“Optimize for what would happen IF you ranked, do not optimize to rank.”
It’s that time of year again. As 2016 comes to a close, it’s the perfect opportunity to reflect on the year’s successes and learning experiences. More importantly, however, it is time to look forward to the future.
Staying aligned with years prior, we are going to be examining some of the most plausible shakeups that Google has in store for 2017.
You are certainly already used to these shifts and changes as a student of SEO, but hold on to your keywords because there are some big changes on the digital horizon.
Prediction 1: Mobile Madness
Surprise, surprise. Mobile tops the list of changes in search for the upcoming year.
This transfer of power from desktop to mobile kicked off in 2015 with Google’s Mobilegeddon update and has been in the works ever since.
The big mobile bombshell was dropped in early November 2016 when the search giant announced that it would begin its mobile-first indexing “experiment.”
This was the only logical outcome as mobile’s dominance continues to increase year-over-year. A Hitwise study from earlier this year uncovered that mobile queries account for nearly 60 percent of all search volume. And this trend isn’t slowing down.
This means that when business owners assess website needs in 2017, mobile-responsiveness should top the list. If you still haven’t gone mobile-friendly, time is running out.
This huge shift in indexing prioritization and how it will impact desktop sites will also lead to more enhanced user experiences on mobile.
Just because websites have become subordinate to mobile requirements doesn’t mean that they are obsolete. SEO will be the driving force for site owners to create a satisfying UX, which will heavily incorporate page load speeds, but we’ll talk more about that later.
Prediction 2: Surges in Voice Search
This is quite often an overlooked piece to the puzzle, but voice search has major SEO implications, and those effects will be seen in 2017.
As Google continues to hone in on semantic search and user intent, data harvested from voice search will have considerable impacts on the SEO environment.
Since voice-led queries are typically much longer, more casually phrased and often plainly display the user’s intent, this will have dramatic repercussions on the effectiveness of certain keywords and phrases.
As voice search continues to be leveraged more frequently on an increased number of devices, and mobile use surges in popularity, keep a close eye on how this technology affects the SERPs.
Prediction 3: Prelude to the Death of Traditional Sites
Since apps were first created, users have been drawn in droves to interact with their various offerings. Today, people spend more time in-app than they do on traditional Web browsers.
In an effort to maintain dominance, in 2015 Google acquired Agawi, a technology that would allow the engine to stream app content via the Web without the need for users to download the actual application.
While this move has yet to become prolific by any means, as users continue to turn their attention toward applications, this acquisition will begin to play a more prominent role in Google’s strategy.
While traditional websites will not go extinct in 2017, this is when their clocks officially start ticking. It’s a crazy reality but the old ways are shifting.
This upcoming year is the optimal time for site owners to begin researching and developing an application to serve website content through. When app streaming hits the mainstage, you’ll be glad you jumped on the bandwagon early enough to stake out your claim.
Prediction 4: Growth in AMP Adoption
I have already reported on the impact that Google’s Accelerate Mobile Pages will have on SEO, and those effects will be felt in 2017.
The open-source technology was initially created as a way to deliver news to readers in a swift and nimble manner. Since this format was introduced, Google has been pushing it heavily and has even applied it to entirely new industries.
Over the course of 2016, Google users and marketers have seen the company install AMP pages in the “Top Stories” section of the mobile SERPs and introduce the technology into advertising. Later on in the year, Google applied AMP content to its desktop results as well as developed an AMP validator that the company integrated into the Google Search Console. Finally, to the surprise of many, Google and eBay teamed up to bring AMP to the auction website’s merchandise.
All of this points to an extremely clear trend of Accelerated Mobile Pages growing in use and importance in the SERPs. And where all of this will truly impact SEO in the year to come is in the area of speed.
As Google finds new ways to serve content and webpages to audiences more quickly, it will expect the same from those who rank within its SERPs. Speed has always been a major ranking factor, and that significance is only going to increase in 2017, no matter if you are using AMP or not.
To help your brand prepare for the lightning-fast future ahead, be sure to:
- Bypass any superfluous images, GIFs, or videos and scale down those that are needed;
- Stick to simplistic images and avoid those with heavy load times;
- Compress your site as much as possible without diminishing UX;
- Only retain vital cookies.
As you can see, much like the past couple of years before it, SEO in 2017 will largely focus on mobile. Mobile is the future of the Web and as each year passes, more and more updates will be dominated by small-screen interaction.
While the New Year will continue to revolve around mobile, there are sure to be plenty of curveballs, surprises, disappointments, and other SEO startles that few saw coming, so keep your eyes peeled, and happy rankings!
What other SEO changes do you think 2017 holds? In what ways are you already preparing your strategy for the road ahead?