SEO Trends in 2018 – Brace Yourself, Mobile First is Coming

Woman Searching Smartphone

By Dustin Williams

If you have noticed a declining trend in organic traffic to your website, yet search rankings in Google continue to hold near the top of page one, you’re not alone. Upon initial review of website analytics, the downward trend could have been interpreted as being an issue with search engine indexing or keyword relevance. However, when a deeper analysis by our search marketing experts reveled Google search traffic showed a slight upward trend, it was clear that the issue was not with all organic traffic sources.

After looking into Bing and Yahoo traffic trends, the big picture became somewhat clearer. Bing did not show much change. Although it was a slight declining trend, it wasn’t significant enough to be the source. Yahoo, on the other hand, showed a considerable decline in traffic. Though Yahoo wasn’t a very big source of organic traffic, it was clear the drop was causing the overall decline.

Upon discovering the main source of the decline in organic traffic, the next logical step was to review Yahoo search rankings. A quick analysis revealed similar results to the earlier analysis of Google search rankings, the website continued to hold a strong presence in the top of the results.

A Shift in Search Trends

The problem was not a decline in search presence, but actually a shift in search trends. In November, StatCounter reported a shift in search trends from desktop to mobile. As of July 2017, mobile devices accounted for 54 percent of all searches.

StatCounter Search Trends

Since Google dominates mobile search with 95 percent of the market share, the shift to mobile gave Google a stranglehold on the overall market share, pushing the search giant to 92 percent. Meanwhile its rivals, Yahoo and Bing, both dropped to less than 3 percent.

Search Market Share

Google’s “Mobile First” Index

This shift in search trends demonstrates the importance of being aware of user experience and making sure your website is optimized for mobile. As Google continues to develop their “Mobile First” index, their goal is to provide users with search results that provide the best user experience. With the shift to mobile, it makes sense that Google would shift to using mobile website metrics first for ranking signals, rather than desktop.

Brace Yourself Mobile First is Coming

Initially, the Mobile First update was projected to possibly launch in 2017. However, at SMX Advanced in June 2017, Gary Illyes, Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, said, “Our engineers’ timeline was initially end of 2017. Right now, we think more 2018.” Illyes indicated that Google doesn’t want the search results to change much, but wants to maintain close to the same level of quality.

What does Mobile First Mean for Webmasters?

Illyes has suggested that responsive websites don’t need to change anything. However, if your website is significantly different for mobile devices or is lacking a mobile version, you should consider making some changes. If you don’t have a mobile version, what has been preventing you from getting one? It is now even more important to have a mobile version and a responsive one is the better option.

If your website has a mobile version and the content is significantly different, make plans to review and update it. The shift to mobile first could have a big impact on websites where much of it is different or missing from the mobile version.

Having a mobile friendly website continues to become more important as more searches are shifting to mobile devices. Google understands this and is determined to provide the best results for their users while continuing to dominate the search market share. There is no doubt about it: 2018 is the year to get your mobile optimization squared away.