Search Engine Optimization or simply SEO refers to the activity that attempts to improve search engine rankings. It ensures that a website is found in search engines for words and phrases relevant to what the site is offering.

Similar to other areas in the tech industry, SEO is constantly evolving and requires a good understanding and knowledge of what is new or on the horizon for ranking schemes. Several new SEO trends came to light and dominated the stage this year. Being up to date with these trends will help you achieve top results in search engines and give your business advantage over your competitors.

  • Voice Search Presence

With the increasing popularity and usefulness of AI, voice search has significantly increased. Google reports that 55% of teens and 40% of adults use voice search more than once a day. This is only going to gain steam and chances are that websites that aren’t reachable by voice searches might lose some of their rankings in 2018 and onwards.

As this is quickly becoming popular, a lot of changes to the ranking system are expected to be on the cards. The major changes are likely to be with the location-based content, previous searches, personalized information, and even keyword research based on things that are spoken.

  • Survival of the Fastest

If a site takes a long time to load, it doesn’t matter how good their product is, some people will leave the page before they even see what’s there. Faster loading pages ensure customer retention and result in a significant increase in traffic. According to recent studies, 40% of users will leave a web page if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load.

  • AMP & Mobile optimization

Google officially integrated Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) listings into its mobile search results in February 2016. It is a framework developed to facilitate the loading of web pages on mobile devices. AMP has a great impact on the organic visibility of a website and is considered vitally important. With the proliferation of smart devices, brands and businesses need to put mobile first.

A study by BrightEdge found that 57% of web traffic comes from mobile devices. Moreover, there is a significant difference between the way keywords rank on mobile and the way they rank on the desktop; so content focusing on mobile users is needed to increase visibility chances in mobile search.

It should also be kept in mind that your site can incur a ranking penalty if Google doesn’t find it to be mobile-friendly. Make sure to test it to prevent your ranking being throttled.

  • Visual search

As the web becomes more visually focused, visual search is also making its presence felt. With the launch of Google Lens at 2017 I/O conference, it is deemed the future of search. Pinterest had also launched their Lens product which offers a similar user value. As the wave of visual search continues, expect new visual discovery tools from the big players to push usage as they are heavily invested in it. Hence a focus on this factor can help your organization achieve a top result in search engines.

  • “Link building” techniques

The link building strategies continue to be a key element of SEO positioning. However, the quality of the link holds primary importance. Instead of littering a site with hundreds of low-quality links, a single link on an authority page is suffice.

  • Better visuals & Long-form content

Long-form content is performing better in 2018 than their short-form counterpart. Pages of 1,500 words or more have shown better results in the search engine rankings in terms of organic traffic. Studies reveal longer users-stay on these pages consequently resulting in more backlinks and social shares. However, word length should not be extended just for the heck of it – it must give value to the audience. Using visuals and hierarchy for proper structuring of quality writing can be pivotal for success.

  • Content engagement

As search engines are placing a seemingly ever-increasing priority on content engagement, it plays an even larger role in achieving SEO success overall. Shares, likes, retweets, and social clicks are more important than ever before. For better results, ensure you have a strategy that incorporates social media. The design of a site and visuals of product proves very handy here. Make sure you invest in Graphic and Web Design as users often engage with user-friendly sites. A professional logo design is pertinent to creating user-friendly content and can prove effective in engaging traffic.

  • The Battle of Snippets

As more and more devices are driven by voice interaction, people are getting used to receiving answers via voice. Consequently, they are getting one canonical answer. This is the reason why search engines are pushing featured snippets so aggressively.

A report from Stone Temple Consulting suggests that almost 30% of the test Google search queries show Featured Snippets. This means that the competition among companies trying to appear in “position 0” (top of search result page, above normal search results) in the Search Engine Result Page will be gaining some pace.

  • Intent-based optimization

Search results are becoming timelier and more contextual, and search engines are focusing on matching search results to the unique intent of a searcher’s query. Google’s efforts to integrate AI into its search algorithm so that it can combine historical information, present context and the intent of the query will help to return the most relevant and personalized answer to the user.

Google has recently confirmed that its ranking factors largely depend on the keyword intent. So, for keywords with clear buying intent, Google will prioritize e-commerce sites because the goal of the searcher is to buy. On the other hand, keywords with the intent to find more information will get highly credible media sites in the search.

That’s why a shift from generic content optimization for keywords to more contextual intent-based content optimization can be clearly noticed in searches.

  • Artificial Intelligence

The new spring in artificial intelligence,” according to Google co-founder Sergey Brin, “is the most significant development in computing in my lifetime.

In an interview, Google confirmed the RankBrain, Google machine learning AI system, is to be the third most important factor in determining to rank on Google search, along with links and content. Algorithms are becoming smarter to improve customer experience; hence the old methods of gaming the rankings are becoming obsolete, and the quality content from a human perspective is being ranked higher in Google.