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t’s the most wonderful time of the year. It’s time to talk SEO trends for 2017.

Ask 44 SEO experts what the big trends will be in 2017, and well, you get 44 different answers!

What’s great about our industry is that there are so many known knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns, to paraphrase a former U.S. defense secretary.

Will this be the year we get the SEO basics right? Will this be the year of voice search? Will this be the year machine learning and AI forever changes SEO as we’ve known it?

Will this be the year your digital strategies always put the audience/customer first? Will this be the year companies really diversify their traffic sources as part of a holistic digital strategy? And how will technologies such as assistants and the Internet of Things change SEO?

So what SEO trends do you need to know in 2017 if you want to generate more traffic and leads while staying ahead of your competition?

Grab a coffee and check out what 44 of the top SEO experts say will be the biggest trends in organic search in 2017 – and beyond.

We’ve gathered insights from these SEO pros:


Barry Adams, SEO Consultant, Polemic Digital

Barry AdamsGoogle was very smart to launch AMP and prevent a huge switch away from mobile web browsing towards native apps. AMP keeps users engaged with Google search on mobile devices.

I expect Google will keep throwing a lot of weight behind AMP, and 2017 is the year that decides if AMP has a long shelf-life or if it’ll end up as another one of Google’s doomed projects.

The adoption of AMP beyond static news stories will be key to this; both in terms of the functionality AMP offers for interactive experiences, and the ease with which websites can implement these features.

Keep a sharp eye on AMP for ecommerce and the way AMP results will be highlighted in SERPs. Already we see Google highlighting the advantages of AMP to its users – if this takes a stronger hold, AMP could well become the new de facto standard for mobile web pages.


Jonathan Allen, President, L&T Co.

Jonathan AllenI think the SEO community is going to learn a lot more interesting stuff from the emergent behavior of RankBrain in 2017.

AI powered rankings are going to lead to a highly customized set of ranking signals at a query level, that might seem to massively complicate the workload for the general SEO practitioner. But, I think we’re going to be pleasantly surprised to find that the generalized list of factors that make an impact are actually going to be easier to understand than they have been for the last 10 years. Put another way, I think we’re going to see a much more malleable algorithm that is simultaneously more punishing and more rewarding.

 

So, my money is on really basic tactics like natural/organic link building working better than ever in 2017. I think that will prove to be because RankBrain can actually test ranking your site against way more user queries than was previously possible, computationally.

Artificial intelligence solutions tend towards aggregation of concepts, performing entity recognition calculations at hitherto unknown scale, so I agree with people who say that topical relevance is still more important than individual keyword relevance. Nonetheless, fundamentally RankBrain still runs the same math as the core algorithm always did, and links have always been the strongest signal, so I think they will remain so.

However, under RankBrain, the reward of an earned organic link could cause a break out moment of visibility across a clutch of broadly matching yet different terms which will yield a goldmine of relevant keyword data in Google Search Console. The similar yet different terms that RankBrain will have tried to rank you for, even in completely unseen positions at the back of the index will be useful enough to plan the next phase in your strategy to compete for topical relevance. Due to the sociological theory of ‘weak ties‘ (which has made it’s way into search engines), I believe that you won’t need to earn that many organic links to see movements in the right direction.

Thats the “good” news for “white hats.” And the “bad” news, is that I think in 2017 we’ll see the re-emergence of really sophisticated “black hat” strategies.

Basically, if it’s not already invented, I’ll bet my bottom dollar that we’ll see competing AIs developed by the black hat community to compete with RankBrain. But hey, the funnest part of SEO has always been debating the different shades of gray anyway.


Adam Audette, Senior Vice President, Organic Search, Merkle

Adam AudetteIn my outlook, 2017 trends will fall into the following categories:

Mobile

The connection between device types will continue, resulting in richer and faster mobile experiences for users, with advances in PWAs and article formats like AMP. Apps will continue to have a place in the user experience, too, and indexing them for improved discovery will continue to be important. And dynamic sites and content will keep evolving.

Technical & Structural Work

Structured data will get plenty of attention, too, as its application extends into virtually every field and device.

Speed will rule, and we’ll hear a lot about http/2 in 2017.

Link building for SEO purposes will continue its slow, welcome death, as marketers from social and content arenas rightly focus on marketing promotion and amplification rather than links for rankings.

Content Experience

The SEO industry’s approach to the content experience will evolve. Search is one of the most powerful intent signals, and with data modeling allowing us to finally realize the promise of people-based marketing at scale, the user journey will be more personalized than ever in 2017. We’ll wait to see if that’s a good thing for users (we know it’s a good thing for marketers).


Seth Besmertnik, CEO, Conductor

Seth BesmertnikFocus on creating value for the customer in 2017 and good things will happen. Here are three key SEO trends to watch.

1. Future Algorithms

For a long time, the SEO industry has been trying to optimize in a more technical way – in other words, thinking of the search engine crawler rather than the person viewing the content. Google is trying to make its algorithms a mirror image of the heart, mind, soul, and needs of a customer.

 

The big trend in 2017, then, is a shift in mentality where your entire digital strategy (not just SEO) will be focused on understanding who your customer is, what they want, and using the data from search engines to better understand customer intent. By making something your customer needs – something that solves their problem – you will win the algorithm of the future.

2. Unified Teams

Companies should create a unified team focused on a customer-first strategy. Bring your SEO and content teams together!

Great content that can’t be found isn’t great content. On the flip side, the ROI is minimal when you’re creating content that ranks but is completely off-message or off-brand.

If you’re still creating content just for SEO, you’re doing it wrong. You need content that is artistic, creative, brand-driven, and optimized for the long-term. Unifiying your teams will help your company create content that inspires and meets the needs of your audience.

3. Content Optimization

Don’t optimize for keywords. Optimize your content.

Think about the different content groups, types, and maps and optimize around that. Keywords must be subordinate to content that aligns with your customers. Embrace customer-first marketing in 2017!


Daniel Bianchini, Freelance SEO & Digital Marketing Consultant

Daniel BianchiniHeading into 2017, there are a number of trends that I am seeing from both the client perspective and those SEO purists.

Clients/Brands

Continued focus on the user to increase ROI: This is going to be a trend for the next few years as both search engines and businesses alike want to provide the best possible experience for their customers. Business are putting more emphasis on attracting the right traffic, rather than any traffic. This may lead to less customers, but they are seen as more qualified and therefore more attractive to businesses.

This will come from a more strategic approach to their marketing campaigns as a whole, of which SEO will be a single part in a much bigger vision. Being visible throughout the buying cycle across a number of different marketing channels will be a focus, and attributing sales accordingly. While SEO will continue to focus on head and more expensive terms/topics, it will also identify opportunities for content creation, paid and social media to interact at the right time providing a holistic approach.

SEOs

Machine learning and mobile will be the focus: The two biggest changes to the algorithm in recent years has been the introduction of RankBrain and more focus on mobile. With further changes to the way search engines and Google in particular deal with mobile starting from January, it will be an area of focus for most SEOs, specifically those in the technical arena. With a mobile-first index, it is no longer adequate to just have a mobile website, as this is what you are going to be judged on.

The introduction of RankBrain into the algorithm has led to large-scale critics across the industry both in a public and private forum. With RankBrain still in its infancy and learning, there will be small alterations made to improve the SERPs that are being provided for each query. As SEOs, we need to adapt to RankBrain and have a better understanding of machine learning, and how it affects the work that we conduct to enable us to provide the best results for our clients.


Chris Boggs, Founder, Web Traffic Advisors

Chris BoggsNo doubt a key theme will be how we will collectively manage and execute against the increasing efficiency and intelligence of the Google “rewards systems.” Google has carefully contracted and focused its rewards system – used to grant higher organic rankings – to granting better-performing content the spoils of victory, all in a near “real time” manner.

Marketers that monitor improved rankings exposure and increase the charisma of creatives such as Page Titles and Meta Descriptions to improve click interaction (and then keep them on the site), will benefit from the “real time” nature of the 2016-2017 Google algorithm.

Gone are the days when “SEO took months.” Of course, non-nimble organizations or industries that take weeks or months to develop content will also suffer since they could be late to the “real time” boat.

One technology contraction has come with Google deciding to focus on sites that can satisfy users across all devices by shifting increasingly to a mobile-first algorithm versus having separate rankings on desktop, mobile, and tablet devices. This contraction to one system granting the best rankings to sites that can both meet likely user intent (sometimes geo-based, sometimes not) as well as the speed performance of the content is now paramount to success and will force the hand for many large web sites to finally get it right. The Google Search Console may be the tool of 2017, finally having reached importance at the CTO level.

One other 2016 change that will continue to loom large in 2017 is the real time “Penguin” algorithm. Many SEOs will continue to test the limits of “greasing the rails” in order to get link authority still undeniably required to rank well in competitive niches, even with only local services competition for example. Since Penguin will reportedly not count “bad” links against web sites, manual actions likely will rise as more SEOs will come across links being reported. The Disavow file is still recommended, but more time in 2017 will likely be spent by SEOs performing reconsideration requests and backpedaling out of ill-advised sloppy link relationships.


Michael Bonfils, CEO & President, International Media Management

Michael BonfilsWhen it comes to international SEO, the focus for us in 2017 is on creating cultural content that focuses on specific segments of a customer journey but also focuses on the psychographic behavior and motives behind that behavior to tailor more targeted content.

For example, Joe is a powerful German executive. Based on his persona and the psychographic “category” he fits in, we are developing content that is tailored to not only Joe, but also to the entire category of similar Joes. This means, changing content to be shorter, but more proactive.

So far our tests have shown extremely favorable results by creating content that’s specific to motive and behavior on a global level. Basically 99 percent of content is just generic and not tailored to a persona category.


Joshua Daniels, Founder & Managing Director, Go Amplify

Joshua DanielsProducing long-form content that provides incredible value for your readership should be a top priority in 2017. But not just any old “long-form” content, I’m talking about surpassing the quality of any other content that’s out there on the same topic.

If I had a dollar for each time I heard the phrase “content is king” in 2016, I’d be incredibly wealthy.

Yes, content is important to any SEO strategy. But lots of marketers have become trapped in the idea that producing high volumes of topically relevant, “good” quality, short content, will bolster their SEO visibility. Sorry to disappoint, but producing “good” quality content on a regular basis is no longer going to move the needle.

More than 65 million articles are published each month just on WordPress. So how can you stand out from the noise?

Creating long-form content (i.e., content that is 2,000-4,000+ words), combined with a good promotional strategy, will yield greater online visibility, as it will lead to more social shares and links, which will feed the organic growth.

In 2017, put the time and effort into creating exceptional content that spreads like wildfire. Raise that content bar in 2017!


Dave Davies, CEO, Beanstalk Internet Marketing

Dave DaviesTwo areas are going to significantly change organic search starting in 2017: machine learning and voice search.

Machine Learning

Setting aside the fact that machine learning is an interesting area unto itself, its potential in search is virtually unparalleled in any other application. RankBrain went rapidly from influencing ~15 percent of queries to 100 percent. We can see a big push to get machine learning into the algorithm since Google replaced Amit Singhal with John Giannandrea as the head of search.

The reasons for this are obvious and range from:

  • There are far too many permutations of queries and their meanings for engineers to program in each one

To

  • Machines can adjust faster to new data and begin making changes to their calculations almost instantly
    Now, this alone isn’t a particular game-changer. All it essentially means is that the algorithms will change faster and can adjust specific to scenarios, queries, individuals, device, etc.

Fundamentally, this just amplifies Google’s statements over the past decade to write content for the user and consider where they are, what they want, and the device they’re using. Interesting, but not revolutionary.

What requires the most attention – and could produce the largest change in our industry – is the fact that with machine learning at this level no one will ever truly know why a specific piece of content ranks where it does. Even the engineers who built the system will not be able to reverse-engineer the formula and adjustments used.

This is the area that poses the most challenges for marketers. Traditionally we’ve been able to at least quasi-understand what ranking signals are at play at any given time. But as machine learning influences more of the algorithm even the folks at Google won’t understand.

Add to that the announcements that Google’s machine learning is being taught to build its own encryption and develop its own ranking factors and it becomes clear that from an algorithmic standpoint it will be virtually impossible to predict what will impact a site’s rankings.

This change in search and how data is sorted and ranked is one of the areas – if not the area – to watch in 2017.

Voice Search

Voice search has been around for years but it’s in 2016 we really started to see its power. In 2017 I predict we’ll start seeing the impact of voice search and the true direction it’s going.

When I right now say “voice search” most of us will think of our phones and a 10 p.m. request, “OK Google – where’s pizza near me?” but what I’m referring to is more than simply these types of queries but what they represent.

With the introduction of technologies like Google Home and Amazon Echo we’re seeing the elimination of a Top 10, top 5 or even paid ads in any traditional sense. Of course, the desktop is still there, I’m not saying we’ll see that eliminated

However, let’s consider what Google Home really represents. It’s a vehicle to the other outlets in your house, to information about your habits, a tie-in to other devices and a convenience in access to information first imagined on “Star Trek.”

I don’t see a Google Home sitting on a desk answering mundane questions. What I see coming is an Android OS in your fridge, attached to the thermostat on your wall, to your TV, etc. and that little Home speaker giving you information from them and sending your commands to them.

A refrigerator that knows when I’m almost out of eggs and asks me if I want to order more. A car that knows I’m running low on gas and that I’m about to pass by a gas station (conveniently one that bids in the AdWords system I’m sure), and more.

And all of that without giving marketers access to the eyeballs of the searcher – and a searcher who may not even recognize that’s what they’re doing.

It’s this area I look to as the major disruptor (a word I generally detest due to its broad overuse, but in this case it’s fitting) in 2017.


Darrell Davis, SEO Manager, The Penny Hoarder

Darrell DavisOptimize for topics rather than keywords. This idea gained popularity after the Hummingbird update, but implementing the strategy in 2017 will have bonus benefits, especially with the rise of artificial intelligence (AI).

While the concept of RankBrain and AI are difficult for most mortals to completely grasp, we can understand that a core function of RankBrain is the ability to learn and categorize information to accurately match search queries to web pages. Giving RankBrain the most relevant information to categorize is a logical first step. Adequately covering topics well rather than trying to rank for a couple of targeted keywords naturally accomplishes this.

SEOs can also expect that Google will continue to improve on implementing user experience as a ranking factor. Again, topic optimization fits the bill here.

Giving users what they want is an obvious yet often-overlooked strategy to align with Google’s goals. It’s important to remember the ultimate goal of artificial intelligence is to become less artificial and more human, so smart future-proof strategy should continue to focus on the user.


