Whatever way you look at it, 2016 was an interesting year. Huge political change across the world, musical and cultural icons passing away and the continuous remarkable development of new technologies. When it comes to the future of marketing, it’s all about the online world, and the technologies therein. Physical forms of marketing, such a radio or TV adverts, billboards and magazine adverts have very much had their day. Untargeted marketing has had its go, and while it was passable when it was all we had, it’s got nothing on the power of targeted digital marketing.
Developing an online presence and brand is crucial. Becoming a well-known, respected and authoritative entity in whatever industry you’re in is the absolute crux of digital marketing. This can be achieved through SEO, social media marketing, SEM, online advertising and a variety of other forms and techniques of digital marketing. The interesting, or potentially frustrating, issue with digital marketing and SEO is its ever-changing rules. Due mainly to the pace of technology, and Google’s interests in keeping abreast of it, as well as providing a great browsing experience for its users, SEO is set to remain an ever-adapting, shifting craft.
With several new technologies becoming completely viable in 2017, such as virtual reality, and voice recognition, you can expect to see these technologies being championed by Google, as they did and continue to do with mobile devices. Their continual improvement of the search algorithms which aim to prioritise quality, reputable, useful sites above all else, means that quality content continues to be king, and as such it’s time to start prioritising your content. You’ve also got to think about what techniques and elements are going to keep their place of power in this ever-developing industry.
Years ago you could play the system by using quick, cheap black-hat SEO techniques like keyword stuffing to achieve a great ranking position. It would take no time at all to achieve a page one ranking. Content generated via content spinning software, with literally hundreds of the same repeated keywords, dominated, clogging up Google’s SERPs. Google’s been dealing with such problems for a long time now, predominantly via their Penguin software.
Google Penguin is an algorithm update designed to enforce Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and combat sites that are spamming or playing the system in unusual ways. Specifically targeting sites that utilise black-hat SEO tricks, Google Penguin effectively polices sites, with off-putting penalties in store for sites that don’t toe the line. Massive drops in ranking aren’t uncommon, with first page sites dropping to the fifth or sixth page, undoing huge amounts of SEO time and effort. Cheap techniques like duplicate content and keyword cramming are chief offenders. Panda serves a similar quality-orientated purpose, weeding out suspect sites like content farms, and other low-quality websites.
The net effect of these increasingly powerful search engine algorithm filters is that playing the system just isn’t worthwhile anymore. While you used to be able to use a combination of white and black hat SEO techniques to attain a great ranking, it’s just not worth the potential penalisation of black hat techniques. Punishments like losing ranking positions all the way up to the sixth or seventh page, or worse, being delisted from Google’s search indexes, can prove very, very damaging and costly to a business.
All this works very effectively to place the crown squarely on the head of quality content. Quality, multi-media, authoritative content has never been more valuable to search engine ranking. While this might not sound all that cutting edge, it’s Google’s frequent tweaking, and tightening the noose on low-quality content that renders great content ever more relevant and powerful.
Utilising varied media, such as infographics, text, videos, and onsite applications (such as an interest calculator) is a great way of demonstrating the quality and user-friendliness of your site to Google’s search crawlers. No one likes poring over huge blocks of text, but similarly just having videos or infographics can also prove very unhelpful. Imagine you’re researching a subject, and you’re looking for an explanation of a concept, an illustration or infographic, plus maybe some bullet points or a checklist, a site that utilises multiple media formats is much likelier to tick all the users’ boxes. It’s all about having a balance of varied content for your user and becoming an authoritative one-stop-shop of information.
It all centres on Google’s aim to shift focus to the user experience. Their primary aim is provide the smoothest and most helpful search experience possible, and as such, websites that prove helpful and authoritative. Concise or dense content is also important. No one wants to read 3000 words to acquire information that could’ve been conveyed in 300 words, and Google’s catching up on that.
You need to look at the technologies that are finally becoming advanced and functional enough to become popular and commonplace. A few years ago, that would’ve been mobile browsing and responsive web design, for 2017 you can expect to see new ways of browsing to take the helm. Advancements like voice search and virtual reality could replace the traditional keyboard-monitor-mouse set up. You can start to expect smoother and more ergonomic browsing experiences as these technologies become perfected and mainstream throughout 2017.
Imagine offices where instead of old-fashioned desktop setup, you’ve got virtual reality headsets, along with voice recognition and eye tracking software. It could make for an unparalleled browsing and working environment, and all that is just around the corner. Adapting virtual reality from simply being a tool for video games, and using it for all manner of screen-based activities could prove very interesting and useful.
