State of SEO in 2016 and what’s coming up in 2017

Landscape

The world of SEO is in constant flux. Algorithms change frequently and can have a dramatic and long-term effect. However, chasing the algorithms does not work. We know that Google is now a data company with the biggest ‘answer engine’ (not a search engine). That means they prefer to keep users within Google and if they eventually send users to websites they want them to have the best experience possible. This is why it’s critical to take a user-centric approach which focuses on creating the best-in-class, optimised technical platform that carefully blends the requirements for mobile-first optimisation, usability and conversion optimisation.

Skills

The skills necessary to deliver great results have changed too. On top of the traditional technical skills, an award-winning SEO team requires skills usually observed within Content, Editorial, Social, Data and UX teams. This ensures all four elements of modern day SEO can be done – making the site accessible, relevant, credible and engaging.

Big picture

SEO is not just one of the content distribution channels. It plays a vital role in content marketing processes. Every content strategy must be informed by search behaviour data. The content creation must include search optimisation. Finally, once the content is out there, SEO can help with understanding data or validating insights.

Techniques

Search engines have got better at indexing and understanding search context, intent and relevance. It allows them to personalise search results better. The more traditional optimisation techniques are less important (e.g. avoiding JavaScript) or even dangerous (e.g. ‘black hat’ link building).

Technical SEO has changed but is still a bedrock of SEO. These days it’s about ensuring semantic search schemas and Google’s usability guidelines are implemented correctly, e.g. rich snippets, mobile-friendliness, user experience, page loading speed, AMP etc.

Content optimisation has gone past the keyword insertion days. It is now critical to include search data in the ongoing content planning, creation and review processes.

Traditional link building doesn’t work despite external links from relevant and authoritative sites still being an important ranking signal. My (and coincidentally Google’s) attitude to offsite SEO is: if people won’t click on the link, don’t bother. Brands which excel in offsite SEO can maximise the efforts of their PR, Influencer and Social teams. They also get great links by making the most out of their partnerships.

What’s next

With Google continuing to invest in AI and DeepMind, natural language processing, software, data, domains, broadband and IOT devices it is very likely that search and therefore SEO will continue to change.

SEO will be much less about keywords and links. The SEO team of the near future will need to ensure the brand is seen as a semantic search entity and becomes a data source in Google’s interactive functionalities and voice search features. Mobile optimisation (design, user experience, speed, mark-up) will give competitive advantage. The behavioural ranking signals will become even more prominent so ensuring the best possible user experience will be key.

Future

In long term SEO will work on improving brand’s visibility within personal assistant apps, chatbots and maybe even VR experiences. SEO will face many challenges, including diminishing CTRs, more relevant and prominent ads and AI being used to personalise search results.

Artur Jach Written by:

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