Stoney deGeyter, CEO, Pole Position Marketing

Stoney deGeyterIn short, social media will become required to expand organic SEO reach.

As search results get more targeted toward personalization, this will create a sort of confirmation bias in search results. Google will tend to show searchers what they have already become familiar with or sites that are a close match.

This will force many small businesses to invest deeper into social media marketing in order to build brand recognition and traffic just to be part of the “confirmed sites” that Google and other search engines will show to searchers, based on their known preferences.


Eric Enge, CEO, Stone Temple Consulting

Eric EngeIf you follow search closely, you have probably seen many articles on the increasing use of machine learning by the search engines. For example, Google let the world know about its RankBrain algorithm in October 2015. This algorithm was heavily focused on better understanding language, and this remains one of the biggest areas of focus for machine learning by the search engines.

The reason for this is that it helps search engines want to better understand the actual user intent from a search query, and do a better job of matching up those queries with the web pages that best meet that intent.

One result of this is that the way you think about keyword research, and how that impacts your site pages has to change. Historically, keyword research was about finding out what the most popular search phrases were related to your page, and then using that phrase a lot on that page, and maybe also some related synonyms.

In today’s world, you should still care a great deal about keyword research – yes, it still matters. But, how you apply the information you learn from it must change. Keyword research still provides us with critical knowledge, and that is information on what language your prospective customer uses when referring to products or services like yours, or when they’re referring to the needs they address.

In this way of thinking you use keyword research to better understand how to communicate with your prospects. In other words, keyword research still impacts how you write title tags, your meta description, and body copy. It’s just that your addressing the audience not the search engines.

Great, you’re thinking, you’re telling me to write content for users, and I am, but let’s now explore a bit why that’s good for you’re search engine presence as well.

Google is in a massive struggle for market share with companies like Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, and Amazon. All of them are investing heavily in machine learning, and all of them are striving to provide the best possible experience to users of their sites.

 

It’s a titanic fight for long-term market share. And in case you think Google is dominant here, consider the fact that Amazon is already the number one place where people perform product searches according to some data.

The point is, that offering users a superior experience in finding what they are looking for is a strategic imperative for Google. That translates into continuing major investments in matching up search queries and user intent with the best possible search results.

What does this mean for you? It means you need to do a better job of satisfying the users who come to your pages, and better matching your content to the intent they had when they got there. This puts you in a battle with others trying to satisfy the same users who come in from the same channels. New winners and losers will emerge from this fight, and my advice is to put yourself in a position to win.


Erin Everhart, Senior Manager, Media Strategy & Mobile, The Home Depot

Erin EverhartTwo words: Voice search.

Google told us back in May that 20 percent of mobile queries are voice searches. Considering that mobile makes up more than 50 percent of all 1.2 trillion queries Google sees in a year, we’re talking about 144 billion searches happening through voice commands, and that number is only going to grow as more consumers begin adapting voice search over text – a staggering 50 percent of teens and 21 percent of adults already use it daily.

This will have a tremendous impact on our keyword optimization because people don’t talk like they write.

When they “write” to Google, it’s largely in the same format of keywords that we all know and love (e.g., “best pho near me”). But when they “talk” to Google, it’s framed more like a question they would ask their friend (e.g., “what’s the best pho near me?”).

Not only will our keyword strategy change, but this is furthering the shift to local, personalized content.


Duane Forrester, Vice President, Organic Search Operations, Bruce Clay Inc.

Duane Forrester2017 is going to be an interesting year. I think we’ll see some changes, many of which will impact those working in search or relying on search for traffic.

Answers

These are going to be an even bigger deal than ever. Major players (Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Google, maybe even Facebook) are investing in systems, software and hardware) to simply answer our questions.

Today we’re thinking about voice search and how that’s changing the face of search. As this matures, and consumers just expect direct answers, where does that leave an industry that relies on keyword data? In a crunch.

It’s one thing to parse common words from a question to net the actual keywords. (Which can happen now.) It’s quite another to understand intent and relationship (as in a series of follow-on statements or questions related to an original starting point).

This could lead to fundamental changes, foundational changes, in how keyword data is reported. And if that change happens, what’s the incentive for an engine to invest in tools that share that data?

Today we see little meaningful growth in engine-based search engine marketing tools. On the paid side improvements continue to roll out, but that’s tied to ad dollars. On the organic side, with free tools, it’s tougher to justify ongoing investments in aging platforms.

On one hand, I’m not sure the investment will happen; the engines giving us tools that map to a voice-driven, answer-expectant version of things. On the other hand, we know consumers will adapt to speaking to their tech and expecting answers – not a list of websites. Not something to click on, but a read-out-loud answer or solution. This will extend into commerce, too, so don’t be thinking you’re safe if you have an ecomm store that this won’t find you.

This is a logical extension of embedding AI into processes. You (the consumer) become attached to the ecosystem (the goal) because as it figures you out in detail, it answers your needs.

Looking for a new backpack? Tell the system your parameters, it does the looking, it shares the results of the research and because you’ve told it things like cost thresholds, company preferences, membership programs you and so on, it’ll narrow things down to the top 2 or 3 likely backpacks at the best retails for you. Then you simply say which one you want.

From this point forward it’s a bit more complicated to get the purchase complete. Do you need to log into your REI account to click purchase? Can the system do that for you? Will we be able to review an email of the results prior to making the buy decision? These are all things to be sorted. But we’re on that path firmly now.

Mobile

2017 is going to be the year of “I told you so” in mobile. Basically, if you’re not there and sorted, you’ll start feeling the pinch in a real way. Traffic, ranking, commerce.

All those people who told you to get off m-dot, or go responsive, or to research PWAs (progressive web apps) and build to that new standard will be wandering around the halls mumbling, “I told you so”. And they’ll be right.

The shift has already happened and if you’re still “thinking about mobile”, consumers won’t be thinking about you. They’ll be guided to better mobile-friendly experiences with new brands that look whiz-bang, golly-gee impressive on their mobile devices.

That shuffling noise you’ve been hearing lately? That’s your market share leaving.

Before we move from mobile, let’s float the following idea: in 2017 we’ll hear the beginning of a shift. Mobile going secure – and it won’t be optional in the long run. This will become a louder conversation as the year moves forward.

Location

With mobile being so prominent, location naturally follows. This spans from “where is this business” to where am I and what’s around me”. It even includes “I want X and where do I need to be to take advantage of that?”

From couponing, to commerce, from coffee to clothes, consumers will expect better location data for everything they want. Would consumers care if a local business could deliver the same product as Amazon for the same price at the same time? Many would choose to support local, thus putting pressure on Amazon to raise the value of it’s programs like Prime.

This type of fulfillment is within reach of most small businesses. Businesses just waiting to carve off a small slice of market share from a behemoth.

Amazon wouldn’t notice 0.001 percent of a loss of market share. But to a local business, that could be hundreds of thousands a year in added revenue.

Oh, and that “local” business? They’re selling nationally. Wouldn’t take much for a coop of distribution to pop up enabling small businesses to fulfill orders locally to the same level as Amazon.

Heck, Amazon will probably be the distributor! Not a huge shift from where they are today, except you shop on the local business website, and it’s fulfilled via Amazon.

Amazon’s new pilot Go store in Seattle portends a coming trend as well. Sign in with an app, all items you interact with are tracked and those you walk out with are automatically billed to your account. No checkout lines, no cashiers, just take what you want and your credit card is hit.

 

If Amazon can prove this model in this pilot, and expand it, we could be looking at a new paradigm for local shopping experiences.


Casie Gillette, Director of Online Marketing, KoMarketing Associates

Casie GilletteLast year I was recommending structured content and site speed and this year I’m recommending structured content and site speed. Turns out not much has changed in a year!

Site Speed

All joking aside, I can’t reiterate how important site speed is. In recent months, I’ve seen organic performance skyrocket after making site speed improvements and, on the other end, I’ve seen sites decline due to slow load times. And as we all know, with mobile growth, it’s even more important.

Going into 2017, focus on the small fixes you can make to speed up your site versus trying to change everything at once.

Structured Content & SERPs

It blows my mind how varied the search results are. Between local packs, knowledge graph panels, direct answers, images, etc., there are very few results that look the same and more importantly, there are very few SERPs that don’t contain these features.

In an analysis I did recently for a client, 65 percent of the terms they were ranking for had answer boxes. The question, of course, becomes, “How do I become the answer?!?”

We’ve been doing quite a bit of experimenting this year with answer boxes and SERP results and much of it has to do with how your structure your content. Go back and look at what is already ranking, if there’s an answer box, and if you can restructure your content.

A few good resources here include:

In my opinion, there is still a ton of room for improvement in the answers Google is providing. I think 2017 will be a big test for how they get better and how they integrate voice search queries into the mix.


Mike Grehan, CMO & Managig Director, Acronym

Mike GrehanPrimarily, the SEO community has long been focused on tackling search problems, in particular indexing and ranking, at the query and document level. Literally, spending huge amounts of time trying to match keywords in queries to documents that contain them.

But with modern search, combined with much more sophisticated computer-human-interaction (CHI), a wider range of factors are affecting the results we see at search engines such as Google and Bing.

Machine learning techniques uncover complex and previously hidden patterns of searcher (end user) behavior. And this leads to a much clearer understanding of intent and information needs.

Moving forward, being both relevant and “useful” in the moment will be key to search success and greater visibility. A good SEO should also be a good content experience analyst (CEA) developing content around intent at crucial “micro-moments” on the customer journey.


Jenny Halasz, President & Founder, JLH Marketing

Jenny HalaszIs mobile the thing you need to be most concerned about in 2017? To a certain extent. There’s no doubt that if you don’t have a mobile-ready site by now, you’re already behind the 8-ball.

But I believe there’s something more important. You need to diversify your business away from Google… away from search. That might sound really weird for a search person to say, but here’s why.

Search engines (Google especially) continue to show preference for sites that people already know and love. If you want to become one of those sites, search is not the way you’ll do it.

In certain industries, the search results are so saturated that they’re near impossible to compete in. This doesn’t mean you should quit search altogether; it’s still vitally important for your business. But find other ways to bring in leads and revenue, whether through social, through apps, through Amazon or Ebay stores, or other channels.

The absolute best thing to have when competing on search is word-of-mouth. If people are talking about the great product you make, the wonderful customer service you have, or all the good you’re doing in your industry or community, that’s how you’ll get Google’s attention. A mobile-friendly site is simply a pre-requisite.


Christopher Hart, Head of Client Development, U.S., Linkdex

Christopher HartBefore I drive a stake in the ground for 2017, lets take a quick look back on my predictions from 2016, where I noted that User Experience, Mobilization & Apps, Big Data Normalization and Schema/Markeup would be areas to invest in to tip the scales in your favor.

This year I am going to stay away from any tactical or strategic predictions and focus more on the operational side of the conversation with the rise of the CDO “Chief Digital Officer” – a largely transformational role.

Over the last year many companies and organizations have been talking “Omni Channel Optimization” and have spent heavily in bringing big data from across business silos into a normalized reporting/analysis view. The outcome of these activities, are that operational units are still largely siloed and territorial in their daily behaviors, mostly focused on what they can claim and get credit for.

 

The CDOs directives will be to transform the operational behaviors of the siloed organization into customer centric digital first operation.

To do this, the CDO will bring together a broad team whose day-to-day are still largely focused on their sets of expertise. But, whose results will be judged though their contributions to collective value of customer acquisitions, LTV and brand to user relationship.

The collective value of ones contribution will be judged (or amplified) via the mainstream use of marketing and automation technologies to enable the proper and personalized reply via the best marketing channel whose message can best capture and solve for the intent of the end user.

The end result will be a happier user to brand relationship, where the end user will feel heard and empowered. Interruption based marketing and advertising will fall to the side and a form of in-line conversation / engagement will develop where the user will get what they need, where they need it and how they want it. Over time these user focused values will accelerate their trust in a brands products or services.


Bill Hartzer, SEO Consultant

Bill HartzerFor 2017, smart brands and businesses need to continue to focus on building their brand and diversifying their overall online strategy. It’s becoming increasingly important to focus on branding initiatives so that ultimately consumers search for your brand so you don’t have to rely strictly on ranking for particular keywords.

Focusing efforts on specific keywords or ranking for specific keywords tends to lead you down a different path – which, for SEO, leads you toward “chasing the algorithm.”

The search engines are continually getting better at identifying unnatural linking and unnatural SEO tactics, as well as keyword tactics. With customization and personalization, as well as “not provided” keywords truly not being provided to us website owners, it’s increasingly difficult to track rankings in the search results.

Diversifying your efforts, such as including strategies other than SEO like social media and paid search is key in 2017. Focus on tracking every single visit to your website so you know where visitors are coming from.

While this might seem “too obvious” to some of you reading, I’m still surprised to see how many businesses don’t know whether a sale came from paid search efforts, social media efforts, or organic search.


Kristjan Hauksson, COO & Partner, SMFB Engine

Kristjan HaukssonI am not seeing any major changes on the horizon for 2017, except when it comes to user intent. Everything else should be very gradual and predictable.

During the U.S. presidential election, it was interesting to see how topical “filter bubbles” impacted Google, YouTube, and particularly Facebook. Visibility has become more and more driven by intent.

Beside that it is the usual stuff that we need to be on the lookout for, and more importantly the basics (still going strong) such as technology, structured data, platforms, user experience, design and content.

I am not as optimistic on voice search as many of my SEO friends. It’s not as advanced as needed (my native language is spoken by 320,000 people) and, more importantly, not as integrated in our daily life as it should be. Voice search will be a thing, but not in 2017.

Mobile is not a trend any more. It’s mandatory. But mobile might break many companies that are not keeping up. I am not sure AMP is the thing, but it’s definitely the first step toward what is to come.

Bottom line: we are still on a journey, we are more connected than ever, and things are likely to move fast.


Jim Hedger, Creative Partner, Digital Always Media

Jim HedgerBritish historian James Burke suggested there were certain events or culmination of events that took place at or about the same time that individually or collectively served to change our understanding of ourselves and the universe around us. Not only did he open the world of history for a generation of thinkers, Burke managed to script ten TV episodes and at least two coffee-table-sized companion books out of the concept.

Basically, since we only perceive what we know to perceive, our fundamental understanding of the universe is bound to the things we know. When we discover or prove something beyond what we knew we know, or when a conflux of things combine to create something wondrously new, our perception of the universe around us must be changed.

