2017 SEO Planning
This year, we’re going to chat about how you can have a remarkable, amazing SEO strategy in 2017. What are the search engines doing? How is that affecting my strategy? How does that mean I should influence and change my specific tactics for 2017? So I’ll walk through a few of these big ones. There are others, but I think these encapsulate many of the big things we’ve been seeing.
A huge rise in SERP features, meaning that Google is showing much more types of data and types of markup in the search results. We have, I believe, 17 that we record for Keyword Explorer, but there are another 7 or 8 that we do not record, but that we see in between 1% and 2% of queries. So there’s just a ton of different features that are going in there.
The importance of comprehensiveness has clearly been on the rise. That’s been true for a couple of years, but it is a trend that continued in 2016, and we expect to continue into 2017. You can see a bunch of examples of research in that area, including some from Whiteboard Friday itself.
A rise in Immediate answers. This is particularly the case on mobile, but it’s true on the desktop as well. Google is trying to solve a lot of the queries themselves, and that can mean they’re taking away traffic from you, or it can mean there’s an opportunity to get into those features or those answers.
Intent > keywords: We’re also seeing this trend that started with Hummingbird and now, naturally, continued with Rank Brain around intent, searcher intent being more important than keywords in how we target our content. This does not mean you can remove keywords from the equation. You have to understand what the searcher has typed into the engine before you can serve their intent, and minuscule variations in keyword structure can mean real changes in searcher intent. That’s a critical part of how we craft content for people.
Multi-device speed and user experience, Google’s been harping on this for several years now, and I think what we are observing is that speed is not the only user experience element. Google has taken action against overlays and pop-ups. They’ve taken steps. Apparently, that suggests that some engagement metrics are going on there and that sites that have better user experience and that garner better engagement are doing better in the search results.
We’ve seen a lot of trends around unreliability of Google data. That includes search volume data. It contains data in AdWords, around Google showing you which keywords are in there. It contains inaccuracies in Google Search Console, formerly Webmaster Tools, around rankings. My colleague, Russ Jones, has just put out a big piece on that showing, mostly, that if Google says you got this many impression and this many clicks, that may be totally wrong and false, so be cautious around that.
Voice search, clearly on the rise. Not yet a huge trend in terms of an addressable market that search marketers can go after, but we’ve talked a few ways here on Whiteboard Friday and at Moz about how you can think about voice search impacting your results in the future and what types of content you might want to produce to be in front of voice searches.
Machine learning and deep learning, Google has apparently made a shift to that in the last 18 months, and we’re seeing it affect the search results in terms of how they’re considering links, how they’re looking at keyword searches, and how they’re looking at content.
Multi-visit buyer journeys have always been important, but I think we are now seeing the trend to where not just search marketers but marketers of all stripes recognize this, and a lot of us are optimizing for it, which means that the competitive landscape now demands that you optimize for a multi-visit buyer journey, that you don’t just consider a single visit in your conversion path or your optimization path, and that means, for SEOs, considering what are all the queries someone might perform as they come to and come back to my site.
Bias to brands that is a continuing trend over the last few years. We still see it, and we see it even more so. I would say we see it even when those brands have not necessarily earned tons of links, which used to be the big dominating factor in the world of is a brand stronger than a non-brand. A lot of times that was about links. Now it seems that those are decoupled.
That being said, we’re kind of feeling an undiminished value of links. If you’ve built a brand, if you’ve done a lot of these things successfully, links are certainly how you can stand out in the search results. That’s nearly as true in 2016 and ’17 as it was in 2011 and 2012. The only caveat there is that the quality of links matters a lot more.