“Search engines aren’t trying to make life harder for website owners. They see search as a product, and as they improve their product, the game changes by default.”
SEO will never stop evolving. The object of search engine optimization is not to craft a strategy that you will cling to indefinitely. No, it is to change with the times and stay one step ahead of your competitors as the maturation unfolds.
The single most effective way to ensure that you are leading the corporate pack in the SERPs is by maintaining awareness of how engines are adjusting their algorithms so that you can pivot before your competition even knows what happened.
As you start to retool your strategy for the year to come, be sure to account for these four major shifts that are poised to rock the SEO landscape.
1. User Intent Optimization (UIO)
As long as the current incarnation of search engines continue to reign supreme, keywords will still be incredibly important to SEO.
What has changed significantly is the type of keywords that are used. As the average consumer has greatly matured over the past decade or so, their queries have followed suit. And search engines have kept pace with this evolution as they are becoming more sophisticated at identifying user intent.
In 2017, while keyword importance will remain, much of the conversation will shift from specific keywords and phrases to user intent.
Brands can upgrade their digital strategy by first investigating the driving forces that pull users onto their websites; this will help to inform you on the type of content to craft and what questions need to be addressed in those materials.
Once you understand what brings consumers to your site, begin to optimize those areas to ensure greater effectiveness in furthering your company goals by getting visitors to take the desired action.
And, as always, continually monitor your site’s analytics and A/B test various features to ensure that the elements you have implemented speak to user intent and are properly converting.
2. Increased Schema Support
Schema markup, or structured data markup, is rapidly increasing in significance as Google continues to implement more and more featured answers for user queries and denser snippets for websites.
A recent study conducted by Stone Temple Consulting revealed that Google’s direct answers have nearly doubled since 2014. And, assuming that this trend continues, schema will play an increasingly important role in SEO.
Schema not only assists search engines in understanding your site’s content offerings, but helps to provide users with the most informative results possible. Thusly, bolstering your website’s schema markup increases the chances of your content becoming a featured snippet.
Users love these kinds of quick answers because it helps them gain exactly what they are looking for with speed. More importantly, however, is that content that is used for a featured snippet gains far more clicks and credence than those that are listed as normal.
But this isn’t the sole reason to further implement best practices for scheme. Now that Google has confirmed Rankbrain, its AI system, is the engine’s “. . . third most important signal contributing to the result of a search query,” business owners need to go the extra mile in ensuring that their websites are easily understood by the algorithm. This is where schema implementation is a massive benefit to a brand’s SEO blueprint.
3. Personal Branding Blowout
In recent years, personal branding has been taken to new heights thanks to the capabilities of social media. In 2017, this trend is going to be taken to an entirely different level.
Personal branding already supports SEO in a myriad of ways; it amplifies content desirability because it is attached to a person and not a company, increases trust because consumers are wary of most any informative materials produced by an organization, and other beneficial perks.
The problem is that most business leaders are not taking advantage of the opportunities personal branding presents.
As social websites like Facebook continue to alter their algorithms in ways that negatively impact the reach of business pages, personal branding becomes more vital to social media success.
Personal branding serves to benefit the SEO of an organization as it becomes easier to land guest posts and thus drive traffic to a business page. Moreover, as personal brands begin to gain more followers, the corporate counterpart attached to the individual becomes ingrained in the minds of consumers as it is permanently linked to the personal brand.
While this explosion will make the space more competitive, this same competition will present a myriad of opportunities and collaborations.
4. A New Kind of Content
Some believe that written content will soon fade into obscurity as video’s online dominance continues to grow. This is absolutely not the case.
While writing will not disappear, in 2017 it will start to transform in the way that it is presented.
More antiquated versions of content marketing centered on pumping out as much short and easily-consumable content as possible. This later shifted as various studies uncovered that long-form, in-depth content ranked better in the SERPs.
As Google embarks on its mobile-first indexing “experiment,” a new form of content is ready to take center stage.
Mobile’s continued growth and eventual dominance of the Web means that long-form content is poised to largely disappear because it is not conducive for smaller screens. Instead, marketers will come to focus on writing short content that is packed with as much useful information as possible to cater to mobile users. The SEO implications of this are clear and it is only a matter of time before this new content format begins to take hold.
While it is challenging to definitively say what will transpire SEO-wise in 2017, these trends are likely to take shape in a meaningful way. Be sure to account for the upcoming changes when reviewing your strategy to stay one step ahead of your business rivals.