That’s what 2016 was all about. And universe altering change is likely to only accelerate through 2017.

Does anyone remember exactly when IBM built a computer so powerful it was able to score an undisputable win against best chess player in the world? Many will think of Deep Blue vs. Garry Kasparov in February 1996 but it wasn’t until December 2006 that Deep Blue’s protégé, Deep Fritz soundly defeated world grand master Vladimir Kramnik a machine could be said to have fully defeated a human brain.

It took 10 years from the development of a machine that could access a database of every move ever made in every recorded game ever played, to the release of a machine that could actually learn from every mistake ever made in all of those recorded games. Today, Deep Fritz is a consumer product offered by Chessbase.

Now, does anyone remember the day Google fired up the artificial neural net known as RankBrain? Google confirmed the existence of RankBrain on October 26, 2015, just over one year ago.

Two days later, Google announced its artificial intelligence products would be opened for use by businesses or consumers. According to Google, RankBrain exists to help Google figure out the context or intent of words used by both searchers and webmasters.

Why would a person use that particular configuration of words to seek a person, place, or object? Is the intent aspirational or are they seeking to buy something? RankBrain and the use of artificial intelligence is arguably the greatest leap forward for Google since it discovered messing with the weight of links might be an antidote to link-spam back in 2003.

The advent of artificial intelligence in search comes at the same time that consumer based AI products such as Google Nest or Amazon Echo are starting to appear in homes across America. Digital assistants such as X.AI (created by former SEO Dennis R. Mortensen) are taking charge of the daily scheduling and activities of businesspersons.

It might seem a stretch today, but AI is going to have a dramatic effect on search engine results sooner than later, especially in regards to local search. When a product or service is needed consumers will soon speak to their in-home AI which will then place an order for delivery from the nearest approved vendor. This is one of the reasons voice search is so important to Google.

Another is the continuing rise of mobile or handheld devices as primary access points to the Internet.

It’s been almost three years since Google reported more mobile searches were conducted than desktop searches. That was a seminal moment in the history of the Internet and wholesale assumptions were changed based on the idea people were capable of searching on-the-go rather than researching before making trips. Google became dedicated to pushing mobile everything and in 2016 it began to favor mobile search results.

Local and mobile search results are heavily influenced by citations, which are often found everywhere search isn’t. Social media applications such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn and even Yelp carry user review areas that provide citations. This means savvy marketers will use a myriad of tools to tell the stories of their brands and products.

Marketers need to remember that searchable content is no longer confined to search engines. Search can be found virtually everywhere a community forms around ideas, information, or products. SEOs and search marketers will increasingly have to work in multiple platforms to raise the attention of consumers and of search engines.

Video continues to kill every medium it competes with, including the text-based website. Digital users consumed more video in 2016 than all other previous years put together. This is because it is easier to access video over a mobile device and also because it is far easier to create and share video experiences.

If it can be marketed in text, it should be marketed in video because that’s what consumers want to see. That video should be housed on-site (likely embedded from YouTube) and uploaded to all social media applications relevant to the business or service being marketed. 

As things stand today, it is only logical to recommend using Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) for all publishers. AMP is a stripped down page that dispenses with a lot of .css and java commands. While this makes pages lightning fast, they tend to be rather plain looking.


AMP is one of those cod-liver-oil things, something conventional wisdom says we need to take for our own health but it’s also one of those initiatives that might or might not last beyond 2017. If you’re working with publishers, learn AMP.

Accuracy is important and to help search engines and search users be accurate, it is helpful to provide as many descriptive points as possible. In a mobile focused world, Schema.org mark-up is likely to be more important than before. Schema is a series of micro mark-ups that not only help search engines figure out a number of things about any given page, they can also make items such as pricing, ratings, or other product information appear in search results.

Google futurist Ray Kurzweil has been obsessed with machine learning and machine emulation since the 1960s. In the world of AI, Kurzweil is best known for his ideas around what he calls the singularity.

Kurzweil predicts humans will cybernize themselves sooner than later. He is also one of the leading thinkers at Google.

One piece of advice that could be offered year after year is, always look to the future. What Google does today is often indicative of where it expects searchers to want to go tomorrow. Read anything Kurzweil writes or has already written, as he tends to be right about trends he perceives.

2017 is terra incognito. We have no precedents to apply to where machine learning and AI will take us. All we know for certain was originally phrased by Douglas Coupland in 1991 in the title of his first major novel, Generation X, Tales for an Accelerated Culture.

We live in a time of acceleration and nobody cares where the brake pedal, which has yet to be invented, will eventually be placed. Hold onto your seats, SERP watchers! The next 12 months are going to be absurdly interesting.


Jon Henshaw, Co-founder & President, Raven Tools

Jon HenshawGoogle will continue to push for speed in 2017, but their core focus will be on reliability and making sites work and feel more like apps. They’ll do this by encouraging SEOs and webmasters to convert their sites into Progressive Web Apps (PWAs).

PWAs are an amalgamation of web standards. Google describes them as web apps that provide the following user experience:

  • Load instantly regardless of internet speed.
  • Respond smoothly as you interact with elements on the page.
  • Feels like an app that’s properly designed for the device that’s accessing it.

Google has provided a PWA Checklist that provides baseline functionality along with their ideal site configuration. SEOs and webmasters should recognize many of the items in the list, because they’re probably already using some of them on their sites.

However, there are still several things on the checklist that most sites don’t have. Most notably, PWAs are expected to work even if the user is offline!

The offline functionality is enabled by Cache-First Networking and Service Worker Libraries – technologies that are already supported by all major browsers except Safari. Google’s expectation is that sites will work more like apps, and if the user has accessed the site before, they’ll be able to access it in some capacity when they’re offline or have an unreliable internet connection.

A simple but effective example of a PWA that supports offline viewing is Progressive Beer. More examples of PWAs can be found at https://pwa.rocks.

I encourage all SEOs to not only become familiar with Google’s PWA Checklist, but to also start implementing and testing any items that are missing from their sites. Based on Google’s actions the past few years, I wouldn’t be surprised if PWAs become a ranking factor in 2017.


Bill Hunt, Global Strategy Consultant, Back Azimuth Consulting

Bill HuntThe biggest trends business should focus on are:

1. Increase the Click Yield of High-Performing Keywords

A lot of time is spent trying to create new content and increased rankings where you can increase traffic by improving search result snippets. It is easy to do using just Google Search Console.

Download the most recent report and sort it by Average Rank greater than 5 and Click Rate less than 5 percent. This will find keywords where you are ranking well but getting less than you expected share of clicks.

Do a search for that phrase and look at the snippet – is it gibberish or will it make searchers feel like the page will answer their question? If not optimal update the page and/or meta description and fetch as Googlebot and see if your clicks increase.
2. Increase Searcher Intent Alignment

Take a set of your keywords and write them down and ask yourself why a person did that search and what they were looking for. Go to your best or ranking page for that phrase and make sure it answers their question. Often we are out of sync with what the searcher is actually looking for resulting in them clicking away from your page going to another.


Mark Jackson, President & CEO, Vizion Interactive

Mark JacksonIt’s hard to discern “the” biggest trend for SEO for 2017. Do we really need to talk about mobile (again)?

The truth is SEO has gotten pretty big. With Google’s RankBrain fully entrenched, it’s more important than ever to have SEO baked into multiple areas of your digital marketing efforts.

I still find that the following are lacking from most prospects that I speak with:

  • Information architecture/taxonomy.
  • Technical aspects of SEO (crawlability/indexation/page speed, etc.).
  • Content (core site content/blog/social).
  • Outreach/PR (promotion of content).
  • Usability/CRO (conversion rate optimization).
  • Analytics which tie it all together (focused on measurement of goals/conversions/value of conversions).

SEO isn’t about two or three big trends (uh-oh, I failed to mention mobile in my list!). Really, it’s about what it always has been: indexation, content, and links.


Dixon Jones, Marketing Director, Majestic

Dixon JonesEveryone else is going to shout “Mobile First” and I am sure they are right, but for me? Meh. I think that was all so last year. After “Mobilegeddon” I am not going to bend again just for AMP.

For me, I think the move toward understanding Entity Search will start to focus the minds of SEOs. Google stopped the Freebase engine with 1.8 Billion entities in it and I know Bing have more. This is NOT a database that is going away… but it is a database that is getting harder to see and therefore to affect.

In short: if your business is not seen as an “entity” that can be described with one word for being remarkable at something, then you will never be mentioned in a Siri search, or Cortana, or Alexa, or OK Google. You will never get that little knowledge box that appears in the right side on certain searches.

This is important to start figuring out. It’s not about “keywords.” It is about being the stand out leader in the field for, at the very least, your business name.

What one thing do you really stand for? How can you provide structured data that supports that theory?

 

Figuring that out is hard enough. Figuring out how Google agrees with you to the point at which you are mentioned in an “OK Google” response is quite another.


Ryan Jones, Manager Search Strategy & Analytics, SapientNitro

Ryan JonesI think the biggest trend will be SEO continuing to merge with UX, content strategy, and other forms of what we call “real marketing.”

Search has moved on from relevant words on pages (don’t worry, though, they’re still important) and is more about helping users accomplish a task – so the experience matters too. Whether it’s mobile-friendly, speed, overlays, or anything else, we’re seeing Google focus on the search experience in addition to the words on the page and the links.

I think that “how we search” will continue to adapt with more technology like smart assistants and the internet of things, but “why we search” will still revolve around users wanting to solve problems. That’s where our focus should be: helping users accomplish their tasks.


Julie Joyce, Owner, Str0ud LLC and Link Fish Media

Julie JoyceFor 2017, my primary area of focus for all clients will be addressing mobile accessibility and optimization.

I want to make sure sites can perform well in mobile search. Usually this is not something major that I focus on with link development, other than ensuring that the links we place can indeed be easily accessed on mobile devices.

Sometimes the mobile versions of a site are much smaller, which can hurt our potential for mobile traffic if the pages our links are on don’t appear here. So I’m planning to implement more mobile search into our company’s link efforts to make sure we don’t lose those opportunities.

For my clients who don’t do much link development with us, my goal is to make sure their sites are optimized well for mobile. I have one in particular that is so old, it will probably have to be completely redone as nothing renders properly on any mobile device. They’re still doing well in mobile search, but the user experience, once you get to the site, is absolutely atrocious so I want to fix that so we aren’t losing quality traffic that could convert.

My secondary goal will be focus more on building a web presence outside of just the actual sites themselves. Social platforms are important for many, if not most, clients right now, and the traffic we’re seeing from those sites is pretty fantastic.

In some cases, traffic from social networking sites has overtaken search engines like Google. I want to continue that, but also diversify.

I’d love to see more clients that regularly contribute to other sites and get traffic from those sites. In my case personally, a large percentage of my agency’s traffic comes from my monthly link column on an industry site. Having a diverse set of traffic sources is always important – but perhaps even more so in the coming year.


Michael King, Managing Director, iPullRank

Michael KingBrands should focus on speed, structured data, and mobile-friendliness. All of the things that Google has been pushing for as of late, come down to those three things.

Whether it’s AMP, Progressive Web Apps, App Indexing, App Streaming, the switch to mobile-first indexation or even Firebase, they have been preparing for the future of search which is the predictive assistant that we’re seeing in Google Now, Assistant and Home.

What makes you positioned for visibility (or audibility) is that your pages are fast, understand by Google, and mobile-friendly.


Cindy Krum, Founder & CEO, MobileMoxie

Cindy KrumI think the big new thing in the SEO world will be Progressive Web Apps (PWAs). Google is pretty bullish on this because they make websites behave more like apps – including having app icons on a phone desktop, and even working offline. They tend to load faster, like an AMP web page too. It brings a lot of good things together.

If you have an existing responsive design website, it is not that hard to start making updates that will help it transition to being a PWA. You can add and link an app manifest, which is very easy, then add and register a ‘service worker’ which is a bit harder, but still not super hard. Once this is done, you have a basic PWA.

Malte Ubl, from Google announced a new way to use AMP code to make PWA’s work in mobile Safari, which has historically been one of the biggest stumbling blocks for developer adoption of PWA set-ups.

Google has announced that they are going to let PWA’s side-load their APK, which means they are treating them even more like apps. For example, this is the logical first step that Google would have to take before doing something like allowing PWA’s to rank in app-packs or letting PWA’s compete against for rankings and attention in the Google Play store. Likely, this is a significant part of the ‘mobile-first’ indexing and directional significant for the future if SEO.


Casey Markee, Founder, Media Wyse

Casey MarkeeGoogle’s push to Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), its recent war on mobile interstitials, its embracing of a mobile-first index, HTTPS, and page speed are all about one thing: increasing UX.

With mobile traffic surpassing desktop traffic worldwide in 2016 and a rising majority of all searches now having a local intent, I suspect you will continue to see a Google acceleration in 2017 to those site pages and results that load fast, promote a superior UX experience, and provide a quick answer to an identified query.

I believe you will see this most visibly in 2017 with AMP content. Google’s Maile Ohye presented some great data on AMP at State of Search last November and commented that in one study Google recorded a 23% increase in mobile users in the seven days following an initial AMP visit. Google’s tricked out their AMP site with a lot of case study information and it should be required reading for all SEOs as we head into the new year.

The biggest complaint about AMP in 2016 was that most site owners “didn’t get it” and that the actual lightning bolt symbol for AMP mistakenly communicated a danger subtext that may have mistakenly caused people on mobile, especially older baby boomers, to associate AMP content as “risky.”

As such, don’t be surprised if in 2017 you see a much larger marketing push by Google to educate the general online audience about what AMP is – and that includes more visible SERP labeling.


Jesse McDonald, Director of SEO, Geek Powered Studios

Jesse McDonaldTwo major trends in 2017 will have the biggest impact on SEOs.

1. Google’s Mobile-first Index

At the end of 2016, with the announcement of Google’s switching to a mobile-first index by Gary Illyes at Pubcon, many SEOs began speculating how this would impact the industry and its best practices. Over the past two or three years Google has been putting a huge emphasis on mobile which has caused more SEOs to bring this to the forefront of their website building process.

Now, with the index switch, SEOs will have to think about what content they are putting on a site based on what the mobile user will be seeing. One of the biggest implications of this will be SEOs thinking about pages with less content. SEOs are going to start really having to figure out what will best answer users questions while simultaneously pleasing search algorithms. This is probably the first time in the history of SEO where the practitioners will actually be taking a “less is more” approach to page building.

