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, search engines were THE way to get information. However, over the years, there has been a shift from just SEO to inbound marketing.
The difference between Inbound Marketing and SEO
“Simply put, SEO is a tactic used for inbound marketing strategies. While SEO is not the only tactic, it’s one that helps you get found online through search engines.” – Brandon West, CEO of PHOS Creative. Learn more about the differences between Inbound Marketing and SEO.
Here at PHOS, our team uses SEO as an inbound marketing tactic to increase exposure online. However, we’re predicting that in 2018 and beyond, other platforms will be equally as important to a business’ online success. These other inbound marketing tactics include email marketing, social media marketing, and paid advertising.
Planning Next Year’s Strategy
As far as planning 2018’s SEO strategy, keep these three things in mind:
- Make sure your content looks great on mobile devices
- Content has always been and will always be king.
- Don’t forget to market that content and use inbound marketing tactics to increase overall online exposure.
And remember, the way people use Google is constantly evolving, meaning SEO must change as well. The only winning SEO strategy is one that’s ongoing, strategic, and driven by users.