The SEO game is becoming increasingly sophisticated over time. The earth-shatteringly major Google algorithm updates are coming fewer and farther between, which is great. The trade-off, however, is that the smoother, more subtle changes to how search engines work mean that your approach to SEO also needs to be smooth and subtle. It also needs to be dynamic - gone are the days when you could just set things a certain way and forget about it for a while. To keep on top of today's search results, you need to be constantly re-evaluating your techniques, so here are some things to keep in mind over the course of 2018.
What your visitors are seeing is at least as important as what they're reading. Visual elements like images and video are more popular than ever, and search engines are learning how to recognize those elements more accurately. Video and images are already important for a positive visitor experience, but as machine interpretation improves, expect the visual assets of your website and social media accounts to become even more important to your rankings, as well.
And while we're on the topic of visuals... video is skyrocketing. YouTube is already the second-largest search engine, and often when people want to learn about something, they skip Google altogether and go straight to YouTube. This means that people who are not creating content specifically for YouTube are missing out on a lot of traffic! If you've ever thought about getting into video or stepping up your efforts in that area, now's a great time to start turning those video searches into leads for your business.
More voice assistants and smart speakers means more frequent voice searches. Siri, Alexa, Cortana... voice assistants are changing the way we word queries, which means that results pages have to evolve. Keep this in mind when you're researching keywords, and remember that most voice searches are phrased in the form of a question, so your content should be aiming to echo the most popular questions (and of course answer them).
Don't forget the basics. Given how complicated all these algorithms and ranking signals can get, it's easy to get bogged down in the 'game' of trying to convince search engines to give your site a higher ranking. It's important to remember, however, that the skill most search engines are concentrating on improving is the evaluation of how useful or enjoyable your site is for visitors. Machine learning systems like Google's RankBrain look at things like click-through rates and dwell time (i.e. how long visitors stay on your site once they've clicked through), and adjust rankings accordingly.
This means that the better the content on your site, the better your rankings will be. Sure, keywords and other SEO techniques still matter, but forward-thinking designers and content creators know that in the end, a good user experience trumps everything else.