2. Link Building in the Real-time Penguin Era

The last quarter of 2016 also brought an update to Google’s Penguin algorithm (finally!), along with the news that Penguin will now run in real-time. This meant two things: we’ll never have to wait for another update to the algorithm and that SEOs will be able to qualify links a little bit better.

Because the algorithm will adjust results immediately after a page and its links are crawled, SEOs will be more inclined to try new link building tactics to find new opportunities. Theoretically, if a link is built and ends up hurting the page it was built to, repairing that damage will be a little bit easier now that you don’t have to wait for the algorithm to update. Hopefully this will get more people within our community talking about innovative link building strategies –and a more informed community.


Roger Montti, Owner, martinibuster.com

Roger Montti

The SEO industry has many old ways of doing things to leave aside in order to catch up with what the search engines are doing today. In 2017 we will see a more technical approach to SEO, one that is based less on speculation and more on science. I will list a few examples of outdated SEO practices that persist but must go away.

Keywords

In 2017 we will see a re-evaluation and overhaul of how SEO is practiced with regard to keywords.

In 2016, John Mueller revealed that keywords in the title and heading area were not critical to helping a site rank. This was not news to anyone who studied what is ranking in the search results.

But it was big news for the SEO community because it overturned a fundamental SEO practice related to how keywords are used. This rule dictated that a properly SEO’d web page contained its keywords in the title tag and in the heading elements (H1, H2, etc.).

The SEO industry likes neat recipes. But the manner in which Google and Bing are handling keywords do not fit into an easily reduced frameworks that prescribe liberal salting of web pages with synonyms in the heading and title elements. That’s just the old style SEO.

Link Building & Domain Authority

This trend of letting go of old SEO practices and learning new ones will be a major one for 2017. Perhaps the biggest change will be in link building. Rote practices such as heavy linking to the home page will begin to go away as more people realize that Google is ranking web pages and that votes for web pages tend to count more.

Linking to the home page to build up a domain authority is a practice dating back to 2002. That’s the “trickle down” theory of linking building that holds that if you link to the home page the ranking power will trickle down to your inner pages.

In fact, Gary Illyes has recently stated that Google does not use any form of domain authority. The concept of Domain Authority does not match up with how Google actually ranks web pages. That statement throws into question the concept of building up a website’s authority in order to spread the PageRank to the inner pages and make them rank.

If you read how websites are ranked, one thing becomes clear, that every statement out of Google has always supported the idea of building web pages that people like and attracting relevant links to those pages.

This is important because it means that domains do not pass authority to inner pages. Individual pages stand or fall on their own. Google ranks web pages for their popularity and usefulness, not domains. So this idea that obtaining links to the home page in order to build up authority for the domain does not match up with the way Google ranks web pages.

Those are examples of rote SEO practices that will be re-evaluated as the industry begins to focus on becoming technically educated. The SEO industry must understand the state of the art of information retrieval in order to reconcile that to how SEO is practiced.


Brock Murray, Co-founder & COO, seoplus+

Brock MurrayIn 2017, think mobile first, always and often. Mobile optimization has swiftly transitioned from “nice to have” to the absolute core of SEO.

Thinking mobile-first means creating a mobile-friendly website that is lean, clean, and blazing fast while still containing all the core content you need to express your brand message to bots and users alike. Implement AMP and take advantage of Google’s prioritization of these pages.

Pay close attention to your user metrics. Don’t be afraid to reshape or axe pages that aren’t delivering an exceptional experience to mobile users.

Condensed content will be really important in 2017, so start thinking about an “elevator pitch” for your key content. Say what you need to say in digestible bites engineered for the mobile audience.

 

Make mobile the core of your SEO strategy in 2017, and it will pay large dividends – especially if your competition is stuck in the past.


Seth Nickerson, Senior SEO Strategist, Vertical Measures

Seth NickersonIn 2017, authenticity will be more important than ever. We live in an era when every piece of content that is published online is under intense scrutiny. From phony news sources to bogus children’s toys (Fisher Price pub set), there’s reason for searches to be incredulous.

My concern is this: if the authenticity of content is frequently called into question, accuracy and quality of search results will be further undermined. Recently, Google’s focus on authenticity (truthfulness) has centered on news content. In fact, they’ve been asked by industry news outlets several times about its plan to handle fake news, but they have not responded.

Here’s the real issue: Google’s traditional algorithm components can’t vet whether something is real, accurate, or true. Last year, Google published a paper on Knowledge-Based Trust, that dealt with the trust element of its algorithm, but the paper admits that the algorithm does not penalize sites for a lack of facts!

This makes our job as marketers much more difficult. Trusted content earns backlinks, encourages shares, and most importantly, it generates leads and sales. If people are so skeptical that they will no longer share your content or link to it, chances are it will not perform well organically.

And, if your product is seen next to an obviously fake news item, how does that reflect on your brand? Not well. To some viewers, it may convey to the reader that your brand endorses something that couldn’t possibly be true.

Remember all that talk years back about staying out of “bad neighborhoods”? That rule of thumb may extend to more than just backlinks.

I don’t have any detailed answers to the authenticity challenge just yet, but I think it is going to be incredibly important to be as trusted and authoritative as possible in 2016.


Lee Odden, CEO, TopRank Marketing

Lee OddenWhat will be big in 2017? Greater search keyword/topic integration in overall marketing.

As a reflection of customer interest and demand, keyword data is valuable far beyond content optimization and should be used to inspire everything from social media monitoring and engagement to influencer research.

Marketers that align content topics, contributors/co-creators and distribution across channels will realize the “best answer” effect for both customers and bots.


Chuck Price, Founder, Measurable SEO

Chuck PriceExpect to see a continuation of user experience as the primary driver of online marketing efforts in 2017. Always keep the user in mind – and never allow yourself to become distracted from the basics.

Google has invested heavily in algorithms (Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird), as well as RankBrain in recent years to improve the quality of search results. In short, these algorithm updates have raised the bar for companies and websites looking to perform well in organic search.

We are much closer to a time when all the search results on page one deserve to be there. That’s a radical departure from the days when link volume and keywords alone determined winners and losers.

Despite the advancement in the core algorithm, one can still rely on the three-legged stool analogy to achieve online success in 2017.

Leg 1: Technical SEO / On-Page Optimization

It’s important to start with a technically and architecturally sound website. This is the foundation for the rest of your online marketing efforts. There are several guides online to help you with this, including SEJ’s guide to performing a technical SEO audit. Failure to address website issues is akin to sailing with your anchor down.

Leg 2: Content Marketing

Developing content has come a long way from writing spammy 300- to 500-word articles (one for every keyword you wanted to rank for). With the focus on user experience, the typical length of an article is often 10X the old standard.

Content marketing isn’t about quick wins. It’s about creating usefulinformation on a regular basis that people need and are looking for. One caveat for 2017: keep in mind the growth of voice search when developing your strategy for next year.

Leg 3: Link Building

Despite what you may have heard or read, link building will be no less important in 2017 than in previous years. Google has publicly stated that links are among the top two ranking factors. They built an algorithm to fight link spam. Short of issuing a press release, it couldn’t be any clearer. In fact, a strong argument could be made that editorial given links from thematically related websites are more important than ever before.


Kristine Schachinger, Founder & CEO, Vetters Agency

Kristine SchachingerThe year 2017 is going to be the year of mobile. That is old news right? Well yes and no. I know we have heard that before, but in the past “mobile first” was primarily about making better versions of our sites for mobile devices.

This coming year it will no longer be just about mobile readiness, but about the intersection of mobile with SEO and ranking signals. Why? Google is setting its sights not only on mobile first, but mobile only.

With this expanded focus, mobile has now become a much broader and deeper playing field. This is especially true with regards to the technical aspects of a website’s development process and how your site is implemented.

For instance, starting Jan. 10 Google will “penalize” sites using intrusive mobile interstitials. This is not the first time this has happened, but from all indications this time is sure to be a much stricter application of the algorithm.

So if your site has these experience killing roadblocks next year, you can expect to see a devalued position in their rankings – that day or the next. Now there are some interstitials that are OK, but you have to know which ones and act before then to avoid the downturn in traffic if not.

So what’s next?

The next update to most likely follow will be Mobile First Indexing. This is not just an update, but a systematic change to how Google evaluates and positions websites.

Mobile-first Indexing is where Google will use mostly mobile signals to “rank” your site. The process is still in development at Google, so we don’t know all the changes yet.

However, the most significant part of this update is that the content they use to rank your site will only be what is found in your mobile version, even for desktop users. Not just content either, most SEO signals will also switch from desktop to mobile only.

This means whether the user is on desktop or mobile, the algorithms will primarily use these signals from your mobile version to position your site in the search results. Now, this is less of an issue for responsively designed sites and much more a problem for m., however everyone needs to evaluate their mobile site for potential performance and indexing issues. We don’t currently have a date for launch, but we know that is the direction Google is moving and it needs to be addressed in the near future.

The next step in the year of mobile will be the optimization of sites for not only typed, but voice queries. Although desktop search has not depreciated greatly, mobile search has skyrocketed and with that voice search.

So are you optimizing for desktop, mobile, AND voice search? What about search where there is no desktop or mobile device, but just audio like Amazon Echo and Google Home?

Now these devices are not garnering large search share at this time, but it is important to keep the factors in mind when you are in a vertical (e.g., weather, movies, reviews) that will become highly relevant to these home devices.

So while 2013-2016 was the year of mobile sites, 2017 will be the year of mobile SEO with dramatic changes in how sites are accessed, found, and ranked. Best suggestion? Make sure business owners get a mobile site audit before the rollercoaster ride begins. It is going to be a big year of change.


Grant Simmons, VP of Search Marketing, Homes.com

Grant SimmonsMobile is, was, and will be the major trend for 2017, with the mobile-first index influencing SEOs to look at the following as key considerations and focus:

Content

Is it easily consumable on a mobile device? Whether copy, video, image, audio or interactive, content must be ideated, designed and developed with a mobile-first mindset.

Usability

Does your content work on any sized screen, on any mobile device? And does your definition of “mobile” include anything that’s not desktop or laptop? Cars, appliances, smart screens, and smarter presentation mediums to come. Will your content, message and brand offerings present a usable interface whether touch, tone, gesture or voice? Search engines will judge ‘value’ of search visibility through a user satisfaction lens.

Utility

Does your brand offer an experience that provides a valuable service, valuable resource and/or a value-added component to people’s lives, so that you can build a tangible or virtual connection between the consumer and your brand? Search engines will judge “value” of search visibility through consumer behavior and interaction.

Speed

Is your delivery of content, usability, and utility with an underlying focus on speed, so that the consumption is not only easy but also exceeds user expectations and/or provides so much value that your user is willing to wait a reasonable time to be absolutely delighted. Search engines do (and will continue to) judge “value” of search visibility through reasonable speed of delivery/user signals of “reasonable.”

And lastly… 2017 will be the year of self-driving cars. So apply everything above to location-awareness, context-sensitivity, captured audiences, and connected commuters. Consider and plan how your brand, content and message will be valuable and contextually relevant enough to show up in search there.


Aleyda Solis, Founder & International SEO Consultant, Orainti

Aleyda Solis2017 will be the real, huge year of mobile-first search.

Companies should really prioritize mobile in case they haven’t yet done it: with the mobile-first Google index, AMP, app indexing, and increasing importance in the future of Progressive Web Apps.

Besides mobile, and as a bit of a consequence, targeting voice and conversational search and implementing structured data will be fundamental.


Kaspar Szymanski, SEO Consultant, SearchBrothers

Kaspar SzymanskiThe foreseeable future of the SEO industry and the dominant trend in 2017 remain under the influence of what Google sees as critical factors from a user point of view: speed and security are on top of the list.

Moving to HTTPS in 2016 still optional, albeit hugely adapted by innovators, has become a business investment any website build to perform in Google organic search will have to follow through with.

Let’s be clear: in 2017 HTTPS will be a standard and any website not embracing it will inevitably fall back in organic search.

Speed is the other decisive factor Google and other market leaders believe makes the difference between success and failure.

Whether AMP, the efficient yet very restrictive technology favored by Google will prevail remains to be seen. Having said that, making a website load faster already has a profound impact on its visibility in Google Search and there’s no doubt that this factor will only grow more important.

Lastly, over prioritized website performance and security, off-page signals are not to be neglected. Google clearly stated that no more official Google Penguin updates are to be announced. Which also means more are forthcoming, although we will never know when they hit the market. Building links for converting traffic –under no circumstances for PageRank – remains an important cornerstone of any successful website competing in a challenging market.


Marcus Tober, Founder & CTO, Searchmetrics

Marcus ToberHere are three SEO trends to watch in 2017:

1. SEO is Going to be More Diverse

I believe in 2017 the diversity of how SEO is seen and done is going to change even more. Search is and will be omnipresent and is baked in into new consumer products like Google Home or Google Assistant.

But what changes is how the search results will be computed based on the device and how it will be presented to the consumer. Where there was a high diversity and likelihood to get a “click” when I just appeared on first page, now as a business you should be relevant and straight on the point.

Of course more devices open new doors for more traffic. But the SEO strategy needs to be adopted to these new opportunities.

Without knowing what exactly is going to come, I see that Google is going to offer public APIs where companies can hook into and have for example structured data offered so that through one of these devices the user can order products and pay without even seeing the SERPs or even the page. Very exciting.

2. Mobile-first Will Have a Huge Impact

Focusing on mobile is a no-brainer. Google announced that they are going to change their crawling and computing to mobile-first, desktop second beginning next year (Q1). That will be a huge change, because even if you have responsive websites, not many companies are ready for mobile-first, some are not even ready for mobile.

So, we will see many SEOs around the mobile topic, which includes content and the structure of the mobile page. The reason is simple.

When many companies built their mobile page, they often build m.(DOT) domains and altered the content according to the mobile purpose. Lighter page, less content.

When Google now starts to switch to mobile first, Google doesn’t get the full content to evaluate the desktop content without crawling it. That could create a lot of issues.

I don’t believe that Google wants to crawl both mobile and desktop and build two completely separate indices, but with this very common example I’d like to see how Google is going to handle it. This will keep us busy beginning of next year.

Once the dust is settled we will push mobile more and focus on the mobile user journey and what that means for the content that we optimize for mobile. I think this is really the key, because it influences the first mentioned trend, too. When Google can crawl and understand the content and ties that to many queries and many different devices, companies can win and grab much more traffic than before.

3. Desktop Isn’t Dead!

Now everybody is excited about mobile. But the conversion rates on mobile are still much lower compared to desktop.

