What’s New in SEO in 2017?
2017 is in now in full swing—have you noticed that old SEO best practices aren’t giving you the same returns they used to? It’s not enough to simply continue using the same tactics that got you through the previous year. Google now makes more than 500 changes to its algorithm each year, and while many of them are subtle and nearly impossible to track, many others constitute more sweeping changes to the way the search engine works. As a result, your 2016 marketing strategy needs to be updated for the new search environment.
So, how has search engine optimization changed for 2017? Here’s a rundown on a few of the most prominent SEO trends we see developing over the next year, so that you can get a better idea of what directions you might take your strategy.
Movement Toward Mobile and AMPs
Google as of late has been doing a lot to signal a shift toward an increased emphasis on mobile. Why? Over 80% of internet users now own a smartphone, and the result is that mobile has overtaken desktop internet consumption: estimates place mobile at 70% of global internet usage, and desktop usage is now decreasing as mobile replaces it.
So how are internet users using their mobile devices? While a majority of ecommerce still takes place on desktop, mobile is often used for research. In that research, search engines are the most common starting point: 48% of mobile research starts on search engines. This is why mobile SEO is growing in importance, and why Google seems to be taking notice.
One consequence of these trends is hybridization. As people start using mobile to check email and social media, the ways people use these platforms begin to overlap, the boundaries between different marketing channels and strategies will start to blur. This opens the door to more collaboration and creativity with cross-platform marketing campaigns. Your mobile, email, and social strategies should become more integrated as time goes by and mobile usage continues to evolve.
Another new development that’s resulted from this shifting dynamic is the AMP, or Accelerated Mobile Page. Google first introduced this open-source initiative in 2015 as a way for developers to create web pages that quickly render static content by stripping away all the extras on a website. Google says an AMP can improve a page’s loading speed by anywhere from 15 to 85%.
While AMPs were first created for news sites, marketers have been finding new ways to use them to harness micro moments. Micro moments are those immediate needs that people turn to their mobile devices for—the “I-want-to-know” moments, “I-want-to-go” moments, “I-want-to-buy” moments, and “I-want-to-do” moments. Users want to fulfill these needs as fast as possible, which is why speed is especially important on mobile. While news sites used AMPs to fulfill the “I-want-to-know” micro moments, one example of a company successfully using AMPs in another context is eBay, which used them to optimize millions of ecommerce pages (“I-want-to-buy” moments).
So, while AMPs aren’t required or the norm yet, you should be aware that they’ll become more important to shorten load times for mobile users as customers develop expectations for consistently fast sites. Prepare your site by compressing if possible, cutting unnecessary or overly complicated images that will slow your load times, and only keeping the cookies that are essential.
Changes to Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs)
There are three major changes to search results pages that have occurred in the past year, which you will have to consider going forward in 2017. These changes are centered around intent signals, rich snippets, and character limits.
The first is Google’s change to how ads are displayed based on a search’s intent signals. Google categorizes search queries based on their intent, with awareness searches, discovery searches, and purchase searches. Awareness searches ask “what is ___,” with no commercial or transactional intent. Discovery searches say things like “___ vs. ___,” performing research with implied potential for conversion. Purchase searches explicitly express intent to complete a transaction, such as “buy ___” or highly commercialized industries like “hotels” or “car insurance.”
Search queries with commercial intent now produce SERPs more likely to contain “4-pack” ads above the fold, so they have lower organic click-through rates. This is something you should start thinking about when choosing which terms to target for SEO or paid search.
Another trend in SERPs is an increasing focus on using Schema to display rich snippets like Quick Answers, which display an answer to a question in a box at the top of the search results, and Rich Cards, which display a selection of pages with information like ratings and prep times for things like recipes. Google has increased its usage of the former from 22% in 2014 to 40% in early 2016. Schema is also crucial to making it easier for Google’s RankBrain to interpret your website, making it all the more important to get acquainted with using Schema to mark up your site.
Finally, the last change made to SERPs over the past year is the change to character limits. Google has apparently been increasing the allowable number of characters in some titles and meta descriptions. This is the hardest change to fully take advantage of, because it hasn’t gone into effect for all sites, and Google hasn’t announced whether this change will be permanent.
Nevertheless, if you do get the extra space, it’s a great opportunity to include more enticing descriptions and keywords to bring people to your site. Just remember to keep your main keyword close to the beginning in case you get restricted to the old character limits.
Get Some Help Creating Your 2017 SEO Strategy
Now that you’ve learned about some of the changes that have been happening to Google’s algorithms and how search engines function, you’re ready to solidify your strategy for 2017.
However, Google will continue making hundreds of changes this year and beyond. To keep up, you should consider consulting experts in the industry. Frontier Marketing is an online marketing company specializing in SEO, headquartered in Fox Lake, IL and serving businesses throughout northern Illinois. Our team of specialists has all the expertise necessary to successfully market your business, including web design, email marketing, graphic design, and content writing.
Give us a call at (847) 254-0837, and take your business to new frontiers in 2017!