Here is our recap of what hap­pened in SEO in 2018 — with links and sum­maries of some of the big­ger changes through­out the year in search and SEO.

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 Aril 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 schema, live stream sup­port, datasets schema, how to, QA, FAQs schema and so much more. The list goes on and 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 Console and other tools

Google Search Con­sole. It was a very busy year for the Google Search Con­sole team, with giv­ing access to the new Google Search Con­sole to every­one, then remov­ing the beta label from the new ver­sion and redi­rect­ing some old Search Con­sole reports to the new ver­sion on Decem­ber 13th.

Google also start­ed show­ing Search Con­sole snap­shots direct­ly in the search results for site own­ers. Google removed the abil­i­ty to use the pub­lic URL sub­mis­sion tool, and changed the lim­its and quo­tas on crawl­ing and index­ing with­in Search Con­sole. Google also made it eas­i­er to gain access to Search Con­sole by auto­mat­i­cal­ly ver­i­fy­ing you if you have a Google Ana­lyt­ics account.

New slow site notices start­ed going out via Search Con­sole, Google test­ed a new form of domain prop­er­ties for cross site report­ing, and added a bunch of reports for event list­ings, AMP, links, mobile usabil­i­ty and so much more. Let’s not for­get the new awe­some URL inspec­tion tool that gives you a snap shot of how Google sees your page at any point in time.

The new Search Con­sole came with 16 months of his­tor­i­cal data, and Google added that to the Search Con­sole API as well. They also expand­ed the API to give you 25,000 rows of data.

Light­house. Google updat­ed the Page­Speed Insights tool to bring in data for Light­house. Ver­sion 3.0 of Light­house was released this year and there is a new SEO audit tool in Light­house.

Google local

Google Posts. Google Post was a fea­ture that Google spent a lot of time fine-tun­ing this year. They test­ed many user inter­faces around Google Posts in desk­top and mobile search. They updat­ed the Google My Busi­ness con­sole to enable Google Posts on the web or via the mobile app. But ulti­mate­ly, at least towards the end of this year, Google Posts traf­fic and engage­ment lev­els have declined accord­ing to many local SEO experts. You can fol­low all the changes to Google Posts this year over here.

Google My Busi­ness. Google My Busi­ness is the con­trol pan­el for local SEOs and busi­ness own­ers to man­age their local list­ings in Google Maps and Google search. Recent­ly, Google vast­ly updat­ed the Google My Busi­ness mobile apps to let busi­ness own­ers update and man­age their list­ings on the go. Google added more “insights” data, ana­lyt­ics, to the por­tal includ­ing brand­ed search­es, more query data, and even cre­at­ed an Agency dash­board for local SEO agen­cies.

Google added new attrib­uted for women led and vet­er­an-led busi­ness­es. Google also let busi­ness set open dates before they open up for busi­ness. Google updat­ed the Google My Busi­ness API numer­ous times over the year.

Mobile search and voice assistants

Voice assis­tants and the spread of the adop­tion of Google Home and Google Assis­tant devices was and still is of much inter­est to the SEO com­mu­ni­ty. How Google responds to some­one ask­ing “Okay Google, tell me about X,” is some­thing at the top of mind of many SEOs. Google’s fea­tured snip­pets play a big role here, and SEOs know that. Google Home devices are still con­sid­ered the smartest out there, but there is com­pe­ti­tion with Ama­zon Echo, Apple Home and Microsoft Cor­tana to name a few.

Google released their Google Home Hub, the voice assis­tant with a dis­play. We reviewed it in detail from an SEO per­spec­tive and a local per­spec­tive. Google even let you trig­ger the Google Assis­tant by ask­ing Siri.

It is also impor­tant to read the Google voice search qual­i­ty raters guide­lines.

Google UI changes

One con­stant in the SEO and Google world is “change.” And that is what Google did a lot this year between many user inter­face tests and changes. Google rolled out a new design for desk­top search results with a round­ed search box that sticks to the top of the page. Google offi­cial­ly now shows zero results as it is being called for time, cal­cu­la­tions, and con­ver­sions relat­ed queries on mobile. The Google mobile home page now shows a dis­cov­er feed and not just a sim­ple search box. Google also rolled out the more results but­ton on mobile.

Google increased and then decreased their snip­pet length in a very non­com­mit­tal man­ner. Google auto­com­plete pre­dic­tions expand­ed this year, began show­ing famous peo­ple cameos in search.

AMP. On the AMP end, Google released a devel­op­er pre­view of show­ing the pub­lish­er URLs in search and not the Google AMP cache URL. Google launched AMP sto­ries in search, and lots of oth­er AMP relat­ed fea­tures list­ed here.

Other big Google news

In addi­tion to all of that, Ben Gomes replaced John Gian­nan­drea after he left Google as the head of search to work at Apple as the head of AI.

Plus, Google+ is clos­ing down ear­li­er than expect­ed after sev­er­al secu­ri­ty inci­dents.


Bing was very active this year as well – more so than in past years. Bing is tak­ing efforts to improve crawler effi­cien­cy, fixed back­logs with Web­mas­ter Tools, after shut­ting down their pub­lic URL sub­mis­sion tool like Google did.

Bing also did a lot of work around intel­li­gent answers, their AI with Bing spot­light, facts from mul­ti­ple sources, and big improve­ments to visu­al search includ­ing solv­ing com­plex math prob­lems and oth­er areas.

Bing now sup­ports JSON-LD for markup. Bing sup­ports view­ing AMP con­tent for news via mobile search. They also cre­at­ed a Bing enti­ty search API for pub­lic use.