SEO 2017 isn’t that different than 2016, you’d think. It’s still about keywords and links, right? You might actually get surprised by the speed search engine optimization changes with. While you indeed still have to focus on keyword optimization and generating quality backlinks, there’re 7 factors that will dominate SEO in 2017.
Here you’ll learn which ones they are and how to implement them successfully – step by step.
Structured data has been around for a while but its SEO relevance wasn’t that clear until now. Therefore you probably didn’t care enough to check whether you have functioning schema, micro formats, or breadcrumbs.
Even websites offering recipes and other types of content that could get a lot more visibility by implementing rich cards, only rarely do it – whether because it’s beyond their technical skills or because they don’t care enough to follow the trends.
While all this may have worked until now, in 2017 search engines will no longer tolerate that kind of carelessness.
We see already now an incredible growth in direct answers, featured products, and rich card results in Google and there is a good reason for that. Internet users don’t want to waste time searching for stuff, they want to find something specific – quickly.
In order to stay relevant, Google has to deliver. Therefore websites with properly structured data that can be used into direct answers, product listings, etc. will be the big winners.
Yet an additional reason to focus on properly implementing structured data is that AMP requires certain types of structured data in order to function (read about AMP below).
This trend won’t only be relevant to SEO in 2017 but in the years to come. Therefore it’s important to start working on structured data now, so you don’t get behind your competitors.
SEO 2017 Action Plan Step I: Implementing Structured Data
The first thing to do is to check in your Google Search Console whether there are some types of structured data on your site and whether there’re some errors detected in it.
If you see records as the ones in the picture, you’re all set (with the exception of rich cards).
If, however, nothing appears, you must take action. You can enable schema markup easily by installing a plugin as All in One SEO and checking Use Schema.org Markup in the General Settings.
While this is an easy option, it’s easy because you can’t customize anything. If you can handle more advanced settings, you should install a plugin as WP SEO Structured Data which allows you to customize everything on each single page.
This might be especially useful when trying to work on personal branding (read below about personal branding).
No matter which option you choose, remember to revisit the Structured Data Report in Google Search Console and check for errors.
Errors can occur as a result of wrong implementation or plugin incompatibility.
Changes to SEPR
As Google has been experimenting with different formats for its SERPs, it’s quite likely that we’ll see a change in the way search results are displayed. More specifically, it’s possible that titles or snippets will get some additional space.
For you this means that you might be able to work on longer descriptions and headlines, include more keywords or get better at communicating your content’s value to potential site visitors.
The only issue here is that there hasn’t been any final statement on Google’s part clarifying how these new formats will work or whether it’s all search results that will get additional space in search.
SEO 2017 will in anyway be about killer headlines and sharp descriptions.
SEO 2017 Action Plan Step II: Adapt To The SERP
Even though the rules are not clear yet, there’s a way to try and boost your CTR in 2017.
You can try extending your descriptions with a smart second part. That is, write the sharp and short description as you’re used to but don’t stop there. After you’ve used the standard 160 characters, continue with one more sentence that confirms the message of the first part but goes deeper.
This is the best way to do it as it prepares you for any SERP layout while still keeping you sharp and relevant on other platforms, as for example social media.
The recommendation for title optimization is though to follow the old guidelines (max. 60 characters) until any new official guidelines are applicable. You’re probably already familiar with the 9 SEO rules for headlines – and you should stick to those. The reason is simply that headlines are more sensitive to losing a word or two.
Last but not least, we’re only talking about possible changes in Google SERP’s layout, meaning that appearance of links will still be the same as before all other places online – and that isn’t a few.
So, in order to master search engine optimization in 2017 you must master your titles and descriptions. If you still don’t use anything allowing you to customize them and the way they appear on SERP and social media, try installing a SEO plugin and get down to business now.
Mobile and AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages)
Mobile is growing steadily and there’s no indication that this will change in the future. This means two things: first and foremost, you must optimize for mobile. Whether you’ll choose to support a separate mobile site or turn to responsive designs, is up to you. What’s important is that people are able to access your content in a mobile-friendly format.
