If you needed to make drastic alterations to your SEO strategy in 2017, you were not alone. This year, we saw many changes that impacted every aspect of search.
1. Mobile Emphasis
Due to the ever growing number of users on mobile devices, Google decided to make mobile search a major facet of its algorithm. For instance, mobile search is now the primary index and Google favors Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs) for their faster load time. Although AMPs are more common on certain types of sites, they are fast becoming the norm.
When optimizing for mobile, you also need to bear in mind that the majority of the time users spend on mobile devices is in apps. This year, developers have been pressed to improve their in-app search capabilities.
The greater use of mobile has also contributed to more image searches. Images offer an easy way to find information fast and process it on a small screen. Infographics are particularly popular, as they provide in-depth data in a single picture. To take advantage of this trend, you need to optimize your images to ensure search engines know what they depict.
3. Search Intent
Search engines are becoming smarter at knowing what users are looking for when they search. This means that short, highly-competitive keywords are almost a thing of the past, as it is near impossible to reach your target audience with such terms.
Search intent has also impacted how Google displays ads. It now divides search queries into three categories: awareness, discovery (comparisons), and purchase (when the user is ready to buy). When Google determines that a user is looking for products or services, it puts a 4-pack of ads above the fold to reduce organic clicks.
4. Optimization for Social Platforms
Users often find content on social media, rather than running Google searches. Previously, users tended to search on social media just for friends and brands, but they now also search on platforms to seek out content.
Optimizing for social media is completely different from optimizing for SERPs. For instance, platforms have additional information about users’ behavior that can help them decide what the user wants. To stay competitive, you need to go beyond hashtags and clickbait headlines by learning about the demographics and psychographics of your target audience.
5. Search Results Pages
Since Google introduced Quick Answers (short answers to questions that appear at the top of search results) and Rich Cards (a new format of rich snippets for mobile), they have been appearing in ever more searches. To have your own content appear in these rich snippets, it is essential you use schema on your website.
Another change in how search results appear is in the number of characters. Google continued to lift the limit for more pages, giving them longer titles and meta descriptions. This gives you the chance to describe what a page contains in greater depth to encourage more clicks.
6. Brand Advocates
Google is always implementing new tactics to identify content it believes has little value to users, such as spam and content overtly pushing for sales. This year, it led to the search engine favoring user-created content.
To gain user-created content for your business, you need to work on developing brand advocates. One of the best places to start is with your own employees. Encourage them to share their knowledge, insights, and ideas through content like blog posts, white papers, and podcasts.
7. User Experience
Google is also focusing more on user experience as a whole, not just the information the webpage provides. You can increase your rankings by making simple changes to your site. For instance, AMPs and caching decreases load time and reduces bounce rate, both key indicators of usability.
Another way to improve user experience is to cut interstitials. Google has started penalizing mobile sites that use intrusive interstitials, which includes any popups that take up too much space.
8. Voice Search
With the improvements to voice-activated assistants, more users are utilizing voice searches. A voice search uses different terms to a typed search, tending to be more conversational. To rank high in all kinds of searches, marketers now need to include natural language in their content.
Search engines are now giving preference to secure sites. Basic tactics like using HTTPS is no longer sufficient — you need to incorporate SSL into all your pages.
SEO went through many changes in 2017, and it will keep on changing over the upcoming years. Staying up to date with all the updates is the only way to ensure that your will website continue to perform at its optimum. Stay tuned to learn about developments in SEO into 2018 and beyond.