12 SEO Experts Share Their 2018 Predictions

SEO, when done well, can be a formidable power in your marketing strategy. Implementing an SEO strategy is low cost, increases traffic and increases your ROI. Not to mention it builds your brand credibility through higher visibility and higher ranking.

If you have a business online, there is no way you cannot be aware of the benefits of SEO. What you will have also realized is that SEO is not as simple as it may seem. With ever-changing algorithms to pander to, being an expert in SEO is a full-time job requiring endless research and professional development to stay ahead of the curb and keep your business in the spotlight.

Predictions for the Future of SEO

So what does the future have in store? We interviewed 12 SEO experts to get their insights on what is coming in 2018, as well as their top tips to master your SEO efforts.

The news that everyone is talking about is Google's change to their search index; they are going mobile-first.  This news broke about a year ago, but it is just now that they have announced the commencement of this migration with a handful of sites now converted to the mobile-first index.

Optimizing for mobile must be a top priority for 2018. Beyond mobile, optimization for voice search is another hot topic that businesses and marketers must get on top of if they wish to be found by Siri or Alexa.

Here is what our experts have to say:

Mastering SEO in 2018

Name: Derek Hales

Credentials: Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Modern Castle. SEO professional, serial entrepreneur, and content marketer.

Immediately post-college Derek began working for iCrossing, one of the most respected SEO agencies in the country. There he lead SEO strategy for two Fortune-10 companies and a number of other Fortune-100 companies. He has launched 3 major self-funded content platforms in his career. The first, a video game guide site that peaked at 50,000 unique visitors/day (90% organic). His second, Sleepopolis.com, a platform on all things sleep, that grew from 0 to 1,000,000 page views per month over a 3 year period (85% organic). Derek's most recent project is ModernCastle.com, which he expects to follow similar trends to his previous sites. 


Predictions for SEO in 2018

Over the years the importance of mobile has gradually grown. However, I believe in 2018 we are going to see the importance of mobile optimization reaching new heights. Google has been talking about their mobile first index for quite a while now. At this point, it seems an almost guarantee that it will launch in 2018. It won't be good enough to simply have a responsive design. The larger experience and user engagement will become more critical than ever, but especially with how the experience and engagement are felt on mobile devices. To that end, I think we'll see page speed optimization become more important. Page weight, server response times, server hardware/architecture, DNS routing, HTTP requests, CSS, JavaScript, browsing caching, and more, it all needs to be optimized. Every millisecond counts in a world where mobile is first, and mobile engagement is just as important as the content experience.

Top tips to master SEO in 2018

Make sure you cover all of the essentials. First, build a strong foundational platform that allows for complete and robust site-wide and page level optimizations. Second, build exceptional content that consumers want to engage with and share. Build something you yourself would share. Third, promote your content. Share it with others who would be interested. Once you've got the basics taken care of then focus on how those elements are incorporated into the world of mobile. 

Name: Thom Craver

Credentials: Senior SEO Analyst for CBS Interactive, managing all the CBS News properties, including 60 Minutes, Face the Nation and 48 Hours.

A seasoned Web developer since 1993, Thom is a technical SEO and digital analytics veteran with nearly two decades of SEO practitioning. From system administration to coding to marketing to measurement, few have the full 360-degree view of modern day digital marketing.

In 1997, Thom started his first Web consultancy, New York Web Works, and never looked back. His career has included time at several renowned digital marketing agencies and hundreds of consultancy clients both large and small in nearly every vertical. 

Predictions for SEO in 2018

Schema will continue to evolve and grow in importance in 2018. As personal assistants and voice search gain popularity, watch for new markup that will allow site owners to control what the assistant will read back to searchers. Google's recent move to include Google Assistant on devices running older versions of Android is a reversal from their previously announced plans for the product. This indicates an inclination to grow voice search for the future.

Trust will become increasingly important for publishers. The newly proposed publishing principles schema mimic The Trust Project  core trust indicators. To this end, citation-style linking out of your site to relevant content will also become a differentiator. The quality of those outbound links will likely weigh more as a ranking signal, as will compliance with The Trust Project as it gains momentum. Additionally, watch for new Google UI indicators to highlight trusted content. 

