Search engine optimization, or SEO, is bigger now than it has ever been. It’s also a completely different beast than it was ten years ago. It evolves and changes with every shift in Google’s algorithm, and working in the industry requires a keen eye and the ability to keep track of everything happening in the world of search.
Today, we’re going to look at 11 ways SEO is changing as we kick off 2017. As always, these are just predictions, but they are based heavily in fact. Let’s take a look!
Search engines are constantly growing and changing, but at the heart of these changes are some basic trends that we can use to inform the future of our craft as SEO experts. Below, you’ll find 11 changes that are most certainly coming in 2017. These changes will affect SEO long into the future as well..
FOCUS ON MOBILE & SPEED
Mobile devices are now used to access the Internet more than desktops or laptops. They are the preferred method for using search engines and finding answers to questions. As a result, Google has taken notice.
Today, mobile responsive web design is a must if you want to rank well, but it also comes with another requirement: speed. Website performance is also extremely important, as Google notes a 7% reduction in conversions for every second delay.
So, what does this mean for you? It means your websites need to be fast and look great on mobile devices. Thankfully, today’s options are plentiful for both. This trend won’t be going anywhere, however, so it’s important to keep both of these things in check.
RANKBRAIN AND MACHINE LEARNING
Machine learning is a type of artificial intelligence that is able to learn and grow on its own as an algorithm. Google’s RankBrain is a type of machine learning that, according to Google, is able to “see a word or phrase it isn’t familiar with and make a guess as to what words or phrases might have a similar meaning and filter the results accordingly, making it more effective at handling never-before-seen search queries.”
For SEO, this means that Google’s algorithm is becoming more and more human. Case in point: keywords won’t be enough going forward. That doesn’t mean keywords are dead, but it does mean that we should look beyond them.
Our keywords should inform the topics we choose and the approach we take. We need to identify search intent and understand why a person is searching for those particular keywords instead of just placing them in the text and calling it a day.
When it comes to trust, people would much rather deal with another human being that buy from a faceless corporation. A study done by DKNewMedia found that 32% of online consumers trust a stranger’s opinion on forums or blogs more than branded advertisements and marketing campaigns.
Trust is everything in business. Without it, not even the greatest SEO can convince someone to buy. Instead of focusing on your business as a whole, consider creating a network of personal brands. For example, when I’m marketing my new blog, I don’t start by shouting out the name from the rooftops. Instead, I market myself. I tell people who I am, a little about me, and why I’m in the business of blogging.
From an SEO standpoint, this type of personal branding is great for when you’re building links and raising your TrustRank.
USER EXPERIENCE IS EVERYTHING
Google’s in love with the user experience. As a service, they want to showcase websites that provide quality content and a pleasant experience overall. Like anything else involving SEO, if Google loves it, we love it.
Using metrics like bounce rates, CTR, and the average time on a page, we can see how satisfied users are with their time on a site. Tiny tweaks like improving your website’s speed and design functionality will go a long way towards SEO moving forward.
Techniques like this fall into UEO or user experience optimization. It’s important that you’re constantly monitoring the functionality and performance of your site, as these key metrics will have a huge effect on your user satisfaction.
QUALITY, NOT QUANTITY
To stand out from the crowd, many experienced SEO specialists recommend long form content with tons of words, and therefore, tons of information. While this is nice, things are changing to the point where quality now matters more than how many words you have.
The rise of long-form content has left us with guides that take forever to read and even longer to write. Today’s users want their answers fast. To accommodate this need, your content strategy should seek to focus on “dense content.” This is writing that has a lot of value per word.
Cut out all the filler and focus on the hard facts. If you can say it in 500 words instead of 5,000, then do that.
RICH SNIPPETS IN SEARCH ENGING RESULTS PAGES
You may not use it now because you don’t think you need it, but rich snippets and schema.org markup are going to be extremely important going forward. Not only do these tags help Google better understand information on your site, but they also put you in the running for Google’s Quick Answers or Rich Card results.
Currently, rich snippets are used a lot for recipes, videos, local businesses, and reviews, but they’re going to expand to everything in 2017. Doing this now will also help Google’s RankBrain better interpret your site as well.
ACCELERATED MOBILE PAGES
Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) are versions of mobile websites that have been stripped down to their pure HTML. Since launching, these types of pages have seen speed improvements of up to 85%.
While these types of pages started out with a small focus, they are much more widespread. Even if you’re not using them, users will start to focus on speed even more after experiencing what this technology can do.
Since speed is indeed a ranking factor, using options like this can drastically improve otherwise slow-loading pages.
VOICE SEARCH ALGORITHMS
As of right now, voice search isn’t taking over the world, but it has the potential to do so in 2017. With the rise of virtual assistants like Siri and Cortana, more people are becoming accustomed to using their voice for search.
To prepare for this, you should start thinking about your keywords and your targeting methods in terms of “natural language.” These are defined as normal terms you would use while speaking. They are also something Google’s RankBrain is learning to interpret and falls into the aforementioned “vague queries” we discussed.
String your otherwise separate keywords together to create a phrase you would use while normally speaking. Say you’re targeting things like action movies. Instead of focusing on a keyword like “action movies” you could use phrases like “What are the best action movies of 2016?”
A great way to test your natural language choices are to say something out loud and see if it sounds right. If it comes across as forced, then you know you need to tweak it.
Most SEO specialists focus on ranking in organic search results, but many are neglecting the power that local SEO wields. If we recall the rise of mobile searches, then it makes sense that people are doing their searching on-the-go.
Google’s own research into the subject found that 50% of consumers who made local searches visited a store that same day. Another 34% did the same thing on a computer or tablet. As mobile searches grow, so too will the need for local SEO.
So long as your business has a physical location of any kind, you can start ranking in these results. Simply follow these quick steps to get started:
- Complete your Google My Business page
- Include your name, address, and phone number on every page of your site
- Use local schema markups in your HTML
- Focus on local keywords and search phrases
Long-tail keywords are the evolution of standard keywords and offer a lot more for your content than single terms. Any keyword phrase that’s at least three words can be considered a long-tail variation.
These types of keywords are usually detailed and defined. This means that you’ll be targeting a much more focused audience with them, and you’ll have less competition. These keywords also help you understand search intent much better than a single word.
For example, if someone is searching for “star wars”, you don’t know what aspect of the series they are searching for. It could be the video games, the movies, or collectibles. By expanding your target, you can better understand the search intent.
THE RISE OF VIDEO
Video is predicted to account for 80 percent of all traffic on the Internet by 2019. If you look at the popularity of YouTube and things like Facebook Live, you can see it happening already. For SEO, it’s also a great way to spice up your site with some unique content.
When doing this, integrate videos into your written content and be sure to include a transcript as well for people who want to read. You can also tag your videos with keywords and create a video sitemap to help search engines find these easier.
This is really easy to do. Just host the video on YouTube and embed it in your site to avoid having to store your hefty video files on your own server. As video continues to grow and become more popular, starting now will ensure you can reap the SEO benefits later.
SEO is moving in a brave new direction, and we must go with it to ensure success in the future. Consider these trends and prepare for them now, so you’re ready when the future arrives. How do you prepare for the changes that are coming to SEO? Let us know in the comments!
This post was originally written by Trey Donaldson for the Heyo blog.