It’s hard to believe we’re already part of the way through summer, and really, the year. In just six months, I’ve witnessed one of the biggest shifts in SEO and digital marketing in years – all because technology is finally catching up with the human desire for more information.
But don’t expect those changes to stop anytime soon; there are more changes coming in Q3 and Q4 2018. In this post, I’ll give you a few predictions and tell you why I believe they’ll change SEO over the next few months.
Less Guest Posting for Links
For nearly a decade, guest posting has been a time-honored and well-tested method for bringing in traffic and improving rank. That isn’t necessarily going to change, but there is a shift in how Google ranks guest posts in certain scenarios.
Essentially, if Google can detect that you wrote the content solely to get links, it may accuse you of link manipulation – and the person who publishes your content, too. On the other hand, if it informs, teaches, entertains, or is generally written with the intent of helping your target audience, it’s still okay.
To adapt, marketers (and SEOs) should stop looking at guest posting as a link-growing campaign. Instead, focus on quality and expertise and see it as an opportunity for outreach – that was always its main intent.
The Rise of Unlinked Mentions on Bing
Right now, brand mentions on social media are a pretty powerful way to get ranked. We know that Google and Bing both consider them into your overall ranking, especially if you’re a well-established business or online entity. But in order to work correctly, the user has to actually tag you, using either hashtags or the @-sign.
There is evidence to show that Google may change this restrictive rule, instead giving more importance to mentions when you’re mentioned, full stop. No tag needed.
Linkless mentions are here, and they’re going to become more important in the coming months, so be sure you’re monitoring all of your mentions – not just those with links. Many of the best analytics tools are now making these available as plugins or features, so you won’t miss out.
Expanded (Interactive) Video Marketing
We know about the fast rise of video marketing; as a content format, it’s one of the biggest trends for 2018. But in the next six months, you may see video content evolve beyond simplicity into interactive video content that tells a story guided by the user themselves. Users must click or provide input in order to discover the next piece of information, which either personalizes their experience or plays on Fear of Missing Out (FOMO).
To illustrate the interactive video concept in all its full, engaging glory, I want you to play this game created by Warner Bros. and Rapt Media. “’Focus on the Con” is a gamified video experience that lets you play the role of the con, asking you to make decisions to determine whether you have what it takes. It’s a promo for their new movie, “Focus.”
Spending a few minutes with the video will show you several interactive video marketing concepts in full play: a set up, frequent stops for input, and the need to re-click the video at points to continue playing. While this would ordinarily be annoying, in this gamified approach it’s remarkably engaging instead.
More Click Data Ranking from Google
There’s evidence to show that Google may be using A/B testing to determine user behavior and how it factors into ranking. Link Assistant talks about it here, and they’re quick to remind people that we still don’t have solid proof of exactly how serious an influence click data ranking really is (as am I).
What we know for sure is that Google does look at how likely a user is to click the results they see when presented with search. If Google ranks a page, yet no one clicks on it even though it’s on the first page, it will eventually fall off. What we don’t know is exactly what Google calls a “flag” in such a scenario.
This is where optimizing your Google snippets and monitoring even high-ranking search results with consistent performance comes in. If you notice a dive in click-through rates, something is up – it’s time to review.
Voice-First, AI-Driven Indexing
Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant have something to celebrate: they’ll enjoy a healthy increase in use throughout the year, especially where search is concerned. The reality is that more users are relying on devices like these to find answers or information. And those voice-first searchers are driving the current trend of prioritizing voice search over other manual methods.
As an SEO or marketer, you must begin to adjust your strategy to accommodate long-tail, question-style search terms now. Doing so will give you time to become established by the end of the year, when voice search is likely to become a must instead of just an option.
Deeper Personalization of Search Results
It’s about to get way more personal in SEO – and that’s mostly because SERPs are getting better at figuring out who people are and how it factors into to what they want to see. User interests, habits, behaviors, hobbies, gender, and lifestyle may all play a role in how and what search engine giants like Google and Bing show people, especially if they searching often and on the same machine.
In the past, behaviors and tracking allowed for some personalization, but this isn’t quite the same thing. Deeper personalization is more like Instagram’s interests-driven feed than a categorization of behavior, and that means it’s far less tangible. SEOs should begin structuring campaigns around deep demographics instead of just basics alone.
I’m also noticing a shift towards preferred content types in niche users, including what format a niche or industry is most likely to consume – short, long, image-heavy, text-only, video, infographic, or something else entirely. Format, length, and even quality will become a more important part of your strategy in coming months.
As an SEO expert, I always have my finger on the industry’s pulse. Understanding what’s coming, and how to adapt to changes, is the best way to be proactive and stay ahead of the game in marketing. You don’t need to be an SEO expert to get started, but if you’re having trouble, there’s no shame in reaching out to one for answers. You can get in touch with me at this link!