SEO Trends 2017, Are You Ready?

What’s great about our industry is that there are so many known knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns, to paraphrase a former U.S. defense secretary. Will this be the year we get the SEO basics right? Will this be the year of voice search? Will this be the year machine learning and AI forever changes SEO as we’ve known it?

Google Update

Will this be the year your digital strategies always put the audience/customer first? Will this be the year companies really diversify their traffic sources as part of a holistic digital strategy? And how will technologies such as assistants and the Internet of Things change SEO? So what SEO trends do you need to know in 2017 if you want to generate more traffic and leads while staying ahead of your competition?

Google was very smart to launch AMP and prevent a huge switch away from mobile web browsing towards native apps. AMP keeps users engaged with Google search on mobile devices. I expect Google will keep throwing a lot of weight behind AMP, and 2017 is the year that decides if AMP has a long shelf-life or if it’ll end up as another one of Google’s doomed projects. The adoption of AMP beyond static news stories will be key to this; both in terms of the functionality AMP offers for interactive experiences, and the ease with which websites can implement these features. Keep a sharp eye on AMP for ecommerce and the way AMP results will be highlighted in SERPs. Already we see Google highlighting the advantages of AMP to its users – if this takes a stronger hold, AMP could well become the new de facto standard for mobile web pages.

SEO community is going to learn a lot more interesting stuff from the emergent behavior of RankBrain in 2017.

AI powered rankings are going to lead to a highly customized set of ranking signals at a query level, that might seem to massively complicate the workload for the general SEO practitioner. But, I think we’re going to be pleasantly surprised to find that the generalized list of factors that make an impact are actually going to be easier to understand than they have been for the last 10 years. Put another way, I think we’re going to see a much more malleable algorithm that is simultaneously more punishing and more rewarding.

So, my money is on really basic tactics like natural/organic link building working better than ever in 2017. I think that will prove to be because RankBrain can actually test ranking your site against way more user queries than was previously possible, computationally.

Artificial intelligence solutions tend towards aggregation of concepts, performing entity recognition calculations at hitherto unknown scale, so I agree with people who say that topical relevance is still more important than individual keyword relevance. Nonetheless, fundamentally RankBrain still runs the same math as the core algorithm always did, and links have always been the strongest signal, so I think they will remain so.

However, under RankBrain, the reward of an earned organic link could cause a break out moment of visibility across a clutch of broadly matching yet different terms which will yield a goldmine of relevant keyword data in Google Search Console. The similar yet different terms that RankBrain will have tried to rank you for, even in completely unseen positions at the back of the index will be useful enough to plan the next phase in your strategy to compete for topical relevance. Due to the sociological theory of ‘weak ties‘ (which has made it’s way into search engines), I believe that you won’t need to earn that many organic links to see movements in the right direction.

Thats the “good” news for “white hats.” And the “bad” news, is that I think in 2017 we’ll see the re-emergence of really sophisticated “black hat” strategies.

Basically, if it’s not already invented, I’ll bet my bottom dollar that we’ll see competing AIs developed by the black hat community to compete with RankBrain. But hey, the funnest part of SEO has always been debating the different shades of gray anyway.

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