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Keeping up with the times: SEO trends you need to know for 2017

As 2016 draws to a close, it’s now a great time to take stock of where you are and to start thinking about what you should focus on in 2017 when it comes to online marketing. But what should you invest your marketing budget on next year? What are the major trends you need to get on board with, and what’s best consigned to the dustbin of history?

In this post, we’ll look at what SEO trends you should know about for 2017.

Discovering trends in your industry

The first step towards a successful 2017 is to be able to identify growing trends in your industry. Could you be missing out on tons of relevant traffic in a growing area because you’ve been left in the dark about it’s significance?

Let’s take fashion retail as an example. As Berian Reed revealed at Brighton SEO back in September, consumers start searching for next year’s hottest products around six months early.

Below, we can see Google Trends data for searches for Converse shoes. This indicates that each year in August, people begin researching the Converse range for the following year.

So what can you do with this knowledge? If you were a shoe retailer selling Converse shoes online, you could set up a page about Converse’s 2018 range in July 2017, positioning yourself to capture relevant search traffic ahead of your rivals.

Next, launching a link building campaign to highlight the hottest Converse products due in next year can help to boost your “authority” on this topic with Google. This means by the time January comes around, your Converse 2018 page has already built up a history with Google, while your competitors are likely starting at square one, giving you a great chance of nabbing top search rankings.

Clearly then, Google Trends can be a great way to uncover useful nuggets of information that can give you an edge on the competition! Why not try experimenting with it and seeing what you can uncover? (and let us know what you find!) 

SEO in 2017 is all about quality content

The phrase “content is king” is possibly one of the most overused phrases in the digital marketing industry. What really matters though, is content quality.

The fact is, the requirements of on-site content have changed a great deal over the last few years, particularly as a result of the successive Panda updates from 2011 onwards, which penalise sites with poor quality or thin content.

Most marketers recognise this and go to great lengths to ensure when they’re creating new content, it’s the best that it could possibly be.

However, what about all the old content that used to be ok, but is now regarded as “thin”, “low quality” or otherwise in violation of Google’s guidelines? Often, these are left as they are. It’s very daunting to delete a load of old pages – perhaps because, as marketers, it’s our nature to create things rather than destroy them?

In actual fact, deleting mountains of content can actually improve your results, which is something that Everett Sizemore laid out perfectly in his post on Moz.

Here, he shares the case study of Phase Design Studio, whose site had countless low quality, outdated and duplicated pages dating back as far as 2006. After collating all these and 301 redirecting them to a handful of newer, high-quality landing pages, traffic began improving dramatically and the company suddenly saw an eight-fold increase in leads in the space of a month.

Everett believes the reason this worked is down to three things:

  1. The ratio of useful, quality pages versus poor quality pages improved
  2. The SEO value of the content went from being spread across vast swathes of pages to being concentrated into just a handful
  3. Google is now able to find all the content with greater ease, making better use of “crawl budget

We all know that spammy tactics don’t work any more, so if you manage a large site, a thorough content audit can uncover this kind of out of date content that could be stopping your site from reaching it’s potential. We have some great content audit templates we could share with you - get in touch if you'd like to carry this exercise out with us.

Bypass the competition with featured snippets

Back in May, I spoke about how audiences find and connect with content at the Content Marketing Masterclass. One of the things I covered was "featured snippets", which Google is currently using to help people find great content in search, such as this one below which appears when you search for spaghetti bolognese:

These featured snippets have been showing up more and more regularly in “position zero” for a wider variety of search terms. Data from STAT at the start of the year said that these snippets appeared on 9.28% of searches, however by July 2016, they reported this had increased to 15%.

Gaining featured snippets can really help to increase your search traffic, giving you a click through rate as much as 80%. That’s more than double the 35% click through rate that you’d normally get from a position one ranking for a non-brand search term. We've seen some great evidence of this with our own clients when we've included this in their ongoing content marketing strategy.

Best of all, you don’t even need to rank naturally at position one to get a featured snippet – the majority appear for sites that naturally appear below position 4, making it a way to bypass the competition. 

Writing your content in a way that can help it appear as a featured snippet is a great way to boost your organic traffic, so go to slide 25 of my slide deck to find out how.

Mobile-first indexing is on its way

At the start of November, Google announced that it was working on mobile-first indexing. While the search engine said at the moment it’s just an experiment, it will soon roll out to the search engine, means that Google will primarily look at the mobile version of your website to determine how high it should rank for specific search terms.

This is of particular importance to brands who use a separate mobile site, for example one that’s hosted on a subdomain or in a subfolder, or have a scaled down mobile site with fewer pages or less content on each page.

While Google have said they will fall back to your desktop site if a suitable mobile page is not found, it is likely that this could negatively impact rankings, particularly if your competitors have quality mobile sites already.

So what should you do next?

The first thing is to ensure your mobile website is in order. If your site is responsive, then you shouldn’t have too many problems, as this is Google’s preferred method of mobile optimisation.

Things can get a bit more difficult if you have a separate mobile site, as you’ll need to make sure structured mark-up matches up, and you may need to flesh out your content that is visible to mobile users, if it’s heavily cut down. Google provides a more detailed overview of important considerations here.

Supercharge your site’s speed

Finally, speed is an important area you should focus on. When it comes to loading web pages, users are generally a demanding bunch. Research by gomez.com and Akamai reveals that 47% of users expect a web page to load in two seconds or less. Furthermore, if a web page takes more than three seconds to load, 40% of people will abandon it. 

If your site is taking more than three seconds to load therefore, you could be missing out on a great deal of traffic, as well as enquiries or sales off the back of those lost visitors.

But it’s not just traffic and conversion rates that suffer at the hands of a slow site – your rankings potentially could too.

Brian Dean at Backlinko.com recently analysed over one million Google search results, comparing website load speeds verses rankings.

By comparing the median load time of one million domains and charting this against their Google rankings, Brian found a strong correlation between site speed and search positions:

Yes, correlation does not always mean causation – it could be that webmasters who manage well optimised sites just happen to have fast sites too. However, given that a faster site delivers a better user experience and can lead to more traffic and enquiries as a result, doesn’t it make sense to aim for a faster site anyway?

Wrapping up

So there you have it – a whole list of SEO trends to look at that could maximise your digital marketing results in 2017. Ready to take it to the next step? If you need help putting together a content audit, identify how to speed up your site, or to put together an effective content marketing strategy based on what your customers are really searching for, why not get in touch?

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