Top tips to master SEO in 2018

For 2018, focus on getting basic SEO elements right. Have quality content, straightforward site architecture, speed and mobile-friendliness mixed with quality, relevant schema. Be careful not to overdo it. Google Search Console warns sites with needlessly abundant schema code. While schema continues to be important for Google's AI machine to learn, it's important to use it wisely and appropriately.

Google continues to grow their AMP teams. Using AMP can provide a great mobile experience, and traffic gains from AMP carousels can be huge. But ensure your site's AMP and canonical content match. In February, Google will start penalizing you if it doesn't. 

Name: Wes Marsh

Credentials: Director of Digital Marketing, Solodev

Wes has 10+ years of experience marketing for businesses.

Predictions for SEO in 2018

In 2018, expect RankBrain to continue leveraging user interactions like clicks, dwell time, bounce rates, and deeper clicks into the website as part of their machine learning to use context over content for rank determinations.

SEOs will also have to optimize for voice search as Google rolls out their mobile-first index. Not only does your content need to be optimized for voice search, but your overall mobile UX will be critical to your rankings. This will include responsive designs, the size of your tap-targets as related to UX, site speed, and more.

Top tips to master SEO in 2018

The biggest tip I have for marketers and business owners is to think of your site in the way Google does: Is this site the best possible website for users? If it's not, then make the changes needed to enhance your site to deserve a top rank. That means your content covers the topic searched (length), uses other relevant terms to the primary keyword (LSI Keywords), is useful to others (b/c they don't bounce off and they stay on the page), and it offers a great mobile experience. Google's mobile-first index will bring a major shift for SEOs to where mobile sites are now considered the primary version of the site - even with a responsive design. This makes sense since we know over 60 percent of all Google searches are coming from mobile devices and that number is only projected to grow. 

Name: Cari Bacon

Credentials: Director of Project Management - SEO at SEO Inc

Predictions for SEO in 2018

Having a site that is not considered secure will make it obsolete. Some search engines have already placed warnings next to search results for unsecured sites (http), but in 2018, you may not even be in the search results.

Voice search will take over. We have already seen mobile searches overcome desktop in some verticals, and with the digital assistants, I fully expect to have voice search to have an even more of an impact.

Top tips to master SEO in 2018

Get your site secure! And make sure all of the URLs are redirected correctly.

Use how to, and what is the type of questions on your site, with useful and concise answers. This will help with voice search results. 

Name: Joe Sloan

Credentials: Marketing & Communications Coordinator for Advice Me​​​​​dia, managing SEO efforts for advicemedia.com. 

Predictions for SEO in 2018

Three large trends that I believe will be very influential over 2018 are site security, responsive design, and quick answer rankings.

Site Security - with Google's recent announcement that they will be displaying sites that are unsecured moving forward, one has to believe that site security and https will continue to play a larger role in search engine rankings.

Responsive Design - besides the influx of new devices that can connect to the internet, from phones, tablets, desktops, to watches your site will need to work on any device. But more importantly, with Google continuing to provide the quickest answer, they have now started to show a small window into websites on Google Maps on tablets instead of opening your site directly. These trends will continue and show that your site will need to work in any window size, not just with specific devices in mind. Also, AMP pages are going to continue to become more important for clients with significant blog traffic to continue to rank well.

Quick answer rankings - this has been very hard to track, but we have seen certain success with clients that show up for rich snippets answers but we are uncertain how this affects traffic positively or negatively. But the biggest piece that will need to be tracked closely is how quick answer rich snippet content correlates with voice search traffic. Also, Google recently announced they are increasing the average meta description so having SEO best practices in place to make sure Google can pull the relevant information will be crucial.

Top tips to master SEO in 2018

Content is king. If your customers are asking you the question they are asking Google. Ensure you have educational content for customers no matter their buyer's stage. 

Name: Damon Burton

Credentials: President of SEO National, a consulting company and UtahSites, a web design company. 

