18 SEO Experts Share Essential Insights on Strategies for 2017

As we begin to usher in yet another new year, the SEO team at Soap Media decided it was time to take a look at what we can expect from SEO in 2017.

SEO has had a somewhat busy year in 2016 (as it does most years), introducing one of the biggest changes that we have seen for quite some time;  the real-time Penguin update. Although it has seen many webmasters battling against Google penalties, for the first time ever, we are seeing quicker returns from good SEO practices.

So, with the impending arrival of 2017, we reached out to some of the greatest minds in search engine marketing and asked them for their thoughts on what we can expect to see over the next 12 months. From optimising content for conversational and voice search, a resurgence in link building and the continuing rise of mobile, there’s certainly a lot for webmasters to consider if they want to stay on top. We have sourced some great insight into the future of search and we hope you’ll find lots to take away with you.

Google SEO | Soap Media

Dave Schneider

Twitter – @ninjaoutreach

Website – ninjaoutreach.com

“I think as with every year SEO in 2017 will get more and more competitive as more people who know what they are doing enter the respective markets. Every year the definition of quality content gets better, more sites become user friendly, and Google cracks down on black hat methods. So, I just think it will be tougher than ever to get started.”

Marie Haynes

Twitter – @Marie_Haynes

Website – mariehaynes.com

“I think that in 2017, we’re going to see more and more that the only links that move the needle are truly good links that users actually click on. It will be interesting to see how much importance rising factors like AMP, https and mobile friendliness have. I think that more and more as Google encourages webmasters to make their sites as useful and user-friendly as possible, these factors are going to be more and more important.

I’m also excited to see what the new Penguin has in store for us. So far it seems like it is much more fair than previous versions. Let’s hope that continues!”

Josh Bachynski

Twitter – @joshbachynski

Website – themoralconcept.net

“I have recently uncovered evidence showing user metric based AI algorithms (which some call RankBrain, even the new Core Panda) are already as important for ranking as links (not 33% of the algo as previously reported in Forbes, but actually closer to 50%!) and will become even more important than links in 2017

CTR, efficient user task completion, search termination, and conversions have been and will become even more the primary SEO tasks. SEO will become almost synonymous with good UI/design.”

Ryan Stewart

Twitter – @ryanwashere

Website – webris.org

“I think “content” will need to be revisited. The web has become crowded with everyone cranking out blog posts left and right, it’s increasingly difficult to get visibility.

We’re starting to do content clean-ups before we even think about content creation, as we’re finding a large majority of websites are bloating with bad, irrelevant, dated and just plain bad content. We’re seeing this hurt overall indexation, crawl budgets and ultimately traffic and rankings.

“Content is king” in the right context, and it doesn’t mean you should fart out blog posts like your business depends on it. Content needs to be looked at as an opportunity to get more traffic and exposure and SEOs need to understand that just pushing out blog content isn’t going to accomplish that goal.

SEOs will need to learn to get more creative and educated on what good content looks like and figuring out the right framework to create it on different mediums (i.e. for social ONLY, video, etc). Otherwise, they’re going to get drown out in the noise.”

Patrick Hathaway

Twitter – @HathawayP

Website – urlprofiler.com

“I think the biggest thing we need to pay attention to in 2017 is AMP. Gone is the ‘Mobile-friendly’ tag in the SERPs, we’ve already moved on to ‘AMP’ results appearing in the SERPs and being tagged – beyond the AMP carousel.

What I can see happening is the AMP carousel becoming the norm – where users swipe between fully rendered AMP pages, instead of scrolling down a page and selecting links. This would fundamentally change the way users interact with search results, and could be a massive change for the search industry, not least in terms of how we judge success.”

Frederic Chanut

Twitter – @FreddyChanut

Website – inmarketingwetrust.com.au/frederic-chanut

“Value and conversion metrics for Content marketing

Content will still dominate most discussions for 2017 but we will start seeing senior management starting to ask for a better visibility on return.

Drop in focus for Link Building and Flight Towards PR Level Outreach

With Penguin now part of the main algo and a drop in value on the origin of links, building crappy ol’ links just won’t do any good now.