Google made it clear long ago that they won’t make compromises with this by introducing the mobile-friendly labels and giving a boost to those who complied. They are now taking the next step with the introduction of AMP (2015) and SEO 2017 is therefore going to be more than ever about speed and mobile.
In fact, according to Forbes, 37 % of news websites worldwide have already adopted AMP.
Even though AMP was officially meant to support news delivery, it does seem to develop into a universal website accelerator by promising to introduce support for pages.
It’s though important to note that implementing AMP doesn’t give a SEO boost but enables additional visibility features on mobile.
SEO 2017 Action Plan Step III: Go Mobile
As mobile layout for websites have been around for a while now, I’d guess that you’ve already taken care of that. However, if this isn’t the case, here’s what to do: buy immediately a mobile WordPress theme as one of these and start working, beginning from the most important parts of your site, such as a webshop or customer service center.
I say buy and not develop as you don’t have the time to do that. Supporting a mobile version of your site isn’t a task for your SEO 2017 plan, it’s something you should have taken care of long ago.
When mobile is taken care of, it’s time to take it to the next level. The next level is about speed. Whether you’ll choose to implement AMP or sign up for a quality CDN or both, it’s up to you. What Google is interested in, is that your pages load quickly.
CDNs are in fact a great way to optimize your website and get a SEO boost for performance but they do cost a lot.
AMP, on the other hand, is free, fairly easy to enable, and promise to give your posts additional visibility.
You have to install the AMP official plugin and enable it. Then you have to check whether your AMP pages work correctly and whether they are detected by Google. The first you do by entering http://yoursite.com/your-article-name/amp/ into the address field of your browser. If you end up on a nicely looking and quickly loading page, then it’s all fine.
The latter you do by logging into your Google Search Console and checking the Mobile Accelerated Pages report under Search Appearance. Be though aware that Google can be a bit slow in registering new content, so give it at least a week before making conclusions.
Be aware that AMP isn’t an alternative of a CDN. It’s a project embraced by Google that is supposed to enhance user experience on mobile by providing speed and additional functionality.
Depth and Quality of Content
It’s been true for a while that the depth and quality of content are quite important for SEO. In 2017 this tendency will continue to develop as search engines become more and more intelligent.
Before in time some took advantage of the system by publishing long posts about nothing, just empty words, hoping that search engines will confuse length with depth – and they did for a big part of it.
What is different now, is that Google has already introduced machine learning and has thus launched a new era in content marketing. Therefore already in 2017 SEO will begin to turn to the true basics of quality content: original, researched, and dense information.
Focus will be on question-answer type of content where specific issues will be reviewed in short, with the option to dig deeper by following relevant links.
Here is where the concept of topical authority comes in play. It allows you to research an issue from many different angles in separate posts and this way to deliver the type of on-demand information that already dominates our information needs.
SEO 2017 Action Plan Step IV: Deliver Quality
Unfortunately, there isn’t a simple solution here as installing a plugin. However, there’s a way out: topical authority can be applied to established sites to help them boost their SEO score. Here you can find the guide to instant topical authority revamp for established sites.
This is, though, only the beginning. You must focus on a content strategy that lives up to the standards of today (and tomorrow) and consciously deliver quality by publishing original content that fulfils a real need in a unique way.
If you’re uncertain about what you should be publishing about, you should start by researching your target group. Either ask them directly via a survey of sorts, for example integrated in your newsletter, or indirectly by reading ready research on target groups similar to yours (the first option is of course much better whenever possible).
Another way to deliver quality content is by performing targeted content curation. In its essence it’s finding valuable information on a subject by browsing multiple trusted sources and adding value by reviewing the subject in a more comprehensive way than otherwise available online.
What you should remember though, is that your content must focus on a single topic site-wide and research it in-depth in order to comply to the rules of topical authority.
