Search engine optimization—SEO—is in the spotlight these days.
New technologies and an even more secretive Google make for plenty of talking points; there hasn’t been this much speculation over the future of SEO for quite some time.
Finally, the discussion has moved beyond long-tail keywords and mobile-friendliness.
Here are 10 killer SEO tips for 2017:
1. Target engagement factors.
The biggest change we’ve seen from Google in recent years is a greater emphasis on user experience. Mobile is the main point of focus for Google, but the search giant also wants to know whether the pages it ranks actually provide the information users are looking for.
The only way Google can really confirm this is with engagement factors. These include bounce rate, conversion rate, number of pages visited and time spent on site. This is where optimizing your site for user experience has a direct impact on your search ranking.
2. Cut your load times.
When mobile optimization and engagement factors are core parts of Google’s algorithm, you know loading times are important. In 2017, the majority of users expect your pages to load in two seconds or less—and this goes for mobile users, too.
Use mobile loading times as the benchmark for your brand and make speed a priority.
3. Be aware of AMP restrictions.
This is where you have to be careful. Google knows that loading times are a problem. It’s the main party behind Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), which is designed to speed up the mobile web. There are some things to be aware of with AMP, though:
- Your AMP content is hosted on Google servers, not yours
- You don’t get the AMP traffic
- It can be difficult for users to click out of AMP onto your site
- You lose control over design and development
- It can be difficult to leave AMP once you’re signed up
You don’t necessarily need AMP to create fast web pages, though, so if you don’t want to go down that route, spend time looking at how to increase speed in other ways.
4. Get voice search on your radar.
This year’s big talking point in SEO is the rise of voice search. With Google Home and Amazon Echo devices cropping up in homes, marketers are keen to push the notion of optimizing for voice search.
At the moment, people aren’t really using voice search to buy products or do anything of real commercial value. Even Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos admits voice search is only going to take you so far on shopping. However, given the speed with which technology is developing, you should definitely have voice search on your radar while we wait to see what happens.
5. Automate your SEO audits.
One area to definitely invest in is automation, and the first place to start is automating your SEO audits. With automated reports, you get notifications when links break, indexing issues crop up and other technical SEO problems emerge.
6. Automate your competitor research.
Competitor research is another task you should automate as much as possible. A good competitor analysis tool will give you real-time data on who your search competitors are and which keywords they’re ranking for—plus some important clues to the impact of algorithm updates upon your industry.
7. Reach a wider audience by becoming a news source.
Two-dimensional content strategies don’t really cut it anymore. At the very least, you want to do two things with your content marketing efforts: expand your audience and get people to take action.
A good strategy for expanding your audience is to establish yourself as a news source. Publish short news stories (daily if possible) covering your industry and schedule them to post several times per day on Twitter. Get yourself in Google News and network with other news sites in your industry to expand your reach further.
Be aware of the AMP restrictions mentioned above. If you still want to sign up, that’s fine. Just don’t rush into it.
8. Spur action with long-form content.
For content that gets people to take action, long-form stuff really adds value. You’re not limited to lengthy text articles, though. Video series, webinars, online courses and case studies are all great options for long-form content that inspires action. The important thing is to solve problems for your audience—i.e., save people money, help them improve their career, make buying choices easier, etc.
9. Provide transcripts for your infographics and videos.
It’s amazing how many brands overlook this vital SEO tip. When you publish infographics, videos and other visually rich content, Google can’t see them in the same way humans can. That means Google can’t match them to queries unless you provide the context it needs to rank visual content.
For images, you can add alt text and captions to provide context. Infographics and videos contain a lot more information, though, so provide HTML transcripts that Google can crawl. This will also make your visuals accessible to screen readers—something too many marketers overlook.
10. Stop obsessing over algorithm updates
When the SEO industry isn’t busy hyping up new fads and trends, it tends to go nuts about Google algorithm updates. This obsession stems from the black hat days of trying to cheat the system—figuring out what makes Google tick and then trying to exploit it.
This is approaching SEO from the wrong direction.
There’s so much machine learning in its algorithm now that Google’s own technicians aren’t sure what makes it tick anymore. So focus on making your pages indexable, creating the best user experience you can and producing content that people want to find—the things that really matter.