2018 Has been an exciting year for search engines. With the incorporation of AI into search algorithms and the constant evolution of tech, search engines such as Google are becoming a lot faster, delivering more accurate results, and most importantly for us, changing rapidly. In this post, we are going to have a look at the evolution of search engines and SEO statistics 2018. We’ll start by gaining an understanding of what factors could influence general and local SEO statistics, and then we’ll move on to the search engine market share and evolution in terms of SEO statistics 2018.
We finish off with highlighting Google SEO statistics, local SEO statistics, and general SEO statistics 2018 had to offer, for an even more in-depth look at this interesting topic.
Let’s Start With The SEO Industry And SEO Statistics 2018
The introduction, and more importantly, the ever-increasing accuracy of voice search results have had some impact on SEO statistics 2018 has seen so far. It was initially predicted that voice search would mean the end of the traditional SEO tactics, but Google SEO statistics and SEO statistics in general, have not proven the naysayers correct yet.
Google’s Rank Brain is considered another factor that could make predicting ranking factors a lot more difficult, but is the SEO industry dying out?
SEO Statistics 2018 Show that the Industry Is far from Dead
If we go back 10 years, SEO spending topped out at $11.44 billion in the United States. By 2015, this figure had shot up to $60.73 billion. Predictions place spending in 2020 on SEO at $79.27 billion in the United States alone.
So, while industry growth is definitely going to slow down, it is a long way from dying out completely.
In fact, the industry as a whole is thriving. Even with SEO ROI statistics taking a hit with updates like Google and Panda, the industry is still doing well. In fact, there are a lot of favorable factors when it comes to the growth of the industry. There are some negative factors that endanger it as well. In the next section, we’ll go through both types.
Factors Influencing SEO Industry Growth
More Searches Being Conducted
As long as people want to find information online, and as younger, more computer-literate generations start to become a force, search engine ranking is going to remain important. We’ve already started the shift to the convenience of online options.
We’ve seen this with online banking, shopping, etc. With the advent of new tech making search easier than ever before, we can rightly expect to see more searchers relying on information found online rather than that found in the “real” world.
How many people have you seen lately to consult an encyclopedia? The numbers decline by the year. And it makes sense, why go and drag out a book when you can just ask Google for the answer?
Search Engines Are Getting Better
With more users, search engines will continuously look for ways to improve the results they spit out. Searches will become even faster and more accurate, and search engines will get better at sniffing out low-quality sites.
This, in turn, will also lead to people having more confidence in online searches. It could boost SEO ROI statistics and SEO industry statistics for legitimate sites. Furthermore, it entails greater spending on SEO for individual companies.
Fast-forward to today, and we got personal assistants which can do a lot more than simply look up a bit of information. They can help to schedule appointments, remind you about a task to complete, etc. This makes them even more valuable to home users.
But tech can speed the growth of search engines in other ways as well. Think for a second about the impact a self-driving car might have. You won’t have to waste time concentrating on the road while commuting and will be able to do other things instead.
So why not look up the sales stats on the way to work in the morning and make good use of the time spent being driven around? Or even better – tell your smart car to do it for you.
Smart tech and wearable tech are other examples we can draw on here. With these devices becoming more mainstream and affordable, we can expect a subsequent increase in the availability of the internet.
Say, for example, that you’re out jogging. You could ask your smartwatch for advice on an alternative route, the nearest coffee shop, etc.
Alternative Search Engines
“Google it” is something that has become a common saying. But what we tend to forget is that there are quite a few other search engines out there. Google is the biggest and the most dominant with 86% overall market share as of July 2018 (we’ll talk about that later), but there are also other contenders.
Running a search engine can be profitable. SEO industry statistics show that Baidu, a popular Chinese search engine, brought in $3.3 billion in the second quarter of this year alone. While that doesn’t sound like an awful lot, considering that the company’s market share was only 1.05% in July 2018, it turned in a pretty good performance.
So, as there is money to be made running a search engine, we can start to expect more of them to come to the fore. Will they be able to overtake Google for number one position? Not anytime soon but they really don’t have to, do they? Besides, it’s nice to know that Google is not always going to have everything its own way, isn’t it?
