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As we head full-steam into 2018, our experts look ahead to the next 12 months and dish up some well-informed predictions on industry trends and shifts.

Today’s predictions come from our crackerjack SEO team, starting with…

After Google is done launching their Mobile-First Index (which I think itself will upend a lot of big sites to begin with), they’ll focus significant effort on voice-enabled search. Especially with their push with Google Assistant, they have a more direct avenue to collect more information about how people search using voice (compared with typing). This, coupled with RankBrain, means that there’s going to be a mountain of semantic search data that will ultimately change the way we do keyword research & content strategy. This doesn’t mean that organic search in the way we use it now will become obsolete, but that the organic search space (especially on mobile) will expand its universe to include more result options for the end user.

I expect MFI (Mobile-First Index) to be a slow rollout instead of an on-off switch approach. This is so that we can minimize any negative impact on the end user as much possible; it may end up taking 2+ years before we are able to realize the full impact of MFI. That being said, I think having an MFI means mobile-specific products like AMP, Deep Links, and PWAs will be at the forefront and will be more heavily featured/pushed in the coming months.

With the ever-evolving search results landscape, results for simple asked-and-answered questions will become obsolete altogether. Google will take up that mantle completely, and aggregators or sites whose revenue focus on providing simple answers to simple questions will need to change their strategy, if they haven’t already.

– Sr. Director of SEO Leslie To

 

I could definitely stay safe, saying something like “mobile will be a continued focused in 2018 with the expansion of the mobile first index” or “an increase upon speed will provide benefits over competitors in 2018.” But that would be rather boring. Honestly, at the forefront of my mind right now is net neutrality and how far-reaching that can become in our industry. A direct example of how this can affect online brands is if the ISP [through which, hypothetically, the majority of your online user base accesses the internet and your website] is in financial cahoots with one of your online competitors. The ISP sends traffic to your competitor just as they normally would; however, they throttle the online experience to your website, and in some instances even block users from reaching your site.

What could you do to combat this as an online brand? Well, not much. Outside of entering a financial agreement with the ISP, you could ask your entire online user base to switch their ISP and access the internet through an ISP that isn’t throttling or blocking your site – but that’s extremely unrealistic and essentially a joke. The only thing you can really do is to make sure your website is lightning-fast. And if your online offering makes sense, maybe you think about moving towards a PWA (progressive web application), which allows for service workers to make offline connections once initially cached. Users would be throttled the first time they reached your site, but subsequent visits feasibly wouldn’t present those same experiences. So maybe we’ll see some further builds of PWAs in 2018…

– Director of SEO Colin Guidi

 

My prediction for 2018: RSS comes back in a big way; Google will start beta testing a pilot project where, either via invited websites or via application process, they will have webmasters submit an RSS feed of their site that Google will host on their servers. This means Google will always have the most current version of the site without needing to crawl it, and they’ll be able to serve cached versions of the site such that the page load times will be blazing fast; the SEO community will call out the AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) Project as the initial testing ground for their new RSS initiative.

– Sr. SEO Manager David Portney

 

Mobile-first indexation puts an emphasis on creating a great user experience, especially on mobile devices. I think sites that haven’t appropriately optimized their site to be snappy will be in for a bit of a wakeup call.  It’s a big reason I’m particularly interested in pushing clients toward doing whatever they can to improve site speed.

– SEO Account Manager Maty Rice

 

I’m waiting for Google to kill autoplay of videos. I anticipate that it’s coming and Google will begin to gently penalize pages that autoplay videos. It’s probably going to be the one semi-verified Google update we’ll get. My other prediction is that voice queries will pull up and read AMP results in the future.

– SEO Account Manager Annie Ye

 

SERPs will be more personalized than ever. Personalized search results will be based on both traditional ranking factors and on the information about the user – like their location, search history and/or interests.

– SEO Account Manager Brittany Page

 

The mobile-first index will be rolled out so slowly and so under-the-radar that most sites won’t even notice when it happens. Google has already been ranking pages differently on mobile for the last few years. Therefore, responsive sites that felt the sting from the 2015 update will have likely made the proper adjustments by now, and those that didn’t see any negative impact in 2015 will also see very little change during this update.

– SEO Account Manager Harrison DeSantis

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We’ve asked digital marketing experts from across 3Q to share their predictions. To read more, click here, or check out our Guide to SEO in 2018.

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