2017 has been proven to be a seismic year for the world of SEO. Google, synonymous with search engine itself on a world scale, has dramatically changed the rules—the switch to mobile-first indexing, greater AMP usage and adoption, a big push for HTTPS and SSL-based websites—forcing you to update your SEO strategy so as not to affect your site rankings.
Instead of merely a fashionable topic, SEO is a complex science that you cannot take slightly anymore. Especially as a business owner, you risk a backlash from customers and your reputation once failed to keep up with the constantly changing rules.
As we reach the end of 2017 and welcome the coming of 2018, it’s time to start thinking about the year ahead and what to expect from SEO trends in the next year.
Rising Importance of SERP Features & Structured Data
SERP features are different elements and features that Google uses to show you information when you enter a query. Common SERP features include Local Packs, Knowledge Panels, Shopping Results, Videos, Featured Snippets and etc. They are taking up ever-more space on the SERPs, shifting the traditional organic listings down while making sites present in them prominent to searchers.
With the evolution of the Google SERP, what you can do about it? First and foremost, track your rankings as well as your competitors’ within these features to see which SERP features you appear in, understanding where you have the opportunity to appear in Image Packs, Knowledge Panels, Reviews and more. Then, prioritize the keywords based on the data to squeeze into the Local Pack, for instance, to drive more traffic and appear as the authority on a given topic.
Meanwhile, though Google didn’t and seems will never officially confirmed the importance of structured data as a ranking signal, it matters a lot for SEO. Structured data refers to a way of formatting HTML that makes use of a certain vocabulary, helping search engines understand what the content is specifically about and allowing users to see the value of a website before visit it, usually via featured snippets that are displayed in the SERPs. Multiple real-life experiments show that optimized structured data can increase your listings’ CTR and boost your site rankings.
Don’t be upset if you are not familiar with HTML coding. There are various structured data formats available, such as schema.org and Google’s Structured Data Helper, helping incorporate structured data into your website and enhancing your search listings.
Fast Site Speed & Highly Relevant Content
In addition to being a ranking signal, site speed also acts as a major UX factor. Importantly, both are related to your site rankings. As with Google placing much more emphasis on the speed experience, for instance, expecting every page to load within 3 seconds, it’s critical to ensure your site functions at 100% after whatever technical changes you made to boost your website performance. If you have no idea about what to do with site speed, you can start from a page speed test by leveraging a third-party service and take actions to improve your website page loading speed step-by-step.
Similar to site speed, relevance is a common SEO trend that is repeatedly discussed every year. The difference is, it will get much harder to let Google believe that you have great content when you don’t in 2018. So, you need to invest time and effort in creating really good, relevant content instead of thinking of tricks to fool the search engines. In order to ensure your content is comprehensive, you can research the top-ranking pages in your niche manually or automatically via a third-party service; then sort relevant terms and phrases used by your competitors and edit your page right in website accordingly.
Mobile Friendliness & Voice Search Will Do Wonders
As with the booming mobile era, over 50% of Google searches will come from mobile devices. Google recognized that it will introduce mobile-first indexing into its search criteria earlier this month. Be mobile friendly is no longer an option but an absolute essential for your SEO strategy.
But if you regard mobile friendliness simply as having a responsive website, you will miss something important. Whether you understand the role of each type of device in purchasing journey is equally important because it relates to how you can maximize both UX and site conversions.
Along with the popularity of searching on mobile screens is the increase in voice search. Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and Google’s Echo have fundamentally changed the way people search with their mobile devices. A number of commentators believe that more than a half of searches will be made by voice by 2020. What you should do with this trend is researching the habit of voice searchers, including what questions they’re mostly likely to ask and what type of keywords they usually use. Thereafter, making it easier for digital assistants to understand your content, in other words, be voice search optimized.
Simply put it, backlinks are incoming links to a webpage. They used to the major metric for the ranking of a website—the more backlinks a webpage has the higher rankings the website can get on search engines. As time changes, though Google has learned to remove the bad links while leaving the good ones, backlinks remain an important Google ranking factor.
Creating content people care about is the most important step to have a strong link building campaign. Then you just need to promote the content as much as you can. When someone who is an authority in your industry read your content and link to your webpage, Google will be very possible to read your backlink’s matching anchor text and regard it relevant.
Shift from HTTP to HTTPS
According Moz reports, at the end of 2017, 70% of page one search results in Google will be HTTPS. There is nothing surprising that Google gives higher rankings to sites that have SSL certificates installed after all it already started marking forms on web pages over HTTP as “not secure” in Chrome.
Moving to HTTPS, in addition to avoiding your website being shown as “not secure”, comes with a good SEO opportunity. Googlebot determines and prioritizes which URLs to recrawl based on a unique mechanism. When your website is detected a move to HTTPS, it is likely to increase the crawl rate for crawling as many as URLs as possible within a short time frame, temporarily but effectively.
The world of SEO is changing at a very fast pace, the only way to make sure you’re not left behind is ongoing test and update your SEO strategy.