Everyone wants to know "what trends will we see with SEO in 2017?"
Well, we have some ideas that we'd like to frame through the idea that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Google's original mantra/marching orders (in addition to "do no harm") is to reward websites that offer a good user experience. We'll outline exactly what this means below for SEO and what you can look for in ensuring that you've got a solid SEO strategy.
What is SEO in 2017?
SEO is neither dying, nor dead, nor a synonym for content marketing. :) This may sound cheeky, but too many marketers assume that if you build it they will come; and, they can't be blamed - content marketing has become its own lucrative industry. BUT, truth is you can create all the content in the world, and if it's not easy to find and easy to index by the engines, you might as well be sending it through the USPS. To that end, we'll discuss the SEO predictions we have for technical SEO, content-based SEO, and off-site SEO for 2017 below.
Predictions for Technical SEO in 2017
We predict algorithm updates with continued favoritism for sites that are easy to navigate, fast, mobile friendly and secure.
If you are paying attention, important items with SEO implications come through loud and clear in the Google Webmaster Tools/Search Console. We just got a warning, for example, that a site we manage may be in trouble because it collects email addresses on a few pages that haven't been ported to the secure part of the site. (now fixed)
Pay attention to these warnings - they're the closest thing you'll get to pre-emptive advice on how to improve your website for SEO from Google.
Prediction for Content SEO in 2017
Content is king, but SEO is its queen. All SEO engagements should begin with a comprehensive keyword strategy that is developed with user personas, pain points, business propositions and differentiators, and competitive analysis. This exercise is usually a great proxy for companies to identify where they're strong in content and where they're lacking.
If you've done a good job with your website, it's likely that you already have some good stuff to work with. What happens after you've optimized existing content though? We always recommend leveraging existing content (even if it lives/is trapped in an email campaign, gated whitepaper, or infographic) to build out new sections to capture demand, but new content creation based on demand (keyword search volume) is a worthwhile activity - especially if you can use analytics to prove its value.
Finally, blogging is still a worthwhile endeavor. Our clients are always surprised at the organic traffic going to blog posts (some of which are old). Blogging is really the easiest way to 1. meet Google's desire to reward websites with fresh content, 2. Create content that doesn't fit neatly into your website's static navigation, and 3. convert visitors! Yes, I said blogs could be a source of conversions. Truth is, most of us - myself included- don't treat blog posts as a conversion opportunity and don't provide users a logical path to go deeper into the topic on the website itself. One of our 2017 resolutions is to take better advantage of our blog traffic!
Prediction for Off-Site SEO in 2017
Branded search results and "off site" SEO go hand in hand. The Google algorithm rewards websites with a strong digital footprint. So what does that mean? Go search for your brand and look for a few things.
1. Is your domain appearing for your brand? This kind of goes without saying but technical SEO snafus have caused many websites to not appear for branded search.
2. Do you have control over most of the properties that come up related to your brand? Have you claimed your social profiles, is your Wikipedia profile well built out and truthful, do you have good 3rd party reviews? Great! This has proven to benefit the organic search of many clients we've worked with.
3. Are competitors showing up for your brand in paid search or organic search? This deserves a closer look and a competitive strategy.
4. Is your brand represented positively and consistently? You can and should control this on your claimed digital properties.
Once you've looked at these elements, don't stop. We really see this as an emerging area of opportunity for brands to make sure that all the hard work they've done on branding is carried through into search results. We recommend both tracking branded keywords and regularly checking search results for your branded terms to identify threats and opportunities (and just to make sure that your site is indeed showing up!)
Closing thoughts on SEO Predictions for 2017
Finally, we predict that in 2017, the importance of SEO will reach a tipping point in its journey up the B2B ladder. Most websites get anywhere between 50-75% of their traffic from organic search and when this goes bad, traffic and leads suffer. SEOs need to move away from focusing on keyword positions as a means to an end and focus on the real business results when reporting out and up.
Clients and execs are more likely to respond to organic KPIs that impact the bottom line - quality leads and sales. For SEOs, this should be like shooting fish in a barrel since typically, organic search traffic produces the "best" on site visits in terms of time on site, bounce rate, leads, sales, etc.
Thanks for reading and happy new year!