SEO Year In Review: 2018 saw Google updates and a focus on mobile

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So, 2018 was an exciting year in SEO, with a number of large Google search algorithm updates, big changes within Google’s management team, mobile first indexing and all the changes with Google Search Console. In addition, Google local, Google My Business and maps related changes were very active this year.

The reliance on structured data within Google search and the pullback on personalization features, shows signs of where Google is headed with rankings. Let’s not forget the huge shifts in voice search with Google Assistant and other devices, including big Google user interface changes this year. And Bing wasn’t quiet at all this year in search. Here is our recap:

Google search ranking and algorithm updates

Google has made numerous search ranking algorithm updates this year, some were big, some were small, some were confirmed, some went unconfirmed – heck, some were even pre-announced.

Speed Update. For example, the Speed Update was pre-announced in January of 2018 and released several months later in June. The update, according to Google, only impacted the slowest sites in terms of their ranking position in search. Google said it “only affect a small percentage of queries.” We posted a large FAQs on the speed update so you can catch up on that quickly.

Medic Update. Probably the most substantial search ranking algorithm that was felt by the SEO community was the so-called “Medic Update.” It happened around August 1. Google confirmed it happened after the SEO community took notice. Google classified it as a “broad core algorithm update,” something they do several times per year. This specific update was fully rolled out about a week later and seemed to a wide range of sites around health and YMYL categories. Google told SEOs there is “no fix” to get your site to rank better overnight with this update. We have pretty deep coverage of this update over here.

Other search algorithm updates. Google also confirmed, after the fact, the March core update and the April core update.

Mobile-first indexing

In 2016, Google began its mobile-first indexing experiment. In short, Google wanted to start crawling and indexing the web from the view of a smartphone and not a desktop computer. And Google did that in a big way in 2018 by starting to roll out the change to many many sites in 2018.

Google also began sending out notifications through Google Search Console when a site was moved to mobile-first indexing.

Today, 3 years later, Google said over 50 percent of search results are now indexed through mobile-first indexing.

To learn more about this, see our mobile-first indexing FAQs, the recent clarifications on this topic and Google’s very own developer docs on mobile-first indexing.

SEO changes

Structured data. The overall theme with SEO this year, specific to Google, was probably around how much emphasis Google has put towards structured data and schema. Enabling speakable markup for voice search related queries, a new indexing API for job posting schema, image search changes, various updates to recipe markup, new job posting guidelines, the new Q&A schemalive stream support, datasets schema, how to, QA, FAQs schema and so much more. The list goes onand on.

Other changes. Google dropped support for the news meta tag and the standout tag and Editors’ pick in Google News was big for publishers. Google’s various efforts around dynamic rendering and lazy loading content and photos is an effort you’ve seen a lot around with JavaScript SEO in 2018 and will continue through 2019.

Personalization is light. With all the fallback on Facebook targeting, and using personal data for targeting over 2018 – Google made a point to say they don’t use personalization that much. Google said at best, personalization is light and used for things like knowing when to show local results, when to show American football versus European football and things like last query used. Although, DuckDuckGo released a study saying Google does otherwise.

Google Search Cons...


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