Companies that leverage the user journey through mobile and desktop – and optimize their content to be found not just on mobile – will win more customers in 2017. We SEOs often just think about the next trend, but really we shouldn’t forget about desktop.


Anne Ahola Ward, CEO, CircleClick

Anne Ahola WardThree SEO trends to watch in 2017:

1. Technical Performance

This will be the biggest driver for 2017 SEO success. With projects like Google’s AMP and Facebook Instant Articles, we have to assume the users will get spoiled and expect better of us. Load fast or die.

2. All of the Screens!

While the Nth screen is not new to paid advertising, it’s still new to SEO. Marketers who embrace the Nth screen will reap the SEO rewards.

The key to 2017 SEO dominance is to think multi-dimensionally, think beyond what is available today, and how you can take those new ideas and market them to the masses on all the screens.

3. Data Integrity is a Must

Stop co-mingling your SSL and non-SSL, people! You’re only ever going to have bad data showing too many direct visitors.


Mindy Weinstein, Founder & President, Market MindShift

Mindy WeinsteinSearch engines have continuously taken steps to better understand users, which is something we should also be doing. In fact, it is something we should have been doing from day one. Along the same line, below are two big trends for 2017:

More People Will Use Voice Search

Talking to our phones is nothing new, but now we are also talking to other devices too, such as the Amazon Echo or Google Home. We are even talking to our computers, with Apple’s voice-activated virtual assistant Siri as a prime example.

The number of people using voice search is going to continue to increase. This growth in voice search means that it will be more important than ever to know your target audience.

For instance, you must determine how they describe their wants and needs and the terms they use. Make sure your website content captures these conversational queries and addresses them.

Content Focused on User Intent Will Win

We spend a lot of time researching keywords and determining the exact words and phrases we want to target. While keyword research is critical, there must be an extra step when optimizing the website for those keywords: determining user intent.

You need to identify what searchers expect to find when querying your keywords. Plus, you should know the type of content the search engines are ranking in the top positions. Do the pages address the “know” intent or “buy” intent? This research gives you an indication of what is being rewarded in search results and what users expect.

Every year in search is exciting and 2017 will be no different!


Rob Woods, SEO Consultant, Riseform Digital Marketing

Rob WoodsI believe that 2017 will begin the “rise of the machines” in search marketing. Whether it be devices like Google Home and Amazon Echo, vehicles integrated with similar technologies, or personal assistants on mobile devices.

This will mean that it will become even more important to rank first or among the very top results to have any success. The responses returned by queries on such devices will not be a local three pack and 10 blue links but likely no more than one or two of the “best” matches for the user’s query.

Even for queries on search engine sites or apps on mobile devices, it will become more important to be among the top very few organic results. I believe Google’s move to a “mobile first” index is the first step in moving towards conversational (voice) search across a multitude of devices.

In my opinion, this will actually mean an increased emphasis on technical SEO. A multitude of sources claim that technical SEO is “dead” but it will become even more important in 2017 to focus on technical elements like page speed, mobile compatibility, AMP, and semantic markup.

With the increase of devices returning the “one correct answer” many more queries will be answered by a single knowledge graph result as opposed to a larger body of results. It will be more crucial to be the one “best” result for a query.

This will impact local SEO to an even greater extent. Ask your “assistant” where the best Chinese food is within 10 miles and it’s not going to return 3, 5, 10 options but likely choose one and give you directions.

While I believe for the present that links will continue to count as “votes” for the quality and authority of a site, for at least the near future, going forward an even more important factor for success will be for your content be the very best answer to the query implicit in the searcher’s intent.

As a result, I believe that keyword research, especially that research which uncovers the question behind a user’s intent, will continue to be very relevant. It will be less relevant to ensure that a particular keyword is placed on a particular page in order to get that page to rank for that keyword.

Of greater importance will be to ensure that your content is the very best, most thorough, most useful, most readable answer to what the searcher is truly looking for. The move toward quality over quantity will become more pronounced as there are less “results” served for a given query.

 

Truly understanding the potential consumers of your content will become more important, including conducting user surveys and creating searcher personas.


OK – the experts have spoken. Your turn! What do you think will be the SEO trends to watch in 2017?

 

Author : Danny Goodwin

Source : https://www.searchenginejournal.com/seo-trends-2017/181003/

Categorized in Future Trends

Whether you do SEO for a living or consider yourself a newbie, most people involved in search engine marketing know that there are two ways to go about it.

White hat and black hat.

White hat SEOs are the Jedi. We have tons of midi-chlorians in our bloodstreams and work for the forces of good in the universe.

This means promoting high-value content, engaging in deep keyword research to win in SERPS, and in general, promoting our websites or the websites of our clients using the methods that follow Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

Black hat SEOs are the Sith. They are afraid that doing high-quality work to boost rankings takes too much time, so they take shortcuts that aren’t exactly laid out in Google’s best practices.

And we all know that fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering…

sad dog

Some of these black hat techniques can be attractive to people who are new in the SEO space! Ranking well in search engines takes a lot of time and effort, and finding ways to hack the system is understandably appealing for those new to search engine marketing.

 

When I was starting out, I used a few of the techniques detailed below and guess what? I got no results! My websites were all indexed correctly, but I wasn’t able to get anything to rank for meaningful searches until I learned the ways of the White Hat Jedis.

So what happens when you try to implement black hat SEO strategies? You may make slow progress for some time, but you’ll eventually get hit with a Google Penalty.

If you’ve already been hit with a penalty, it’s time to read The Definitive Guide to Recovering From a Manual Search Penalty.

What Are Google Penalties?

Penguin

The original Penguin update was launched in 2012. Google relies heavily on links from one domain to another to determine a website’s authority. The penguin update crawled the web for any website attempting to game the number of links pointing to their site.

Over 10% of search results were affected, some of which were removed from Google search results entirely.

Since then, website owners and professional SEOs have been keeping a pulse on Google’s search algorithm updates.

Panda

The Panda update is a bit different. Its goal is to filter search results to prevent “low quality” sites’ content from ranking. While the definition of “low quality” is subjective, Google has their own course on creating valuable content, so it’s easy to see what they consider to be high-quality when it comes to digital content.

What Do Google’s Penalties Do?

If your website gets hit with either a Penguin or Panda penalty from Google, the results are the same: the loss of your current ranking position in search results and a huge dip in your organic traffic. All because of a few black hat methods you used to try to promote your website.

 

And if your website relies heavily on organic traffic from Google, a penalty could result in a downward spiral that could put you down for good.

Black Hat Strategies to Avoid

While there are many strategies black hat SEOs use to try to game Google and rank well in search results, these are the most highly used and the most likely to get your website penalized by Google.

Links

Getting in trouble with the internal links in your website or external websites linking to you could result in a penguin penalty. Here’s what you want to avoid when it comes to links.

Buying Links

Why most people do it: Arguably the most important ranking factor is the quality and quantity of links back to a website. It’s logical to think that buying links from websites with high Domain Authorities is the easiest way to get backlinks without putting in a lot of work.

Why you shouldn’t do it: Buying links is against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. It’s an easy way to get on Google’s bad side and receive an automatic or manual penalty. It’s unlikely you’ll get away with buying links without leaving a trail. Google tracks links that are likely purchased and those which are likely natural, so gaming Google is more difficult than you’d think.

Reciprocal Links

Why most people do it: When Website A offers to link to Website B, Website A might think it’s a good idea to ask Website B to link back to them as well. That way, they get a bit of link juice in return.

 

Why you shouldn’t do it: If there’s a purpose for both websites to link to each other, such as a partnership, then reciprocal links make sense. But if the entire purpose of the two-way link is “link juice,” you run the risk of getting penalized.

Footer Links

Why most people do it: A backlink from the footer of another website is seen as valuable because it’s a link back from every page on their website. Because all pages contain a footer, when you add the link just once, it’s like adding a backlink from every page on that site.

Why you shouldn’t do it: Similar to reciprocal links, if there’s a purpose, like telling readers who built the site, then it makes sense to include it. If the link is purely included to gain authority, is from a completely disconnected website or contains non-branded anchor text, the risk of a penalty is real.

Hidden Links

Why most people do it: By hiding text or links, some people think that you can include lots of links back to your site without Google even knowing about it.

Why you shouldn’t do it: Googlebots are smart and know when your website has any hidden text or links. Having hidden links is bad, but the double whammy comes in the fact that Google crawlers can see a different website than your visitors. That’s a big no-no and is one of the easiest ways to get penalized and drop in the rankings.

Comment Spam

Why most people do it: Some websites allow users to add a comment below a post, and sometimes those comment sections allow links. This is an easy way to link back to your site, right?

Why you shouldn’t do it: Wrong. Linking back to your site in the comment forms of other websites is spammy and something Google doesn’t want to see. In Google’s eyes, links should be earned through quality and valuable content, not posted in a comment form in just a few seconds. If you can add something to the conversation and a link back to your site in a comment is relevant and brings value to the readers, then it’s probably OK to include it. If not, try something a little less black hat.

Anchor Text Overuse

Why most people do it: Most SEO beginners are susceptible to this. When trying to rank a page or post for a specific search phrase, they try to link back to their websites using related anchor text. For example, someone trying to rank “brand new sailboats for sale” would link back to their website with 100 links, all with the anchor text, “brand new sailboats for sale.”

 

Why you shouldn’t do it: Again, Google sees what you’re trying to do. You’re attempting to rank well for a specific search phrase by using contextual anchor text. In the past, this worked pretty well! But not so much today. Google prefers branded anchor text instead of keyword anchor text — it’s more natural to link back using the anchor text, “Marty’s Boat Emporium,” because it’s more natural and suggests the link validates trust.

Malicious Backlinks

Why most people do it: To be clear, nobody does this to themselves on purpose. Nobody attempts to get links back to their website from malicious websites. Unfortunately, there are many black hat SEOs, spammers, and hackers out there who embrace the dark side and will try to damage another site by linking to it from a site that is spammy or even unindexed.

Why you shouldn’t do it: When a site that Google deems is spammy links to your site, it can hurt your ranking. If you see links from precarious websites coming to your website, it’s most likely they didn’t pick your site specifically, and they link to everyone. If you do find that there are suspicious websites linking to your website, use the Google Search Console Disavow Tool to ask Google to ignore the link.

Content

Publishing content that doesn’t provide any real value to your website visitors is grounds for a panda penalty. Here’s what to avoid when it comes to content.

Duplicate Content / Content Theft

Why most people do it: Producing high-quality, valuable content takes a lot of time and effort. For that reason, some people think they can take content published on another website and reuse / repurpose it on their own. Now your website can have great content without the pain of producing original content, right?

Why you shouldn’t do it: Not quite. Google is very particular about duplicate content and, in general, doesn’t like to see the exact same content spread across multiple domains. If you find a piece of content that you think your audience would find really valuable, it is possible to republish that article on your website as long as you have the permission of the original author and fully disclose the fact that it’s being republished. But if you’re thinking about blatantly copying content from another site, you’ll run the risk of a Google penalty.

Over-Optimization / Keyword Stuffing

Why most people do it: This is another common error for those new to the SEO world. Some people think that the more they optimize a page, the better their page will rank, so they include ten H1 tags and repeat the keyword phrase they’re trying to rank for over and over again.

Why you shouldn’t do it: This actually used to work. In 2000, if you wanted to rank for “purple elephant,” all you had to do was include the phrase “purple elephant” a few times in your title, a few times in your H1 tags, and ad nauseam in your content. But in 2017, Google is looking for the content that provides the most value to searchers. That means over-optimizing is out and focusing on giving the most comprehensive answer to a user’s queries is in.

Hidden Content

Why most people do it: Similar to hidden links, some people think they can include content that’s the same color as the background of the site. They do this to include textual keyword phrases in the website without affecting their users’ experience.

Why you shouldn’t do it: Again, Googlebots know when your website has any hidden text or links. Google’s priority is the users, and hidden content definitely counts as a bad user experience because it’s something bots can see but your visitors can’t. This is a big no-no and is one of the easiest ways to get penalized.

Security

While having an unsecured website can’t technically get you a Penguin or Panda penalty, it could result in the loss of your valuable rankings.

Hacked Website

If your website gets attacked or injected with malicious code and Google finds out, they can block your website for people using their search engine.

Not only will this cause you to lose the trust of anybody who visits your site from organic search, but it will cause your website to drop in the rankings just like a Penguin or Panda penalty would.

While it’s true you may receive a notification through Google Analytics that your site has been hacked, it still could mean a real penalty for your website in search results if Google knows your site contains malicious code.

To Wrap It Up

It should seem obvious that when it comes to black hat SEO, the numbers just don’t add up. Produce high-value content, follow Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, and most importantly, don’t be in a rush.

Do yourself a favor and become a Jedi, not a Sith. It will pay off in the long run.

Author:  Joe Howard

Source:  https://www.searchenginejournal.com/11-black-hat-techniques-can-kill-seo-campaign/180601

Categorized in News & Politics

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is one of the many aspects of digital marketing that can seem like a foreign concept to a lot of business owners. For that reason, there are a lot of misconceptions surrounding it.

However, upon closer examination, there is really no good reason to avoid incorporating SEO into your marketing strategy. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why business owners are hesitant to embrace SEO.

1. It’s too complicated

SEO is by no means a walk in the park. But at the same time, it’s not rocket science. Digital marketing is a constantly evolving entity. A strategy that works one week could very well be obsolete the next.

 

The truth of the matter is that there’s a lot of misinformation about SEO out there. The best strategy for a newcomer is to follow blogs online and read posts regularly to keep up. Here are some useful links — besides Search Engine Land, of course — to get you started:

It might take a few months, but you will soon wise up to the ins and outs of SEO and what it can do for your brand.

The landscape of digital marketing is moving at light speed. Embracing SEO could very well be one of the best business decisions you will ever make.

2. It’s a scam

Truth be told, there are low-life scammers within the digital marketing realm that prey on the fact that a lot business owners are not very familiar with SEO. When dealing with an SEO agency, one of the biggest red flags to look out for is a guarantee of any kind.

Google is constantly changing with algorithm updates. If anyone guarantees you a top spot in SERPs, they are more than likely trying to steal your money. While an SEO campaign will certainly not require you to rob the neighborhood bank, as with all good things in life, SEO doesn’t come cheap. Be wary of getting greedy for links while you plan and execute your campaigns.

Educate yourself as much as possible before deciding to move forward with SEO. There are a lot of free resources, webinarshangouts and blogs out there to give you the information you need to get the ball rolling.

