2018 in search – some of our experts’ predictions digested

Jan 2nd, 2018

We have our annual predictions infographic live on the site now, but I wanted to go through the forecasts of our experts in a little more detail – there’ll be a quiz at the end (okay, a short questionnaire)

User experience (UX)

This will be a regular on predictions across agencies over the next few years, so it’s no wonder our SEO experts have picked this trend to highlight for 2018. Google’s machine learning capacity is progressing in leaps and bounds, with impressive victories in GO having been followed quickly by a foray into extrasolar planetary detection (where Google’s AI was employed to analyse data from the Kepler space telescope).

It is no stretch to assume that the extreme weather conditions detailed by the daily Mozcast and the various high levels of activity across a range tools (all of which Google have denied are specific updates) are a result of machine learning. There have been Google patents in existence detailing methods of parsing consumer intent from interaction with SERPs since the mid-2000s, so it would almost be surprising if the increasingly regular and sustained fluctuations in rankings were not somehow related to machine learning.

machine learning illustration

This (possible/probable) use of machine learning seems to be directed at UX – if not exclusively, then to a large extent – as rich results and other user focused elements of SERPs (content quality, for what became known colloquially as the ‘Fred’ update, for example) and will no doubt play a part in improving voice search. As is its raison d’etre, machine learning will only improve at its task, so UX is almost certainly going to play an enormous part in the success of brands in the coming months and years.

Mobile First

Dovetailing nicely with user experience, the shift to Mobile First (currently rolling out) is likely to catch a few brands by surprise despite the ample warning that Google has given. This update, which will represent a boost to sites with a good mobile experience and could see rankings drop for sites without, will represent one of the biggest shifts in power to mobile from desktop since mobile search surpassed desktop back in 2016.

This, along with updates to the local pack and various tweaks to local search rankings will need to precipitate some thought from brands both large and small as to how they approach a period in search marketing which is likely to be driven increasingly by personalisation, localisation and ease of access. Whether this sees brands throw themselves increasingly in to apps or local organic and paid campaigns (or both) is a question we may have an answer to in 2018.


SEO and PPC will have similar concerns in the coming year, though PPC is uniquely positioned to address personalisation with various options – from demographic ad customisers to interest ad customisers and beyond. While SEO is able to produce content and a journey that fits various demographics, PPC is capable of such targeting that articles are now common that deal with the eerie nature of personalised advertising.

However, as mobile increasingly becomes the device of choice, personalised, localised PPC is going to become a vital weapon in the armoury of brands with a paid search budget – it will also be interesting to see whether 2018 sees paid search increase its presence and personalisation in the augmented and virtual reality spheres.

Content advertising

While it’s been around for a while, we can expect an increase in the practice say our PPC experts – and this seems reasonable, especially as Google has begun to experiment with media in search results, the same can’t be too far off for PPC. Whether or not this happens, however, advertising key or gateway content is a natural progression from content marketing.

Expect to see big brands advertising ‘how to’ guides for tricky industry problems and increasing use of relationship building tactics from content marketing as brands roll the dice on a new way to engage an increasingly segmented and fragmented audience.

For more predictions, check out our 2018 infographic. Be sure to answer the three quick questions above and for more actionable insights on PPC and SEO, take a look at our resources – or contact us to see what we can do for your brand.

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