Search engine optimization (SEO) is a game that’s all about staying one step ahead of your opponents.
One of the best ways to accomplish this competitive dominance is to be aware of how search engines are changing, and adjust your content and SEO strategy before your competitors have a chance to catch up. The SEO industry is always moving, so it pays to be aware of these evolutions.
It looks like 2017 will be an interesting year for SEO, with the following trends dominating the arena:
1. The Rise of Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs).
Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs) are an open-source protocol that allows webmasters to create pages capable of loading almost instantly on mobile devices. The idea is that a handful of simple structural changes can make your site load up to four times faster and use eight times less data. Already, Google is starting to favor sites that have switched over to AMPs, giving them visibility in a carousel and a small icon (with a lightning bolt) indicating their AMP status. In 2017, I anticipate we’ll see more favoritism for AMPs in search results, with more brands taking advantage of the option.
People are getting sick of reading the same fluff content over and over again, in different words. Early content marketing efforts were focused on producing as much bite-sized content as possible, but for the past few years, we’ve seen a surge in “epic” content; long pieces that cover a topic comprehensively. But as the market’s been flooded with both types of content, I feel a new trend may ignore length entirely, focusing on providing as much information as possible in the smallest possible space—dense content—to appeal to readers.
3. Machine Learning Will Change the Way the Algorithm Works.
Google RankBrain was released late last year, and opened the door to the possibility of algorithmic machine learning. The extension of Google Hummingbird functions as a way to gradually learn more about how users phrase conversational queries—and update its algorithm automatically accordingly. We haven’t seen another update like it since, but I anticipate we’re overdue for one. Google will probably start releasing more machine learning updates as the years go on, starting next year, and we may even see machine learning in other areas, such as data interpretation or marketing automation, as well.
I’ve been a proponent of personal branding as a core strategy for SEO for many years now. With a personal brand, you’ll have an easier time securing guest posts, building user trust, and driving more traffic to your website. However, a shockingly low number of brands have taken advantage of this in their SEO efforts. As social media platforms like Facebook continue refining their algorithms to favor individual posts over branded posts, I anticipate we’ll see more companies and organizations take advantage of personal branding. This will simultaneously lead to more opportunities and more competition, so watch out—and make sure your strategy is in order.
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5. User Experience Optimization (UEO) Will Start to Blur the Lines with SEO.
User experience has always been important to SEO—at least to some degree. Google favors sites that are properly optimized for mobile devices, ones that load quickly, and ones where it’s clear that users are enjoying their experience (with prolonged time spent on page, etc.). But in 2017, we may see an increased emphasis on user experience—especially as it relates to mobile devices. AMPs, which I’ve already mentioned, could be the first sign of this, but look for other ways that Google will favor pages that offer better user experiences overall.