3. The SEO specialist could ruin my business

It’s true that a constant flow of bad SEO decisions can wreak havoc on a website’s organic search rankings. But this would only happen in a situation where the business owner blindly goes all-in right away, which is rarely the case.

It’s wise to start with baby steps so that, in addition to getting an idea of your potential ROI, you will build a relationship between the SEO agency and your marketing team prior to making any giant leaps.

4. It’s too expensive

The beauty of SEO is that you can start small and take your time in deciding whether or not to make big moves. Let’s take a look at a hypothetical example from One Thing Marketing.

 

Say there’s a business that starts small with a $1,000 monthly investment. With research, they find several relevant keywords that yield more than 35,000 searches per month. If their website appears on the first page of the search results for these keywords, the average click-through rate (CTR) would be 2 percent. If they convert 5 percent of visitors, their average sale value would be $100.

Company ROI

Based on the equation, their SEO ROI was 250 percent.

You can see why 72 percent of business owners feel that a good SEO strategy drastically improved their marketing efforts.

 

Traditional forms of marketing can be very expensive. For example, an average TV spot — from production to media buying — could cost around $3,000 to $25,000, and the ROI can be difficult to track.

The decision to invest in SEO should not be taken lightly. However, regardless of how big or small you start out, more than likely, you will see a strong data-driven ROI.

5. I won’t be able to quantify spending

This is a very common misconception. Using tools for lead generation and landing pages is a great way to bring quantifiable traffic to your website. Regardless of how big or small your project is, impressions, clicks, keywords and traffic sources can be tracked in a detailed record. Dashboards in your Google Analytics will give you a comprehensive snapshot of where your site stands.

In addition, custom analytics can shed granular light on demographic information and engagement metrics on everyone that interacted with your website. This is prime information that can be used to optimize for the future.

6. Creating content is a waste of money

This could not be further from the truth. SEO and content go hand-in-hand. Simply creating website traffic is one thing. Investing in high-quality content is the key to creating value and encouraging users to stay on your website. A study conducted by Ascend2 and reported by eMarketer found that 72 percent of marketers believe that relevant content creation is the most effective tactic in their SEO efforts.

Traffic is basically useless if the reader has no reason to stay on your site. This is why the phrase, “content is king,” is so prevalent and will continue to be for years to come. When creating content, ask yourself whether it is unique material that readers cannot get anywhere else.

7. Results won’t come quickly enough

They won’t. But keep in mind that if they did, you’d be thrown off your perch just as easily when a new competitor came along. It’s clear what you need to do: just stick around and be consistent.

How long does it take for SEO to start working? Answer: it depends. Most SEO agencies will tell you it takes about four to six months to start seeing results. However, the results you see at six months will most likely be considerably inferior to what you will see one year in.

The key is to keep at it. If you decide to invest in SEO, be prepared for the long haul. You’ll be thankful in the end.

Over to you

At first glance, SEO can look like a complicated mountain to climb. Companies everywhere would be wise to look at the big picture and learn how SEO can benefit them throughout the age of the internet.

Perhaps the most important thing to take to heart when considering SEO is that it helps to level the playing field. If done well, it can provide the smaller companies with as much opportunity to get noticed on the SERPs as the bigger enterprises.

Author : Pratik Dholakiya

Source : http://searchengineland.com/7-things-business-owners-fear-shouldnt-seo-265865

Categorized in Business Research

Since the inception of the search engine, SEO has been an important, yet often misunderstood industry. For some, these three little letters bring massive pain and frustration. For others, SEO has saved their business. One thing is for sure: having a clear and strategic search strategy is what often separates those who succeed from those who don’t.

As we wrap up 2016, let’s take a look at how the industry has grown and shifted over the past year, and then look ahead to 2017.

A growing industry

It was only a few years ago when the internet was pummeled with thousands of “SEO is Dead” posts. Well, here we are, and the industry is still as alive as ever. SEO’s reputation has grown over the past few years, due in great part to the awesome work of the real pros out there. Today, the industry is worth more than $65 billion. Companies large and small are seeing how a good search strategy has the power to change their business.

As search engines and users continue to evolve, SEO is no longer just an added service brought to you by freelance web designers. With the amount of data, knowledge, tools and experience out there, SEO has become a power industry all on its own.

Over the course of the year, my agency alone has earned a number of new contracts from other agencies that are no longer able to provide their own search efforts. A large divide between those that can deliver SEO and those that can’t is beginning to open up across the board.

The rise of AI

Artificial intelligence (AI) is now prevalent in many of our lives. Google, IBM, Amazon and Apple are very active in developing and using Artificial Narrow Intelligence (ANI). ANI can be used to automate repetitive tasks, like looking up product details, shipping dates and order histories and performing countless other customer requests.

The consumer is becoming more and more comfortable with this technology and has even grown to trust its results. Sundar Pichai, Google CEO, announced during his Google I/O keynote that 20 percent of queries on its mobile app and on Android devices are voice searches.

RankBrain, Google’s machine-learning artificial intelligence system, is now among the top three ranking signals for Google’s search algorithm. Why? Google handles more than 3.5 billion searches per a day, and 16 to 20 percent of those are unique queries that have never been searched before. To handle this, the team at Google has harnessed the power of machine learning to help deliver better results.

While we can’t “control” RankBrain, what we can do is learn more about how Google is using it and then help the tool by creating good content that earns shares and links, building connections with others in our niche or related niches, and building trust in very targeted topics.

We are still in the beginning stages of this technology, but as more and more homes become equipped with smart tools like Amazon Echo and Google Home, we can be sure that these tech giants will use the knowledge they gain from voice search to power their AI technology.

The “Google Dance”

Every so often, Google likes to surprise us with a major algorithm update that has a significant impact on search results — some years we get one, and other years we get a little more.

 

While they do make nearly 500 tweaks to the algorithm each year, some are big enough to garner more attention. Let’s look back at four of 2016’s most memorable updates.

Mobile-friendly algorithm boost

A little under a year after “Mobilegeddon,” an event marked by the launch of Google’s mobile-friendly ranking algorithm, the search giant announced that it would soon be increasing the effects of this algorithm to further benefit mobile-friendly sites on mobile search. That boost rolled out on May 12, 2016, though the impact was not nearly as significant as when the mobile-friendly ranking algorithm initially launched.

Penguin 4.0

While this ended up being a two-phase rollout, Penguin 4.0 made its entrance on September 23, 2016. This has been considered the “gentler” Penguin algorithm, which devalues bad links instead of penalizing sites. The second phase of Penguin 4.0 was the recovery period, in which sites impacted by previous Penguin updates began to finally see a recovery — assuming steps were taken to help clean up their link profiles.

“Possum”

While this update was never confirmed by Google, the local SEO community noted a major shake-up in local pack and Google Maps results in early September 2016.

Fellow Search Engine Land columnist Joy Hawkins noted that this was quite possibly the largest update seen in in the local SEO world since Pigeon was released in 2014. Based on her findings, she believes the update’s goal was “to diversify the local results and also prevent spam from ranking as well.”

 

Divided index

As mobile search continues to account for more and more of the global share of search queries, Google is increasingly taking steps to become a mobile-first company. In November, Google announced that it was experimenting with using a mobile-first index, meaning that the mobile version of a website would be considered the “default” version for ranking purposes instead of the desktop version:

“To make our results more useful, we’ve begun experiments to make our index mobile-first. Although our search index will continue to be a single index of websites and apps, our algorithms will eventually primarily use the mobile version of a site’s content to rank pages from that site, to understand structured data, and to show snippets from those pages in our results.”

My 2017 predictions

While I’m not usually one to make predictions, there are a few things I expect to see in 2017. First, I think we will see RankBrain get smarter and have more authority in search. This means we need to think smarter about content and links, and how they interact together.

I think the legitimacy of the industry will continue to grow, and SEO will be seen for what it truly is: a powerful marketing approach. The divide between the “pros” and the “joes” will grow wider, and the winners will be the ones who actually know their stuff.

I think Big Data will help improve and power the industry. As technology makes it easier than ever to collect and digest information, those who know what to do with that information will see success. The importance of having the right tools for the job will become even more essential.

The time to say goodbye to 2016 is fast approaching, and I am truly excited to see what 2017 has in store for the world of SEO!

Author : Ryan Shelley

Source : http://searchengineland.com/weve-learned-seo-2016-264554

Categorized in Search Engine

Optimizing your website and blog is an essential element of your content marketing strategy. While SEO is changing, it stays on top of marketers’ agendas as it is a powerful way to bring visitors to your company’s outlets and to direct them towards your sales funnel.

SEO methods are constantly evolving due to search engines’ developments and users’ changing perspectives. It is not that easy to stay on top of the most successful optimization techniques, with many businesses falling into the trap of incorrectly doing SEO. Instead of seeing massive traffic and increasing conversion rates, the results can be quite the opposite.

There are some common SEO mistakes that are tough to avoid. Testing optimization approaches is also difficult because you can’t verify your methods in real-time since search engines’ rules are becoming hard to predict.

While the optimization field is ever-evolving, some practices are proving effective, while others are harmful in the long run. Let’s review the top ten common SEO mistakes you should avoid so your business’ website will bring the desired results to match your efforts.

1. Choosing the Wrong Keywords

Optimizing is all about the keywords that you want your website to rank for. But are you are choosing the right ones?

 

One of the most common mistakes in selecting keywords is neglecting the preference of search engines and users for long-tail keywords. While you might define your products and services in a certain way, it’s more important to understand what words your potential customers would use to refer to them. Sometimes the terms you consider correct might mean something completely different for other people, or could be too generic. In either case, you will be optimizing for all the wrong keywords.

It’s best to do your background research carefully before you start the optimization. Using tools like the Google AdWords KeywordPlannerGoogle TrendsSEMrush and Moz Keyword Explorer can help immensely in putting your finger on the pulse of trending and adequate keywords.

2. Using Keyword Stuffing

You might think using your target keywords in every sentence of your content would boost your ratings. That strategy couldn’t be more wrong. In fact, going overboard with using keywords is registered as spammy by search engines, which means it actually hurts your SEO performance.

That’s why keyword ‘stuffing,’ or overusing your intended keywords, is not crucial to your SEO success. Such an approach would make your content unnatural and useless for its intended audience. In fact, Google is employing a special semantic search called Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI). This program can recognize your content’s topic without the need for stuffing your content with repetitions of your target keywords.

3. Creating Content That’s Not About Your Keywords

Another common pitfall in SEO optimization is producing content that is not actually about your keywords. The problem is that you want to rank for a certain keyword, but you fail to focus the text on your target topic. Search engines like Google want to serve their users with the most relevant content for people’s search terms. Thus, if your content does not answer user needs, it won’t rank well.

 

This mistake is often a result of trying to fit a few different topics within a single piece of content, creating low-quality work just for the sake of including keywords, or optimizing for multiple keywords in one article. Your primary goal should be to produce content that truly corresponds to the questions and needs of your target audience, including using the right search terms. Then search engines will be able to trace your content as matching the keyword you are optimizing for.

4. Publishing Non-Original Content

This next typical mistake is related to the quality of your content. While duplicating texts was a common practice back in the day, today search engines penalize this approach. Copying and plagiarizing content is seen as a spammy practice and is highly discouraged.

Duplicate and thin content simply doesn’t work. Instead of ripping off copy from other places or using software that ‘spins’ the content into a new shape, it’s worth investing in creating original and meaningful texts. This is the only way to make sure your website doesn’t get downgraded and pushed in the back of search results.

5. Skipping Title Tags & Meta Descriptions

Optimizing your content does not finish once you include a target keyword in your articles. Title tags and meta descriptions are essential elements of SEO that should not be forgotten. Skipping them means a huge missed potential for your content. These optimizing factors are considered by search engines when crawling your website, so if properly done, they can improve the performance of your content.

 

Another technical detail that content marketers sometimes forget is including image tags. The alt tags of the visuals you include in your content are important, as they are another sign of how you are targeting articles. Search bots cannot see the pictures – but they can read the alt tags and add this information in the way they index your pages.

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6. Missing Quality Links

To get the best from SEO, content marketers today should grasp that the quality of external links included in content is more important than their quantity. That’s why it’s better to make sure you link to relevant, well-ranking websites with solid reputations – not just any site. It’s also useful to link back to sites that have linked to you, as this brings back traffic in the future.

Another counterproductive practice when it comes to links is using ineffective anchor text. This wastes precious SEO opportunities, as the anchor texts signify to the reader and to search bots what the link is about and how it can be beneficial to users. Thus, avoid using ‘click here’ as an anchor text and make sure you opt for a variety of anchor texts, as employing the same text over and over again can be seen as spammy.

7. Going Astray with Your Internal Links

There are also common mistakes when including internal links that you should watch out for. Naturally, it’s important to think about your top-performing pages and consider placing links to them in your content. This is a way to give them visibility and create additional traction. But make sure you don’t include internal links just for the sake of having them in an article if they don’t match the topic and focus of the piece.

 

As with keyword stuffing, it’s crucial to watch out and not overdo internal linking. If the content and links seem unnatural, the work will not be appreciated by your target customers. It would not be favorably treated by search engines either, as it can be seen as a fraudulent practice.

8. Not Investing in a Fast and Mobile-Friendly Experience

SEO optimization is not only about content and keywords. It’s also about the quality of your website, particularly its performance on mobile devices, which are users’ top choice today. Google and other search engines can recognize when your website is not mobile-friendly (think about the Mobilegeddon update).

If you haven’t considered a smooth mobile experience for your audience, your rating on search engines can be jeopardized. The same goes for load speed, as search engines put an emphasis on that as well. You shouldn’t be surprised if a slow website leads to lower SERP. You can use online tools like Pingdom and GT Metrix to analyze where the speed problems come from and how to fix them.

9. Not Using the Power of Influencers for Social Media Interactions

Optimization has a social dimension as well. When you are sharing your content on social media, one of your main goals is to get the attention of users who have a significant online influence. This means their content gets noticed by both your target audience and by search engines. That’s why it’s important to create relationships with such ‘power users’ and to use their credibility to promote your content.

Another aspect of this is submitting your blog posts or website promo to social sites such as Digg, Reddit, or Quora without having a ‘power user.’ It’s much easier to make noise about your content when the user sharing it has credibility on that network. Building relationships and doing structured outreach via influencers is an indispensable part of your optimization strategy.

 

10. Forgetting About Analytics

Last but not least, the only way to know if your SEO optimization and content efforts work is to track their progress. Many marketers would disregard the numbers, but this is a serious mistake. Setting up and regularly reviewing your analytics is essential for your optimization results.

Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools are just two of the main tools you can use to measure and get an overview of your website’s performance. With their help, you can see how your optimization is working for the different kinds of content and using various strategies you are trying out.

Search engine optimization is an indispensable part of any content marketing strategy today. While you can find plenty of advice online, making a number of typical SEO mistakes is quite common. Instead, it’s better to get well acquainted with the challenges that others have experienced and avoid them in your marketing efforts. These ten errors have proven quite widespread, so they are now easier to recognize before you make them.

Author:  Alexander Kesler

Source:  https://www.searchenginejournal.com

Categorized in Search Engine

What makes a site technically perfect? Here are the 7 factors that will likely play the biggest part in the technical SEO of 2017.

In 2016, there’s been a lot of speculation on the value of technical SEO. It was called makeup; some of it was proclaimed dead; but ultimately, it was brought back to life gracefully and conclusively with outstanding examples of technical SEO tactics resulting in major traffic boosts.

So why are opinions on this seemingly uncontroversial topic so divided? The problem may lie in the definition of technical SEO. If we refer to it as “the practices implemented on the website and server that are intended to maximize site usability, search engine crawling, and indexing,” then (we hope) everyone can agree that technical SEO is the necessary foundation of top search engine rankings.

In this post, we’ll focus on the seven fundamental steps to technical SEO success in 2017. Some of these have been relevant for a while; others are fairly new and have to do with the recent search engine changes.

Let’s get rollin’!

1. Check indexing.

Let’s start with the number of your site’s pages that are indexed by search engines. You can check this by entering site:domain.com in your target search engine or by using an SEO crawler like WebSite Auditor.

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Ideally, this number should be largely proportional to the total number of pages on your site, minus the ones you don’t want indexed. If there’s a bigger gap than you expected, you’ll need to review your disallowed pages. Which brings us to the next point.

2. Make sure important resources are crawlable.

To check your site’s crawlability, you may be tempted to simply look through robots.txt; but often, it’s just as inaccurate as it is simple. Robots.txt is just one of the ways to restrict pages from indexing, so you may want to use an SEO crawler to get a list of all blocked pages, regardless of whether the instruction was found in the robots.txt, noindex meta tag or X-Robots-Tag.

 

Remember that Google is now able to render pages like modern browsers do; that’s why in 2017, it’s critical that not only your pages, but all kinds of resources (such as CSS and JavaScript) are crawlable. If your CSS files are closed from indexing, Google won’t see pages the way they’re intended to look (and more likely than not, their styleless version is going to be a UX disaster). Similarly, if your JS isn’t crawlable, Google won’t index any of your site’s dynamically generated content.

If your site is built using AJAX or relies on JavaScript heavily, you’ll need to specifically look for a crawler that can crawl and render JavaScript. Currently, only two SEO spiders offer this option: WebSite Auditor and Screaming Frog.

3. Optimize crawl budget.

Crawl budget is the number of a site’s pages that search engines crawl during a given period of time. You can get an idea of what your crawl budget is in Google Search Console:

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Sadly, Google Search Console won’t give you a page-by-page breakdown of the crawl stats. For a more detailed version of the data, you’ll need to look in the server logs (a specialized tool like WebLogExpert will be handy).

Once you know what your crawl budget is, you must be wondering if there’s a way to increase it. Well, there is, kind of. SEOs don’t know for sure how Google assigns crawl budget to sites, but the two major theories state that the key factor is (1) the number of internal links to a page, and (2) its number of backlinks from other sites.

Our team recently tested both theories on our 11 websites. We looked at backlinks pointing to all of the sites’ pages in SEO SpyGlass, internal links to them and the crawl stats.

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Our data showed a strong correlation (0,978) between the number of spider visits to a page and its backlinks. The correlation between spider hits and internal links proved to be weak (0,154).

But obviously, you can’t grow your backlink profile overnight (though it’s still a good idea to keep building links to the pages you want to be crawled more frequently). Here are the more immediate ways to optimize your crawl budget.

  • Get rid of duplicate pages. For every duplicate page that you can afford to lose — do it. In terms of crawl budget, canonical URLs aren’t of much help: search engines will still hit the duplicate pages and keep wasting your crawl budget.
  • Prevent indexation of pages with no SEO value. Privacy policies, terms and conditions and expired promotions are good candidates for a Disallow rule in robots.txt. Additionally, you may want to specify certain URL parameters in Google Search Console so that Google doesn’t crawl the same pages with different parameters separately.

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  • Fix broken links. Whenever search bots hit a link to a 4XX/5XX page, a unit of your crawl budget goes to waste.
  • Keep your sitemap up to date, and make sure to register it in Google Search Console.

 

4. Audit internal links.

A shallow, logical site structure is the prerequisite of great UX and crawlability; internal linking also helps spread ranking power (or PageRank) around pages more efficiently.

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Here are the things to check when you’re auditing internal links.

  • Click depth. Keep your site structure as shallow as possible, with your important pages no more than three clicks away from the home page.
  • Broken links. These confuse visitors and eat up pages’ ranking power. Most SEO crawlers will show broken links, but it can be tricky to find all of them. Apart from the HTML elements, remember to look in the tags, HTTP headers and sitemaps.
  • Redirected links. Even if the visitor eventually lands on the right page, taking them through a number of redirects will negatively affect load time and crawl budget. Look for chains of three or more redirects, and update the links to redirected pages as soon as you discover them.

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  • Orphan pages. These pages aren’t linked to from other pages of your site — and thus are hard to find for visitors and search engines.

5. Review your sitemap.

You already know how important sitemaps are. They tell search engines about your site structure and let them discover new content faster. There are several criteria to check your sitemaps against:

  • Freshness. Your XML sitemap should be updated whenever new content is added to your site.
  • Cleanness. Keep your sitemap free from garbage (4XX pages, non-canonical pages, redirected URLs, and pages blocked from indexing) — otherwise, you may risk having the sitemap ignored by the search engines completely. Remember to regularly check your sitemap for errors right in Google Search Console, under Crawl > Sitemaps.
  • Size. Google limits its sitemap crawls to 50,000 URLs. Ideally, you should keep it much shorter than that so that your important pages get crawled more frequently. Many SEOs point out that reducing the number of URLs in sitemaps yields more effective crawls.

6. Test and improve page speed.

Page speed isn’t just one of Google’s top priorities for 2017, it’s also its ranking signal. You can test your pages’ load time with Google’s own PageSpeed Insights tool. It can take a while to manually enter all your pages’ URLs to check for speed, so you may want to use WebSite Auditor for the task. Google’s PageSpeed tool is integrated right into it.

If your page doesn’t pass some of the aspects of the test, Google will give you the details and how-to-fix recommendations. You’ll even get a download link with a compressed version of your images if they’re too heavy. Doesn’t that say a lot about just how much speed matters to Google?

7. Get mobile-friendlier.

A few weeks ago, the news broke that Google’s starting the “mobile-first indexing of the web,” meaning that they will index the mobile version of websites instead of its desktop version. The implication is that the mobile version of your pages will determine how they should rank in both mobile and desktop search results.

 

Here are the most important things to take care of to prepare your site for this change (For more mobile SEO tips, jump here).

  • Test your pages for mobile-friendliness with Google’s own Mobile Friendly Test tool.
  • Run comprehensive audits of your mobile site, just like you do with the desktop version. You’ll likely need to use custom user agent and robots.txt settings in your SEO crawler.
  • Track mobile rankings. Finally, don’t forget to track your Google mobile ranks, and remember that your progress will likely soon translate to your desktop rankings as well.

Those are our top 7 technical SEO tips for 2017. What are your thoughts on the technical SEO of tomorrow? Which tactics have you seen to be most effective recently? Shoot us a message on Twitter and let us know what you think!

Source : http://searchengineland.com

Categorized in Search Engine

It’s never too early to look ahead. In just five short years, SEO has encountered plenty of changes that definitely caught some experts off-guard. From algorithm updates, content quality, to best link practices, if you’re not ready for them, your web traffic – and everything linked with it (e.g. leads, clicks, sales, etc.) – could suffer.

With the speed at which changes occur online, there’s no telling which trends will win in SEO. But two strong contenders are video and voice.

Video alone gets millions of viewers daily thanks to its entertainment value. From funny cats to SEO tutorials, you can watch and learn anything, from anywhere. Plus, it’s easier to craft a compelling story in video format.

But the future isn’t as one dimensional. Aside from video, audio is not that far behind. According to the latest podcast statistics, podcast listening grew to 23 percent between 2015 and 2016. That means more and more people are downloading audio shows (podcasts) on various devices (e.g. PCs, iPods, mobile phones, tablets, etc.).

That’s not the only interesting bit about audio content. In one study, about 41 percent of respondents have used voice search when looking up something online. Tech giants such as Microsoft and Google are also refining features for voice capability. Partnering with third-party services, such as restaurant or travel apps for instance, helps make voice a more visible aspect of the future.

But what do these have to do with SEO? How will experts respond to a growing community of voice search users?

Voice Search: Why It Matters for the Future of SEO

It’s the job of digital marketing experts to be on top of trends – long before they become trends. This can be done by paying attention to rising patterns in user behavior and/or preferences. For instance: even though 20 percent of searches through the Google mobile app are vocal, it’s still not a very popular method. This means that:

a) experts should watch the numbers closely and start developing strategies; and

b) you shouldn’t focus on voice queries just yet.

Again: it’s a growing trend, but the figures are still hazy. It needs to be monitored still. However, it shouldn’t be devalued either. If you don’t give it the right amount of attention, you’ll be missing out on opportunities from voice search.

But why are these numbers growing in the first place? There are two main contributing factors. First, is the refinement of voice assistants or services like Cortana and Siri. Instead of just presenting results, they can now ‘converse’, too. You’ve probably encountered one or two funny responses from Siri at one point. This makes them fun AND easy to use.

 

Second factor is convenience. Why type when you could get the answer by simply ‘asking’ your phone? This is also highly practical when your hands are full (literally). Imagine cooking a dish in your kitchen, when you suddenly forget how many grams is 10 tsp. of flour. Instead of grabbing your phone with soiled fingers, you can just ask for the baking conversions. It’s quick, simple, and leaves your phone mess-free.

Aside from convenience and the obvious advancement of technology, SEO experts should do well to pay attention to voice search because it’s highly action-based. Unlike traditional searches, people who use voice search have the tendency to take action. Take the example of the baking conversions. You searched for them because you will use them immediately.

Okay Google, What Do I Need to Prepare for Voice Search?

As voice search is still young, you only need the basics (at least for now). Along with watching the numbers, try to incorporate these elements into your SEO campaign to cater to voice queries:

  • natural language queries
  • hard-to-aggregate content

Natural language queries are basically ‘normal terms in the person’s language’. This became an integral part of content marketing campaigns when Google introduced RankBrain, its AI that helps the search engine process new, vague queries.

Unlike the earlier years of search engines, when people needed to separate specific keywords, today, you can simply enter your query in the way you’d normally say it. Modern search engines like Google have more complex algorithms that can understand this and give relevant results.

For example: instead of typing the keywords ‘video, wedding, Kate Middleton, Prince William’, you can simply enter ‘I need the wedding video of William and Kate’.

Voice Search and SEO

The same goes for voice search. No need for machine language or special syntax. Just talk or ask in the way you normally would in everyday life.

If you want to take advantage of voice search, make sure to wrap your keywords around natural language queries.

For instance: if your keyword is ‘wedding photographer’, make it ‘where can you hire a good wedding photographer’ OR ‘what are the top tips that a wedding photographer can give’. Make sure these are actual questions your target market is asking. Use surveys or analytics tools to find this information.

Second, you would want to focus on hard-to-aggregate content. What is this? This is content that can’t easily be grabbed by search engine algorithms. According to Moz, investing in hard-to-aggregate content is one of the best ways to a) get ready for a rise in voice search usage, and b) create a sustainable campaign.

Hard-to-aggregate content includes complex information such as cooking recipes, in-depth product reviews, and human interest stories. Easy-to-aggregate content are usually numbers and figures, such as: sports scores, product ratings, conversions, and price comparisons.

Voice Search and SEO

These can be easily grabbed by search engines, making your content possibly obsolete.

Preparing for upcoming trends not only helps you maintain your authority as an expert, you also pave the way for sustainable digital marketing campaigns. Sure, we might not be using Siri as much, especially in public – but that doesn’t mean it will stay this way.

 

Who knows? In years to come, voice search would be so refined that it can even talk back or give intelligent suggestions. Maybe we might even be cracking jokes with Cortana or Siri in the near future.

Source : http://www.business2community.com

Author : Al Gomez

Categorized in Search Engine

I still enjoy watching John Oliver’s rant regarding the Journalism industry, and the great spoof at the end about the value of racoon cats. There is a mountain of clickbait and listicles to grab our attention, but not providing any real value!

However, it does appear that there is distinct value around Top 10 lists. In a recent blog post about the impact or reviews, there is an interesting section that states:

It strikes me that Google is doing a similar thing in the review space these days by placing numeric callouts from top review platforms front and center in Local Knowledge Panels.

One way this works at Yelp is that the Top Ten pages pick up significant internal page strength that is then passed on to the local business page. Also I think that Google takes special note of those Top 10 pages and assigns value to the listings in and of themselves.

 

This got me thinking about how Top 10 lists can be helpful for a hyperlocal publisher. Without further ado, the clickbait worthy Top 10 reasons that a local publisher needs Top 10 Lists:

  1. SEO benefits – a Top 10 list is a good way to build up page strength that can then be passed on to individual business pages. It’s yet another example of cornerstone content that we’ve repeatedly stressed as extremely important for publishers to create.
  2. Google now giving Top 10 lists more local authority – the post goes on to say that it appears that Google is giving Top 10 lists more authority for “near me” searches given the density of search result terms in them. This may wind up being a short term win, but the point here is that businesses that get more reviews tend to wind up in these lists, so actually another reason to consider a solid review policy.
  3. Helps with Reviews – Similar to #2, the more places a business shows up on your site, the more opportunities for readers to interact with them. And the more reviews a business has, the more visible they are. Synergy!
  4. Gives you links into Business Pages, which make them more visible with search engines – search engines will follow links on high quality pages, which makes businesses on Top 10 lists more visible.
  5. A way to engage your readers – People love to interact with lists. They will complain about their favorite place that was left off a list, or explain in gory detail why a business that made the list is undeserving. In any case, getting readers engaged is the name of the game.
  6. Create regular content people look forward to – Mixing up a little entertainment to go along with local news can be a welcome distraction for readers. Especially since the lists will be content they easily relate to.
  7. Gamify – While the viral success of Pokemon Go has seemed to subside, there’s no dismissing the power of gamifying the local experience. We’ve seen very creative contests and promotions that focus on Top 10 style content.
  8. Flexibility – Top 10 lists don’t have to be limited to local businesses. You could do a “Top 10 read stories this month”, a “Top 10 shared stories” and more. You can focus your efforts on whatever topic you want people to talk about or find good answers for.
  9. Great Search Results – not only do Top 10 lists help with your SEO on popular search engines, but it helps with search within your own site. The more content you have to describe specific businesses, the easier they can be found. Combine the great, targeted local content with curation from the publisher, and there’s no reason the search experience on a local publisher can’t be superior to a search engine.
  10. Backlinks – If your Top 10 content is high quality, a lot of people will link to it. Backlinks are still viewed as one of the top attributes for search engines, and getting more backlinks needs to be a priority of local publishers.

