Google never rests! 2017 has only begun and Google has continued its trend of keeping marketers on its toes. With only three months in to the new year, Google has already released four major updates to the Google algorithm and we expect more to continue coming throughout the rest of the year.
While, many of the updates Google introduces catches digital marketers off guard, there are still major trends that we can keep an eye out for. These trends are often a continuation of small updates and changes that Google is currently working on. Some of them have already seen a start in 2016 and are expected to continue into 2017.
Here are a few trends that we expect to see in 2017:
1. Optimization for User Intent
While keywords play an important role, these days relying simply on keywords to boost your product or service is not enough. Digital Marketing has grown to the point where only focusing on one aspect for results is futile. You need to have a rounded strategy in place to successfully market your products on the internet.
This is why keywords come in handy, it targets a general population. However, with the coming update this might change. User knowledge of search engines have grown, they no longer just rely on generic keywords for their search and instead now opt for complete phrases or more informative keywords. This is why Google is optimizing their search engines for being able to identify user intent, rather than key phrases.
So, in 2017 brands are expected to modify their digital content based on user intent, rather than keywords. They will be required to conduct elaborate research for what the users are searching for, the amount of time they spend on which websites and their level of interaction with the websites, before they can start creating an effective marketing strategy.
2. Google’s Rich Answers
When you search something in Google, it usually provides you with an answer in a small snippet box along the top with the link from the website that the excerpt is taken from. Following that box, is a list of other websites, videos, events or information related to the search.
This enhanced listing, also known as Rich Answer is an easy way for the user to get the answer they want and it also works wonders for companies and websites to help promote their websites, but only if they optimize their content correctly.
While this is a great way for users to get easy access to data, for companies this might put an extra burden. Website owners will have to add a structured data markup, also known as a schema markup to their websites to get them to rank on the enhanced listings on search engine results pages (SERPs).
In addition to the excerpt taken from the featured website, the Google Snippet or Rich Answers also show the link to the exact website and these links, which often have a higher click rate because they are featured.
Another reason for this trend to take off in 2017 is the increase of Google’s focus on Voice Searches, which returns rich answers around 43% of the time for a voice query, making it a great potential for many tech savvy companies.
3. Cross-Channel Marketing
I’m sure you have heard of multi-channel marketing and are wondering if cross-channel marketing is anything like it. Well, both forms of marketing are similar, but very different. Multi-channel marketing is when you establish your presence on more than one marketing platform, i.e. E-mail, Google Ads, Facebook Ads, etc. However, Cross-channel marketing is an extension of the former. In addition to establishing your presence on multiple channels, it is important to use several channels to market your product in an integrated manner.
A great example of this would be Amazon’s ‘We Noticed You Were Interested In’ section. If you are browsing something on the Amazon website, but do not purchase anything, Amazon prompts you with an email reminding you the items that you were browsing on their website. You can also notice similar items on Facebook as well.
With a lot of marketing options exhausted, cross-channel marketing a great way to increase your market reach in 2017.
4. Mobile Optimization
The mobile trend has become prominent with a lot of people using their smartphones as their primary screen. This has resulted in a lot of website owners of modifying their websites for mobile consumption. This trend doesn’t seem like it will slow down, rather as mobile screens get bigger and better, desktops might eventually become a thing of the past.
This is why Google has been weighing heavily on mobile optimization for websites, with apps getting even better. It has already taken necessary steps to phase out the importance of desktop and has now promoting mobile optimization as good SEO habits. It has even revamped YouTube and is killing annotations in favor of Cards to make it more optimized for mobiles as annotations are not visible on mobile.
5. Voice Search
As Google’s Algorithm evolves and becomes better, errors are down across multiple services, specially ones that are integrated with AI. The time for text queries are in the past, with more people shifting to voice searches, allowing Siri, Cortana and Google Assistant to simplify their lives.
Hands-free are allowing people to multitask and now integrated with more sophisticated intelligence, the error rate in Google’s Assistant has reduced from 25% to just 8% in the last two years, a magnificent feat.
