The headaches have cleared, the wrapping paper thrown away. The dust truly has settled on 2016, and 2017 is well underway. This means that it is time to assess our SEO strategies for the coming year.
Although it’s impossible to exactly predict Google’s next move, we can make assumptions based on historical trends, on Google published data, and on the direction that search results are already taking. In this post, we look at what is likely to change in the coming months, as well as some of the ranking factors that will remain important to your search optimisation campaign.
Google has been transitioning to a mobile first search environment for some time, and with good reason. Figures suggest that 44% of all Internet traffic in 2016 came from mobile phone users and this is predicted to rise to more than 50% by the end of 2017. When you combine mobile and tablet usage, mobile overtook desktop in November 2016.
The move to mobile-first is not breaking news to good SEOs, and any marketer worth the rate they charge should have been pushing a positive mobile experience. This will only become increasingly prominent through 2017, especially as Google is likely to use more structed data, and publish Quick Answers and Rich Cards, on mobile too.
Your website should be responsive, your content optimised for a mobile user experience, but not as an afterthought. Consider that more than half of your traffic is likely to come from mobile devices, and this shows the importance of providing an exception mobile user experience.
Voice Search, Siri, Cortana, Alexa… voice search is big, thanks to improvements that have been made in the technology. Google themselves forecast that more than a half of all searches conducted by 2020 will be made using voice search.
Website owners need to start considering voice search optimisation and get ahead of the curve.
Optimise your local listings, because a lot of voice searches are used to conveniently find local businesses. This will also help with another recent and continuing trend in Google search, too.
Local Is Getting Even More Local
Details about local businesses are getting more precise, and especially in terms of the proximity of the business to the searcher. The closer your business is to a device conducting a local search, the more prominent it is likely to appear in local search results.
This move will make local search more competitive. It is also likely that Google will continue to tweak its results, and it certainly doesn’t mean the death toll will ring for local search optimisation. In fact, greater competition means greater efforts are required.
Ensure that your NAP (Name, Address, and Phone) details are up to date, claim your listings, and build citations. Ensure that the NAP details you use in your citation buildings match your Google NAP listings, and look at your geo-targeted keywords for additional local rankings.
Implementing schema markup on your website is going to become even more important, especially as structured data looks likely to become increasingly prominent in mobile results.
Schema markup is code that is added to a website and contains data to help search engines provide informative results for users. Hotels can provide details of upcoming events. Quick Answers and Rich Cards can provide your SEO with a major boost by listing your site in rank 0 for relevant search terms and queries. If you publish recipes, yours could become a Recipe Card that is extremely prominent on Google search results.
Implement Schema markup effectively on your website, and use Google’s structured data tester to ensure that your site is returning the desired results.
These results will become increasingly important as the year progresses, and as Google continues its march towards a mobile first user experience. Take advantage of this now, before all of your competitors do.
Amazon Will Gain Further Prominence
Amazon may not be considered a direct competitor for Google search. However, it has fast become a powerful product search engine. Some surveys indicate that Amazon is actually used by product searchers as often as Google, when they start the search for a product. While the validity of these claims seems questionable, there is no doubting that Amazon is making serious inroads.
Consider also that the Amazon Echo device is being used increasingly for local searches, and the ecommerce giant could become a major factor in SEO in the very near future.
Some Things Never Change
Of course, for all the changes that we expect to see in the SEO world, there are some ranking factors that are highly unlikely to falter or waver.
- Content remains king, even if the formatting changes. The mobile first policy means that shorter paragraphs and more visual content should be a part of your 2017 content plan, but a change in specific focus does not mean that you should ignore content.
- Links will always be an important ranking factor. They are Google’s means of determining the editorial value and quality, but Google will continue to try and improve its algorithm to weed out poor quality and black hat link building techniques.
- This leads us neatly onto another factor that won’t change this year – Google updates will cause panic and joy in equal measure. Those websites that use ethical marketing techniques will experience joy. Those that use questionable tactics may experience the wraith of the world’s biggest search engine.
- Google strives to promote high quality pages and media in its search results, even if this doesn’t always seem the case to SEOs and website owners. As such, adding high quality content and implementing ethical marketing techniques will yield long term results, rather than the short term hit that black hat techniques tend to enjoy.
Give us your own SEO 2017 predictions below. Or, if you want to talk about the state of SEO in 2017, WildShark can usually be found taking part in the #BizHeroes weekly chat. Alternatively, you can follow us on Twitter @WildSharkSEO, or you can visit the website to view our ethical, white-hat SEO UK services.