The one thing I love about SEO is that it’s always changing. Even when you think you’re on top of it, you’re really behind, because they’re already looking ahead to updates we won’t even see for years. That’s why trend-watching is so much fun. Predicting the ever-changing world of search engine optimization can be exhilarating, frustrating, exciting, and depressing, all at the same time. Even with all of these conflicting emotions, I can’t think of a professional SEO company out there that isn’t trying to keep tabs on what’s going on in the world of SEO.
It can be difficult because, to be honest, Google is continuously rolling out updates, often with little warning. In addition to the surprise updates, you can never be 100 percent positive what exactly the search engine provider chose to update. Most companies will discover the changes as they find penalties, loss of ranking on the search engine results page, and lower traffic coinciding with the date of the most recent update. While Google may tell you what you can do to regain your spot, they might not — and you’re outside of the index and outside of your potential customers’ search results.
Just like speculation abounds for updates, there are other aspects of the field your SEO specialist is watching,, including these top seven trends. Take a look to see what you can implement today to give you a stronger second half.
More Mobile Emphasis
The signs have been there. Over the past few years, Google has been putting a higher priority on mobile-friendly sites. They created the mobile-friendly test so that Webmasters can make the appropriate adjustments. They launched AMP — Accelerated Mobile Pages — to highlight pages using AMP coding on their pages. Search Engine Land notes that its 2016 introduction spurred global interest; Baidu, a Chinese search engine, has integrated similar coding and technology, indicating that, like Google, they’ll favor pages with this coding.
Late last year, Google indicated that it would be splitting the index into two: one for desktop and one for mobile. The announcement was made late in October, with most early followers anticipating a release within several months. As this happens, you should be talking to your professional SEO company to make sure your Web site is mobile ready. Make sure your site is responsive, add in AMP coding, and audit your site structure to make sure it’s loading as quickly as possible.
Making the Most of Mobile Use with Voice Search
While it’s already been released, expect to see greater growth of Google voice search features. Most mobile users have become accustomed to automated searchers: Siri, Cortana, Robin, and even Amazon’s Alexa and Echo. The ease and speed with which these voice-prompted search tools produce results is improving with each new release.
Companies have been so diligent about rapid progress because voice search is a popular option for most searchers, especially considering the growth of mobile and the ease with which someone can just download an app and complete their search. One study shows that more than half of the teens in the U.S. and more than 40 percent of the adults use voice search on a daily basis. Stay on top of the growth trend by making sure your Web site is optimized. Check your local listings, incorporate long-tail keywords, and, like we’ve said before — create thorough, detailed content with your end user in mind. Start writing the same way people talk, from the body of text to the keywords they might be using to find you Web site.
Tune Your Brain to RankBrain
Google has placed a high priority on giving real people they content they want when they search, so not only do they want to give people the chance to speak it out, they also want to try and preemptively meet their needs. They want to make sure that when they rank a Web site or Web page, it positively affects both a searcher’s mood and money. That’s one reason it’s so important to find a professional SEO company that gets content marketing. It’s been at least six years since Google released Panda — and a strong statement on the need or Web pages to meet the needs of humans.
Since then, Google has decided to help its search engine meet those human needs, especially when faced with brand-new queries. RankBrain is a form of artificial intelligence, just one of the many different algorithm factors that determines the results you see. However, in just the first few months of its release, RankBrain became “the third-most important signal contributing to the result of a search query.” In the coming months, expect to see RankBrain becoming an even greater contributor — which means you need to learn how to meet the needs of this new technology. Look to expand your keyword offerings, give your pages substance and depth, and make sure that, in addition to publishing high-quality, value-added content, you’re giving your Web site visitors an outstanding overall experience, which includes page speeds, graphics, navigation, and more.
Now, Let RankBrain Guide Your Choices
If Google is letting RankBrain influence their results so highly, it’s important to use that in your favor. Have you noticed the predictive text in the search box? RankBrain’s rapidly expanding knowledge and intellect means that it understands the nuances of grammar. From abbreviations and acronyms to punctuation and plurals, you’ll start to see a difference in your keyword research.
We started to see the shift in 2013, when Google released the Hummingbird update and showed a marked priority for pages that combined the context, content, and intent of the searcher — greater weight was placed on quality, where the content matched the meaning, than on quantity, where the content matched the keywords. Through RankBrain’s release and development, semantic searching has been a stronger influence in search results. It’s more than the words you type. It’s about how the words you’re using work together to put the searcher’s intent into a greater context. For example, instead of creating pages ranked for each of 25 different keywords, consider grouping them together by what the searcher really wants.
