With all the craziness that has happened in the SEO community this last year, what trends should SEO professionals pay attention to in 2017? We start by looking at Google’s 2016 timeline to help us hypothesize where Google and Bing may be going this next year.
2016 Google Official Algorithm Updates Timeline
Adwords Shakeup – Feb. 23, 2016
Google made major changes to AdWords, removing right-column ads entirely and putting a 4-block of ads at the top of the page, affecting local search packs and organic traffic.
What did this mean? Even though this was considered a paid search update, it significantly affected the CTR for organic results. Organic results were pushed further down the page causing less organic results to be visible in the SERPs.
Mobile Friendly 2 – May 12, 2016
A little more than a year after the original “mobile friendly” update, Google added on to the ranking signal boost to benefit mobile-friendly sites on mobile search.
What did this mean? Google rolled this second mobile-friendly update to further reward websites that had qualifying mobile friendly sites. Some SEO professionals also believe this may have been in preparation for the mobile first indexing update later in the year.
Possum – Sept. 1, 2016
While unconfirmed by Google, data and studies done by Searchengineland.com and BrightLocal suggest that the update changed 64% of local SERPs.
What did this mean? Possum, although not official, is now seen as one of the biggest updates in local SEO since Pigeon was released in 2014. This change made it much more possible for smaller brick and mortar businesses to rank locally.
- Businesses that fall just outside of physical city limits saw a massive spike in traffic
- Google filters out businesses that are affiliated with other businesses of the same address. The strongest ranking listing with that address will be the only listing shown.
- The physical location of the user searching is now way more important.
Penguin 4.0 – Sept 23, 2016
After almost two years of waiting, Google finally announced a major Penguin update. They said the update makes Penguin now run in real-time.
What did this mean?
- Penguin in real-time means that SEO professionals will not have to wait to see improvements in their SEO efforts, essentially creating less lag time.
- Penguin can now impact individual pages on a site rather than giving a site-wide penalty.
- Spam is now devalued not demoted. So, if you have a bunch of spammy links going to your site, it is not supposed to penalize your site, but they will be ignored. This doesn’t mean it isn’t smart practice to disavow extremely spammy links going to your site, there is just less of a need to do so.
Mobile First Indexing – Mid Oct.
Google started using mobile versions of websites as their primary search engine index. Previously, Google crawled websites from a desktop browser point of view.
What did this mean? It means there will be a flip flop. Google has always ranked mobile sites according to the rank signals gained from your website’s desktop version. Now Google will rank your desktop site based on the rank signals gained from your website’s mobile version. Signals can include all SEO factors such as site speed, content, links, page errors, etc. Mobile user experience is an exception and will not be factored in for desktop.
SEO Trends to Focus on in 2017
Looking back at all these updates that Google made, products they launched, and other major mentions in the media, what trends should we expect in 2017?
Optimize Mobile First Indexing
This was the last major update, so it makes sense that we should highlight this as a trend to focus on. So, how would you optimize for this?
- Increase Speed of Mobile Pages – the best way to optimize is by using Google’s Pagespeed Insights page to optimize images, code, browser caching, redirects, etc.
- Optimize Local Pages – This is due to increased local visibility importance. Refer to the Possum update above for more optimization info.
- Mobile Page Design – Hands down, responsive website designs are the best way to go. They work seamlessly with the desktop version of the site and seem to rank better in google and bing when done properly.
- On-page Optimization – This includes all factors that go into ranking for specific keywords or topics on a web page, such as in page content, meta data, page structure, etc.
Relevance of Local Search is Even Greater
This ultimately boils down to Google pushing diversity in local search results. It has given local businesses a better opportunity to show in local results if they optimize properly. Here is the full article on everything you need to know about the Possum update: Possum Update.
Don’t Ignore AMP Pages
Although there is not much mention about AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) recently, they still have a significant impact in mobile results. Since Google’s theme is prioritizing mobile, there is no way we can dismiss the AMP project. Sites who have used AMP pages have seen large mobile gains in ranking and traffic to their site as a result. Our clients see an average increase between 10-15% increase in mobile traffic after implementing AMP pages on their site.
Voice search has been a topic for several years now. Why is this a legitimate trend in 2017?
- Voice searches are on the rise accounting for 20% of mobile and android app searches.
- Voice searches are becoming much more accurate as the technology advances.
- Amazon Echo(Alexa), Google Home, Siri, and Cortana are fueling the fire. This just gives the consumers more avenues to access voice search.
Voice search will reward businesses who target long tailed keywords on their site. Most VS’s are normally users looking for answers based on long term keywords or phrases, making info rich FAQ pages more and more valuable.
Fulfilling the User’s intent
The theme of the SERP’s showing results that fulfill the user’s intent is not a new concept. However, more and more we see sites being rewarded for fulfilling that intent vs. only optimizing a page for specific keywords. Fulfilling the user intent is a difficult task to say the least, but what we have found is that transparency and highly informative pages seem to work the best. This is just another reason to focus on content marketing.