Use these seven SEO trends to improve your Google search rankings in 2017.
Let’s face it: Developing an SEO strategy today isn’t easy.
With an ever-evolving search interface, real-time Penguin algorithm updates, and also Panda now introduced as part of its core algorithm — Google changes fast. The artificial intelligence system RankBrain is also shaking things up.
Businesses not up-to-date with SEO can virtually lose their Google rankings overnight if they fail to stay on top of new SEO trends.
That’s a lot of money down the drain as you lose visibility, and a great deal of untapped potential if you are not yet ranking in the first place.
I’m going to reveal the top seven SEO trends you need to know in 2017 to ensure you achieve and maintain elevated Google rankings.
Note: Backlinks are still 1 of the top 2 Google ranking factors. That’s widely covered elsewhere so I haven’t included it as a new trend here. Modern link building should always be a priority!
In this article you will notice a constant over-arching theme:
The key to pleasing Google is to create thought-leading, conversational content littered with semantic and related keywords. Exceptional user experience must be first in mind.
Let’s break that down into the most important, specific trends:
Artificial Intelligence Is Rapidly Changing the Face of SEO
RankBrain is Google’s name for its innovative, machine-learning artificial intelligence algorithm that’s used to help process search results.
It’s been officially named Google’s third-most important ranking factor.
This algorithm uses machine learning — a computer’s ability to teach itself and improve without human input. Yes, AI as we know it…and albeit a little scary, but it’s also endlessly fascinating.
One of RankBrain’s primary purposes is to sift through what it deems to be relevant search results when a user enters a never-before-seen or otherwise unusual query (and learn from the user’s consequent actions) — something Google has found difficult to interpret in the past.
Not only that, expect it to be constantly learning how to best serve visitors with the most relevant, authoritative, and trustworthy results available — minus the public updates of algorithm changes we’ve received in the past.
That means Google is becoming increasingly difficult to game these days. Simply put: You are better off focusing on publishing truly remarkable content that aligns with your target audience (while ensuring your website is similarly outstanding to navigate) and distributing this content heavily, rather than attempting to use, for example, isolated black hat tactics.
This all places great value on superior content — which is why you need to be producing material of such caliber in 2017.
Yes, this has been the case for a few years now and we’ve all had it drilled into us, but RankBrain really hits it home and the “golden age” of SEO dark arts on Google is truly dead.
Search Engine Optimization on Google is evolving faster than ever before and you must shift your strategy to accommodate progressively smart machine intelligence that seeks integrity.
- Research content topics thoroughly and cater for users’ pain points.
- Apply semantic keyword strategies.
- Produce thought-leading content.
- Distribute your content heavily across all mediums.
- Ensure your website is easy to navigate.
Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs) Are Indispensable
According to studies, up to 60 percent of Google searches now come via mobile. You no longer can afford to ignore mobile users.
Accelerated Mobile Pages are quick to load and demand a set of technical criteria websites need to follow to provide for this increase in speed. As of the publishing date, AMP is not yet a ranking factor…but it makes sense to implement, for numerous reasons.
Google has already revealed that mobile speed and usability are primary indexing metrics and this will only become increasingly prevalent as more people use mobile devices for search.
Not only that; research shows slow sites correspond with lower engagement (up to 40 percent of visitors will leave if a site doesn’t load after three seconds). Yet, only 23 percent of SEOs report implementing AMP!
Developing AMP is a huge opportunity to jump ahead of your competition.
- Send these briefing documents to your team of developers today.
- Validate AMP in Google Search Console (Search Appearance > Accelerated Mobile Pages).
- Enable AMP tracking in Google Analytics.
Seriously — take advantage and become an early adopter.
More Rich Snippets Will Populate SERPs (and Evolve)
We’ve sure come a long way since 10 blue links on page 1 of Google. The Knowledge Graph and Rich Snippets have filled the SERPs with attractive content that includes imagery, review stars, bullet points and accordion-style elements (to name a few) that can be clicked and expanded right there on Google itself.
This type of result can be achieved by implementing Structured Data markup on your website. Structured Data is often collectively referred to as Schema or Microdata, although Rich Snippets and Schema actually have different meanings.
Despite what could be deemed as unnecessary to click due to the already-visible details, if you were going to click-through…what would you select? The below result or a standard blue link? I know what I’d choose.
The number of search results showing rich snippets has already doubled in the last two years, and it doesn’t look to be slowing down any time soon.
Not only that, when you apply Structured Data you are helping Google understand the deeper meaning and context of your content so it can better accommodate relevant search queries.
Here is a brilliant guide on Schema implementation you can pass to your team of developers.
Mark up your site as much as possible and keep your eye on developments, including new definitions. You can technically describe a lot of varied attributes to Google — no matter what your sector. Rich Snippets are here to stay.
Voice Search Algorithms Create Opportunity
As voice recognition software like Siri, Cortana, Google Voice, and Amazon Echo becomes more sophisticated, more of us will begin to use voice search to find information.
Needless to say: Voice search is on the rise, particularly among millennials.
Paired with RankBrain, the most fascinating side to this trend is that Google will begin to display results based more on user intent rather than the face-value of words that are entered into the search bar. That means keyword optimization will become more conversational in 2017.
How can you capitalize on this trend?
- Prioritize long-tail keywords (as people are more likely to speak a lengthy search question than type one).
- Use Structured Data to provide additional context.
- Create FAQs that answer who, what, when, where, and why questions.
