The art of SEO – achieving those page rankings so that your site gets plenty of traffic – has evolved considerably since it first came into being. And the past year in particular has seen some pretty momentous shifts.  Search landscapes no longer revolve purely around browser-based search engines such as Google but have expanded to include a much wider range of territories, such as social media. In many cases there are few rules of engagement for the new horizons of SEO – it’s all still being figured out. However, there are a number of search trends that have really grown in stature in 2017 and so are providing some indication of what the future of this essential digital marketing component is likely to look like.

Optimising for social channels

Perhaps the biggest shift in focus of SEO recently has been the increased emphasis on social search. Many of the big social platforms have evolved their functionality so that it’s now much easier to search for content – not just for people, pages, businesses and brands. This marks a big shift in the purpose of these platforms and how consumers are already using them. Once Facebook or Instagram might have been a step in an onward journey, a way to funnel users to an end point, such as a website, but today they see themselves as the end point itself. And optimisation for social is a very different beast to SEO for browser-based search engines because there are different factors at play, many based on consumer behaviours search engines don’t have access to, such as accounts followed and posts liked.

The growing influence of app based searches

Mobile is the future of search – that’s not news to anyone. However, what has changed over the past year is the way that we search via mobile and how optimisation might be required to adapt to this. Data from a comScore MMX MP and Mobile Metrix study found that in the UK mobile apps account for a much greater proportion of the time we spend on our devices than mobile browsers – four fifths in fact. And we use apps much more broadly now so the real question is what does it mean for search engines if we’re increasingly searching for information via apps? The Google Maps apps is a prime example of how much more apps now provide – a search could yield not just a location but a vast array of other information, from identifying hotels and restaurants, to showing their reviews and prices.

Voice search is changing everything

There is a big difference between the way that we might type a query into a search engine and the way it would be structured if it was said out loud instead. Voice activated personal assistants such as Siri mean that optimisation now needs to take into account the changing ways we’re seeking information. Voice search is less structured and may be less specific. For example, you might ask Siri “where can I stay in Soho London?” as opposed to typing in the search “best Soho four star hotels for under £200.”

And the rest

  • Artificial intelligence and chat bots are becoming a search option via messaging apps, instantly providing a response to a query that might previously have gone into a search engine.
  • Consumers expect much faster and more accurate responses to search queries now and will switch to the channels that supply them.
  • Topic clusters are trending – this technique enables web pages to be aligned around these clusters, which makes internal linking faster and more efficient.
  • Organic SEO is now the dominant force i.e. your content should be the natural outcome of the specific search engine query on the subject in question.

Big things are coming in SEO and the changes to the search landscape can’t be ignored by those who want to ensure they continue to get found.