With more people becoming hands-free and relying heavily on their phones for almost all tasks, Google is definitely promoting this in the coming years.
Another sign that Google is favoring mobiles over desktops is AMP or better known as Accelerated Mobile Pages. This is an open-source protocol that allows webmasters to create pages optimized for mobiles and has up to 4 times faster loading speeds.
As more people shift to mobile browsing, regular web pages take way too long to load and AMPs reduce the loading time by saving the cache on the cloud and websites loading from the Google-hosted cached version. While, Google has not yet made AMPs the norm, it does promote AMP pages, by giving them visibility in a carousel and giving them an icon (a lightening bolt). AMP websites also perform better in search, both in terms of rankings and CTRs.
So, we might end up seeing more webmaster optimizing their websites for mobile, by shifting them to AMPs.
7. Improved Algorithms
With John Giannandrea at the helm as Senior Vice President of Search at Google, we can expect to see more improved and sophisticated algorithms. We’ve already mentioned that smarter algorithms were responsible for reducing the error rate in voice searches, now more algorithms are being pushed forward to make Google and your internet experience smarter and more handy.
There is also the release of Google RankBrain last year, that suggests the possibilities of algorithmic learning and is expected that Google Hummingbird will continue working to figure out about how users phrase conversational queries and update its algorithm accordingly.
With VR once a dream and now a reality, machine learning is expected to spread its wings into all avenues of technology and 2017 seems like a great year to make some amazing headway.
8. Switch to HTTP 2
While AMP works well for Mobiles and Tablets, we still needed a way to decrease loading times on desktop browsers. As we already know, Google rewards websites that has low loading time and as such any technology that helps reduce this time is often helpful. This is why HTTP 2 should be readily acceptable by webmasters across the world.
This is the first time since 1999, since we have received a new version of the HTTP protocol and it promises faster websites for everyone. HTTP/2 is largely based on Google’s SPDY protocol, which was deprecated in 2016. The HTTP/2 offers more features than the older HTTP/1.1 protocol such as as single open connection to the server that remains open until the website is closed, multiple request option that no longer waits for older requests to be completed, additional resources can be sent to the client for future use, easier and more compact parsing for servers, and reduction in overheads.
It is expected that Google will ramp up support for HTTP/2, promoting websites that have started using this protocol.
9. Meaningful Content
This trend remains constant throughout the years since the introduction of Google. Spammy websites that are stuffed with keywords for the sake of trying to climb up the ladder in rankings is something that Google has time and time again penalized. Google, instead likes websites that include good content that is useful for the users, as well as good SEO practices. This hasn’t change and with Google’s algorithms getting revamped and updated, Google continues to tackle spammy websites and links with stricter penalties.
The only change in the coming trend is that in addition to focusing on written content, Google also now promotes audio/visual content. Good videos and audios are now becoming a prominent form of content and is expected to see more growth in the coming year. In addition to these being a great form of catchy content, it is also easier to share with users.
10. High Quality Backlinks
Another trend that has been prominent across the last few years. Good quality backlinks are very important, with better links helping owners rise higher in rankings on Google pages. However, spammy backlinks continues to cause problems for websites.
If you want to devalue your bad backlinks, you can also use Google’s Disvow Tool to let Google know that these backlinks are not under your control and to not count them in the rankings. Google’s recent Penguin update is also expected to devalue bad links by penalizing select pages instead of penalizing entire websites for them. However, Google still recommends that webmasters use the Disvow File to keep a track of bad links, instead Google’s algorithm misses it.
Quality backlinks are very important and they will continue to be important in the coming years, so this is one trend is isn’t going anywhere.
These are a few of the trends that we believe will play an important part in the SEO and Digital Marketing World. It also goes without saying that practicing Good SEO is important if you want to continue to stay relevant in the world of Google. Things such as good content, sound keywords and great backlinks are some trends that will continue to help you stay on Google’s good side.
However, you can definitely implement some of the trends mentioned in this guide to help stay ahead of the times and your competitors. Happy SEO!