It’s a brand new year. If history repeats itself, we’ll see many changes in SEO over the next 12 months.
But how, specifically, will SEO change? Nobody knows for sure, except maybe a few folks at the Google headquarters in Mountain View, California.
Of course, even those folks might not know everything that’s going to happen, as some new startup technology might emerge in the next year and works its way into the search algorithm. It’s futile to try to predict everything that’s going to happen.
Still, there are emerging trends. Here are some of them that you can expect to see take off in 2017.
AMP Will Become More Important
Accelerated mobile pages (AMP) is a technology that loads web pages on mobile platforms instantly. It’s already abundantly clear that Google loves AMP and there’s no reason to think that love affair won’t continue in the coming year.
Backlinks Will Lose Strength
Remember when all the rage in SEO was about backlinks? That’s probably not going to continue much longer.
A recent study shows backlinks losing strength as a ranking factor. Expect to see more of a focus on user intent and content relevance in the future.
Artificial Intelligence Will Become More Important
In case you missed the news, artificial intelligence (AI) is driving big changes at Google. In fact, AI is already used in Google’s search algorithm under the name RankBrain.
You can expect to see that trend not only continue, but also accelerate in 2017. You can also be sure that many businesses besides Google will adopt AI technology in the coming year.
Searches Will Start Showing for Home Devices
You won’t need a laptop or even a smartphone to perform searches in 2017. You’ll be able to use a home device.
Both Google Home and Amazon Echo will make it easy for people to ask a question in the convenience of their own home, hands-free, and get an audible answer.
Yeah, just like in Star Trek.
Fresh Content Will Continue to Dominate
Are you looking to rank in the search engine results pages (SERPs) in 2017? If so, then continue producing fresh content.
As we’ve seen, backlinks are losing steam as a top ranking signal. If you really want your blog post to land on page 1, populate it with irresistible, original content.
Social Factors Will Have More Weight
Brian Dean over at Backlinko lists social shares of the referring page as one of the top 100 ranking signals. He’s a data hound, so it’s safe to say he knows what he’s talking about.
It’s also safe to say that social factors will have more weight in the coming year. Google simply can’t ignore the relevance of great content that’s shared tens of thousands of times across social media channels.
Schema Will Increase in Importance
If you haven’t yet added schema.org markup to your site, then 2017 is the year to do so.
Simply put, the markup will make it easier for Google to extract key information about your content and your site. It’s an SEO benefit that you can’t afford to ignore.
While it’s not overly complicated to implement schema markup, it’s also no easy task to people who are squeamish about coding. If you’re not tech-savvy, leave the task to a professional developer.
HTTPS Will Increase in Importance
Another “to do” item for 2017:making the switch to HTTPS instead of just HTTP.
Why? Because HTTPS encrypts web communications to make them more secure. That’s an obvious benefit in this era of white-collar crime.
Beyond that, HTTPS also gives you SEO benefits. It’s likely that those benefits will increase in the new year.
Amazon Will Become the Top Product-Based Search Engine
It will be fun to see who wins the battle between Amazon Echo and Google Home in the coming year. When it comes to product searches, though, Amazon is going to win.
People view Amazon as the Google of virtual malls. Whether they want to buy a basketball, a pair of boots, or a flat-screen TV, you can expect consumers to start their search at Amazon.
They’ll also use Amazon to compare prices and check reviews.
More People Will Use the Facebook Search Engine
We have already seen plenty of people using Facebook search to find what they are looking for online. Expect this to grow! People do not want to leave the website for Google. Watch a breakdown of Facebook search here.
Voice Search Will Rise
As we’ve seen, Amazon Echo and Google Home will make it easy for people to search from their homes. But their popularity will also make it easy for people to search without a keyboard.
Get used to the idea of voice-recognition systems interpreting questions and performing searches online. That’s the next step in the evolution of online search.
There Will Be Fewer Manual Actions and More Algorithmic Actions
For years, SEOs have dreaded the so-called “manual penalty.” That’s when Google delists a site from its search index.
That happens because the webmaster broke Google’s rules. In the past, it’s been handled with the aid of human intervention (hence the name).
Going forward, you can expect the Big G to use algorithms to dispense penalties so company employees can do more important things.
Google Will Serve More Content Than Category or Product Pages
Google knows that users are often craving information. That’s why you can expect to see search results populated with more content and fewer category or product pages.
If you’ve got a site that relies on AJAX to deliver content, then you know you’re not likely to see that content in the SERPs. That’s because Google’s search bot doesn’t crawl a site like a traditional browser.
At least not yet. In the coming year, expect to see Google do a better job at processing programmatic output.
Mobile Will Be More Important
As if that hadn’t been emphasized enough already, you can expect to see it emphasized even more in the new year.
There will also be a renewed push for responsive design in 2017.
There has been some chatter that Google will get rid of the subdomain optimization option.
International SEO and Multilingual SEO Will Still Be Very Profitable
Good news for SEO specialists: it’s likely that your career choice will be very lucrative in the coming year.
Specifically, specialists who focus on international SEO and/or multilingual SEO can expect to see a growing market over the next 12 months. It’s a global economy, after all.
Longer Content Will Still Rank Better
It’s been said that content is king. In 2017, it’s likely that longform content will be king.
If you’re in the habit of writing 350-400 word articles for content marketing purposes, consider hiring a professional writer and booting your average word count up to over 1,500. You’ll likely see a nice pop in rank.
Optimized Images Will Be Important
When adding images to your content, it’s way too easy to disregard the image file name, caption and alt text fields. Resist the temptation to ignore it in the coming year and you’ll see a pop in traffic. Make sure you optimize your images for SEO.
Titles and Descriptions With Higher Click-Through Rate Will Rank Better
Google will reward publishers who’ve gone the extra mile to create click-bait headlines in 2017. You can expect to see articles that attract more clicks to move up in the SERPs while links with drab, unremarkable titles are pushed down lower.
More People Will Search for Video and Multimedia
You can expect to see an uptick in people searching for non-traditional content in 2017. Specifically, more folks will use search engines to look for video and multimedia content.
If you’re not already producing alternative content to boost your brand online, consider doing so in the coming year.
Better Design Rules
Google loves websites that offer users a positive experience. If you expect to rank well in the coming year, make sure your site is as user-friendly (and mobile-friendly) as possible.
Beyond that, though, Google’s AI will gauge user intent. If the AI determines that your overall web design supports what the user is searching for, your site is likely to rank high in the SERPs.
SEO in 2017 is All About Quality
Every year, black hat SEO takes another hit and white hat SEO professionals become more valuable. This year, make sure you are focusing on quality content, images, headlines, user experience and more. If you really want to win in search engine optimization, you need to have a good product or service first and great marketing to support it second.