Organic Results Are More Effective
PPC advertising does still have a role to play. But considering that 70%-80% of users ignore paid results in favor of organic ones, the SEO ROI statistics in this area are limited. So companies do have to pay attention to practices that net them organic traffic. SEO tactics are always going to be useful in this regard.
SEO Is Evolving As Well
Gone are the days of stuffing an article with the right keywords or buying links from anyone and anywhere. These tactics are now more likely to get you penalized when it comes to search engine traffic. As a result, SEO tactics have become a lot more sophisticated and with this evolution, more resilient to changes in search engine algorithms as well.
Costs And Competition
SEO industry statistics and indicators are not all positive, though. With the increasing sophistication of search engine algorithms, predicting exactly what will work when it comes to ranking has become even harder.
Even now, SEO is still very much a guessing game. You implement your strategy, monitor the results, and finetune it accordingly. This can be a costly exercise, and as search engines get even more clever, that cost could very well become prohibitive. Factor in the intense competition for those top-ranking positions and it could well be that SEO becomes too expensive for small to medium businesses to afford.
Also, as the return on investment starts to dwindle, even the bigger companies are bound to start looking for alternative ways to rank well.
The Knowledge Graph and Aggregated Search Results
If you look at the top right-hand side of a page of Google results, you’ll notice a summary of the information on the topic that you are looking for. This looks similar to a webpage but is actually a collection of the information that Google has been able to gather on the search results.
Virtual assistants are also starting to be able to aggregate results and so provide a summary of what they have collected.
This could be bad news for SEO statistics 2018 and results going forward because it means that searchers no longer have to trawl through individual results. If the searcher gets all the information she needs in a summary, your page rank won’t make much of a difference in attracting traffic.
This will also impact the return on investment of SEO programs, and it could negatively impact the industry going forward.
New Forms Of Search Modes
Search engines are now able to tailor results according to the device used to search on. Try running a search on your laptop and then run the same search on your mobile phone. There’s a better than average chance that the results will be different.
It makes sense from a searcher’s perspective – you want the sites that will display well on the device you are using. Unfortunately, it can negatively impact Google SEO statistics, and it’s not a stretch to assume that the other search engines will follow suit.
Factor in that alternative search modes also change the way that queries are placed, and it gets even harder. A voice search, for example, is likely to have more words in it than a typed query. It means that identifying the right keywords becomes even more difficult.
New Tech Could Be an Issue
New tech that uses AI to understand the context of the site and that can produce the best results in real time, such as RankBrain, makes it even harder to predict what factors work well for ranking. When RankBrain takes over all searches, it will enable Google to interpret results in real time at lightning fast speeds.
Google will no longer need to rely on historical data gathered when it managed to crawl a site. Now it will be able to process this information a lot faster and so be able to gather the data in real time instead. This will make it harder to maintain your page rank.
Search Engine Market Share
There’s no denying that Google is the biggest search engine globally. As you can see from the graph below, it has been consistently maintaining the top spot when it comes to desktop searches globally and dwarfs its competitors.
That’s not to say that the search engine giant performs as well in every single country in the world. As you’ll see in the chart below, Google barely registers in China at 5.72% market share, and Russians only choose Google for 38% of their searches.
For most users in the Western world, however, Google does come out on top. It’s not surprising considering that the giant processes 67,000 queries per second. Or, put another way, just over 4 million queries a minute. That’s a phenomenal amount of data when you think about it.
How Did Search Engines Evolve?
It’s hard to remember a time before Google was a big name, but it was by no means the first ever. WebCrawler, Lycos, and Alta Vista were all there first, but in terms of sophistication, they were nowhere near what Google is today.
Back then, it was pretty simple. There wasn’t the major competition for ranking that there is today and all you really needed to do to rank was to make sure that you got in the most keywords. It was a flawed system – you could write complete nonsense and still come up top in search results.
That’s when Google joined the fray. The company was initially started as a way to do things better. It was too easy for spammers to rank their sites highly. Some of the earlier search engines were no better than directory sites. All you had to do was add your site and hit the right keywords.
Google shook things up by also focusing on link analysis. At the time, this worked something like Facebook likes. The more people linked to a site, the more popular it was. This lent the site a certain amount of credibility in the eyes of Google.
The company did start to consider the quality of the links, but the tech was still in its infancy, so this wasn’t necessarily as accurate as it is today. At the same time, other search engines started considering off-page factors, like the number of people who actually clicked through to the site. Sites with a higher CTR were considered more authoritative.
