Welcome to this year’s edition of our SEO Predictions for the upcoming calendar year. After seeing some great traction and feedback on our SEO 2016 Predictions post, we decided to make it more of a tradition moving forward.
So looking ahead to what’s in store for SEO 2017, here is what my crystal ball tells me the marketers, SEOs, and webmasters should be thinking about with their search engine optimization efforts.
SEO 2017 Predictions: Mobile, Mobile, Mobile
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that mobile will be a heavy theme for SEOs in the coming year. Looking all the way back to Mobilegeddon in 2015, Google has been transparent in their future focus: mobile search.
So how are they manifesting this focus on mobile within their algorithms? Let’s look at a few ways.
Mobile First SERPs
On November 4, 2016, Google announced that their index would shift to a Mobile-first focus. What does this mean?
First, it is important to accept the reality that this decision is a logical response to market dynamics. As of August 2016, mobile search had grown enough that it already represented close to 60% of overall search volume. That’s right, we are nearly at a 2:1 ratio between mobile and desktop, and that trend is expected to accelerate moving forward.
So basically, Google is making it abundantly clear: when you think of your website, make sure mobile is in order first. No more waiting. If you’ve been putting off mobile-friendly for your website due to budget, resource shortage, or just plain de-prioritization, the time is up. The ship is sailing with or without you, and you really don’t want to be watching from the beach while your competitors steal all of your organic traffic, do you?
In case you’re not clear on how to make the move, I’ll share more detailed information about where to focus in my next blog post. But for the rationale, stick with me through this post.
Acceptance of Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)
Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) was first announced as a key initiative in late 2015, and it has started to pick up steam as 2016 plays out. AMP is basically an “HTML lite” version of typical web pages, meant to load faster and easier on mobile devices. Google and other important industry players have been collaborating for well over a year on how to make this become a reality.
Through 2016, we’ve seen several AMP-related actions on Google’s part that are pushing for adoption, with some real acceleration taking place over the latter half of this calendar year. For example, Google started sending people to AMP pages in the “Top stories” section of the Google Search Results page on mobile phones back in February, 2016.
Then in July, Google announced speedier ad loading for AMP’d content. In August, we saw them start showing “early previews” (as they referred to it) of AMP results on the SERPs, followed by an official rollout several weeks later.
They have also build an AMP validator into Google Search Console / Webmaster Tools, for webmasters to QA their own AMP-optimized content and pages. Or feel free to self-validate with this AMP validation post on the Accelerated Mobile Pages Project website itself.
To make this even more appealing heading into 2017, the AMP project added support for AMP-friendly forms in early November.
Bottom line: This is a growing trend that Google is pushing hard through the past year plus. If you haven’t been paying attention, catch up ASAP. This will matter a great deal in the future.
More Sophistication in Semantic Search Results
Google has spent a great deal of effort over the past several years to get their semantic matching algorithms up to snuff. It started with Google Hummingbird, where they essentially relaunched a whole new replacement algorithm that was semantic search friendly.
Then later, they announced their advancements in machine learning, branded as their RankBrain algorithm. This is all part of the intent-based matching, which is the core of semantic SEO itself.
You can rest assured that this is nowhere near the end. We are already seeing amazing changes in the SERPs as well as the search queries driving traffic to our websites. Industry speculation has estimated that between 20% and 35% of daily searches on Google have never happened before. That’s right, up to 1/3 of total searches are for queries Google has never seen before.
When you truly consider the implications of this change in search behavior, you’ll quickly surmise that semantic matching is a requirement. People don’t want to have to think hard about exact match keywords when searching, or settle for sub-par SERPs. They just start typing and Google magically shows content that answers the need, even if the actual words being typed/searched don’t appear on the page!
Big Growth in Voice Search
Voice Search is perhaps the most underappreciated piece of this whole mobile search puzzle, but it should not be. In fact, voice search is the exclamation point on the whole process!
Think about it for a moment. How easy is it to type on mobile phones? If you’re like me, you have to lean heavily on autocorrect and deal with the frustration when it changes words to random, unexpected other words.
So if you’re like me, you’ve also tried to use Siri, Cortana, or whatever the voice-operated search assistant is on your smartphone or tablet. Needless to say, none of those voice bots have reached a level where they are useful most of the time. But that doesn’t mean for even a moment that they aren’t key to success.
If Google is focused on semantic search and intent-based matching, you can bet a year’s salary that they are lining up themselves to figure out voice search before their competition does. All of the changes we have seen the past several years are feeding into this vision. We need a new search interface on mobile, and all of the industry players are putting eggs in the voice search basket.
This won’t slow down in 2017. It will only grow in importance as we move forward. How are you optimizing for voice search next year?
There you have it – my main SEO 2017 predictions. I could have dabbled in other areas, but mobile search is the single most important development playing out before us right now. If you get only one thing right next year, it absolutely MUST be your mobile website strategy.
In the next post, I’ll talk more about how we can better line up to take advantage of these changes. See you next week!