By Neil Patel
2017 is here! I get excited with the changing of each year because it always presents new opportunities and new ways to improve both in marketing and in life in general.
It also gives me motivation to make any adjustments I need to be a better marketer.
Of all the forms of online marketing, I think SEO is the most dynamic.
That’s simply because the state of SEO is ultimately in the hands of Google that’s perpetually tweaking and improving its algorithm for optimal user experience.
This means plenty of potential for those who stay on top of things and continually rethink their game plan.
And to me, success largely comes from planning ahead and always having a strategy in place for getting to where I need to go.
That’s why I brainstormed some key aspects of SEO that I feel are most important for 2017.
They’re elements you’ll definitely want to incorporate into your overall strategy to help you keep pace.
I also think they will take you much further than just 2017 and be instrumental in the success of your campaign for years to come.
With that being said, here’s how to create a killer SEO plan for 2017.
Put more attention on local search
Google Possum is an algorithm update that occurred in early September 2016 that specifically impacted local search.
In particular, it affected how websites ranked in the 3-pack and Local Finder.
Although Google never actually admitted to making any changes, countless experts in the SEO community noticed big changes to local search results.
An article from Search Engine Land illustrates just how big of a wave this update created.
Here’s a screenshot that highlights how positioning changed in local search results:
And here’s a graph that illustrates this data:
When you break it all down, “64% of keywords saw some type of change.” That’s pretty dramatic.
This tells me that the Possum update was a significant one and something that marketers will want to be aware of.
It’s especially important if you’re a brick-and-mortar business with a demographic that’s strictly located in a single city or region. If this is the case, Possum demands your immediate attention.
The first thing I recommend you do is check out this other article from Search Engine Land. It’s one of the most comprehensive and will fill you in on most of the details.
I also recommend you put more attention on local search in 2017 by doing the following:
- diversify the local keywords you’re trying to rank for. For instance, instead of targeting “pet store albuquerque,” also aim for phrases such as “pet store albuquerque NM” and “albuquerque pet store”
- update your Google My Business listing if you haven’t done so in a while
- be aware that Google is using IP addresses when generating results
Put mobile first
So, mobile is kind of a big deal these days.
But seriously, I think 2017 is officially the year marketers will put mobile first and desktop a distant second.
This is a graph from Moz.
It’s a little hard to read, but at the bottom, it explains that blue represents desktop search from 09 – 11/2016 and the orange represents mobile search from the same period.
As you can plainly see, mobile search is much more dominant.
Furthermore, Moz points out that, “20 industry niches out of 24 see mobile as their first source of traffic.”
Now, I’m not suggesting that you should abandon desktop completely. Of course, there’s going to be a sizable number of your visitors still coming through desktop.
But I truly believe that 2017 is the tipping point where SEOs should have a mobile-first mindset.
What exactly does mobile-first SEO entail?
- Using responsive web design (RWD) if you haven’t done so already
- Getting rid of interstitials (these will actually be penalized in 2017)
- Simplifying your web design
- Minimizing redirects
This article from Search Engine Land offers more helpful tips.
Go warp speed
Having a website that’s just fast isn’t fast enough anymore.
It needs to be warp speed, lightning quick—you get the idea.
While it was definitely important to have a fast site in 2016, I can’t stress enough how important it will be in 2017.
Research suggests that “40 % of online shoppers will abandon a website that takes more than three seconds to load.”
This is especially true with the emergence of mobile where users expect a fast and fluid experience.
If your site is behind the curb, it’s going to hurt your number of visitors, leads, and inevitably conversions.
Google even launched the Accelerated Mobile Pages or (AMP) project, which “is a stripped-down version of the mobile web which runs on a reinvented version of the language used to create web pages: HTML.”
Long story short, this is a tool that helps websites speed up their load time dramatically.
I recommend checking out the AMP project and learning more about it.
You can also get my take on it from this post I wrote.
I also suggest going over a previous post on Quick Sprout that discusses how to make your site insanely fast.
Address voice search
If you’ve ever seen the movie Her, starring Joaquin Phoenix, where his character falls in love with his AI virtual assistant Samantha, you’ll know just how big voice search has become.
In fact, “Google says that 20% of mobile queries are voice searches.”
Just look at how the popularity of voice commands has grown over the last year:
And this is a growing trend that’s only going to continue to grow. I know that I find myself using voice search more and more these days.
It’s just more practical and efficient than typed-in search. And if you’re driving, it’s simply a matter of safety.
That’s why I think voice search is most definitely something you’ll want to work into your SEO plan for 2017.
But how do you go about it?
Well, for one thing, you may need to rethink the way you approach keywords.
Here’s what I mean:
If someone was searching for a pet store in Albuquerque on their desktop, they might type in “pet store albuquerque.”
But if they were doing it through mobile voice search, they would probably say something like “Where is a pet store in Albuquerque?”
The point here is that focusing on longtail phrases involving questions is a logical strategy.
This graph provides a breakdown of the growth in question phrases year over year:
“Who,” “when,” “where,” and “how” are ideal question words to begin with.
I also suggest writing content using a conversational tone. It should flow naturally almost like you’re having a dialogue with your audience.
A plus is that this approach should help you come across as being more personable and will bring a sense of warmth to your content.
This is important for making those all-important connections and building equity for your brand.
Think scannable content
Scannable or “snackable” content kills two birds with one stone.
First, it improves the user experience because readers can quickly move through a large volume of content and find the little nuggets of information they’re looking for.
In turn, you can improve engagement levels, increase shares, maximize your CTR, and so on.
Not to mention it’s easy on the eyes with plenty of white space breaking up a wall of text.
Second, it’s very helpful from an SEO standpoint.
By including plenty of sub-headers, bullet points, bold text, etc., you help search engine bots decipher your content and figure out what it’s all about.
This should ultimately have a positive impact on where your content ranks in SERPs.
I have written about the topic of scannable content in a few different places, but I really recommend checking out this post on Quick Sprout.
It will fill you in on the details.
I get the feeling 2017 is going to be an interesting year for SEO. I feel like the whole landscape is going to be shaken up like never before.
I also think that many of the formulas marketers have been following for years will be turned upside down and new approaches will be necessary for keeping up.
If you’re a mom-and-pop, brick-and-mortar type of business, I especially recommend revamping your local SEO strategy to account for the Possum update from earlier this year.
The good news is that if you’re located outside of your city’s physical limits (e.g., Hialeah rather than Miami, FL), you have a better chance of appearing in searches including the actual city.
I also suggest being a little obsessive about your site speed. Increasing the speed even by a second can yield big rewards.
You can use the Pingdom Website Speed Test for free to see what shape your site is in from a speed standpoint.
And as always, a successful SEO campaign requires perpetual maintenance, so be sure to keep up with trends as they unfold.
What do you think the most important elements of SEO will be in 2017?