Predictions for SEO in 2018

In 2018, mobile will be increasingly important which means your website must be responsive to display content correctly and quickly.

Top tips to master SEO in 2018

The best things business owners can do to master SEO in 2018 is to start by optimizing their website for select keywords to improve search rankings, attract more readers and convert them to customers using these steps: 

  1. Verify your rankings- Search your designated keywords on Google or use a tracking tool like Advanced WebRankings to determine where your webpages rank and find areas where you can improve. 
  2. Use alternative keywords- Try the Google Keyword Planner
  3. a thesaurus or your competition to find alternative keywords you can add to your website.
  4. Diversify- Ensure your keyword targets are referenced throughout the entirety of your website and not just on the landing page. Repurpose content using articles, videos infographics and more to show your site is diverse and a well-rounded resource for your keyword targets.
  5. WordPress plugs- If you are using WordPress, I highly recommend using plugins to speed up your website's load time and help search engines more easily find your content. Some of the most effective include Yoast SEO and W3 Total Cache

Name: David Mulqueen

Credentials: Project Manager at Odd Dog Media

David executed an SEO campaign this year that won the 2017 Landy award for Best Local SEO Initiative. 

Predictions for SEO in 2018

I don't see SEO changing in 2018. The fundamentals of backlinks, content, site architecture, on & off site items etc. are going to play just as important of a role as they have the last few years. I do predict a decrease in CTR's to websites from local business listings. Google has made Google My Business listings extremely user-friendly so people can contact business owners for appointments or questions without even visiting a website.

Top tips to master SEO in 2018

My top tips for business owners is to get comfortable with your GMB page and learn how to take advantage of it's components. There have been some great features released in 2017 i.e. posts, appointments, text messaging, FAQ's and it's going to really important to use that technology to help persuade new customers into your place of business. 

Name: Jonathan Alonso

Credentials: Digital Marketing Manager for uBreakiFix

Predictions for SEO in 2018

Before 2018 rings into a new year, Google is already making a big shift into mobile first indexing, which will impact a large portion of sites that are not mobile responsive-ready. Focusing on optimizing your site for mobile including technical specifications like speed, meta tags, content and user experience will help in making sure there is no drop in traffic and at the least remain consistent on mobile.

Other than mobile with the new push of AI in search and the evolution of Rankbrain, Google is looking for sites that meet the needs of its customers and users. 

Criteria include: Is it answering the user's question? Is the site fast enough on mobile platforms? What options does the user have? How close in proximity is this business to the user? More than ever before, Marketers need to focus on their site, content, and technical SEO in 2018 more than ever before rather than focusing on trying to rank for specific keywords.

Top tips to master SEO in 2018

Focus on your user experience within your website. How can I get my traffic to convert on mobile? What content do I need to answer my customers questions within relevant pages? Being focused on your customers first and business second will help you increase the opportunists for more SERPS.

Dig deep into understanding your FAQ's, What are customers asking? How can you best answer their questions? If it is price based, Create a comparison table between you and your competitors. If it is a how-To create the content on how-to for your product, or best practice in the forms of lists, numbers, data so it can be informational for your customer and gain/win that trust from your earned traffic.

This will help in winning higher funnel customers in the research phase that will convert later when making a purchase decision.

Name: Sommer Sharon

Credentials: Entrepreneur and Owner of Sleigh Consulting, a digital marketing company specializing in SEO. 

Sommer has 14+ years experience working in online marketing.

Predictions for SEO in 2018

Google will roll out its mobile-first search index, combining the mobile and desktop indexes into one with the index crawling the mobile version of a page first. This also means Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) is going to become even more important in 2018. Google will encourage more structured data mark up in 2018, as part of improving the user experience. And search engines will also favor meta descriptions written for voice results as between 40-55% of people (according to Google) use voice search daily.

Top tips to master SEO in 2018

  1. Mark up your content in structured data using schema.org.

  2. Keep creating great content (content and authority will stay king).

  3. Optimize your content for voice results. The general recommendation is to read your copy out loud to make sure it sounds conversational.

