What can 2018 throw at us that can top the un-ending dystopian nightmare of 2017?
Thankfully, in this article we're concentrating solely on SEO (..and breathe). We've already looked at the big trends from this year, now let's look into the crystal ball with the help of some search experts.
I think we’ll see Google push again at local marketing. This will likely mean even more improvements to Google Local but I think we might also see expanded use and tests with coupons and codes in PPC.
There is a common opinion I've seen growing which I think is partly as a result of the market and regulatory changes that happened in 2017 (Google's TAC - Traffic Acquisition Costs - increasing, and their loss in the EU dispute) and partly as a result of the incredible UI changes Google has rolled out as they've gone mobile-first, card-based, and ML-powered. The received wisdom is that it is getting harder and harder to get organic traffic from Google, and that more and more clicks go to either ads or Google's own properties.
I predict that we will see some brands pull back from organic search investments as a result, and that it will hurt them in the long-run.
The reality (from clickstream data) is that it's really easy to forget how long the long-tail is and how sparse search features and ads are on the extreme long-tail:
- Only 3-4% of all searches result in a click on an ad, for example. Google's incredible (and still growing) business is based on a small subset of commercial searches.
- Google's share of all outbound referral traffic across the web is growing (and Facebook's is shrinking as they increasingly wall off their garden).
The opportunity is therefore there for smart brands to capitalise on a growing opportunity while their competitors sink time and money into a social space that is increasingly all about Facebook, and increasingly pay-to-play. I think that is going to be a trend through 2018.
Recently some of the biggest brands are waking up and realising that as we begin to move towards voice, and move further away from the keyword game, the SERPs landscape and the content produced will change dramatically. Like with Mobile-Geddon, we will see a Voice-A-Geddon.
Are brands ready? How will Google (and Amazon) respond to this? Will position one be the new page one? And how will advertisers deal with this? Will organic be considered ever more important?
What will be the commercial impact for those who are prepared vs those who are not?
We’ll see more measurement of conversational UX/voice search. I can see Google creating Analytics for voice commands – for example a way to measure the most common intents and conversation patterns:
Me: OK Google, tell me what films are showing in Leeds tonight
Google: OK Mike, films are X Y & Z
Me: Tell me about Y
Google Synopsis for Y is …
Me: Book me some tickets for Y tonight
This example could measure the conversion rate from Google home devices, of those people that ask for a synopsis what percentage go on to book tickets. If on Alexa, what entities and utterances have been used by category and therefore work out intent per product category?
Data and privacy
I think we’ll see ongoing focus on data and privacy. This will manifest with the likes of GDPR, new EU privacy rules (which the UK may or may not get in on) and data security. Helping to keep the latter in focus will be various governments increasingly concerned with cryptography and perhaps with legislation struggling to keep up with the pace of technology.
This loops back to search marketing because some of the analytics practices used by big brands in the US and the UK are enough to make you blink.
GDPR will make life more difficult for agencies, there’s greater risk to agencies and clients in sharing personally identifiable information (e.g. PPC, email marketing etc.). The new E-Privacy regulation may have a huge impact on analytics tools such as Google Analytics but still too early to be certain.
Faster, Google-centric UX
We'll see further moves towards a faster mobile friendly web. Features that allow you to access products, services information without leaving Google in preparatiob for voice search. There will be less reliance on links with a potential move towards sentiment and mentions
'War for the living room'
Lastly, I think we’ll see tech brands ramping up the war for the living room. This will manifest through hardware pushes such as connected TVs, personal assistants like Alexa and even VR. I’m not confident enough to predict whether there will be much progress on that front beyond the advertising campaigns I’m expecting but if I had to pick a winner I could always roll an internet connected dice for you.
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