But to be fair, it was links and keywords that really counted for the most for a long time.
What Happened Then?
In the next evolutionary phase, search engines started focusing on more targeted results. So, instead of trying to flood you with all possible results for a query, they focused on the most relevant results.
For example, if you were to search for “photos of the moon,” you’d be taken through to results that showed those photos, rather than to NASA’s site where you might have to sift through to get the info.
During the next evolutionary phase, your previous searches started to factor into the equation.
Say, for example, that you had searched for information on Egypt as a travel destination. The search engine would remember that, so that next time you searched for a related term, say “sight-seeing,” results featuring Egypt would rank more highly, even if you didn’t use the word “Egypt.”
This is also where locational searches came into the mix. Say, for example, that your favorite soccer team is Manchester United and you’d checked its results regularly. The search engines would use that information, along with other cues about where you are based, to tailor the results according to your actual location.
It wasn’t as fine-tuned as it is today – we didn’t have the GPS in our smartphones to pin the exact location, but they could narrow it down to the country and the city.
Social Media Factors
We also started to see the emergence of social factors as well. Social media started to play a role in how websites ranked. Before this, the system was weighted in favor of those with the tech knowledge to use it. Technically, everything was democratically handled.
I could, if I wanted to, review my favorite restaurant. But to get that review to really count as a positive for a search engine, I would need to add in the correct anchor text, choose the right platform, etc.
It’s kind of like saying – okay, you can cast a vote as long as you’re 18 or older and own property. Technically, anyone of age can vote, but it’s not really a fair reflection of the population.
How many people would bother to put in all that effort? Now, it’s become a lot simpler – you can go through to sites like Yelp, Facebook, etc. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it doesn’t require a lot of expertise.
Search Context Understanding
The next evolution is more about understanding the context of your search. Say, for example, you wanted to know more about Bill Gates. If you searched for the name, “Bill Gates,” you’ll probably be told that he is the founder of Microsoft.
The search engine now understands that Bill Gates is a subject on its own. If you were to ask something like, “Who is he married to?” the search engine would understand that the “He” refers to Bill Gates and tell you that he married Melinda Gates.
In previous iterations, the search engine would not have been able to identify Bill Gates as an entity. If you wanted to conduct further searches against his name, you’d have to type in something along the lines of, “Who is Bill Gates Married to?” or something like, “How old is Bill Gates?”
We’re moving to a phase where the web pages themselves aren’t even going to be the main feature anymore. Google’s Knowledge Graph is the perfect example of this. Google pulls together all the information it can from various sources on a particular topic and amalgamates into a “page” of sorts.
Basically, we’re moving to a phase where the artificial intelligence is going to decide what facts are important and what are not. While the integration of AI into search engines has definitely had some significant advantages, it could also have some negative effects on the owners of web pages.
Say, for example, that you write a blog about Manchester United. You work on creating excellent content and doing everything right. But now Google comes along and is able to aggregate information from a number of sources.
Maybe it pulls in some information from your site; maybe it doesn’t. The problem is that because it has aggregated the information, the person on the receiving end doesn’t really know where it comes from. And there’s a good chance that she might be able to get all the answers that she wants from the aggregated information.
This is great for her because it means she doesn’t have to wade through any of the search results. It’s not so great for you, however, because it means a drop in traffic. But that’s not going to count for much because the searcher is getting the information that she wants, so the search engine has performed its function well.
Way Forward with SEO
The truth is that no one can accurately predict what will happen in the future with search engines. We’ve come a long way in a very short time, and there’s no telling what could be coming next. The very first search engine, Archie, was created in 1993 but bore little resemblance to what we know as a search engine today.
As tech develops, your best bet is to keep an eye on general and local SEO statistics and updates. Keep up to date with the latest developments in the field, and you’ll be better prepared for changes going forward.
We do hope that this SEO statistics 2018 post has been interesting for you and that you’ll watch this space for our next post.
As the Marketing Manager at SEO Tribunal, part of Tina’s daily engagements involve raising awareness of the importance of digital marketing when it comes to the success of small businesses. As her first step towards this journey was in the field of content marketing, she’s still using every opportunity she gets to put her thoughts into educational articles.
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