What an interesting year in SEO 2017 is already proving to be! So far we’ve seen a lot of changes.
From the jokingly named Google Fred update to the increased dominance of local and personalised search, to our faster than ever push into a mobile-only world. Then there’s the speed of voice search adoption.
But there’s much more coming.
Here are my Top 5 trends to watch for the remainder of 2017. All are interconnected and cannot be viewed in isolation. Nothing in SEO operates in its own separate silo.
AI and RankBrain
Google’s RankBrain and algorithmic machine learning continues to dominate.
Ever since the Hummingbird update, Google’s emphasis on semantic search is never-ending and evolving at a tremendous pace.
Google even took the unusual step of confirming that RankBrain was the third most important ranking factor after links and content in 2016. This importance has only increased throughout the latter half of 2016 and into 2017.
Having moved on from its days of poetry and reading romantic novels, Google’s AI technology is getting better by the day.
It’s very hard to optimise for RankBrain.
It’s so all-encompassing and fast-moving that only true quality will dominate SERPs (search engine results pages). Which is great.
UX (user experience), CTRs (click-through rates), aiming for the ‘long click’ and the resulting engagement metrics should be high on your watch list.
The increasing importance of personal branding
The web is about people. It’s about us.
So that means having an outstanding About Us page; having a description of who you are; and a statement on just what makes you stand out from the competition. These are essential.
You need to build a personal brand as a core strategy for SEO. To establish trust.
Pictures and especially videos will be a central focus for Google for the remainder of 2017 – and well into the future. Having a team video and/or personalised photographs is no longer a choice, it’s a necessity these days.
If you show yourself as an approachable and friendly person, visitors will trust you much more readily. This will drive ever more traffic and conversions to your website.
Even social media platforms such as Facebook have been honing their algorithms in favour of personal posts (as opposed to brand posts).
In the future more businesses will choose the personal approach to gain success.
User Experience Optimisation (UEO) and Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO)
To a varying degree, user experience has always been important to SEO. Google ranks sites that are properly set up for mobile devices, that load quickly and where users spend a long time on a page.
This year we will likely see even more focus on user experience, especially on mobile devices. So focus on the traffic you already have to offer people much more than they expect.
Page depth, time-on-site, CTRs, and pogo-sticking are all things to work on.
If you offer true value you will notice the difference and soon know the full benefits of your efforts.
Personal digital assistants will become more sophisticated
Thanks to personal digital assistants the opportunity for new types of search and more advanced forms of conversational queries is huge.
Excellent tools such as Cortana and Siri have enhanced our user experience, made our lives easier and massively increased the number of verbal searches and enquiries.
For the rest of the year, we’ll see these tools become even more smoothly polished and capable of offering even more useful features. And that means excellent new ranking opportunities that have to be brought into play.
Voice search has the potential to really shake up the SEO industry.
The need for speed: a fast-loading user experience
It’s no secret that speed really matters.
Research has shown slower loading web pages are associated with higher bounce rates, and up to 40 percent of visitors are likely to abandon your site if it loads in longer than just three seconds.
Speed will be of even more importance in the coming year. AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) pages help and will be of increasing importance in the future.
There are so many other interesting technologies on the horizon as well – such as HTTP/2 and Google’s new open source JPEG encoder Guetzli, which are just two to keep a keen eye on.
Knowing who your customer is and what they want is the big change this year. Not just with SEO, it’s where the entire digital strategy will be directed.
You need to meet, match and exceed searcher’s expectations. To achieve this you have to understand your target audience better than ever before.
Google’s aim is to provide the most relevant website to the search entered.
Going big on word count is not working as well as it used to, not when short videos and images can be so much more attractive. Done well, they can deliver what you want to say and what customers want to know much quicker.
So, keep it simple! Give users what they want, let the search engines do their job – and it will all fall into place.
In 2017 it’s time to focus on providing true value.