- Apply video as part of your SEO strategy.
- Research conversational queries using Google’s related searches and the suggestions in its autosuggest feature.
- Listen on social media and actually take the time to interact with your customers to learn what they are actively searching for.
HTTPS Should Certainly Be Considered (and Deployed Systematically)
Trust is essential online. People like to feel secure when visiting a new site and many visual indications encourage that feeling. One good visual indication a site is generally considered safe to visit is the green padlock in the URL bar.
Google recognizes this and gives priority to websites that apply an SSL or the newer TLS encryption (aka HTTPS sites).
And that’s not all. As of January 2017, the world’s most popular web browser (Google Chrome) will begin labeling non-HTTPs sites that transmit passwords and/or ask for credit card details as “Not Secure.”
The signs from Google are all there and shouldn’t be ignored. As the constant focus on trust intensifies, HTTPS is expected to become ever-more important moving forward.
- Thoroughly plan your site-wide redirect from HTTP to HTTPS — it can be a very complex process with many pitfalls.
- Apply Google’s UTM tracking for marketing campaigns and consequently accurate incoming referral data.
- Maintain outgoing referral data using the meta referrer tag in the HTML of your site.
Articles Will Become Less ‘Epic’ and More ‘Dense’
Recently, “epic” and insanely long blog posts have become the go-to for achieving more organic real-estate. It was found that the majority of articles in the top 10 results of Google were 2,000 words or longer.
But while there long-form content continues to perform well, there are a couple of caveats:
People want more value per word and Google’s new mobile index naturally prefers fast-loading pages.
Our attention spans are becoming shorter and Google is shifting to accommodate. We’re tired of reading 2,000 words of fluff. In an informational age, we want our articles to be well organized and get to the point. Yet, there is still room for long-form content — if it’s remarkable.
We’ll begin to see shorter-form content with much more “density”; meaning more information in fewer words.
To take advantage of this trend, be ruthless in editing and cut the fat from your articles. Always consider Google’s tendency to rank speedy pages; don’t be afraid to trim a 3,000-word post to 2,000 or less and remove images or fancy elements — as long as it makes sense to do so.
Personal Branding is Needed Now More Than Ever to Stand Out
Last but not least, let’s talk about the absolutely essential practice of personal branding.
Personal branding is highlighting a real person as a (or the) face of your company.
If you want to beat Google’s algorithms — personal branding is exactly how to do it. How many people in your industry have your name? And if you make it big, who will appear in Google search?
It will be you. Each and every time.
Not only that: People want to do business with people, not corporations! I cannot stress this enough. It all loops back to trust.
Personal branding is so immensely powerful and instrumental in securing guest posts, brand mentions, links, webinars, podcasts, partnerships, and, of course, customers. I can 100 percent confirm it from experience.
Additionally, social media platforms like Facebook continually refine their algorithms to favor profile posts over page posts, meaning less visibility for social updates that derive from brand accounts.
Elect your CEO (or multiple employees willing to become long-standing faces of your corporation) to begin continually pushing themselves hard through blog posts, social media, and elsewhere.
These people must build many industry relationships and dedicate their time to creating a strong presence where they are seen to be a thought-leader. Once they become ever-more known and sought-after — so does your brand.
It’s a no-brainer — personal branding should be one of your top SEO strategies for 2017.
BONUS: Leverage the Power of Bing
For a long time, brands have ignored Bing (and other search engines) because Google held the vast majority of search traffic.
Well, times are changing — Bing now accounts for 21 percent of all search engine traffic and interestingly, 25 percent of all Bing’s search traffic is voice-driven. Even Yahoo! is rising up the ranks with a 12 percent share of search traffic.
This is quite simply, exciting news for all. Google’s tight grip on the search industry has meant failure for many businesses that couldn’t keep up in the past.
Bing is much more straight-forward to optimize for. It leans toward analysis of traditional metrics, including:
- Inbound anchor text
- Click-through-rate (CTR)
- Visitor engagement
- Keywords in domains
- Content and keyword density
- Site structure and code
Additionally, Bing cares more about social media sharing for rankings than Google does — so start getting those social shares in conjunction with your personal brand!
Still need another reason to focus on Bing? Experts have found that a well-optimized website has a higher conversion rate when visited through Bing or Yahoo! than on Google.
Get started today by creating a Bing Webmaster Tools account which also accommodates Yahoo! data. You can’t afford to neglect a combined 33 percent search volume share, after all.
Bringing It All Together
Whether you’re a search engine optimization expert or in charge of overall digital strategy, knowing the top SEO trends for 2017 is critical for the improvement and maintenance of your brand’s Google rankings now and in future.
As mentioned at the beginning, it all boils down to creating remarkable content that contains semantic and related keywords (in an informal, conversational tone).
Your website must also provide an equally exceptional user-experience.
Note: Be done with any intrusive pop-ups. They will negatively impact your Google rankings as of January 2017.
Really listen to your audience to discover their pain points and any questions they may have. Then, focus on providing helpful answers with your content.
In the end, as always, what matters most is providing value to your visitors. Value generates attention, trust, social shares, backlinks, and ultimately top Google rankings.
- Backlinks, content, and RankBrain are Google’s top three ranking signals, likely in that order.
- Vastly distribute your content, utilizing personal brands.
- Ensure your website is technically sound in terms of Structured Data, AMP, and SSL / TLS.
- Don’t put all your eggs in one basket — optimize for Bing and Yahoo! Too.