What does this mean for SEO? Well, Google has always been quick to prioritise sites that utilise responsive web design, allowing for modern handheld devices to access them smoothly, so you can expect Google to be just as forward thinking and pragmatic about other advancements. Voice search is just becoming smooth and functional enough for easy usage, so you can expect that to start having a huge impact on search engines, and that should make it a key area for SEO through 2017.
More and more people are turning to their mobile or tablet to browse, rather than their desktop, as such improving people’s mobile and tablet browsing experience is of continuing huge importance to Google. Having a responsive, speedy site has long been a speculated ranking factor, but as we enter 2017, you can start to expect it to gain higher precedence among Google’s key search ranking factors. As more and more people have access to speedy 4G mobile internet, and mobile web browsing only continues to grow and develop, Google will respond by prioritising sites who adapt accordingly.
Having a quick loading time, and a smoothly running site should be of huge importance anyway, but as we enter 2017, and Google’s, and the other search engines, efforts to modernise keep marching on, it will pay to keep up. While website designers have long been incorporating these points into their sites, it’s set to get steadily more and more important.
A big part of this is Accelerated Mobile Pages, or AMPs. AMPs can load up almost instantaneously on mobile devices, up to four times quicker than current load times, and have the potential to use eight times less data. This obviously makes them a great ranking signal as far as Google are concerned.
Google are always looking to improve. Throughout this last year, we’ve seen several key updates to the search engine result pages, such as the implementation of relevant snippets and rich answers. On sites, you can start highlighting key pieces of information to be partially featured at the top of a relevant search page. Web designers will have to start highlighting this information with tags like ‘featured snippet’ or ‘direct answer’, allowing Google to pick these pieces of info out, and present them first to the searcher.
All this indicates that we’re set to see more and more of this kind of thing as search engines become more intelligent, complex and able to accurately predict what searchers are particularly looking for. Today, it’s great for basic searches, like recipes or facts, but tomorrow, and through 2017, we could see it becoming much more common, and that’s something we need to bear in mind when creating content and tagging within sites.
Speaking of more complex search operations and algorithms, Google is already starting to go a little Skynet, and building algorithms capable of machine-learning and even artificial intelligence for their search systems. Their RankBrain software, released several months ago, utilises machine-learning to predict what searchers are looking for, even when they’re not using keywords marketers might predict. This is just the beginning too, AI and machine-learning will go much further in the next year. This could lead to a very slick, adaptable and personal browsing experience for everyone, and it could prove difficult to utilise this in individual site SEO projects. Gender Discrimination in The Workplace Research Paper
So what’s going to stay the same, beyond quality content? What can we continue to rely on through 2017? The answer is link building. As we head on into 2017, the importance and power of quality links will still be questioned, however, with more algorithm updates putting all elements of SEO under closer and closer scrutiny, quality link building looks to hold its value and more in the years to come. Any SEO outreach agency worth their salt will know its lasting importance.
So why is link building so important? Well, first off, rarely among ranking factors, quality linking has been confirmed by Google to be a very potent factor, equalled only by great, authoritative content. This puts having a thorough network of inbound links to your site, from reliable and respected sources, almost on a par with the actual content of your website. Getting those links can often be something of an ordeal nowadays, as the quality of links falls under examination more and more. It’s a case of continually developing your link network, and always looking to improve and expand upon it. Long story short, it’s a lengthy but rewarding process, when done right.
As more and more other SEO and digital marketing techniques fall under scrutiny via Google’s Penguin and Panda updates, as well as other aspects of the search algorithms, it’s reassuring to link building retain its value. While it is a labour-intensive process, it at least won’t stop being a great sign of a site’s authority, relevance and importance to Google anytime soon.
However, link building remains as powerful as ever as a method of getting great rankings. Done right, it’s easily more potent than almost all other little tweaks and tricks in the ranking expert’s guide, and any SEO agency that respects that, and the effort that needs to be put into that is on the right track. The fact is, links will always be relevant because there are few other quality signs quite as believable and trustworthy.
As Google’s Penguin and Panda updates get more and more advanced in the coming year, you can expect to see link building come back to the fore as one of the prevalent SEO techniques. With both Panda and Penguin designed to root out black-hat SEO techniques and put the focus right on quality content, quality links and great, functional sites, the spotlight has never been more on website excellence. Getting ahead in your link building strategy could mean the difference between that first page, or the fifth.
Google’s aims will always be to incorporate new social trends, the latest technology and generally modernising and improving the user search experience. As such, you can expect things like voice search, virtual reality, optimising the SERP pages, and prioritising speed and responsive web design to play a big part. It’s all a big exciting step forward into the future of browsing, however, if you don’t keep abreast, you might quickly find yourself left behind. Finding the right search engine optimisation agency to help you keep abreast of these changes can be a challenge, but a great agency will always be ahead of the curve.