Google’s search algorithm has undergone several major changes over the past few years.
And 2016 was no exception.
(You might have noticed this yourself.)
As we move into 2017, there are three (predicted) trends that you need to be aware of—and prepare for.
Doing so will put you at a unique advantage and help you achieve your best business year yet.
Here’s what you need to know…
Trend #1: The Rise of Voice Search
Earlier this year, Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced during his Google I/O keynote that 20 percent of queries on its mobile app and on Android devices are voice searches.
And with more people using voice assistants like Siri to make search queries (not to mention the improved accuracy of the technology in recent years), that number is predicted to increase in 2017.
So, how do you use that to your advantage?
If you’ve ever asked Google a question, you might have noticed a summary of the most helpful answer in the top position like this:
This is known as a featured snippet. And with the first position on Google getting a 34.36% click-through rate on desktop (much less ‘position zero’ which we’re focusing on ,) that’s a LOT of traffic to capitalize on.
But here’s where it gets interesting…
According to Katherine Stepanova, featured snippet listings are returned for voice queries more than text queries.
In her own words,
Every time a searcher makes a voice search for a keyword where your website ranks in a featured snippet … Google specifically references your brand, giving you a huge extra branding opportunity.
With the rise of voice search-related queries—and the potential to rank for the coveted position zero—ranking for a featured snipped is a worthwhile investment of your time.
But how do you do it?
Follow these two steps…
- Rank on Page One of The SERPs
Research by Moz found every rich snippet they tracked ranked on page one organically.
But here’s the thing:
You don’t have to rank in position one.
In fact, Jeff Bulla’s article on lead generation (referenced above) is in position 5 for “How to get more leads”:
If you’re already ranking on page one for your target keywords, you have just a good a chance of any to rank for a featured snippet, provided you…
- Have Content That Targets the Question
When it comes to ranking for rich snippets, having relevancy is more important than authority.
How do you have relevancy?
You answer the question directly with a question targeted header.
You might have noticed this trend on certain posts/pages:
So if you’re basing your content around your audience’s most common questions (and you should), make sure you include the question you’re asking in a H2 tag.
To learn more about featured snippets, read Moz’ thorough article on the subject.
Trend #2: The Continued Emphasis on Mobile
In April 2015, Google rolled out their mobile-friendly update—boosting the ranking of mobile-friendly pages on mobile search results.
A month later, coincidentally or not, mobile search officially passed desktop search in terms of volume for the first time in history.
While many business owners made their websites mobile-compatible to accommodate the change, few made them mobile-optimized.
In other words, websites that had a high-load time were hemorrhaging traffic and costing companies millions of dollars in lost revenue.
Remember, Google wants to create the best possible experience for their users. If their users aren’t happy because of high-loading times, it doesn’t just reflect poorly on the website owner—it reflects poorly on Google for forwarding them in the first place.
To account for high loading times, Google introduced Google Mobile Pages (AMP).
You might have noticed a sign like this when browsing on mobile:
This was introduced as a way to dramatically improve the performance of the mobile web (particularly for news websites), stripping away anything that was non-essential to the reading experience.
But in the past year, it’s been utilized by other industries including eCommerce.
If you’re not optimized for mobile, you’re at risk of losing a ton of traffic—and potential customers.
Here are a few things to optimize your site for mobile experience.
- Disable Interstitials.
According to the Google Webmaster Central Blog, “to improve the mobile search experience, after January 10, 2017, pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly.”
In other words, sites with mobile popups—or what Google calls “interstitials”—may be penalized in 2017.
You might have noticed an interstitial in the form of a popup which requires you to manually click/tap on the ad or click/tap on the “x” (close) button:
This, obviously, interrupts the reader and disrupts the reader’s experience.
To avoid getting penalized by Google, then, avoid intrusive popups, but if you’re insistent on using them, try banners, instead.
They won’t detract from the reader experience and will still generate a good number of inquiries on your site.
- Improve Your Website’s Loading Speed
According to Kissmetrics, 40% of visitors abandon a website that takes longer than 3 seconds to load.
Any longer and your visitors will hit the ‘back’ button (and probably visit on of your competitors, instead).
To avoid annoying visitors, you need to check your site’s loading time.
Go to Pingdom and enter your domain where it says URL:
If your site’s loading time is longer than 3 seconds, try optimizing images, leveraging browser caching and reducing redirects (if you need any help with that, we do it all in-house).
To learn more about optimizing your website for mobile, check out Google’s comprehensive guide on the subject.
Trend #3: De-Emphasis on Long-Form Content
If you’re like most business owners, you know the importance of content marketing.
Moreover, you know long-form content generates more traffic.
But does long-form content always create the best possible experience for the reader?
In a bid to outrank their competitors, many marketers have taken it upon themselves in recent year to create longer content, creating epic, in-depth content on a particular subject.
Many will even mention how many words they are or how long it took to write to read to emphasize the amount of effort that went into it:
The thing is…
While long-form content is a requirement in today’s content-driven world, it’s a mistake to believe that quantity trumps quality.
In fact, in 2017, they’re going to more emphasis on what many SEOs are calling ‘dense’ content—your content’s “per word value”.
As Sam Oh writes,
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.
Content will continue to be a crucial part of SEO in 2017. This much is a given. But rest assured—you won’t need to outperform your competitors on word count.
Put simply, continue investing in your content marketing effort; its importance isn’t going to change anytime soon. But remember to favor form over function.
Jayson DeMers from Forbes, shares this sentiment, too,
I feel a new trend may ignore length entirely, focusing on providing as much information as possible in the smallest possible space—dense content—to appeal to readers.
As I mentioned in the introduction, the trends above are predictions—what will happen to SEO in 2017 is anyone’s guess.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t prepare for the changes that are most likely to come.
I’ve outlined three key areas many SEOs (myself included) have advised you need to be aware of: how potential buyers will search (voice), the medium in which they will search on (mobile) and the manner in which you will deliver what they’re looking for.
If you’re only going to focus on one—focus on optimizing for mobile (that’s going to be HUGE in 2017).
One thing is certain:
Like 2016, changes will come and it will affect your business (positively or not).
The question is…
Will you be ready for it?
What do you predict will happen to SEO in 2017? Leave a comment below.