Looking back at 2016 It’s been a busy year in the SEO industry, with a slew of algorithm updates from Google culminating in the release of Penguin 4.0 and the announcement of a mobile-first index at the end of the year – it’s kept us marketers on our toes.
As we begin the new year, now is the time to rethink your SEO strategy for 2017 if you haven’t already done so. Google’s recent activity has given us a flavour of where they are headed, so what can we take from this moving forward? In this post, we’ll discuss the five most important SEO trends for 2017 to help keep you ahead of the pack.
Mobile First Index
If it wasn’t already obvious enough, a strong focus on Mobile optimization should be the priority for marketers in 2017, particularly for technical SEOs. With the mobile-first index Google’s intention is clear, it will eventually become the platform by which all your SEO efforts will be scrutinised on, albeit launching alongside the desktop index at first.
Source: comScore – The U.S. Mobile App Report (2014)
SEOs should start to implement structured data for mobile to let Google understand the intent behind your mobile web pages. More specifically, JSON-LD schema will help site speed as well as displaying rich cards in the mobile SERPs.
Correct mark-up implementation will also aid in achieving that all important Rank #0 featured snippet. However, it is becoming more apparent that as RankBrain continues to evolve its natural language algorithm, content strategy must adapt in tandem. Keyword research, although still important in crafting optimized content, SEOs should now focus on topic optimization rather than individual keyword targeting.
From this we can see that It’s no longer enough to just have a responsive website, all factors such as content and links, speed and UX of your mobile site will be the key drivers of your search engine visibility.
AMP and PWAs
Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) was heavily promoted by Google in 2016, and is steadily becoming more applicable in a wider range of industries, to satisfy user intent in the fastest way possible. If you are a publisher or a blog, AMP-lifying your site should be a priority. Interestingly, Google has also documented ways in which developers can use AMP to build their ecommerce websites, further cementing their emphasis on it.
Another important trend in 2017 will be the push towards Progressive Web Apps (PWA). Like AMP, Google has started to encourage webmasters and technical SEOs alike to follow the new web standard. Again, user experience is at the heart of PWAs – sites become more like an app, load quickly, and respond instantaneously. Check out this PWA tester to audit your site now, just install the chrome extension and run the report.
HTTPS and HTTP/2
Something that should be on the minds of SEOs early in 2017 is making the switch to HTTPS. Google have stated that sometime in January they will start to devalue websites that are not secure in the SERPs, marking them as “unsafe”. Apart from adopting a secure site, HTTPS is also a minor ranking signal offering a small boost in visibility. Failure to adopt HTTPS in 2017 will almost certainly propagate a drop in rankings, especially since it’s a fundamental requirement for PWAs.
Speed will be vital in a mobile first world; John Mueller at Google has recently stated that the recommended HTTP GET request time should be around 2-3 seconds.
Consider the new HTTP/2 protocol which can improve performance considerably with no significant caveats. The biggest change that this new revision has brought is the addition of multiplexing, this allows the website to request multiple files simultaneously, thus drastically improving page load times. If you already have a HTTPS site, all you need to do is change your server configuration to support the new protocol.
At Semetrical, we handle numerous large-scale website migrations and can help websites migrate to HTTPS, feel free to contact us if you’re interested in hearing more.
The adoption of voice search has been steadily increasing over the past few years. Sundar Pichai, Google’s CEO has even announced that 20% of all mobile queries are voice searches. It’s not difficult to see why there is such a marked surge in voice queries, almost all digital assistants like Alexa, Cortana and Google Assistant are accessible by more devices than ever before. They’ve now infiltrated our homes with the popularity of products like Google Home and Amazon’s Echo.
So, what does this mean for SEOs? Optimising for local SEO and natural language is now more important than ever as we observe more long tail queries such as, “best Chinese restaurant near me” for example. Content must be sculpted to capture and address these conversational queries. It might also be prudent to reconsider looking at Bing in 2017 as it is the platform which underpins Alexa and Cortana. Use a tool like Storybase to help generate natural language keywords to craft semantically relevant content.
If we consider that the average age a child starts to own a smartphone is around 10 years old and they tend to be more visual than textual, the SEO appeal of video should not be taken so lightly. Thus, mobile video consumption in teens has increased tremendously in the last decade, not to mention that in 2016, we consumed more video than previous years put together.
YouTube is still by far the most popular platform, and one of Google’s biggest revenue generators. In 2017 SEOs need to start placing as much prominence on creating and optimizing videos as they do on crafting content, as this is what visitors want to see. A quality video with optimized metadata won’t cut it, think about the length of the video and user and channel engagement, it might even be worth hosting the video on your website, boosting your SEO efforts by getting quality backlinks to your domain.