As we enter the new year, business owners and digital marketers might be wondering if search engine optimization is officially a thing of the past.
The short answer: “No.”
And the slightly longer answer: “Heck no!”
Sure, certain SEO practices are obsolete thanks to Google’s ever-changing search algorithms. In many ways, though, this is a good thing. Stuffing blogs and websites with keywords, links and junk content never truly helped customers or merchants. On the other hand, today’s best SEO practices – and the SEO practices of tomorrow – are based on making search results and websites more relevant to people’s needs. The end result is a win for everyone.
Not only is SEO not dying, but this crucial form of online marketing is as alive and well as ever. Social media marketing might seem easier and more accessible, but there’s far too much opportunity through search engine marketing to turn your back on SEO.
Don’t buy into the hype that SEO has run its course. Instead, keep on reading and learn about SEO trends that are likely to pay off big-time in 2017.
Accelerated Mobile Pages
Have you seen that carousel of content that appears above the organic results? These are Accelerated Mobile Pages, also known as AMP. Webpages coded with AMP HTML tags load in mobile Web browsers with simplified formatting, making pages load up to eight times faster than normal.
Simplifying these pages doesn’t make them static, though; AMP pages can still be coded with audio, video, social buttons and more. Between the high search engine results page placements, the fast load times and the rich content possibilities, webpages coded with AMP tags can be great for engaging Web users.
However, the AMP concept is still being worked out. Currently, webpages displayed with AMP coding can’t display Web forms, rendering them useless for generating leads or email signups. Also, this technology is only really relevant to webpages with long-form articles and blog posts. AMP pages shared on social media might not help your domain authority, either.
That said, Google’s message is clear: User experience comes first. Look for Google to expand on AMP coding and similar technologies in 2017.
Social Signals and SEO
Google officials have repeatedly stated that likes, shares and other social media signals don’t directly impact search engine rankings – but will they?
That’s a big question heading into 2017, with social media marketing continuing to rise in importance. History indicates that Google will eventually find ways to work social signals into its algorithms. Think about it – Google is obsessed with using the most relevant digital cues to determine which websites are the most relevant and credible. How people interact with websites and content on social media is an important measure of trust and value.
Regardless of what Google officials say, it’s hard to ignore the popularity of Facebook. Chances are your target prospects are using Facebook regularly so social media is certainly an opportunity to reach them. Plus, researchers have found clear correlations between social media signals and SERP rankings.
The bottom line is that social media is here to stay, and favorable social signals already correlate with stronger SEO. This symbiotic relationship will only grow stronger through the upcoming year and beyond.
What makes people more excited nowadays – a new laptop computer or a latest-generation smartphone? The answer illustrates why the shift from desktop to mobile SEO is so critical in digital marketing.
Most people you see on the street are carrying powerful, portable computers in their pockets, and these folks surf the Web from anywhere and everywhere. People who use search engines via their smartphones have completely different behaviors than those who are seated at their desktops. SEO practices changed to accommodate those new behaviors.
Going into 2017, marketers should continue investing in mobile SEO. Especially with Google’s announcement that they will soon be using a “mobile-first” index.
That means making sure your website resolves properly when viewed through the Android, Apple and Windows mobile operating systems. It means creating hyper-local content that might rank well in searches from people who are walking, dining, shopping or working nearby. It means using long-tailed, conversational keywords that people are likely to speak into their phones.
Smartphones aren’t going anywhere, and neither is mobile SEO. This must be a top priority if you hope to be competitive in SEO.
What if Google’s algorithm could evaluate how people react with search rankings in real-time and adjust itself accordingly? That’s the ultimate, big-picture implication of machine learning, a technology in which machines effectively learn based on a wide range of signals and parameters.
Google doesn’t use machine learning in its live algorithm, and officials within the company say they don’t plan on starting. However, Google definitely uses machine learning to test out changes to its algorithms. That’s a big deal considering that Google has voiced concerns about transferring such responsibilities from human programmers to computers.
Going into 2017, SEO experts need to always be thinking about raising the quality of their websites – not for Google’s algorithm, but for actual human visitors. Machine learning has significantly enhanced Google’s abilities to craft an algorithm that scores sites from a more human perspective. Finding new ways to engage your visitors is the best way to prepare for algorithm changes inspired by machine learning.
SEO isn’t dead. However, finding SEO success in 2017 will require a different approach than the blunt-force tactics of yesteryear.
The name of the game in 2017 is to make your approach to SEO as human as possible. Do that, and good things will happen. It’s the start of a new era in search engine optimization.
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