This means instead of writing pages for “buy fidget spinners,” “where to buy fidget spinners,” “fidget spinners in (MY CITY) Ohio,” “who sells fidget spinners near me,” and “fidget spinners near me,” (can you tell I have elementary-schoolers who really want to spin plastic for hours?), you’d create one page with its keyword based on “find stores that sell fidget spinners.” Then, instead of spending your time create multiple pages of content, you can spend the same amount of time on one really well-written piece.
RankBrain has also been gaining ground as a moral compass for Google. SEO specialists who are using unethical means to increase their ranks are seeing greater penalties for trying to get around Google’s rules. As RankBrain’s intelligence level grows and gains greater ability to recognize the patterns, habits, and tendencies, it’s more important than ever to make sure that the professional SEO company you’ve hired stays above board and maintains a positive program.
Call Attention to Visual Content
Google released Uptime, an iOS app that allows people to watch YouTube videos together. They can comment, meet new people, and connect the same way people do while watching a Facebook Live video. Even its creation speaks to the popularity of videos, images, and visual content. With that in mind, give your followers what they want.
Long blog posts and guides should include graphics, charts, and other pieces that break up the long blocks of text. Yes, text appeals more to the bots that are indexing Web pages — but the masses have spoken, and that picture really can be worth a thousand words to your target audience.
Go With Google
While other search engines exist, we’re primarily focusing on Google for one reason: where Google goes, others will follow. Just look at Baidu’s incorporation of AMP-similar language. Your professional SEO company is watching Google’s updates, and you should, too. They are considered the bellwether, the trendsetter, and the industry leader.
When you’re looking to make a change in your SEO strategy, study Google. Look at their most recent updates to see where they seem to be heading in their priorities (hint: people-first content), and start to align your plans with their projected path. It won’t be right 100 percent of the time, but if you study the past updates, you’ll see common themes rise to the top — which should help guide your future decisions.
Create Quality Content
This really is the key to great SEO, and something every professional SEO company needs to watch for. Content is what brings visitors to your site, content keeps visitors on your site, and content brings them back to your site. Whether you’re publishing engaging and informative blog posts, educational and instructive guides and white papers, or compelling and shareable infographics, the words and images you select make a tremendous impact on the people visiting your site.
As you’ve seen, Google is making ranking decisions based on how well a Web site meets the needs of its visitors. From making voice search more relevant to using artificial intelligence to predict what visitors will want, Google is really honing in on the people side of the Internet. That means you need to, too. Think about what your customers want. Study the analytics. Analyze the demographics of your target audience. Put yourself in their shoes.
You can have all of the technical in place, but successful SEO stems from successful content. The links that add value and make an impact are the ones that others are likely to reference, giving you outstanding exposure and credibility. Those are the blogs people will subscribe to read. They’re they infographics people want to share. Each of these is a plus in the eyes of Google’s index, pushing you closer and closer to the top.
In fact, one report notes that a decrease in SEO jobs and what they were paid in 2016 has led to a new shift in 2017, where “we’re seeing SEO become more of a skill or requirement for marketers, rather than a job title.” Content is the base for a solid marketing plan — and the key to rising in the search engine results. Google’s updates have become more frequent and their impact has become even more far-reaching — but their focus on quality content that improves a user’s experience and life is expected to only become more important. Work with your professional SEO company to develop a thorough content marketing plan. Focus on your keyword research, write compelling and crawlable headlines and subheads, and optimize your images with alt tags, concise descriptions that match your users’ keyword searches, and a well-planned and executed content and composition of the image.
Why You Need a Professional SEO Company
Not sure where to start? Give us a call. For a limited time, we’re running a free SEO audit. We’ll take a look at what you’re doing and help you prepare your search engine optimization for a better second half — and more. Our skilled professionals understand the ins and outs of technical and off-page SEO. Our team of copywriters will take your ideas and turn them into content that engages but converts and gets results. Most importantly, everyone involved understands what your customers want, and will make sure that every SEO step you take is designed with your readers and site visitors in mind.
What SEO trends are you excited about this year? What has you nervous? What do you plan to start working on now so that your second half is stronger than ever? Share your thoughts in the comments below.