In the ever-changing world of SEO, I have had to learn to pivot fast, or risk me, and my clients, getting left behind.
With Google changing its search algorithms hundreds of times every year, I admit that it based on my years of experience it can sometimes be a challenge to understand what it takes for a company to consistently rank #1 on the world’s leading search engine.
But let’s back up just one second. SEO isn’t something intangible, and it certainly isn’t a unicorn. It’s about making sure Google understands your keywords, content, services and products, and where you sell them . . . but more about this later. It is also about making the search engine know you are a credible authority in your field.
Predictions, when it comes to SEO trends, can be tricky. Trust me. We haven’t always got them 100% right, but that’s why at Marwick Internet Marketing we have learned to keep our ears close to the ground and are always prepared to hop onto the first carriage of any new SEO speeding train.
2016 saw, among many trends, the importance of mobile optimization for your website Smartphones (which according to the Cisco Visual Networking Index, will account for 30% of total IP traffic in 2020), the explosion of online video (which, interestingly, is expected to increase globally to become 82% of all consumer Internet traffic by 2020) and the impact of social media platforms as users turned increasingly to Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube to search for products and services.
So what about 2017? While SEO trends in 2016 were about being the answer, SEO trends for the coming year are about answering your questions before you’ve even asked them.
Here are three trends that may make you rethink your strategy and will hopefully help you stay one step ahead of the game:
1.MACHINE LEARNING – COMPUTERS THAT THINK FOR THEMSELVES
When Google released its machine learning artificial intelligence system RankBrain, the changes to SEO were subtle but fast becoming something of a disruptive technology. It is one of the many signals used in Google’s algorithm. However, the difference with RankBrain is that this learning system interprets your gut feelings.
I consider this to be a step in the direction of computers being able to think for themselves (think the self-driving car). In other words, RankBrain can decipher what users are trying to type into a search, even if it is not initially apparent.
Machine learning in general, where a computer teaches itself how to do something rather than being taught by humans or having to follow detailed programming, is currently the most important SEO signal behind inbound linking and webpage content. And its relevance will continue to grow.
So what impact will this have on SEO? While machine learning currently has little impact on SEO, it helps to determine more relevant search factors, and its importance will continue to grow. By paying close attention to your audience’s searching habits and tracking user interaction with your website, you will be able to adjust your strategy to provide an optimal experience.
All that relevant content you’ve been posting? Chances are, it is less likely to get missed. That’s great news. If you understand your audience, then it is highly likely that machine learning will be on the same wavelength as you soon.
2.GEOLOCATION – POKÉMON GO, AN EGGCELLENT EXAMPLE
Unless you have been living under a rock for the past few months, you will have heard of Pokémon GO. But if you think (or hope) it is just another passing fad with no impact on SEO, think again.
Over the years Google has made a bunch of search engine algorithm updates like Venice and Pigeon, as well as a bunch of new local business products like Google+ Local and Google My Business to help local businesses get noticed. But it has been a struggle. Until now.
Pokémon GO has paved the way for local marketing through geolocation and mapping technologies – data that is tied to a location at any given time. It’s about aligning mobile searches with local results. This isn’t the first mobile app to have integrated geolocation (Find My Car Smarter, AroundMe…the list goes on), but it is among the first to have become a worldwide phenomenon, and it just goes to prove it can work, if the app is appealing enough
Google has been trying to stand up for the small business owner for years now. It’s been hankering for a level playing field. With the launch of Pokémon GO, local businesses have seen crazy increases in their foot traffic.
Just picture this: You are having dinner with friends at a Cactus Club Cafe and a notification pops up to tell you there is a HUGE one day sale at Macy’s, which happens to be three doors down from you and is open late…how bizarre, you had been looking for new shoes just a few days ago. This is the future. The very near future in fact. An example of machine learning and geolocation at its finest.
But what impact will this have on SEO? The #keywords here are geospatial data marketing, basically data tied to a location at any given time. One of the main criteria Google takes into account when ranking every website is loading speed, server location and IP geolocation. Expect to see local results becoming even more prevalent now that it has been proven to work (and people have willingly given up their whereabouts)!
The best part is that a local business will be able to compete with international brands when it comes to SEO. Hyper personalization at its finest.
3.VOICE SEARCH – IT’S JUST GETTING LOUDER AND LOUDER
Those old enough to remember (uh hum) will recall the US television series Knight Rider and the car KITT that could talk. No? How about Star Trek and the computer that responded to custom demands?
For 2017 don’t be surprised when voice search continues to grow.
During his recent Google I/O keynote speech, CEO Sundar Pichai announced that 20% of queries on its mobile app and on Android devices are voice searches.
Siri, Cortana, Google Voice Search/Now and Google Home are among the many virtual assistants that have been designed to encourage people to search using their voices. Search and mobile devices have become more conversational. It’s faster, hands-free (and safer in some cases), lets you multi-task and it is considered pretty darn cool by Millennials.
Even Amazon Alexa now allows users to order a pizza from Domino’s. And Google recently announced it has already integrated a range of third-party transactional services into Google Home, including Uber, OpenTable, Spotify, WhatsApp and Ticketmaster.
In fact, two years ago word error rate for speech recognition was over 20%, but according to a new study, the word error rate on an open-ended dictation task is 13.5% and falling, and that’s running with a median speed that is seven times faster than real-time – a huge leap forward.
You see, conversational search is the future and as such SEO will be adapting to a more fluid approach consisting of sentences rather than keywords. Combine this with intuitive learning and voice understanding, and you’ve got your own personal PA!
This is big news for SEO in 2017.
It’s time to stop thinking linearly about only keyword queries, and start thinking about optimizing your site for voice searches as well. Because, well clearly, the future is conversational.