SEO In 2018 By Eric Van Cleave-Partner and Digital Strategist-TIV Branding

Search Engine Optimization

In reviewing 2017 and getting ready for 2018, I have been forced to take a close look at SEO and Online Marketing strategies and the following are some of the thoughts that I have shared with my clients in the last couple of months. So in the spirit of a Q and A session-here goes:

At this time next year, how will the day-to-day job of being an SEO be different? Why?

I think that a great deal of time will be spent on the following areas in 2018 as opposed to 2017:

  1. Mobile Sites-Mobile UX in terms of load time and use of AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) will become more prevalent. This is not new, but 2018 will be the year that Google, for one, institutes mobile first ranking.
  2. Content will have to be more engaging and in keeping with brand voice to engage customers. Content Writers will be required to write from the point of view of the potential customer, not worrying as much about keyword density, text to code ratio and other traditional SEO guidelines.
  3. Direct Traffic-I will spend time with each client on ensuring that site functionality will continue to keep customers engaged, and that each site has a plan and to build strong direct website traffic, which has become a key element of sites that enjoy high ranking in SERPs.
  4. Link Structure-Link structure will be closely tied to social media platforms and the links from some social media to content on the website, both from client social sites and through social shares. Relevant links that website visitors would actually use are the most important.

What are the biggest themes/trends in SEO you expect to see next year? Why?

  1. SEO Will Continue to Be Difficult-This is not news to those in the industry who have been driven out by numerous algorithm changes, experimentation of how SERPs display, and technical innovations like AMP. The thing is, gaining organic placement has always been a time and work intensive activity, so no real change there. I think that understanding which strategy will work for each individual client and refraining from using the same playbook and methodology for every client is a must moving ahead.
  2. Marketers Will use Paid Solutions to augment Organic SEO Efforts. Display and PPC have improved dramatically. Bing has brought its paid platform to the point of relevance and often delivers lower cost per click and conversion than Google Adwords. Programmatic ad programs have been extremely effective in reaching out to consumers and have been effective for clients with larger paid budgets. Social Media has become a bargain to gain significant engagement, especially on Facebook and Linked In.
  3. Featured Snippets/Answer Boxes-This is the new frontier of organic search, and will be territory that inspires spirited competition for placement. As web users begin to use and trust this feature more, learning how to optimize for these placements without becoming Wikipedia will be a challenge for SEOs in the coming year.

In thinking over 2017, is there anything that surprises you in hindsight? If so, what? Why?

I think that once you gain a certain level of expertise in online marketing, nothing is truly a surprise anymore. This is because the same patterns keep repeating themselves. There are far more things, in my estimation, that are not surprising based on past events in SEO. Here are a couple of them:

  1. The One Man Show-The biggest thing that I hear from others in this industry is that they are surprised that they cannot do it all for a client themselves. SEO is becoming complicated and time intensive. It requires a team of SEOs, content writers, creative folks, marketing managers, branding experts, programmers, web developers and the involvement of the client to ensure that strategy is in keeping with marketing plans to create a successful SEO campaign in 2018. Clients will not be able to say that “our SEO guys handle that, and I rarely talk to them” in 2018. There are simply too many moving parts, and too many facets of successful SEO to not have a team. So in 2018 and the years to come, I am certain that I will continue to not be surprised that I rely on my team more and more each year to help my clients grow their online traffic.
  2. New Developments-Many of the “surprises” that occur are changes in algorithms designed to improve the quality of search results displays and the quality of websites that search engines feature in SERPs. If a new website technology improves UX, expect that sooner or later it will show up as a ranking factor. If fewer local map results create less clutter for searches conducted on mobile platforms, expect that to happen. Above all, if you are an SEO and you have found a shortcut that creates an advantage over your competition and it does not involve Google being able to process accurate search results more efficiently, a superior UX, faster load time, or more useful information being displayed on your site, Google, for one will eventually close that loophole and the remainder of the search engines will closely follow. Playing the game by the rules and consistently working on improving your web presence is the only way to ensure sustained success.

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