As 2018 approaches, it's time to once again consider what's going to happen with SEO, what new tactics are going to work, and what to beware of. It looks like next year holds a couple important new changes, so let's look at how it will change.
Less Focus on Keywords
Keywords make Google a little uneasy. They encourage too much obsession over formulas, too many black hat techniques, and too many cheap sites. Google wants the internet to be a more friendly, useful place than keywords really allow for. Even now, we're starting to see less emphasis placed on the precise words that people search for (these days, search engines usually know what you want no matter what words you use), and more emphasis placed on the user experience. The general quality of the content, how it is used, and who references it are becoming more important than keywords.
Google has already announced harsher page ranking for those who do not convert to the more secure HTTPS. That means if your site hasn't upgraded yet, now is absolutely the time. Expect a further crackdown in 2018 on sites that don't have HTTPS. Everyone benefits from this change (your data security included), so there's no reason to avoid this change.
Audio and AI Search
Echo, Google Home, Cortana – our voice assistants are everywhere these days, and there's one thing that all of them do: Search the internet based on the questions that you ask them. This rise of voice searches stands to have incredible impact on SEO as people move away from organic searches and toward audio searches. "Aren't audio searches organic, too?" you may wonder. No, not really: Audio searches depend entirely on how an AI is designed to search the search engine of its choice, and what answers it is designed to pick up. AI/audio search is about to get a whole lot of attention, so expect the rise of new strategies in this area.
More Stringent Mobile Expectations
Google is done advising people to upgrade their mobile experiences. Now the company has adopted a mobile-first mindset and is punishing those who do not have well-optimized mobile sites. The expectations will only continue to rise from here as Google continues to enforce a strong mobile policy. In other words, expect to see a whole lot more Accelerated Mobile Page formats in 2018 – a train that you may want to get on now before it's too late.
More Focus on Linking Publications
Backlinks aren't going away anytime soon. In 2018, expect a lot of emphasis on the community of links – how different industries and areas of interest can link together in an organic way that also helps out SEO.
Google has been experimenting with a "Quick Answer" option in its SERPs, and the experiment has largely been a success. People really like a nice, quick box at the top that tells them exactly what they want to know: What website it comes from is a secondary concern. That gives search engines a lot of incentive to move away from the "list of links" format and toward a more user-friendly results pages. Be warned that this could make successful websites harder to find – but it could also give brands an opportunity to become respect "answer" sources and earn page ranking that way.
Big Questions for Video
Is the way we watch video online working? Is video SEO working properly? How could it be better? We've all been wrestling with these questions for the past couple of years: This year provided a few answers, but expect next year to expand on them in meaningful ways, and help create new guidelines and new ways of using SEO strategies for videos.
The Death of Clickbait
Look for harsh crackdowns on clickbait, poorly sourced content, and misinformation in 2018, including some very harsh penalties. That also means that we're likely to see a decrease in clickbaity formats like listicles, gif lists, "you won't believe" pieces and more. Particularly in the B2B world, it's smart to start moving away from these formats and toward more solid, deeper content.