  4. Have a mobile site that uses AMP, and make sure your structured data, alt tags, meta descriptions, etc. are setup the same as on your desktop site. 

Name: Justin Knott

Credentials: President, Intrepy Healthcare Marketing

Predictions for SEO in 2018

I believe two of the major predictions and changes in 2018 for SEO are the increase in mobile first indexing for SEO and the continued, accelerated growth of voice search. With Google already beginning to institute mobile first indexing for websites, businesses are going to need to start looking at their website's overall SEO strategy, UX/UI mobile design, site speed and integrating AMPs pages in early 2018. Secondly, utilization of voice search will continue to grow in 2018 causing businesses to need to adopt a more fluid, natural long-tail search query strategy for SEO. When people search utilizing voice they tend to search in complete statements, example: How do I change a car tire? vs change car tire.

Top tips to master SEO in 2018

A tip for businesses in 2018 to master SEO in a particular industry or vertical is to focus on a well thought out, researched-based content marketing strategy. Once you have established processes and procedures for producing high quality, long-form content and the proper distribution channels take advantage of software like Google Analytics to evaluate and adjust your strategy for maximum effectiveness. 

Name: Lacey Creaser

Credentials: Digital Strategist at Jackson Spalding.

Lacey has more than 12 years of digital/SEO experience working with major brands like Kimberly Clark and Starbucks. Jackson Spalding was founded in 1995 with a vision to be the most trusted and respected marketing communications agency. The agency today has more than 150 full-time employees throughout the United States. 

Predictions for SEO in 2018

Mobile and voice search will lead the way. More than half of mobile searches are conducted on a mobile device. If your website and content are not optimized for mobile indexing and user intent, you could be skipped over for the ones that are. This is your chance to push beyond competitors by making your website and content mobile-friendly and responsive, fast loading, and driven by the user's needs.

Top tips to master SEO in 2018

Old SEO tricks are out and user-driven experiences are in. Shortcuts just won't work anymore. Google wants the best for its users and you should, too. Understand user intent, then create content they will care about and a user experience that matches their desired journey. Spend time identifying user need states and the gaps in industry conversations online. Then, to be successful, spend your time creating quality and crawlable content, coupled with a solid website experience with a mobile and voice search component. People want responsive design, fast page load times, easy to digest content and localized convenient search results. Given them what they want, not what you want. 

Name: Winston Burton

Credentials: VP of SEO, Acronym

Winston Burton joined Acronym in 2014 with over ten years of experience in search marketing. Prior to joining Acronym, Winston was the VP of SEO at Havas Media, one of the world's top ten global ad agencies. He started the SEO practice for Havas and built the practice to include clients such as Choice Hotels, Fidelity, Exxon, Volvo, and Marc Jacobs. Winston spearheaded SEO strategy, including content marketing, mobile, link building, and all technical areas of SEO. Winston's career also included the SEO Manager role at Rosetta and time at Zeta Interactive. 

Predictions for SEO in 2018

SEO is going to continue to shift towards mobile and increasingly queries will be from answer box and voice search, while structured data will also be important - and is a good way to send information to search engines in a way they understand. Speed and user experience will also be critical.

Top tips to master SEO in 2018

To maintain and/or increase your visibility for 2018, brands must do the following:

  1. Create high-quality content that is not only relevant, but useful in the moment of need and meets end user intent at all stages of the increasingly fragmented user journey.

  2. Consider using AMP or other technology to make sure you have a fast-loading website that provides a great experience across all devices and platforms.

  3. You should use structured data to provide search engines with the information they need to better understand what's on your site to maximize clicks, visits, and conversions.

  4. Have a sound content strategy with content that answers questions and ranks in position 0 (the answer box) to dominate answer box and voice search queries. 

Experts in SEO

At Spooky Digital, we live and breathe Search Engine Optimization. Not an algorithm changes without our knowledge, allowing us to be nimble and continually delivering the best results for our clients.

If you want to speak more about an SEO plan for the new year, give us a call on 917-633-6518 or visit our website for more information about SEO.

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