40% of marketers say that say the most challenging obstacle to search engine optimisation success is changing search algorithms. With Google in the driving seat, backed by a constantly evolving technology-driven environment, we highlight seven SEO trends we think finance brands would be wise to review early in 2018.
1. Mobile-first readiness
Be prepared for the upcoming switch to a Mobile First Index, this could impact rankings for many sites if content differs between mobile and desktop. Ensure you have a responsive website where possible and/or double check that your mobile site content matches your desktop content. Head over to our mobile-first checklist to ensure you are prepared for the switch.
2. Page speed
With a mobile focused search-algorithm, page speed will inevitably grow in importance. Load time is a major contributor to page abandonment, especially on mobile. In fact Google’s own John Mueller suggests that webmasters should aim for a page load speed of around 3 seconds. Take Google’s Page Speed Test to review your current speed then plan improvements from there. The tool will also provide you with a report to help define next steps. Last year, Hobo Web pulled together a comprehensive overview of the potential impact of site speed, which is very useful background reading.
Launched over two years ago, Accelerated Mobile Pages are nothing new, but with the increased focused on speed as a potential ranking factor; they should absolutely be a part of any site’s content plan for SEO. There are now over 2 billion pages across 900,000 domains being served on AMP, and these pages load twice as fast as before via Google search. AMP pages are likely prioritised in rankings over non-AMP and non-mobile pages based on load speed alone so there’s really no excuse not to get your AMP-on!
4. Featured Snippets
Competition for the ‘top spot’ has increased significantly since the introduction of Featured Snippets. Alongside the top paid position, brands who previously held the top organic position are now faced with additional potential loss of visibility. This is particularly true of question-based searches which have seen a 480% increase in the percentage of searches with Featured Snippets. The key here is identifying potential questions that are ripe for Featured Snippets and ensuring your content answers everything a user could want and more. Use tools like SEMrush and AnswerthePublic or sites like Quora to mine for potential opportunities. SEMrush also did a great study on ranking for Featured Snippets here.
Comscore predict that 50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020.
5. Voice Search
Comscore predict that 50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020. The technology remains somewhat limiting today but is making significant improvements rapidly and growing in popularity. At this stage, it’s a great opportunity for finance brands to incorporate the likes of Alexa and voice recognition into their strategies and get ahead of the curve. Be prepared and review your potential for matching voice search queries. These tend to be of a similar nature to queries that will bring up answer boxes or featured snippets, i.e. question-focused or action-based queries. Optimise towards longer-tail keywords and questions with a more natural language slant.
6. User Experience
Google continues to highlight the importance of user experience as part of a user’s journey. There’s a growing connection between ensuring a user engages with your site and finds the information they were looking for and rankings. High bounce rates and low time on site are potential signals that that page doesn’t deserve a high ranking, so look beyond keyword optimisation. Ensure that your content is not only valuable but that it is easily accessible, loads fast, isn’t obscured by ads and above all, ensure this is true for both mobile and desktop devices.
7. Machine Learning
Google’s Rankbrain algorithm is a machine-learning AI algorithm that the search giant uses to as part of its overall search algorithm to help rank search results. According to Google, Rankbrain is the third most important ranking factor (with the top 2 being content and links). Rankbrain helps Google look beyond simple keywords, building out more understanding around user intent and engagement. Once again, user experience needs to be considered within an SEO context as Google becomes increasingly intelligent. Look at your top exit pages, optimise for engagement and relevance. Monitor your time on site, pages per visit and bounce rate; plot this against your rank tracking to see what correlations may exist.