Optimizing your website for searches looks very different in 2017 than it did just a few years ago.
Forget keywords; now you need more to get your website at the top of the results page. With search engines like Google and Bing updating their algorithms every time you turn around, staying on top of the latest search optimization trends can be a challenge.
I’ve compiled the top search optimization trends according to the experts that you should be aware of in 2017.
SEO for 2017:
Mobile will become the default user experience.
Already in 2015, Google announced that mobile searches surpassed desktop searches. As a result, Google is increasingly focused on the mobile experience and ranks websites accordingly. If you have a poorly designed mobile site, you can forget being ranked at all by Google.
One way mobile is going to take over search is through the rise of Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs). AMPS are an open-source protocol that allows webmasters to create pages capable of loading almost instantly on mobile devices. The idea is that a handful of simple structural changes can make your site load up to four times faster and use eight times less data. Already, Google is starting to favor sites that have switched over to AMPs, giving them visibility in a carousel and a small icon (with a lightning bolt) indicating their AMP status. In 2017, experts anticipate we’ll see more favoritism for AMPs in search results, with more brands taking advantage of the option. [Source: Forbes]
2017 will no doubt see an increase in the display of rich answers and snippets. This is essentially using “structured data markup” to tell search engines what pieces of information to grab, and how to label them. The result is better displayed information for web searchers, which will make your website more popular with both users and the search engines.
Take the example below. I looked up bacon quiche (because I have pet chickens that lay a ridiculous amount of large brown eggs, and the only way my son will eat egg is if it includes bacon... but I digress), and below are the results I saw. See how each bit of information, like the star rating, the calories, and the time to cook are all listed neatly for us to see? That is thanks to rich snippets or data markup of these pieces of information.
As search engines, and the people using them, have more and more content each day to sift through, having content displayed in an organized and expected manner will please both search engines and users.
This is especially important for websites that include information like event locations and times, ratings, or other specific parameters people will want to see immediately.
And the search engines will like the data markup because it makes it easy to quickly grab the information and display it in a relevant search.
What does this mean for you?
If you don’t currently use data markup or rich snippets in your website, ask your web manager how to work this into your marketing plan for 2017.
Continual Focus on Semantics
Rather than keywords, search engines are focused on more on meaning now than ever. With the rise in voice search, we see more meaning put into searches than ever.
For example, we might type into Google search on our desktop “dog collars”, while a voice search will look more like “Where can I buy cheap dog collars?” or “What is the best kind of dog collar for a husky?” When using voice, and even in mobile searches, users tend to imbue more meaning into their inquiries. This means search engines will be trying to identify the best content to match specific searches.
What does that mean for you?
First off, try including rich snippets in your website data. This will make them even more important, because essential pieces of information will be readily available for these specific types of searches.
Secondly, long tail keywords will perform better than ever. What are long tail keywords? Those are very specific keywords, such as “affordable siberian husky dog collar” vs. a short keyword of “dog collar”. The more specific you can be when creating content and choosing keywords, the more relevant searchers that will find your page.
Third, think in terms of answering questions when creating content. Consider the questions your customers might have, and create content that answers those questions. If you sell dog collars, using our example from above, answer questions like "What is the safest collar for a husky?" "What kind of collars work best to train a large dog?" "How do I register my dog in the state of Michigan?". By answering these specific questions with your content, you'll be appealing to your audience and to the search engines trying to show answers to these kinds of questions.
Google will still Rule Search.
Google controls the market when it comes to searches. Google also sends 5X as much traffic as its closest referrer, Facebook. Regardless of what cool new stuff Facebook, Amazon, Snapchat, or other apps and browsers might introduce, Google will still be the top referrer for your website.
Facebook has decreased organic Page posts appearing in news feeds to almost 0. The best way for companies to get their content to viewers is by utilizing personal branding. Not only will that help on platforms like Facebook, it could also improve your ranking on Google.
People trust individuals more than companies. They will be more likely to share content created by a person than a faceless brand. By gaining more links back to your website through shared content, guest posts, and other personal branding efforts, it will dramatically increase your website ranking.
Users are less trusting than ever of marketing content online. However, 70% of consumers trust online peer reviews and recommendations more than professional content and copy. Gaining the trust of your customers is crucial to gaining their attention and improving your search engine rankings.
An example of personal branding would be our own Dwight Calwhite’s YouTube Channel and live videos on Facebook, where he records a Daily Digital video with some brief inspiration or thoughtful advice for living better in a digital world, as well as going live at trade shows and other events. By becoming a thought leader and recognizable face, he is helping build trust and increasing visitors to our website.
What does this mean for you?
Spend as much time building your personal brand as your do on your company brand. Seek out guest posts, make personal connections on social media, and let your personality shine.
The rise of content “density”.
Content has played a huge role in SEO for the past few years, but now EVERYONE knows how to create quick and easy blog posts. The result is the same content over and over again, which people, and the search engines, have noticed.
Marketers then began creating long content; filled with drawn out explanations and extensive detail. While this might appeal to the search engines initially, and a few intrepid researchers, the reality is that no one really has time to read a novel to gain a few important morsels of information.
What users want, and the search engines want to provide, is a happy medium experts are calling “dense” content. This is content summarized but still full of useful details. According to Entrepreneur, “Every major SEO authority agrees that 2017 will be the year where we see the rise of content density across the board. And this is a good thing. The world of content marketing is adapting its standards to the decreasing attention spans of the American populace, meaning that you get to spend less time writing and your audience gets to receive more value.”
Sounds like a win-win to me.
What does this mean for you?
Focus on creating content that shares useful information in a concise manner.
Want to know how I choose many of the subjects for my blog articles? I take notes during the week on things I personally would like to learn more about. Then I do some research, and report my findings in an easy-to-understand way for you to become educated right along with me.
UEO is the new SEO
UEO or User Experience Optimization is becoming increasingly important to search engines and users alike. UEO includes most of what I’ve already discussed; AMPs for mobile loading and experience, quality “dense” content, appealing display on SERPS (search engine result pages), etc. Google has started to show clear favoritism towards sites with fast load times, mobile optimization, and indications that users are enjoying their overall experience (low bounce rates and a high average time on page).