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10 SEO Predictions for 2017

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:
SEO predictions 2017

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

The Impact of Voice Search for SEO

There has been a sharp increase in voice search queries being carried out instead of the traditional typed search queries. Voice search is now the fastest growing search technique for users, since it has many benefits for people. It is quicker, easier and more natural to speak to your mobile rather than having to manually type in the keyword(s) you require.

According to a recent post featured on Google’s Official Blog, more than half of teens aged 13-18 use voice search on a daily basis and 41% of adults are doing so too. The most common types of search queries being made by voice include:

  • Asking for directions.
  • Dictation of texts.
  • Calling a person.
  • Help with homework or research.
  • Finding out film showing times.
  • Playing a song.
The Impact of Voice Search for SEO

An infographic produced by Net Sixty Six to highlight the impact of voice search on SEO.

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As the rise of mobile users sees more and more people owning Smartphones, there are many different voice programs installed which make the job of performing searches much more efficient to carry out – and effective too. Apple uses SIRI, whereas Microsoft features Cortana and Amazon uses Alexa. Google recently launched their very first Smartphone called the Pixel, the first phone to use their voice-based Assistant built in.

When typing in a phrase for a search, people tend to shorten the number of keywords, for example “SEO Manchester.” However, this is not mirrored by how we actually speak in a conversation, when we would be more likely to use a more sentence-like query, such as “Find an SEO agency based in Manchester.”

Search engines have been refining their algorithms over the years and Google’s Hummingbird update was aimed at improving “conversational search”, where people are using long-tail search queries (where many keywords are used together, as opposed to just one or two). Traditional search engines would look to find matches of the keywords in text on other websites whereas nowadays, they understand a user’s intent, with the whole query being taken into account.

What does voice search mean in terms of SEO?

When voice search was starting to evolve, there were widespread rumours that SEO was dead, since the short tail keywords could no longer be targeted in the same way, by incorporating them into existing content effectively. However, the focus has also been on the longer tail keywords, which are performed by users who are already at the advanced stages of their decision-making.

SEO specialists need to focus on both searchers who are researching and also wanting to obtain fast responses to their query, with instant results. Pages which are designed to meet the user’s needs have been favoured by Google so a page which includes in-depth answers to questions that start with “What is”, “Where is”, “Who is” and “How” will feature more prominently.

It is still relatively early days for voice search and we simply do not have enough data gathered to properly understand the role it plays on the web marketing world. The rise will continue further for instant answers being shown without search results. Search Engines’ algorithms will continue to improve their understanding of query data and user intent.

Rand Fishkin, founder of Moz, said in a Whiteboard Friday on this topic:  “in the future I think we’re actually going to be looking for keyword research tools that can perform a voice query and then can tell us what the results either look like or sound like from the engine.” He goes on to  sound a word of caution on purely focusing on voice search over traditional search data, since both sets of data have continued to rise – it’s just that voice search has risen faster.

Essentially, there is still a need for both to be included in any digital Marketing strategy until we can all try and figure out the impact together, as an industry.

Net Sixty Six SEO, 08 November 2016

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Oktoberfest food and drink image by Timolina.

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John Dalton Street

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