Search engine optimization (SEO) is one of those fields in which outdated tactics are often worse than useless. If you’re not aware of the latest search engine algorithms or current trends in social media, the competition will overtake you. In some cases, Google will even penalize you and set your business back years.
While we don’t yet know what the coming year will bring, it’s possible to make some educated guesses based on past trends and the current situation. Here are the top 5 SEO strategies for 2017 to get your year off to a profitable start.
1. Focus on Mobile
The growth of mobile technology is not new, but it will almost certainly continue in 2017. Google itself is betting on this with its new project, Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), which provides users with an easier way to create content for mobile devices. If Google is devoting so much energy into mobile-friendly platforms, there’s a good reason for it. Publishing content via AMP is certainly worth considering. At the very least, if you want to rank well in the search engines, make sure your website is fully accessible to mobile users. The best approach is to use responsive web design, which automatically adjusts screens to fit all types of devices.
2. Quality Content Matters More Than Ever
If you’ve studied SEO for any length of time, you’ve probably heard the phrase “quality content” so many times it sounds practically meaningless. However, the fact is that Google is placing more and more emphasis on this factor every year. While high quality is somewhat subjective, there are a few guidelines:
In general, an article that’s 600-1500 words ranks more highly than a 200-word blog post. It’s fine to vary the length of your content as long as it’s relevant and interesting. But along with shorter items, it’s helpful to regularly publish longer pieces that Google tends to favor.
Well-researched articles that link to authority pages give your site credibility, both to users and search engines.
Original content is always more valuable than copied, plagiarized or spun content. Some websites successfully use the curation model, which involves linking, with proper attribution, to other stories. In this case, you can still make content original by including your own commentary.
A popular topic helps make content shareable. So do images and an attractive layout.
3. Prepare For Machine Learning
Machine learning isn’t just a topic for techies. Google recently introduced RankBrain, a machine learning system, as part of its Hummingbird algorithm. When Google released Hummingbird in 2013, it wasn’t as revolutionary or devastating as earlier algorithms, especially Panda and Penguin. However, one of the most important Hummingbird signals involves machine learning, which refers to artificial intelligence (AI), a popular topic for science fiction.
What does machine learning have to do with search engines? RankBrain is part of a trend that focuses on conversational queries rather than keywords. A simple example is your device learning to interpret “where is the nearest pizza place?” as opposed to the traditional query “pizza place, Main St. USA.” At some point shortly, search engines will be more responsive to natural human conversations and less keyword-driven. While, for the time being, keywords still matter, it’s best to assume that search engines have AI abilities and understand full sentences. The rise of voice search, as found on Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana, are part of this trend.
4. Emphasize User Experience
Over the years, search engine optimization has been evolving into search experience optimization, also known as user experience optimization (UEO). In other words, what’s increasingly important is to design web pages for humans rather than search engines. One way that Google measures this is by noting the time users spend on each page, as opposed to raw clicks. Google Analytics and many other analytics tools let you see this critical metric.
UEO refers to many factors, including page loading speed, the layout of pages, and efficient navigation. It’s essential to have a menu that tells visitors exactly where they can find the information they are seeking. Of course, user experience overlaps with other areas we’ve already covered such as content quality and mobile-friendliness. When trying to make your site more user-friendly, make sure you consider your particular audience. Elicit and respond to visitor feedback, so you know how to improve their experience on your site.
5. Optimize Your Content For Social Search
Social media is no short-term fad but a long-lasting trend that will continue into 2017 and beyond. Ranking your content for the search engines increasingly means creating compelling social media content. In addition to leading sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram and Snapchat, social media also includes YouTube, Tumblr and even review sites such as Yelp. You’re probably not active on all of these social channels. The key is to focus on the ones that are most profitable for your business.
Ranking for social means keeping up with the very latest trends. Image-based sites such as Instagram and Pinterest will continue to grow. To compete on these channels, as well as Facebook, it helps to produce original and exciting graphics or photos. In 2017, live streaming is likely to emerge as a dominant force. Facebook, Periscope, and Snapchat are all competing for leadership in this arena. These are just a couple of the social media trends to watch in the coming year.
Be Ready for 2017 and Beyond
These five strategies will help you prepare for what Google and the internet, in general, are likely to present in the coming year and beyond. At the same time, it’s never safe to make assumptions regarding this rapidly evolving field. Always stay current with the latest SEO news and trends, as you never know when something new will emerge and disrupt the entire industry.