Each year, the search engine landscape sees various predictions and discussions on how things will unfold in the new year. Most of these are prompted by changes in Google’s search engine algorithms and considerations on how websites should be optimized to enhance the user experience of visitors.
Relying on outdated SEO techniques will most likely see your website plummet in search engines results. The only way to ensure your efforts to rank high in search engines yields the best results is to continue to do SEO in 2017 the right way and be up to the minute with the latest trends that shape the industry.
If Google’s SERP and search engine algorithm changes throughout 2016 kept you on edge, let’s see how some of these changes will affect the way SEO will be done in 2017.
Shifting Focus to Mobile Optimization
On November 4th, Google’s announcement of its mobile-first indexing project hardly came as a surprise, given that in 2016, desktop was dethroned by mobile as the primary device to access the web. As Google moves to a mobile-first web, websites that had a desktop-first approach will likely lose visibility in search engines.
Although Google did not announce when the shift to mobile-first indexing will become effective, 2017 is the time to put more effort into mobile optimization, especially of you haven’t done so before. If you’re presenting different content on desktop and mobile, desktop content discarded in your mobile version will lose SEO visibility when mobile-first indexing is deployed.
Google suggests a responsive approach to make sure that the primary content and markup is the same across desktop and mobile.
Integrating AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages)
Another clear-cut sign that mobile optimization is here to stay is Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages Project. The project was first launched in October 2015 and was aimed primarily at news sites and blogs, however, Google started presenting it for recipe sites and even ecommerce sites (e.g. Ebay).
AMP introduces a new standard to building for mobile by creating a lightweight HTML and CSS version that allows an AMPed page to load 30x faster, thus putting an end to slow loading mobile sites and delivering a truly enjoyable mobile experience.
If you want to jump on the bandwagon right away and AMPify your site, you can easily implement it on a WordPress site by installing the official AMP WordPress plugin.
While the greater chunk of mobile traffic still comes from non-AMP search results, when analyzed with respect to fresh content alone, AMP results already dominate mobile search traffic.
Optimizing for Voice Search
Voice Search has seen a significant growth with more than 50% of U.S. teens and 41% of U.S. adults using it daily. Voice Search has a traffic-attracting potential via featured snippets, that is, summary answers appearing in a special block in search results.
Since the snippet also includes a link to the site from where it was retrieved, it provides a greater visibility for your brand or site, and featured snippets are more frequently returned for Voice Search as opposed to text-queries.
Therefore, based on the above considerations, optimizing for Voice Search opens new avenues for branding.
User Experience Will be Even More Significant
In the context of shifting to a mobile-first web, user experience will become more important than ever. Websites will need to strive to meet the goal-oriented approach of mobile users.
Responsiveness alone will not suffice, websites will need to make it easy for mobile users to achieve their goal then and there. Therefore, usability testing, user interaction recording tools and analytics will become important elements of creating a better user experience for your visitors.
UX Disruptive Marketing Practices Will be Sanctioned
Albeit useful tools of user engagement, popup windows (newsletter subscription forms, advertisement or other type of popup windows) will likely have a bad effect on SEO, especially on mobile where screens are often smaller.
Putting roadblocks between your visitors and the content they seek to access immediately will be sanctioned by Google. Websites with intrusive popups and intrusive standalone interstitials will not ranks as highly as sites where content is immediately viewable.
Focusing on Security, Changing to HTTPS
As security is singled out as one of the top priorities of Google, their using HTTPS as a ranking signal comes as no surprise. 2017 will see a more concentrated focus on security and sites failing to provide a secure environment will likely lag behind in search results.
Boost your SERP rankings this year by switching to HTTPS if you haven’t already done that.
Attractive Content Will be the New King
While the information factor of content will still be important, search engines will likely favor denser and richer content as opposed to very long content, which is likely to lose value as readers will have less time to go through it.
Focusing instead on dense content – telling as much information as possible in fewer words – and attractive content (video, visually structured content) is likely to trend in 2017.
Link Building in 2017
By Google rolling out Penguin in 2012, spammy link building practices and buying links to boost rankings were cut short. Instead genuine links (often referenced as “earned links”) have become the only ones relevant to rankings.
In 2017, genuine link building will continue to have a high value in terms of ranking a website and links from relevant and authority websites will be the strongest to boost SERP.
However, local links will also be relevant to local SEO, where local relevancy may trump authority links. Therefore, getting a link from a low authority site that is highly relevant to your local area can also have significance in terms of SEO.
You may be inclined to wait for the dust to settle before you implement any changes to your SEO strategy for 2017, especially that throughout the not so distant history of search engine optimization, there were multiple changes in Google’s search engine algorithms that ultimately proved to be a fad. However, focusing on mobile optimization, the integration of AMP and creating better user experiences are changes that you can get aboard with in 2017 since they are central to Google’s plans.