With every new year, there is a new chance to improve your SEO campaign outcomes. Many people take Google updates as a negative, however in looking at past updates (and despite Google providing less algorithm update announcements), initiatives announced within Q4 of the previous year and Q1 of the current year will generally give you guidance on the most progressive techniques that you can adopt for driving traffic.
Search engines, especially Google, have been emphasizing a mobile first approach for years, and I believe the time has finally arrived, with the eventual release of Google’s mobile index and standardization of web technologies that will provide a seamlessly integrated experience with the web. Below you will find the reasons why and what you need to do in order to stay ahead of your competitors in 2017.
1. HTTPS will become the web standard (at least for Chrome users)
HTTPS is a protocol that ensures websites remain safe by implementing an additional protocol when a page is requested across the internet. The Google Security blog has indicated that users will see a ‘non-secure’ sign at the end of January 2017, for users on Chrome v56.
There has been a great push for updating this protocol because besides having the additional safety of preventing hackers access to a site, it is also becoming a requirement for retrieving resources to display a page for more quickly for new web standards that improve website, video and app performances i.e. HTTP/2 or Progressive Web Apps.
Making sure that you install the right type of SSL certificate on your server to migrating all internal/external links and all third party software to the updated domain version will be important to prevent any drop off’s or inaccurate analytics tracking for your site.
2. Mass adoption of Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)
Accelerated mobile pages offer an open protocol source code to allow static HTML pages for mobile users to render more quickly. The problem with current sites accessed via mobile is the over reliance of extraneous code for enhancing a website or app's functionality, in addition to all sites having inconsistent sizing and coding parameters for loading a page in a browser. The practices of this protocol help make this all streamlined.
Since Google introduced AMP at the end of 2015, support has been adopted by the publishing industry to enable widespread change, with adoption by Pinterest, The Washington Post, Wired, and many others. AMP has also been worked into the WordPress platform, Bing’s mobile search app, and Ebay.
Publishers have already reaped the benefits with improvement sin click through rate from search results and ads, and generally returned visitors, as a result of the featured listing and symbol provided to AMP pages indexed providing the increased ranking boost.
However, 2016 saw little to no transparency across e-commerce sites and sites beyond using Wordpress platforms, due to the technical difficulty, CMS integration availability and search result page benefits that other websites can leverage. This year we’ll see a massive effort to close this gap.
To help with AMP installation on a Wordpress website, you can watch this available step by step tutorial.
3. Progressive web apps will be adopted by influencers
Progressive Web Apps have been identified as the next thing for the mobile web, as it combines website building standards with mobile app user experience. It is driving websites to become channel agnostic as progressive web apps can allow users to install web apps to their home screen, receive push notifications and even work offline.
Google has provided some best practices here and it fundamentally uses the same best practices as other JS built web development standards. Some existing brands have also been forward thinking and have built full-fledged applications.
Like everything else, it is only until the major influencing marketers adopt this practice that more digital marketing practitioners will take the courage to do this.
The main trend that I see this year is that practitioners will use certain parts of the framework on existing sites to validate a case for mass scale adoption, in order to encourage the development community in stabilizing cross-platform support for this framework in which will result in a mass adoption.
4. Machine learning for automation and adapting to voice search tactics
Rankbrain and Hummingbird are both platforms recently added in Google’s Algorithm that help group and contextualize existing and new user search queries.
The implications of this are that Google has now begun omitting even more search data from users using their Google Keyword Planner tool, only providing monthly search volume figures in ranges, as opposed to exact figures.
As a digital marketer in ay industry, one of the most effective methods of gaining an understanding of your audience is by using multiple research tools, averaging (and removing the bias) the data and then bucketing them into topic groups to allow you to focus on topics that your target are interested in (instead of an individual keyword). For more larger enterprises, it could be worth starting using your own clickstream data and create associated index scores that can help you benchmark your data.
But with the close of one door opens another. Voice search in mobile has a higher percentage of featured snippets (the answer boxes that appear beneath the search results). Slegg says 43.3% for voice queries have featured snippets, compared to 40.6% for text queries. Because voice results are also read out loud, being featured results in brand reinforcement for future searches across any other device.
Given Rankbrain is the third most important ranking signal, focus on optimizing your website for conversational search to continually drive new queries and visitors to your site from voice search.
What you can do is firstly go to SEMRUSH or Moz, enter a competitor/s and by using the SERP features tool, reverse engineer the keywords and topics that they are ranking for in the featured snippets section.
Alternatively, in your keyword research draw out ‘how to’ ‘what is’ and other longtail question-related topics which generate featured results, in combination with related searches to better shape your SEO strategy and content creation efforts for 2017. With feature snippets, the end goal is to rank for position #0.
As you can see there are many new and interesting data points pulled across many devices. No longer does SEO data have a ‘one size fits all' approach, so it's a matter of automating the process of collecting and processing this data with API’s and various other tools to turn them into meaningful insights and actions for your audience.
It All Starts With Being In a True Mobile First Web
Things always change and what has been mentioned above is only a sample of the most critical items. Honorary mentions go to Virtual Reality (enhancing Video SEO), the further use of Schema for encouraging a more data rich web and the importance of optimising for local SEO, however, 2017 is looking to be the catalyst everyone has been looking for (since 2013) in creating a mobile-first world for both search engines and users that can result in the next generation of the web taking flight.