It’s that time of year again!
So much has happened in 2016 that it seems to have flown by. The same can be said for the ever changing landscape of SEO, and 2017 will certainly be no different. To stay ahead in this game you need to be aware of how search engines are changing and adjust your content and SEO strategy before your competitors catch on.
So let’s have a look at some of the top predictions for SEO in 2017 that should be considered in your latest SEO strategy.
Voice Search Will Continue To Dominate
Voice search is the fastest growing type of search.
Conversational search is where the future is heading. Technology is advancing to not only use voice recognition but interpret the meaning and context behind the words used in natural, conversational phrases.
Digital assistants such as Siri, Alexa and Cortana are the latest battleground between the leading technology companies. Designed to ease our digital lives, they respond to ordinary spoken language in order to take on basic tasks and even anticipate what users might need next.
Google’s Director of Conversational Search, Behshad Behzadi, said they believed the future of search was “an ultimate mobile assistant that helps you with your daily life so you can focus on the things that matter.”
This behavioural shift to voice searches will inevitably lead to the need to re-evaluate keywords. Typed searches tend to be a short couple of keywords, not a sentence but a direct route to find the answer. Voice searches on the other hand are slightly longer, more conversational and often include question words. Keyword research has always been important but this change in behaviour represents a huge paradigm shift, meaning new consideration for long-tail keywords, phrases and related terms.
These longer, natural language phrases reveal a degree of intent, often lacking in typed searches, which is incredibly valuable insight for marketers to use to increase ROI and CTR.
Accelerated Mobile Pages
Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) are an open source initiative allowing webmasters to create pages that open as much as 4 times faster on mobile devices. AMP HTML has restrictions in order to achieve reliable performance. It strips away all the extras of a website so the page can load faster. These simple structural changes enable the page to render above the fold content first so the user can view content almost instantly while the rest of the page loads.
The majority of users now use a mobile phone to access search engines. Google has recognised this fact and the others will catch up. Until recently, however, the AMP feature was only available for articles and pages in the “Top Stories” carousel of Google search results. Now, Google is rolling out AMP pages on the entirety of its mobile organic SERPs.
Up to 40% of visitors are likely to abandon your site if it loads longer than 3 seconds.
Load speed has long been a factor, websites with a load time of 8 seconds or more receive the least traffic and usually have the highest bounce rate. Today’s users expect to wait no more than a whopping 2-3 seconds. The importance of speed, especially on mobile devices has grown. AMP renders content virtually instantly from the perspective of the user, so 2017 seems set to see AMP gain more favouritism as it adopts a content-first approach and ultimately improves the user experience.
UX & SEO Fuse Tighter
Fast loading speeds are not the only thing users expect these days, navigation should be simple, and answers easy to find, with brands expected to portray a consistent message across all devices. User experience is high on Google’s agenda.
User Experience Optimisation (UEO) has been, to some degree, entwined with SEO, but as we move into 2017 we’re likely to see more emphasis on the user experience – particularly when it comes to mobile devices.
Google will continue to favour fast loading, mobile optimised websites, with good UX indicators such as low bounce rates and high average time on page. As already mentioned, AMP is yet another sign that this trend will continue.
In order to stay at the top in 2017 and beyond, invest in UX. Whether it takes a couple of tweaks or a complete rebuild to a responsive design, it will be essential to take the steps necessary to improve your website’s speed and navigation to provide the best user experience possible. When users are happy, they engage further with your website, reducing bounce rate, increasing page views and hopefully visiting the site again.
Recently we’ve seen an increase of epic content. Users were getting frustrated with bitesize content that was often repeated and seldom able to fully answer their questions. So after a tweak of algorithms by Google to boost longer content, reams of ultimate guides were produced in order to comprehensively answer every possible question about a topic in one place. However with our ever shortening attention span, users soon lost the patience to trawl through pages of detailed explanations in order to find the answer. It doesn’t exactly contribute to a fulfilling user experience.
Content marketing is adapting to dwindling attention spans and the answer is Content Density. Put simply Content Density is the value per word of the content. For example the complete guide you’ve produced with 5000 words incorporates every detail imaginable about your topic, but it is likely to have a low value per word due to the inevitable filler and fluff. By focusing the valuable information into a functional piece, without the fluff, you can provide the same value in a fraction of the words, increasing the value per word. The aim is to provide as much information as possible in the smallest space, which is attractive to readers.
The rise of content density in 2017 is something that every SEO authority collectively agrees with, making this is a challenge that will be faced in the very near future.
Rich Answers & Snippets
We all ask Google for answers. Google now often delivers the answer in the search results directly, along with similar useful websites, videos, reviews and other information. Rich answers and snippets are typically presented for recipes and videos, reviews, local businesses, movies, music and AMP articles.
Google’s use of Quick Answers has been increasing from around 22% at the end of 2014 to over 40% by the start of 2016 (According to a study by Stone Temple Consulting). This trend is likely to continue as anything that makes it easier for users to find what they are looking for, Google is keen to expand on.
Schema markup can be helpful to get your content displayed in rich answers and snippets. It works by allowing search engines to better understand the content of your website, enabling the information to be displayed in a useful manner for the user. The purpose of the content is also clearer and so increases the likelihood of it being displayed. Of course making your website easier for a machine to interpret is only going to help as Google’s RankBrain is now the third most important ranking factor.
Rich Cards, announced by Google in May 2016, provide more space for information along with higher resolution images and a carousel feature for users to scroll through.
Users love quick access to useful information and Google loves happy users so implementing schema markup should be high on the list of things to do in 2017, if you haven’t already done so.
It’s been 2 years since HTTPS was included as a ranking factor in Google’s algorithms. Although the gain you get in rankings is marginal, the costs of not having a secure domain are clear and are set to escalate in 2017.
Google is on a righteous and relentless drive to make the web a more secure place and The Google Chrome Security Team’s announcement has taken another step in that direction. From January 2017, websites that transmit passwords or credit card details will need to be HTTPS or they will be labelled “non-secure”. It doesn’t stop there as this is the first part of the long-term plan to mark all HTTP sites as non-secure.
WordPress is following suit and starting from 2017, HTTPS will be the default for all websites powered by WordPress. Although this may present a hurdle, the success of projects like Let’s Encrypt have made the process of switching a little easier.
It may have been something you’ve not considered or been putting off but if your website is not running on HTTPS yet, then now is the time to change or risk being left in the past.
Nobody has a crystal ball or can see into the future so we’re sure to see a few surprises in 2017. It’s hard to say exactly what Google and others have in store and how SEO will evolve and adapt, but our top trends above are a solid starting point and should be part of your SEO strategy for 2017.