Is SEO Easier or Harder in 2018?

Harder. Definitely Harder.

In many ways, optimizing for search seems easier than ever. Google continues to develop and communicate rank factors, so everyone essentially knows what they should be doing, and one-and-done tools, like Yoast, handle much of the SEO grunt-work from years past.

Thing is, the simplification of basic SEO tactics hasn’t just streamlined the process, it has also raised the bar. When most sites are mobile friendly, utilize appropriate keywords and meta-descriptions, and are getting crawled by Google, what’s left? Oh, just the tough stuff.

More technical

Some of the challenges we’ve found in the past year have been more difficult to solve than ever before. Many of those challenges have been driven by the ever-increasing complexity of marketing technology. Here are a few examples:

How do you optimize a site that is running across two sub-domains? (we hear you all screaming “Don’t use two domains,” but I assure you it wasn’t a choice for a recent client.)
What about sites who are essentially half website and half web-app? The data, structure, and content can vary so much from one section to the other, which can cause indexing problems for Google.
How does modern SEO dovetail with account-based or marketing automation tactics, such as gated content?
Speed: Your site may be fast, but the current metric is milliseconds — is it fast enough?
What do you do when Google changes the search engine results page (SERP) for your best keywords? Our client, Visit Seattle is a good example. Google has updated the “things to do” SERP to include tiles that highlight activities and link directly to providers, like The Space Needle, all before the first result.

Mo content, mo problems

Even for companies who invest heavily in content marketing for SEO, your strategy only becomes more complicated and involved as you add to your websites pages, webinars, Videos, and other content. Again: a few trends we’ve seen:

It creates more work on the internal communications level, to that SEO requirements are balanced with a consistent voice, tone, and message.
It creates more work on the page-level optimization level to ensure content gets seen.
It creates more work on the analytics and data analysis level to ensure your content is accomplishing its goals and to make vital tweaks to strategy.
To be clear, these are not the worst problems to have. In general, a high volume of quality content is going to drive results, but the stakes rise along with your investment of time and/or budget, so these details matter.

More competitive

Finally, there’s your competition. SEO doesn’t happen in a vacuum — your site is compared to all of the others vying for the same search terms. Whether you’re an enterprise-level SAAS provider or a local contractor, your competition has likely upped their SEO game in the last handful of years, so you will need to as well.

Not only that, but for many industries aggregator sites like Houzz, Yelp, and Redfin have solidified, bringing marketing muscle and nationwide reach to niche and/or local industries. These sites eat up search real estate and often provide a better user experience for users looking to compare providers.