SEO has grown to encompass much more than its original acronym, and the SERP isn’t limited to ten blue links anymore. Because digital marketing strategies are changing to keep up with SEO’s advancements, we can hardly predict what will happen next—but these fast-growing trends might give us a clue about the future of SEO.

Technical Health

The importance of simply maintaining a well-functioning website has never been greater. new

With the sheer amount of content available, even small distinctions like good internal linking can make your site more competitive. Why? Crawlers (like Googlebot) will increase or decrease your crawl budget based on your site’s technical viability, and a low crawl budget may affect your site’s visibility.

With that in mind, we can expect to see developers maximizing their site speed and crawlability, especially for mobile sites. Increased mobile search has already led to a rise in accelerated mobile pages and progressive web applications, and that growth will only continue. Website security will continue as an important ranking factor and an increasingly vital element of customer experience.

Attention to those details—and others such as image compression, link viability, site structure, and JavaScript compatibility—will undoubtedly influence future SEO success.

Voice Search

In 2017, more than one-third of millennials used either a smart speaker or virtual assistant. Americans of all ages are integrating voice technology into their daily routines, and this trend will keep impacting SEO.

Voice shopping is projected to grow from $2 billion in 2018 to $40 billion by 2020. Businesses hoping to capitalize on that growth will need to optimize specifically for Amazon since it currently dominates the field of voice shopping and will likely continue to do so.

Voice search also goes hand in hand with long tail keywords. SEO strategists have already begun optimizing for long tail phrases and keywords, since they tend to have a higher conversion rate, bring more organic traffic, and have a lower cost per click. Though they’re already a valued pillar of SEO, long tail keywords will become more important as voice search increases in popularity.

This influence is further compounded by the fact that queries with a higher word count are more likely to draw a featured snippet on the SERP, making voice search a significant factor in site visibility as well.

Featured Snippets

Featured snippets are the new position zero on the SERP. In 2017, they showed up in about 23% of all searches, with an increasing focus on paragraph snippets. These text snippets typically answer a specific user query and often appear in the People Also Ask (PAA) section of the SERP, which allow users to conduct further research.

Aside from paragraph snippets, lists and tables now populate a combined 40% of featured snippets. As sites compete to land the coveted snippet, we’ll likely see more content containing lists, tables, and text directed at answering specific questions appearing in position zero.

Featured snippets influence more than just content formatting, though. The URLs chosen to supply the featured snippet usually score slightly higher than others on readability tests, meaning there will be greater demand for easily digestible content. There’s also a loose correlation between snippets and content with a higher-than-average share count. While there’s no sure way to land the snippet, optimizing for diverse platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, can certainly help.

Content Relevance

As mentioned above, our experience with content will necessarily change as voice search and featured snippets become more prevalent. Digestible formatting, enhanced readability, and a narrow topical scope will influence the success of online content because of snippets and voice search. Search engines are also more adept at discovering searcher intent, which further benefits online content.

PAA is a tangible demonstration of an engine’s ability to reach beyond the given keywords and offer results that target intent. Ranking algorithms are increasingly equipped to determine relevance. Creating explicit meaning for bots by using tags and metadata helps establish relevance and authority.

Relevance, however, is about more than keywords. A recent study shows Google’s increased ability to rank content based on its niche, evaluating the specific features of e-commerce and informational sites. Going forward, successful content will employ strategic keywords and metadata but will rely even more heavily on niche-specific formatting and topics.

User Experience

Occasionally, the technical aspects of SEO overshadow its original purpose: providing users with the best online experience, both in search and content consumption. As users become increasingly tech-savvy, the demand for intuitive, high-quality, interactive sites will continue to grow. As a reflection of this trend, we can expect engagement metrics like bounce rate, time spent on a page, organic CTR, direct traffic, and user comments to have an increasingly significant role in SEO rankings.

This push to create a distinct content experience that goes beyond keyword density and relevant links will improve UX significantly. In fact, the future of SEO relies on optimization for search engines and users equally. Boosting UX will improve a site’s rank and traffic and will improve business even apart from SEO rankings.

As SEO enthusiasts, we’ve learned to expect the unexpected. The future is full of surprises, but we bet these trends will also play a significant role in how SEOs succeed in this industry. As we hone our technical skills and retain an ever-present vision of our end user’s needs, SEO will advance further than ever before.