 

Top 10 lists are relatively easy to generate, tend to be longer content (which has been shown to help with SEO), and provide a great opportunity to generate links. This should be a regular part of every publisher’s editorial regimen.

Source:  business2community.com

Categorized in News & Politics

When it comes to SEO, you can never be sure what is right and what is not, especially when Google and other search engines change their policies so often. It even happens that you are working hard on certain SEO tactics and then realize you’ve been penalized for them in the end. That’s why you should try methods that do not just bring results, but are fully approved by search engines. Fixing the mistakes is painful, so you’d better not do any. Here are a few worthy tips to do SEO right from the very beginning.

1)  Check the guidelines occasionally

If you are involved in SEO marketing, try not to miss any update made by Google or other search engines to their optimization guidelines. They may change keyword density norms, the lengths of meta titles and meta descriptions, H1 tags optimization rules, etc. You need to be aware of all the changes made to the guidelines if you take your SEO job seriously. Playing tricks on Google is a risky business and may cost you your website reputation. Play safe with Google and avoid any black SEO tactics even if you saw other marketers using them and bringing massive traffic to their websites. Sooner or later, any suspicious activity gets penalized.

2) On-site SEO first

Before you start with link-building and other external SEO practices, make sure your website has a good internal optimization. Practically all the major elements need to be optimized for better search engine visibility and streamlined user experience. Optimize titles and descriptions, tags, internal links, etc. Check for broken links and ensure friendly website navigation.

 

This is particularly important for large websites with complex structures (e.g. news websites). Check your website for any broken code by using any of the markup validation services. Compress your images to make sure they load faster. Use .jpg formats instead of .png. Compress videos, presentations, and other multimedia. It will ensure faster loading speed.

3) Regular website updates

Search engines prefer websites that have new portions of content emerging on a regular basis. Choose SEO tactics that are tightly related to your content marketing plan. The best way to add new portions of valuable and informative content to your website is running a blog. Adding posts twice or once a week would be enough for search engines and your visitors. In addition, make regular updates to your website descriptions, enhance them, add new services, provide new images illustrating your products, and create videos showing your team working or product reviews. Publishing video reviews for each product is a good way to have the regular flow of high-quality content on your website. New testimonials and portfolio items will also add trust to your website in the eyes of visitors and search engines.

Speaking of a blog, do not publish only written posts. Create infographics, publish videos and combine them with the text. Embed carefully-selected keywords into your website and into each blog post you publish. Stick to the recommended content length – experts suggest that 2000-2500-word posts work the best for SEO. Write meta titles and meta descriptions for each piece of content you publish. Use consistent keywords for the search engines to rank your content higher. 

4)  Here comes off-site SEO

When your on-site SEO is taken care of, you can start with link building and other off-site SEO tactics. As mentioned earlier, SEO should always be centered around content. Thus, one of the most effective ways to build links is through content marketing. Create an editorial calendar and adhere to it strictly. You need to think about all the suitable places for your external publications. These can be news submission websites, article submission directories, social media. Guest blogging works undeniably well if done right. You choose the websites related to your industry, reach out to their owners and place your content there – this is how it actually works. 

Publications written by CEO's or profound industry experts get more attention and generate more exposure. Various case studies, white papers, and SlideShare presentations tend to generate a lot of traffic coming to your website. Before you employ your content marketing and link-building tactics, think about your in-house skills required for this, as well as those tasks you need to outsource. Create a detailed plan outlining your editorial calendar and frequency of your publications. Promote everything in social media – it is one of the most popular ways to build links to your website.

 

5) Reduce competition

As writing is going to be the major part of your SEO efforts, you need to choose the topics carefully. Try not to write about things that everyone else writes about. It will be difficult to compete with them. In addition, you will have to choose highly-competitive keywords for them. Write on something specific instead of too general things. Write about the aspects you have the deepest knowledge about. In the same way, choose very specific keywords that have little competition. Just remember that when reaching out to anyone, you reach out to no one. After you choose the main keywords, it is recommended to support them with long-tail keywords. Don’t try to cover everything in your single post – general topics have already been described thousands of times.

6)  Write for Humans

Some unexperienced SEO marketers make their content sound unnatural by optimizing it too much. Irrelevant keywords, their excessive use, machine translation from other languages – visitors will stop reading such content as soon as they notice such things. You have probably read articles that have just been translated from another language and no one bothered to correct at least the most embarrassing mistakes. Personally, I leave such websites right away and so do other visitors. This type of content is not going to do any good to your search engine rankings, so you’d better concentrate on quality instead of quantity. If you write for real people, you will encourage them to comment on your publications, share them and come back for more. This is exactly what search engines will reward you for. 

Conclusion

The choice of SEO tactics cannot be an endless process. You need to act, and the sooner you act, the sooner you understand whether they work for you or not. However, remember that black SEO is not the tactic you should experiment with. Today’s SEO is more and more dependent on content – which is why it is sometimes hard to draw the border between what SEO is and what content marketing is. Create your SEO plan and content marketing plan and you will see where they overlap.

Source : promotionworld

Categorized in Search Engine

SEO is alive and well, and continues to be a strong driver of targeted potential customers to websites across all verticals. According to Forbes, 82% of shoppers conduct research online before making big purchases, meaning there should be little debate as to whether or not SEO should play a major role in long term digital strategy. However, what continues to be a topic of internal debate is how your SEO program should be developed and managed – whether to outsource to an SEO agency or build an in-house team.

In my more than 16 years as an SEO professional, I have had the unique perspective of viewing this debate first hand from both sides of the discussion. Prior to joining Vertical Measures, I managed the SEO strategy and built in-house teams for two globally recognized brands: one, a leader in the hospitality industry, the other a Fortune 100 healthcare company.

In each of these roles, my team and myself were the “clients” working with several different agencies to help manage our digital strategy. Now, I work with one of the country’s top SEO agencies helping to develop strategies for a roster of Vertical Measures corporate clients.

In other words, I have seen firsthand the pros and cons of working with agencies and cultivating internal teams. With this in mind, I will share my thoughts on the challenges and opportunities that come with each.

Setting Realistic Expectations and ROI

Before deciding on whether to outsource or build an in-house SEO team, there are a few questions that you should answer that will help to set a reasonable expectation:

  • What impact are you expecting your SEO program to make on your business?
  • How much annual revenue do you expect organic search to contribute to your business?
  • What annual investment are you willing to make to generate that revenue?

Regardless of whether you outsource or build in-house, answering these questions will help you identify reasonable goals. This in turn with help you to determine the amount of resources that you will need to commit to achieve the level of success that you are expecting to see in year one, in five years, and long term. Just be aware that two of the biggest missteps that companies often make occur before their program gets off of the ground. They are:

  1. Failure to fully understand and commit the time and investment necessary to fully achieve their goals, and…
  2. Failure to give their SEO team (or agency) enough autonomy and internal support to be successful.

Resources

Managing Resources

One of the most obvious considerations when choosing between in-house and agency, is management of resources. The ability to effectively hire and manage qualified SEO talent is critical to the success of your program. 

 

 

Starting the Team 

In-house – Assembling a team of SEO professionals can be a challenge. It is difficult to find people that are really qualified at “reverse engineering” the search algorithm in order to allow them to fully understand the appropriate strategy to adopt.

Who will be the person qualified to interview and select the very first member of your SEO team? Will they know the right questions to ask in order to adequately assess candidates?

As you know, there are an infinite number of industry resources and blogs online today – suggesting that just about anyone with some free time and a curious nature can quickly learn the basics of strategy – and can communicate all of the right answers in an interview.

However, when you actually get them on staff, this may not be the case. Most people who work in IT or web design already think they can “do SEO.” And it’s usually not discovered until they are on board and you are deep into the process. Unless you are able find a candidate with the right mix of experience, temperament, and personality to take on the challenge, and ability to replicate that as they build your team, your program may not be successful.

There is often a temptation to underinvest on SEO staff. Often, a company may try to make do with a lesser experienced person. If your key SEO person is in over their head, it could stunt the growth of your program by months or years.

In a big company, a smart strategy for building an in-house team usually starts first with investing in a Director level position, who has been given the appropriate internal authority, and can build the team while setting the appropriate strategy in motion – and has the willingness to be hands on until there is a team in place. If you hire the wrong Director, a six-month plan can take much longer to be fully realized. It also has a tendency to leave a bad impression on the organization of the SEO industry as a whole.

 

Agency – The biggest advantage of engaging with an agency is that hiring and firing becomes their risk, not yours. Because agencies already have considerable experience in the industry, they have become adept at finding the right team members at the right skill level to successfully implement all strategy.

Scaling Resources

In-house – Another big challenge with managing SEO in-house is that the number of projects that you are able to develop and implement will likely be limited by the size of your team. If you have one Director/Manager, it is very likely that the majority of their time will be spent on internal education and extoling the virtues of SEO in order to build momentum for the program.

However, they may not have the bandwidth to actually get much accomplished. Your investment should include a plan to develop a team big enough to meet all of your goals within the desired timeframe. It also takes time to build a team. If you have allocated headcount for a team of 5-6, it could take several months before that entire team is in place – and an additional several months to develop a strategy and execute the roadmap.

Agency – Agencies are more flexible. One of the biggest benefits of outsourcing to an agency is its ability to assign additional resources as needed to complete all projects within the desired timeframe. If you have entered into a long-term agreement, 12 months or more, your agency will have the financial flexibility to add team members as needed to accomplish your goals.

Often there is a decent sized pool of talent with a wide range of skills and experience that can be re-assigned as needed based on the requirement for each project. If a team member is not a good fit with a particular client, they can easily be reassigned. This may not be possible in-house. Also, an agency can absorb the impact of a bad hire – often more effectively than an in-house team can.

 

 

Development & Execution of Strategy

Promoting the Brand

In-house – One of the distinct advantages that an in-house team has over an agency is that no one understands the nuances of your brand, strategy, corporate objectives, and even internal politics like they will. Unlike an agency, your in-house team will be present in internal meetings and privy to brand related discussions that the agency may never be exposed to.

As an example: In the hospitality industry, there are several layers of competition for the same keywords with direct competitors, affiliates, and even hotel owners themselves competing with the brand head to head for search engine traffic. I know of instances where it took as long as six months just to bring an agency fully up to speed and completely understand the industry before it demonstrated effectiveness.

Agency – This does not mean that your company will not have success working with an agency, but it is dependent on the level of communication between the two entities. The open access that an in-house team has to various key internal stakeholders, such as marketing, sales, and corporate leadership, is often reduced to a single person. If there is a challenge with communication at any point along the way from strategy to implementation it could severely limit their ability to make your program successful.

 

Implementation

In-house – An in-house team has the distinct advantage to connect and partner with the internal IT team as needed. An effective SEO team will understand that it is critical to invest the time necessary to forge relationships with key members on the IT team. Your SEO team should understand that your strategy is dead in the water without interdepartmental buy-in and ability to implement changes on the website in a reasonable time frame.

Agency – This is the most critical challenge that many agencies encounter. Without the ability to implement in a timely manner, success will not be achieved. I have seen this become a major issue with big organizations who are bound to an infrequent and often jam-packed development cycle. If you are part of a big company with implementation challenges, you should expect to sign at least a two-year agreement to allow enough time to develop a strategy built for long term success.

This can be an issue with small companies as well. They may have single webmasters who aren’t sold on the virtues of SEO. Their lack of faith may become a roadblock. This is also often the source of misinformation and frustration. SEO takes time to be fully realized on the search engines. If implementation is continually pushed out, the end of the SOW will be realized before success can be achieved. 

Building an SEO Culture

In-house Team – This is an important challenge that every in-house team faces. Building a culture of SEO requires the ability to train and to champion. Until all internal departments and leadership understands the importance of viewing everything on the website through an SEO lens, the rewards will be few and far between.

Agency – An agency can successfully provide the training, but is dependent on an in-house champion to change the internal culture. Vertical Measures has been very successful with developing custom training sessions that large brands have benefitted from. Many times a completely qualified in-house SEO team can gain a significant amount of additional traction just by enlisting an “unbiased” third party perspective that an agency can offer.

 

I experienced this first hand while working in the hospitality industry. We made a recommendation that was perceived as high risk, but it offered the potential of high reward. My internal team experienced a significant amount of push back from other internal departments. However, once we engaged with an external SEO agency that conducted an audit of our strategy, and because they recommended the exact same strategy we were calling for – our internal team saw buy-in. The result was a 500% increase in organic traffic over a 6-year period. 

Budget and Expense

Everything comes down to budget.

In-house Team – Building an internal team can be very expensive. There is direct salary, benefits, and usually a bonus system to consider. Unless a company has made the business decision to invest heavily in SEO, there is usually too few designated headcounts in the first year to see significant success.

Outsourcing to an Agency – Often an agency can be a much more affordable option. This is especially true of small to medium sized companies that do not have the resources of a large brand.

Final Recommendation

The bottom line is that the decision of whether to build an in-house team or outsource your program to an agency is dependent on many variables, and entirely reliant on how important organic search is to your overall marketing goals.

 

 

For many, the best scenario for a successful SEO program is a hybrid approach. For your program to achieve the greatest level of success, you should consider a small contingent of qualified internal SEO staff – or at the least a Director level person who can navigate the internal politics while being able to “speak the language” with the agency. This approach allows the Director to set realistic objectives, hold the agency to task with deliverable due dates, and communicate the performance details. If an SEO program is outsourced “lock, stock, and barrel” without someone to serve as a bridge between agency and client, the agency will face greater challenges, and the risk of failure for your SEO program is greater.

Source : verticalmeasures

Categorized in Search Engine
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