This is one of my favorite times of the year. Why? Because as quarter three draws to a close, companies will be looking at their marketing efforts over the past year, and making plans for 2017. As we all get ready to finish out the year, it is important to look at the SEO developments we have witnessed this year so we know where to head for next year. Before you go off making plans to ramp up or scale back on your digital marketing efforts, let’s explore the top SEO trends in 2017.
Exploring Top SEO Trends in 2017
Ask any SEO and they will tell you that the digital marketing landscape is changing almost continuously. Not only are online users constantly changing their web behavior and expectation of their online experience, but Google is also always making algorithm updates. With a large number of online experiences beginning with search, knowing the latest digital marketing practices as well as the top SEO trends in 2017 will help your business survive.
If you are not already taking advantage of using schema markups, you are doing yourself and your company a disservice. I believe this will be one of the top SEO trends in 2017 as companies search to stand out from, and rank higher than their competitors.
Schema markups make it easier for web browsers to understand the content on your website. Furthermore, schema gives Google the information it needs to be able to display rich snippets or quick answers.
Examples of a Quick Answer, and a rich snippet.
We’ve all seen various rich snippets while doing a Google search. These may include things like recipes, videos, television show and movie information, reviews, event information and more. Even if you don’t have these kinds of content on your site, you can always add the schema for your business. This would allow Google to show a Knowledge Panel for your business when someone is looking for you on the web.
Google is displaying more and more Quick Answers on the SERP. In December 2014, Google was showing Quick Answers, or Rich Answers, for about 22 percent of queries. By January 2016, these snippets were shown over 40 percent of the time. And don’t forget the rise of voice search because schema markups are going to help Google find the answer to a user’s query on your website. The use of schema helps Google understand the purpose of your site, which will allow you to take advantage of this growing trend.
Coupled with the fact that Google is becoming an Artificial Intelligence monster (which we will explore later), schema is a way for you to prepare your website for what the future of search holds.
Now most of us are familiar with multi-channel marketing strategies. Do not confuse these because cross-channel marketing differs slightly. Multi-channel marketing campaigns are run at the same time in different channels, while cross-channel marketing is about integrating a campaign across multiple channels.
It is much more difficult to assimilate the campaigns than to run them individually but marketers need to be prepared to learn how to execute these hybrid campaigns. Gone are the days of running a social media campaign, an email marketing campaign, and a PPC campaign all separately. Instead, you should be engaging your users across every channel and device, while still serving them the same user experience whether they enter your site via organic search, PPC, social media, or any other way.
As one of the top SEO trends in 2017, SEO’s will need to master campaign experimentation methods, like A/B testing for example. They also need to be able to make changes to the campaign based on insight gathered from campaign analytics.
Google SERP Changes
This year we have seen Google trying out some changes to the SERP. Search results are no longer the simple page containing ten links. There are rich snippets, knowledge panels, social posts, and ads galore! In an attempt to create the best user experience, Google has been experimenting with some changes to the results page.
We saw Google experiment with a longer left-container width, resulting in longer page titles. This was a 17 percent increase from 512px to 600px. We have also seen Google breaking titles at whole words rather than breaking at whatever cutoff point in the title. Another thing we have seen is Google testing adding brand names to the ends of the title on the SERP.
Google has eliminated the right-hand column of ads, moving them to the bottom of the page, and added AMP articles on the top of mobile search pages. What do all of these changes mean? There is less organic real estate for the taking. Companies will have to be more competitive than ever before to rank.
The challenge here is that Google has not rolled out these changes for all sites or users, nor have they announced that these will be permanent changes. Until Google can decide what changes will remain, the best thing SEOs can do is to continue using your focal keywords near the beginning of your title, and inserting them in your meta description. If you are a company that has received the extra pixels, take advantage of the extra characters.
The Decrease of Organic Social Media ROI
In June of this year, Facebook announced a major algorithm change that will greatly affect marketers and publishers: they will be reducing the organic reach of businesses and publishers. I think this definitely will be one of the top SEO trends in 2017 because it will be a major blow to publishers who receive 40 percent of their traffic from Facebook alone. And with Facebook being the social media leader, you can fully expect that the other social sites will follow suit soon.
Expect social media organic reach and ROI to decrease as the cost of paid social ads rises.
This is being done in favor of the individual user experience. Facebook fears that users are not able to connect with friends and family because of all the publisher and business content, so the social giant will now be prioritizing posts shared by friends and family members.
How is this going to affect your digital marketing strategy? Publishers and business can expect to see their organic reach and ROI decline. Publishers can expect to not only utilize more social paid ads but also pay more for these ads. As more companies fight to get their content in front of users, with a limited number of ad spots, costs will rise.
The Beginning of the End of Traditional Websites
Since the introduction of modern smartphones nearly a decade ago, users prefer an app-based experience more and more. This means that in a matter of years, perhaps 5 to 10, we can expect to see the end of websites as we know them now.
Google is pushing this trend by providing search features for apps and app users with their App Streaming. Basically, Google will show you what you’re looking for within an app, but you aren’t required to download the app. This allows you to seamlessly move between apps and the web. While this isn’t yet ready to be rolled out to the masses, you can surely expect that other marketing will be jumping on the app streaming bandwagon.
How can SEOs make sure their companies take advantage of this trend? Create an app that can deliver content from your website. Get yourself ahead of the game so that when app streaming goes mainstream, you are already prepared to integrate it into your marketing campaigns.
Google: The Self-Updating AI Behemoth
For starters, just 6 days ago, Google announced that Penguin is now a part of their core algorithm. Not only that, but it is now real-time, meaning changes you make to you site to rank better will be visible faster than in the past. You no longer have to wait for the next Penguin refresh to see ranking changes.
Last year, Google also released RankBrain, which is a machine-learning AI system as part of its algorithm. It will help to interpret the intent and meaning of search queries so that it can find relevant web pages that don’t necessarily have the exact words searched. RankBrain is now the third-most important single signal for ranking web pages.
Google is starting on this self-updating AI journey, so you should expect that it could only mean that the data giant has much larger plans still yet to come. What does this mean for SEOs? It will be absolutely critical that you follow best SEO practices and avoid any type of Black Hat SEO tactics.
We are no longer going to see companies using suspect SEO methods and be rewarded with higher rankings until Google’s next update. I predict it’s only a matter of time until Google will be able to detect faulty practices and punish website in real-time.
Mobile, Speed, and AMP
I think that utilizing Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) will definitely be one of the most important top SEO trends in 2017.
Note the lightning bolt icon that shows users that there is an AMP article available.
This month, Google rolled out AMP globally. These articles speed up load time by taking away all the extras on a website. With the ever-growing emphasis on mobile, expect to see the use of AMP surge in 2017.
While Google has said this will not affect rankings, these articles do appear before all organic listings on mobile. This means that if your AMP article appears, you are essentially ranking at position zero on the SERP. As users get more and more fed up with publisher ads and poor web experiences, they will be reading more AMP articles. For digital marketers wanting an edge, now is the perfect time to implement the use of AMP articles.
When you’re going into your marketing planning meetings as you gear for next year, keep these trends in mind. If you pay attention to these top SEO trends in 2017, you will put yourself in a prime position to have a successful year in digital marketing. As the digital marketing landscape continues to shift and change, be sure that you are taking steps to future-proof your online presence.
What trends will you be keeping an eye on in 2017? What steps are you taking to make sure you can benefit from the changing digital marketing landscape?