Looking back, moving forward: A glimpse of the SEO breakthroughs in 2017 and new things to expect in 2018

With the rapid changes in technology, the SEO world has been constantly developing strategies to strengthen the effectivity of online search and marketing through the years. From algorithms, mobile optimization, up to the content quality, 2017 has noted some remarkable updates that changes the way people search.


The continuous development to increase organic website traffic and ultimately improve search engine optimization doesn’t end there. In 2018, it is expected that search engines, particularly Google, will feature smarter searching – giving the users more accurate and relevant results.


And since the Search world is swiftly gearing toward content and user experience, it’s best to review your company’s strategies based on last year’s and this year’s SEO milestones. Take a look at some of the updates in 2017 and the things to look forward to in 2018. See how you can take advantage of these changes and upcoming trends to get better online traffic and organic searches.


Looking back

Contrary to what Google usually does, there were only a few updates on its algorithm. In February, there was an unnamed update that impacts the ranking. And in March, there was an update called “Fred” that changes the ranking even further. Aside from these two, Google is keeping the same algorithm as it has been. The huge chunk of updates that happened in 2017 mainly focuses on upgrading the user experience by focusing more on convenience and quality.


1. Optimization of mobile access



Since more than 50% of Google searches are happening on mobile, they shifted to Google’s Mobile-First Index. Although Google already favors mobile-friendly contents in the past, this update gives more priority to mobile content over desktop. Brands and companies are now spending more time in designing and developing the mobile version of their website with identical contents to get higher traffic and organic search rankings.


2. Focusing on content quality



Gone are the days of black and white results when searching using keywords. In 2017, Google began to improve the quality of the results by using context clues based on what you searched. It no longer focuses on specific keyword combinations. Google’s content quality algorithm is more advanced that it analyzes the intent behind your keywords. It makes sure that the context and target audience is on point. This update calls for developing new strategies in writing that goes beyond the usual standards.


3. The power of voice and virtual command



With our progressive and dynamic lifestyle nowadays, convenience plays a very huge aspect on our preferences. And as part of the increasing success of mobile, users tend to maximize its capability through voice and virtual command. The usability of Siri, Cortana, and Google Now have created a huge mark in the last year, which fundamentally changed the way people search.


As of September last year, Amazon Echo have reached more than 15 million worth of sales in the US alone. It only signifies that digital assistants and other smart speakers are such a hit simply because people are getting used to having devices that can understand their speech patterns and execute them accordingly.


4. Readapting emoticons



The playful emojis are back! It was in 2015 when Google stopped displaying contents with emojis on search results, but it used to appear on mobile search results years before that. It was not confirmed if it was an actual update or just a bug that Google have yet to confirm. Regardless, these icons can boost the click through rates through unique titles and attention-grabbing descriptions. This colorful approach can steal the interest of the users, especially the millennials who spend most of the time on the World Wide Web.


5. Longer Snippets

Users rely on the first few sentences available on the SERPs when deciding which web page to select. This can impact your website’s traffic. Luckily, Google confirmed that they made changes on the character requirements of the Meta Description to provide more descriptive and useful snippets. From 160 characters, it’s now up to 230 characters on average, based on the tracking done by RankRanger. It is not mandatory to change the Meta Description of your website, but it won’t hurt updating it a little bit to get stronger impact and get more viewers.


Moving forward

With the persistent innovation of the search world, and as technology is becoming more and more intelligent, some of the changes that happened last year are expected to further progress in 2018. To get more traffic, here are some things that you can expect to happen in the current year.


1. User experience and dwell time



More than just focusing on content quality, Google uses a machine learning system, called RankBrain, to measure how users interact with the search results. The page ranking will be based on the amount of time that a user spends on your website after clicking the result. Generally, RankBrain focuses on two things: dwell time and click through rate. The top 10 result on a Google search usually have their users stay on the webpage for 3 minutes and 10 seconds, on an average. Thus, the longer a user spends time on your website, the higher chance of staying on top of the list.


Now, what makes a user dwell on your website? Aside from having comprehensive and in-depth contents, it’s recommended to feature videos. Not only that you can control the length of the user’s browsing time on your page based on the duration of the video, but it also keeps your audience more interested to read through the entire page. It’s best to insert substantial video content in the middle part of the article. After all, 55% of online users closely pay attention to video content rather than reading articles.


2. Links are still a big factor


Apart from content quality and RankBrain, utilizing links is also included on the top three ranking signals in Google’s search algorithm. In this regard, backlinks remain an extremely important Google ranking factor. Linking to a page will continue to have a strong correlation with rankings more than any other factor, based on a current research. Plus, providing links as references strengthen the credibility of your information – especially now that the Internet is filled with fake news and hoax information.


3. Go fast or go last



Based on a study, the average attention span of a human being has dramatically decreased to 12 seconds because of the raging technology. With that said, getting a positive user experience on your website requires faster loading of your page. And as user experience impacts the rankings, it pays to get your pages up as fast as possible.


But how fast is fast? Google expects pages to load under three seconds. If it goes longer than that, it’s best to get an analysis of the technical factors that may be affecting your page’s speed.


The future of Subjective Search Engine Optimization

Through time, SEO has become a more complex science. With Google’s 200 different factors in algorithm, it has become a really challenging medium of marketing. But because of the continuous evolution of our culture, it’s not all about the technicalities anymore. Algorithms will not mean anything if you are not getting so much attention. The search world has become more demanding than keywords, anchor texts, and title tags. Engagement and experience has become the two main factors that affect the rankings – something that cannot be explained objectively in technical rule books.


What’s important is to stay on top of the list, or on the first page at the very least. Play with emotions, go more visual, publish unique data, and reach out to your audience through comment sharing. Know more about what makes people glued to their screens in the most convenient way possible.


Working hard is no longer a trend. Working smart is what makes brands stand out now. This is a call to revisit your strategy and come up with some changes on how you can reach more audience. With these latest innovation, there are no bars set to execute creativity. The possibility is endless. And, besides, just like what the saying goes, smart is the new sexy.