2017 is drawing near — time of the year to start planning next year’s online marketing strategy. With so many changes to SEO and the increasing importance of driving the right kind of traffic to your website, knowing what your next move should be can feel overwhelming.
New trends and big changes in SEO practices are no surprise to anyone; the only thing businesses can do is learn quickly and adapt strategies accordingly. To help you catch up and provide a little guidance for your SEO initiatives in 2017, we’ve listing eight important things to focus on as the New Year approaches.
#1 – Mobile takes top priority
Earlier this month Google announced its plan to implement mobile-first indexing:
“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.”
This shouldn’t be a shock since Google has been giving priority to mobile-friendly sites since it rolled out Mobilegeddon in 2015. It’s also an inevitable shift as mobile usage and mobile search continue to increase every year.
What you need to remember when building a mobile website?
- It needs to load quickly on mobile devices.
- Your mobile site should be readable and immediately usable on tables and smartphones.
- It should help users through the different buying stages or decision-making process
If you have a mobile version of your website or are already using a responsive design, now would be a good time to reassess and make sure that it is performing well across tablets and smartphones of all makes. Remember that both speed and mobile usability matters for good SEO.
#2 – It’s all about speed
With all the innovations and advancement in technology, people expect nothing less than a website that loads quickly. How fast your website loads directly effects how often people will come visit your site and whether they turn into repeat customers. Search engines also consider speed an important factor when it comes to your SEO ranking, so a speedy website will appear more in searches.
Is your website up for speed? You can check how fast or slow your website loads with Google’s PageSpeed Tool. It will give you some insight into what’s causing your website to load slowly and offers tips on how to fix them.
To make sure that your website is loading fast:
- Make sure that your web host is keeping the servers updated and providing fast loading times
- Implement smart coding practices on your website.
- Optimize images and avoid using Flash
#3 – Set up Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) for your website
Accelerated Mobile Pages is another trend that you shouldn’t ignore if you want to improve load times on mobile devices and ultimately improve search visibility and traffic. We’ve written about AMP in our post “Should You Implement AMP For Your Website?” Give it a read if you are still thinking about whether or not to implement it on your website.
Why implement AMP?
- AMP results are displayed more prominently in mobile search and therefore drive more traffic
- Websites with AMP gets more returning visitors compared to those without
- AMP results enjoy higher click-through rates and better ad performance
#4 – Time to get serious about schema markup
If you’re still ignoring schema markup then you are missing out on your chance to boost your SEO. Quick Answers and Featured Snippets now show up more frequently on SERPs and by implementing schema markup in your website you have a real opportunity to stand out and showcase your products or expertise. Although it’s important to create quality content for users, you also have to ensure that search engine spiders/robots also understand the content. By using structured mark-up, you can tell the search engines exactly what your content is about.
How to implement schema markup in your website?
- For starter, you can use this slide presentation on how to create a simple schema for your business profile. This will help you display your business information better on SERPs.
- If you’re using WordPress, there are several plugins that you can install and configure to implement schema markup on your pages.
- To add schema markup manually, Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper will generate structured data markup for some common types of website pages. Take advantage!
#5 – Location matters
If you have a storefront or you’re providing services from a physical location, then Local SEO should be your top priority. Search engines are now showing more and more local results, especially on mobile devices, so optimizing your website around these local ranking factors can help you stand out in search results.
How to optimize your website for your specific location?
- This Local SEO guide will help you get started.
- Claim your Google My Business Page.
- Don’t forget to encourage reviews from your loyal customers.
#6 – Rethink your keywords
For the past couple of years, search algorithms have evolved from simply finding matching keywords to using a more sophisticated semantic approach. Rather than just showing webpages that include a given phrase, search engines now incorporate user intent and present them with results that aims to be more relevant to what they’re searching for – even if there are no exact match keywords on the page.
These changes mirror the changing practices of the person conducting the search, especially since the introduction of voice searching. Adapting to these changes is important; you need to take a different approach to your SEO keyword research and implementation.
What keywords should you aim for in 2017?
- Go for topic-based keywords with user intent in mind
- Consider using long-tail keywords
- Don’t over-stuff your content with your broad target keywords. This old practice doesn’t work anymore and will instead cause your website to be penalized.
- Do use your target keywords in your meta data. Although, meta data does not affect ranking to any great degree anymore, it’s still important to have your keywords in these fields since meta data (such as page title and description) represent that page (and your company) on SERPs.
#7 – Be creative with your content keeping users in mind
Businesses big and small are all investing in content creation to deliver meaningful information to their target audiences. With everyone trying to get noticed, just churning out any old content will not be enough. Adding visuals to your content helps it stand out. Images and videos are proven to improve a web page’s click-through rate and engagement. You can either create new content with captivating visuals or repurpose some of your old content (like bog posts that are still relevant) by presenting them in a new different format. Just remember to:
- Always aim for quality over quantity
- Developing engaging and useful content should be your priority
- Use your content to guide your audience through the decision-making or purchase process
Here are some previous posts that will help get you started with visual content creation:
#8 – Take the time to understand your analytics
SEO requires a lot of work so you want to be sure that any changes you make are actually helping to boost your website’s presence and bring more leads and sales for your business. The only was to be sure that your work is paying off is to take the time to analyze your website performance.
There are so many tools that you can use to better understand how users interact with your website. Some, like Google Analytics and Console, are extremely robust and free of charge. Using these tools helps you can gain insights into what is working and what needs to be improved.
If you haven’t been paying attention to your website performance, we recommend reading our posts, “Five Things To Look At If You’ve Never Looked At Google Analytics” and “Google Analytics For The Newbie: Acquisition Reports”
While it’s always a good thing to keep up with the latest SEO tends, your main focus and ultimate goal should be to connect with your target audience and convert them into loyal customers. That means keeping your audience top of mind during all aspects on your optimization process, including creating content that is relevant to them, answering their questions and responding to their concerns and encouraging them to engage with you. Make 2017 your year to shine in search!