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The State of SEO in 2018

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Some traditions are meant to be kept, and that certainly applies to our yearly State of SEO updates. At the beginning of each year we take a look at the most interesting trends and novelties for the coming months. Here are five of the latest SEO updates for 2018:

1. Rich Results Are Here to Stay

Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) look completely different from a couple of years ago. Nowadays, we see many more “rich results” (also called “rich snippets” or “enriched results”). These results display additional information, such as star ratings, timestamps or image carousels.

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Ratings, reviews, completion time, nutritional information–rich results indeed!

In 2018 the volume of rich results will increase as more and more websites are implementing structured data (which is used to generate rich results). Don’t get left behind! A “classic” search result can’t compete with rich results, decreasing the click-through rate and costing you visitors.

To help, Google has released a new rich snippet testing tool that shows you whether a page is eligible for rich results.


2. Page Speed on Mobile Devices Counts

It’s no surprise that faster-loading websites enjoy higher conversion rates than their slower peers. Visitors don’t like to wait. If a page takes five seconds or more to show itself, a lot of people will simply leave.

Understandably, Google takes site speed into account, though traditionally that was only for desktop searches.

Starting in July 2018, page speed will be a ranking factor for mobile searches as well. Initially this change will only affect a small percentage of queries, as it will “penalize” the slowest pages rather than “boosting” the fast ones.

Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to optimize your site by:

  • Minimizing the number of HTTP requests
  • Enabling GZIP compression
  • Enabling caching
  • Minifying HTML, CSS and Javascript files
  • Optimizing images

3. Expect Better Crawling of AJAX Content

AJAX allows parts of a webpage to be updated dynamically, without reloading the page. This approach has several advantages; most notably faster response times and improved interactivity.  

Websites that use AJAX to load content have always been a bit of a challenge for search engines (which is perhaps an understatement). But over time, Google engineers have significantly improved rendering of JavaScript for crawlers.

In the second quarter of 2018, you will no longer need to provide a rendered version of the page for Google. Googlebot will render the #! URL directly. I advise you to check the crawling and rendering process yourself via Search Console to discover any problems.

4. The Machines Are Learning

Search engines are sitting on huge piles of data: crawl information, user’s search queries, SERP click-through rates, etc. Machine learning helps them use this data to improve the relevance of search results.

What you can do in 2018: help A.I. understand the content of a page.

Structured data plays a crucial role in this process. Structured data are code snippets that identify pieces of information on a page. For example: whether a sequence of numbers is a telephone number or a fax number. On schema.org you can find more information about the implementation of this code.

That’s the technical part. But machine learning also has a UX component.

Imagine this: a users clicks on your search result and hits the back-button after three seconds. Do you think this is a positive signal in the eyes of search engines? Of course not! The time-on-site was way too short.

For this reason you should focus on the user experience. Make sure the content matches the user’s intent, loads quickly, is optimized for mobile devices, and so on.

5. Building a Brand is Time Well Spent

Search engines use networks of links to determine a site’s authority–that’s no secret. But modern search engines also look at “brand mentions” as a trust signal.

For example: let’s say there’s a brand called “FunkyKitchen” and it’s often mentioned on pages about kitchen design, bespoke kitchens, and kitchen planning. Search engines will recognize the connection between that brand and these topics, which means that classic marketing techniques (promoting your brand without at focus on link building) can help improve your rankings as well.

What Hasn’t Changed?

The basics will always remain the same. Make sure you create compelling content that matches the user’s intent. Next, make sure this content is easily accessible for visitors (responsive design, page speed...) and crawlable for search engines. 

And last but not least: links will remain an important factor to determine your site’s authority, even in 2018.

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