What are the shocking new realities in SEI?
1. Alexa & Home & other voice activated search are now returning one result. Forget getting on the first page, if you are not number one you are not in the game.
2. Schema are vital. Google wants structured data so they can feature and analyse. If you are not implementing and updating schema, you are not in the game.
3. Local is now around half of the search results. Search on many terms, like homeschooling, and over half of the first page are local results. And long gone are the days when you could build pages with regional info or be "nationwide" with clever tricks like fake addresses or PO boxes. Google with their manual reviewers, local post cards, and street view are finding fakers and delisting them. Be there or not, don't fake it.
4. There are less results. Now that Google is folding the ads into the same column as the organic results, the first page is a lot shorter. Number 8 is just barely staying on the second page! Tough on many of us.
5. Mobile is big. Be mobile first or totally responsive. Did I mention blindingly fast? For us who care about elegant technology solutions, it's a vindication.
6. Semantics, not word matching or counting. There was a time when the site with "sex sex sex sex sex" would rate higher for the site that said "sex sex sex." I think that was over in its various forms by 2005. Optimal word density reigned for a half decade after that but still, around 2008-2010, I could see that Google would return different results for "3rd grade math lessons" than for "third grade math lessons." By 2010, these results were converging. But now it's 2017, Google has hired about a third of the graduates in computational linguistics, natural language processing, and semantic process engineering and they more often than not, have figured out what pages and queries are about and are matching much more intelligently.
7. Engagement. I'm pretty sure that Google is calculating the bounce rate on sites for different types of queries and using that as a significant input in the algorithm.
8. Unsure about social. Google still isn't clear to me on how they are taking social media input. Does a youtube video with a link to a site (in the description? in the video?) have any impact? What about Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. I've lost track as to which of these have blocked the Google spiders these days.
What are the other megatrends that you see?