As long as SEO has been in place, there have always been discussions, articles and rumours about it dying out and no longer relevant or required within the Marketing industry. There have been many articles, Blog posts or even whole websites aiming to cover the answers to questions such as “Is SEO Dead?” and “Why Do We Need SEO.” However, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) or Search Engine Marketing (SEM) has continually evolved, year after year and has always been a vital element of any Digital/Online Marketing strategy.
It’s true to say that some of the SEO techniques from around ten years ago can not be carried out nowadays to achieve the same successes. Practices such as link buying, keyword stuffing, cloaking (displaying one page for a user instead of another) or spammy content are no longer viable and could potentially cause a website to get penalised or blacklisted by the Search Engine directories. Instead, Search Engine marketers have had to adopt their strategies and focus less on what Search Engines want to see and more around what is best for the visitors.
SEO has continually evolved over the years and is ever-present as we move into 2017. Google continues to update its core algorithms to focus on metrics such as user engagement and quality content with the aim of improving its results for the 40,000 or more search queries which it processes for every second. By focussing on the latest recommended best practices and analysing the latest trends in SEO, we can determine which elements are going to be critical for the success of a website as we head into next year.
SEO Strategy in 2017
Here are the top 10 SEO trends and developments identified by Net Sixty Six as being at the forefront of Search Engine Marketing in 2017:
- HTTPS: An announcement was made back in 2014 by Google that it wanted to focus more on making the Web a more secure environment. Websites which utilised HTTPS over the standard HTTP would see their visibility improve. As we continue to see more adoption for these domain updates, we will also see improvements in efficiency, site security and also in speed.
- Structured Data / Schema Tags: It is estimated that just under 20% of search queries performed by users, currently see returned results in the form of direct answers or ‘rich snippets.’ These are essentially small packets of information to help provide more effective and efficient results so that visitors can easily find the answers they were seeking out. If your website features products, services, a business address, reviews, important dates, authors or special offers, it is a good idea to utilise Structured Data or Schema tagging which will help make the results stand out.
- Knowledge Graph / Featured Snippets: By supplying Google with more structured data, we will expect to see more featured snippets, answer boxes, knowledge graph boxes and carousels appearing within the organic listings. Just as the coveted top organic positions are currently being competed for, there is also more focus being done for trying to appear as a featured snippet.
- Google RankBrain: Google has been working on improving its machine learning, to help meet the different types of search queries being performed nowadays. As the rise in mobile searches has continued above traditional desktop queries, from the more long-tailed keywords rather than the 2-3 short-tail keyword queries, Google aims to understand user intent and the conversational type of searches. Google will continue to develop RankBrain which it announced last year as being the third most important signal for ranking.
- Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP): Originally intended for News sites and help content publishers, Google has AMP pages, Google now has over 600 million AMP documents and is caching more and more. By creating a separate mobile index with its own ranking factors, files which utilise AMP will benefit from improved rankings, since the pages will load much faster in a stripped-down form of HTML.
- Voice Search: Given the fact that it is much easier to speak rather than type a query and with mobile searchers opting to use virtual assistants such as Siri, Cortana or Google Assistant, we expect to see a rise in long-tailed keyword queries, perhaps more question based searches such as “Where can I find a good SEO Company in Manchester” as opposed to just typing in “SEO Manchester” into Google etc.
- No Pop-Up Ads: From 10th January 2017, websites may not experience high Search Engine rankings if they feature any kind of obtrusive pop-ups or banners which block the intended Content behind it. This new type of signal has been eagerly awaited by many people and will significantly help users (and Search Engines) focus on getting the results they were seeking from their searches. Examples of methods which could lower the accessibility of a website’s content include popups which block the main content or showing a standalone advertisement before any access can be made to the content.
- App Marketing: More and more people are interacting with mobile apps nowadays and spending more time within an app. It is more possible now to obtain app data in order to create more valuable and relevant Content for improving user behaviour. From 2015 onwards, there has been a steady increase in app usage and we expect to see this trend continue into 2017.
- Super-Local SEO: Local Search has always been an important ranking factor with Google giving preference to companies which have a local presence online. As mobile and voice search continue to evolve into next year, we should see more focus on local SEO, particularly for business information which is integrated into mobile apps. Google is now able to extract the data which is contained within a mobile app and display it into the Search results pages.
- Epic Content: The old phrase of “Content is King”, declared by Bill Gates nearly two decades ago, is still applicable today. However, it is increasingly more difficult to rank highly for producing sub standard or republished content. With so much content being published online each day, the top organic SEO positions are becoming increasingly more competitive to rank for. Earlier this year, Rand Fishkin provided some guidance on how to produce content that is x10 better than your competitors in a Whiteboard Friday. To avoid the risk of your website being penalised or having any risk of copyright infringement, it is important to create relevant, fresh and unique content which is way above the standards of any other content out there on the same topic being targeted.