Newbie’s guide to SEO in 2017
Before you even realised it, Christmas is peeping over the horizon and it is the season for festivities, fervent shopping and year end holidays. Seems like 2016 had just begun and we are already on the verge of the year end.
Digital marketers are already mapping out their tasks for the year ahead, which promises to be as exciting as 2016 was.
Google is romping up towards some major changes and if you are taking baby steps in the world of SEO in 2016, then you can’t help but be a tad confused at all the predictions about what 2017 holds in store.
Thankfully, that’s where we step in. Here’s a small but comprehensive SEO guide for newbies with 10 important steps that should be implemented in your SEO plan in 2017.
Semantic SEO: The trend has been visible for a couple of years now and Google is steadily making a shift towards becoming a semantic search engine. The trend will become stronger in 2017 and smart marketers will be spending more time at the drawing board in the keyword research stage. The idea is to focus on topics that users are most likely to search for, without diverting too far from your core keywords. Integrating semantic keywords into your content is most likely to reap results as opposed to tailoring your content plan purely on keyword phrases with high search volumes.
Artificial Intelligence: A recent announcement on Bloomberg news revealed what most marketers were already aware of or beginning to suspect. (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-10-26/google-turning-its-lucrative-web-search-over-to-ai-machines)
Google’s reliance on artificial intelligence to sort and present its search results has been increasing. The system is called RankBrain and it will become a core part of Google’s algorithm in 2017. It is already being touted as the third most important ranking factor. Without getting into too many details, RankBrain will be making long tail queries a lot more searchable. If you pasted a fifteen word question into Google a few years ago, you would most likely receive a search result page with gibberish. Not anymore. RankBrain will bring you the most relevant results now.
Mobile: Nothing new here. Mobile continues to make its presence felt on the search results landscape. Its dominance if any will only increase in the next year. If you still do not have a mobile friendly site, then the time is now. Google may well start to de-list websites that are not mobile friendly from its search pages.
Voice search: Google has been fine tuning its voice search algorithms for a long time now. It will continue to become stronger in 2017 and searching Google with voice commands and conversational queries may become more main stream than what you’d imagine. So, you can expect to load Google and ask ‘Hey bud, which is the best coffee store in a 5 mile radius?’
Page Speed: It’s pretty simple. Matt Cutts had announced the importance of page loading speed years ago and it only becomes more important in the scheme of things in 2017. If you have a slow loading website, it affects your ranking in search engines and also affects conversion. The page load time also matters significantly on mobile. With excruciatingly small attention spans and a faster website just a click away, you’d be hard pressed to keep a potential customer on a slow loading mobile site.
Links: Remember when we spoke about AI or RankBrain being the third most important ranking factor in search engines? Here’s the first one. Any surprises? Anyone and everyone who’s prophesying the death knell for link building is clearly misinformed. Link building will continue to be one of the most important ranking factors. However, the onus increases to get quality links over mass links. The key is to get high authority links from as many diverse sources as you can. Web 2.0s, Social Bookmarks, article submissions, they all continue to matter, provided you get them from someone who understands the changes in the landscape.
Schema: Schema markup will become more prominent in 2017. And the usage goes beyond the obvious that most people are aware of. Along with breadcrumbs and rating stars, the direct answer box takes the cake. If you are not targeting the direct answer box with schema, you are missing out on a huge chunk of the traffic. It is a pretty simple addition to your website anyway. So go ahead and add it now.
Content for intent: If you are still relying on those 500 word keyword stuffed articles on your site, it is time to revamp your content marketing strategy. Hire an expert and reread the first point in this article. Semantic SEO needs to be integrated into your content marketing plans. The idea is to create content articles that are tailored on intent rather than keywords. Write for the user. Create a more interactive user experience that is most likely to garner eyeballs, shares and in the process, tons of juicy links. Anything that is below 500 words is most likely to languish in the lower end of SERPS. Google loves lots of good quality content. The best you can do is maximize your chances of getting ranked by giving it what it needs.
Social Signals: Social signals have for long been influencing search indirectly. The importance of social in Google’s ranking algorithms is expected to increase in the days to come. But there is a new and very interesting trend that is being observed. Social media channels are becoming more visible than ever in search results pages. Ever noticed results from Facebook or Twitter in the search result pages? This translates into more emphasis on creating content for social and ensuring that your social profiles don’t look like they were created eons ago.
That just about sums it up. The SEO roadmap for 2017 should mainly be focused on creating a better user experience. Google has always been focusing on creating a more content oriented search engine and it is time that it is implemented by one and all. There’s enough support from links and social signals to ensure that your content gets the exposure it deserves.