At a recent marketing mastermind group, I was asked to provide an update on the latest industry SEO news and things to look out for in the year ahead. Here’s what I shared and some points to consider if you are thinking about your website rankings in 2017:
1. HTTPS V HTTP
Google and many others want the web to be more secure, which has to be a good thing. This tweet in particular caught our attention:
Put simply, Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) is the secure version of HTTP, the protocol over which data is sent between your browser and the website that you are connected to. The ‘S’ at the end of HTTPS stands for ‘Secure’. It means all communications between your browser and the website are encrypted. Traditionally ecommerce sites and any sites where you enter payment details or personal details have been HTTPS sites. However, there is now a move towards secure sites across the web.
Since June 2014, when Google called for “HTTPS Everywhere”, SEO specialists have been arguing about the pros and cons of HTTPS sites when it comes to Google rankings.
More recently, Thao Tran from Google said in October 2016, “HTTPS and making sure your site is secure is an imperative at this point… Google will start marking things non-secure…The future of the web is a secure one, and so make sure people in your organization understand HTTPS, and it should be on the road map” for 2017. Basically, a small part of your search rankings will be based on the security of your website.
At the moment, this only impacts a very small percentage of global queries. However, I definitely think this is one to watch in 2017 and if you are starting your site from scratch, get a secure site. If you wish to move to HTTPS, please speak to your web developer and the host of your website.
2. Long form content
Content continues to be king on the Internet and you should aim to keep your website updated with fresh, interesting content.
If content is King then engagement is Queen! Encourage debate, ask questions and allow your audience to engage with your posts. Long form content has various definitions, but most people agree anything between 1,200 – 2,000 words is long form content for a blog post.
Blogs are a great way to keep adding new content to your website, but you should consider your keywords within the blog and also ensure your posts are a decent length. However, don’t become too preoccupied with the word count, instead focus on the needs of your reader. If you have a lot of content to share in one post that’s great, but sometimes you only need to share a short, sharp burst of information. To give you an idea, this blog post is just over 1,200 words long.
Furthermore, ensure you are making the most of your blogs, by considering which keywords you would like to be found for and ensuring you update the meta title and meta description PER blog post. Remember that the meta title should be between 50-70 characters and the meta description should be no longer than 156 characters (including spaces and punctuation). Having the keywords in the title and the first paragraph will also help your case with SEO.
If you generate good, interesting, relevant content, people will link back to your site and backlinks will continue to play a role in SEO. The best advice here is to grow your links organically.
3. AMP – Accelerated Mobile Pages
Speed is going to be an important factor in 2017. Accelerated Mobile Pages project (AMP) is a relatively new Google initiative to build a better, more user friendly mobile Web by introducing a new “standard” for building web content for mobile devices. Accelerated Mobile Pages load instantly and improve the end user experience. Ever since its launch in search results in February 2016, AMP has been in the SEO news. In simple terms, pages that load quickly are going to be a must-have in the future.
Mobile friendly sites have been big news for a while now (see my blog post from 2015) and of course this will continue to be the case for 2017. Think mobile friendly and speed for your websites in 2017.
4. End User Experience
The end user experience continues to be of upmost importance. Encourage your users to stay on your site for longer and reduce your bounce rate. The trick is once you capture an audience, to keep them on the site, so if you are attracting your audience through your blog, ensure you have links to other relevant pages to your website from your blog.
Remember to use Google Analytics to track your bounce rate and the time spent on your site. You can also use Google Analytics to work out which pages of your site are turning your clients off and where they are leaving your site.
5. Optimising for voice search
Voice search is growing at an incredible speed, so think about providing answers to specific questions.
A featured snippet — also known as a “rich answer” or “direct answer” — is a summary answer to a searcher’s question that Google shows in a special block at the top of the page. It usually comes with a link back to your site, which has great traffic-attracting potential.
Create a piece of content that directly answers a question e.g. “How do I share a post from one Facebook business page to another business page?” Make sure to include the question itself, and a direct answer to it. Again, this is all about content and providing answers to questions that may attract a new audience.
6. Relevance of local search
Everybody who has worked with me will know the importance I place on local search, and as more and more websites are flooding the Internet and with the increase in mobile sites, I think this will be an area of growing importance in 2017. Think about the areas where your clients are based and where you want to work.
Also remember the importance of an up-to-date Google My Business listing. Reviews are really important and encourage your clients to leave reviews on your Google My Business listing and be sure to reply to these reviews.
7. Longtail keywords
Longtail keywords are basically a phrase rather than a single keyword. If I’m searching for “shoes” I’m just browsing. If I’m searching for “Black patent shoes with a kitten heel, size 5” this is a longtail keyword phrase and I’m ready to make a purchase.
I always tell our clients it is better to attract fewer visitors to your website who are likely to convert into customers, than thousands of visitors who only spend a few seconds on the site.
Think about more specific keyword searches, related to you and your business to attract the right kind of visitors to your site. If you only want to work in a certain area or are offering events or training courses in a certain place, then geographic keywords are a must.
If you have any questions or have anything to add to this post, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Is there anything else that will rock the SEO world in 2017?