The beginning of 2017 may be a fresh start for you, but for Google, progress in the sphere of optimizing Internet search won’t slow for a second. The preference for mobile Internet consumption, the desire for quicker and denser content, mounting pressure to increase ad revenue, and the unstoppable development of digital assistants and voice search point to a new golden rule for search engine optimization (SEO) trends:
Make it for mobile.
Mobile-First Is Undeniable
SEO experts have been predicting the latest SEO trends as part of their jobs for years, and there’s one that keeps making an appearance in the latter 2010s: mobile is the future of Internet and search. Major search engines are putting mobile at the forefront as trends in SEO continually point toward the indomitable strength and convenience of mobile consumption.
More Americans are spending more of their free time watching the screens on their smartphones and tablets, according to comScore. If the amount of activity on social networks is any indication, it’s likely that most of those hours are spent scouring Facebook and Twitter feeds for images and videos. Social apps and mobile search are in line to become some of marketing’s biggest targets for paid advertisements and organic efforts. Changes in the way that search will respond to mobile users as well as desktop users point to an almost certain future of mobile takeover.
In the latter half of 2016, at the beginning of October, the first iterations of mobile-first indexing became a reality. Mobile-first indexing resets the priority of Google’s indexing bot to read through a site’s mobile version when determining how a site should be indexed. That means Googlebot looks at the relevance, speed, and technical organization of mobile sites over desktop sites when it decides where your page goes on the search engine results page (SERP).
Desktop SERPs Match Mobile
December also saw a UI update for desktop search engine results pages that helped them match the appearance and function of mobile SERPs. Specifically, desktop users see more specialized cards such as featured snippets and maps when they perform searches that trigger those cards. Of course, in such early stages, the desktop experience isn’t quite optimized for desktop searchers:
As of 2016, producing cards for desktop searches runs into trouble when wording is ambiguous. In our example, it seems that Google understands our query to be something closer to “How long does it take, Google, to [get to] Index, [WA]?”
Fortunately, development of semantic search promises to inch ever closer to matching the meaning and understanding the context of searches and the searcher’s intent. Consistent improvements in machine learning allow more of your searches in 2017 to reflect the intent of your search rather than the face value of the words you have typed into the engine. While returning relevant search results has long been a goal of Google search, the rise of digital assistants and voice search has lit a new fire in the quest to teach machines to parse language in the same way as humans.
Progressive Web Apps
Google has created a streamlined way for business owners to build progressive web apps, mobile applications that integrate the in-app experience with web capabilities. In many ways, they are web pages that look and act like apps. The intent of progressive web apps is to keep users engaged with apps by:
- Provided online and offline service
- Drastically decreasing loading times
- Eliminating the need for purchase and installation
- Offering an app experience without the maintenance of an app
Progressive web apps are perhaps the first step toward creating seamless product and service shopping experiences without the need to download apps. Users can keep progressive web apps on the home screens of their mobile devices and load them instantly.
The goal is customer retention. According to Smashing Magazine, users are three times more likely to reopen a mobile application than a website, especially after receiving push notifications. If integrating the app experience with the web experience can make purchasing easier for users, SEO experts will need to focus efforts on driving more customers to those progressive web apps organically.
Video and Images Are Next
The Content Is King mantra is steadfast, but SEOs need to consider more than ever that content has a greater reach than text articles. Major search engines, too, are looking for ways to read and organize all types of content. The term content includes video, animations, and images as well as text. Quality videos and images are proven ways to increase customer engagement and retention, and SEO experts will need to find ways to optimize videos for search in 2017.
Multimedia works in all parts of the marketing funnel and matches the goals of SEO:
- The intent to purchase of users who enjoy video ads increases by 97%
- One-third of all online activity is encompassed by watching video
- 87% of marketers are using video content
These incredible facts from HubSpot make the user preference for video and image content clear. Check out some of the ways marketers are using video content in 2016:
Branded Video Content on Social Networks
Autoplay pushes social videos straight to the brain. When advertisements combine exciting content with beautiful presentation, customers watch – and buy.
Anyone can instantly live stream a video on lots of social networks. Companies can get on-the-spot engagement by sharing stories, information, or just entertaining audiences.
Background Video on Home Pages and Sales Pages
Companies can capture attention instantly with moving backgrounds, then entice users to stay with text overlays or an in-video call to action.
GIFs resonate with young audiences, and marketers are learning how to pull on their heartstrings with simple animations that celebrate their favorite people, movies, shows, and music.
Closer Ties for SEO and PPC
Ad-heavy search results mean that competition for top rankings in pay-per-click (PPC) advertising will likely push advertisers to improve the quality of their paid content. SEO experts must be ready to focus on improving quality scores for ads in 2017 as Google search moves toward a role as a PPC giant as well as an organic search engine giant.
Voice Search and Digital Assistants
The artificial intelligence that governs the functions of voice search and digital assistants is the focus of research for many of the companies developing such technologies, including Google. Digital assistants such as Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant use artificial intelligence to attempt to understand natural language and harness that knowledge to produce useful information and resources for live people.
If they weren’t already, SEOs should look to improve relevance, usability, and permanence of content so that digital assistants and voice searchers can utilize the real language contained within the content to find the highest quality information.
What Should We Focus on in 2017?
In anticipation of an even more quickly changing search landscape, SEOs should focus on:
- Crafting all SEO strategies and making design decisions based on mobile use
- Building a video strategy that integrates with other marketing solutions
- Sharpening PPC and paid search knowledge to keep customer rankings high in the paid sphere
- Optimizing organic content to be found by digital assistants that understand real language
Don’t be afraid of change, be ahead of it, and remember: Make it for mobile.
Leverage Marketing can take you every step of the way through the SEO process – but we also do so much more. If you’re thinking about changing the way you market your business, let us guide you through it. Start by getting your hands on our 2017 Digital Marketing Budget Guide and find out what it will take to pull your marketing into 2017.