Yet another new highlight of SEO in 2017 will be personal branding. It isn’t new as a concept but hasn’t really been exploited by SEO specialists so far.
Personal branding means to boost the traffic to your site by building a brand around those, writing on it. So, in a way, the idea is to cultivate your very own influencers.
There’s indeed no doubt that such a strategy will help your SEO in multiple ways: by boosting your traffic, social shares, and backlink generation.
Before in time Google tried to help webmasters brand their content by introducing Google Authorship. The idea was to identify authors across platforms and thus make it possible to assess their professionalism. Simple idea that unfortunately didn’t work out.
So now personal branding as a SEO task is up to you.
SEO 2017 Action Plan Step V: Brand Your Authors
This task has no standard solution to it as branding depends on multiple situation-specific factors. Therefore you should take the advice here more as different ways to go about it instead of as interconnected steps of a branding strategy. Just choose whatever options fit your situation.
- Make it an honor to write in your blog. Do that by inviting several prominent names from within your field as guest bloggers. You can, of course, pay the first ones that agree or make some sort of arrangements with them. This will attract other influencers in time and will boost your blog’s status.
- Hire specialists as your permanent writers. Choose names that are already known or make it a part of the deal to promote them via guest blogging, consulting, forum activities, etc.
- Make a name for yourself or the person/s who write in your blog. This you can do by making sure you’re always updated and well informed. You write only in-depth posts on subjects that are worth your target group’s attention. When you’ve ensured the quality of your blog, start guest blogging , get active on professional forums, and in groups on for example LinkedIn, Google+, or Facebook (depending on your field). Make sure you never write something you don’t know about and make it your cause to truly help others with your advice. It takes time but no big brand has been created overnight.
Already in 2016 we saw the incredible invasion of apps into our private world. Now there’s almost no fashion store, bank or even a supermarket that doesn’t have it’s own app.
The reason is simple: apps provide you with the opportunity to reach people always and everywhere and deliver your message. As this is an invaluable asset for any kind of store or content provider, there isn’t any doubt that apps will be crucial for your SEO in 2017 and beyond.
Even though it won’t give you an advantage in Google Search, it’ll give you something better: the opportunity to reach out to your target group without the intervention of Google and without the need of an action on your target group’s part.
SEO 2017 Action Plan Step VI: App Integration
Well, this is a simple one. As long as you have something to offer, you can use an app. The advantage of bypassing SERPs and reaching out to a potentially passive part of your target group is a reason enough to integrate an app in your marketing plan.
Whether it’s recipes, blog posts, fashion or groceries you offer, you’ll get a lot out of investing in an app.
What you should do is either develop an app yourself or get someone to do it for you. Your app should be easy to use and offer most value for the time spent using it.
In connection to this point, WP Blogging Nerd is looking for an app developer that will help us deliver content directly to people’s phones. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
Site age has long been considered as an important SEO signal and it will continue being important in 2017 as well. Especially due to the incredible boom of new websites since the 00s, surviving some years in the online universe really means something.
Therefore your SEO 2017 strategy should include some steps that signal that you’ve been around for a while. If you’re totally new online it will be difficult but you can still do something to try and convince Google that you’re here to stay.
SEO 2017 Action Plan Step VII: Aging Online
- If your business has been around for a while, it’s likely that you’ve been through one or many rebranding processes, mergers, etc. In such case it’s crucial to not kill old websites just like that. Instead make sure that your old websites redirect properly to your current site via a 301 redirect. This is how you avoid losing potential traffic and help a new website “age” in the eyes of Google.
- If you’ve recently followed Google’s advice to switch to HTTPS or plan to do it, it’s important to understand what it implies and how to switch from HTTP to HTTPS properly in order to avoid the quite a few pitfalls on the way. Due to an imperfection in the way Google functions, a new HTTPS version of your site is actually treated as a new website.
- If you’re totally new, it’s impossible to make Google believe you’ve been around for a while. You can, however, still do something to try and earn Google’s trust: register your domain for as long a period in the future as at all possible. This signals your intent to stick around.