What we will see is a flight for quality and metrics asked by clients will now include a lower volume but a higher quality of links.

Tech SEO Renaissance

Getting your tech right will quickly return to top priority from schema markup, error rate, AMP, page speed, mobile usage.

CRO and SEO will Merge

The medium for that will be voice search where approach to content will shift toward providing the best answer to users.

Organic Beyond Google

SEOs will expand beyond search engines and will incorporate things like voice search, chat bots and feed based marketing. In that, the lines between paid and earned will blur based on platform (Facebook et al).”

Cyrus Shepard

Twitter – @CyrusShepard

Website – cyrusshepard.com

3 Big Changes Coming to Search in 2017:

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) are a game changer that continues to dominate more organic real estate. Publishers, especially in news verticals, are forced to play along whether they want to or not, or face the alternative of showing up lower in search results. While Google has publicly stated AMP isn’t a ranking factor, AMP pages are displayed more prominently in places like news carousels, Google News apps, and other places.

A separate mobile index is coming! This may likely be the biggest news of late 2016/early 2017. The problem is we still don’t know what it means, except that it will be both separate and faster than Google’s desktop index. This is a big deal because up until now, both mobile and rankings were based on the same desktop index. Now that may change. The problem is that people often strip out links, content, and metadata from mobile pages that they don’t believe are necessary. If they aren’t there when Google’s mobile crawler sniffs the page, how will this impact your rankings? We don’t yet know the answer to these questions, and Google isn’t saying, but watch out for big developments.

Just a prediction, but I bet Google continues to invest in and roll out machine learning algorithms like RankBrain. This means a shift from delivering search rankings based on traditional signals (i.e. links) to a system that more and more delivers results that Google learns people actually want. This means that SEOs and search marketers need to pay attention to the disciplines of User Experience and CRO more than ever, as these are increasingly leading to real gains in search traffic when executed properly.”

Ajay Paghdal

Twitter – @ajaypaghdal

Website – <a “rel=”follow” href=”http://www.linkio.com/”>linkio.com

SEO branding will continue to grow in importance year over year. With Google getting increasingly savvy about understanding user intent and the anatomy of quality content, the biggest way a business can differentiate itself from competitors is to have a better branded SEO profile.

Great branded profiles plus quality content equals increased trust with Google. Instead of trying to game the algorithm with keyword rich anchor text links, focus on improving your branded SEO. By doing so, Google upgrades your non-branded rankings as a byproduct.

Eric Enge

Twitter – @StoneTemple

Website – stonetemple.com

“As we get further into 2017, we’ll see an increasing focus on content quality and user engagement in that content. This does not mean that other factors like links will go away. They still play an important part of the overall rankings mix. They measure authority in a way that other signals can’t. But, Google will continue to do more and more to move towards a better evaluation of quality and engagement signals. Some of this will be driven by continued growth in the use of machine learning by Google.

And, that’s another trend right there – increased application of machine learning. However, unlike many, I don’t think it will completely disrupt everything in the way search works. It will get used selectively to make improvements where they make sense. I don’t expect Google to throw out perfectly good human generated algorithms.

But, they will have a significant impact over time, and that trend will continue in 2017.”

Jason Duke

Twitter – @JasonD

Website – the.domain.name

“Search will not have radical change in the organic ranking but constant flux in the overall SERP page. I know that seems contradictory but I foresee the page becoming more focussed on delivering ad revenue to Google, while aiming to become more tailored to you as an individual.

Whether by Google’s Guarantee from Home Service advertisers expanding internationally and across more verticals. Whether it be deeper learning from voice search and Google

listening around your home or office, to expand its data and understanding of you. Whether it be voice 1st, mobile 2nd and desktop last. Whether it be by purchasing Twitter for a song and deeply integrating real time data back into the SERP. Whether it be within your car on the daily commute, the one area Google are likely to be missing in most people’s day at present.

Ultimately though I do see usage of the SERP page increasing so although there will be less clicks per search available for organic results, I do think we’ll see greater SERP page counts being delivered, meaning that there will be more organic clicks to be gained for those that do rank.

Oh, and links will matter more, with or without Rank Brain, Penguin 4, 5 or even 6. SEOs will be going out there to gain them as effectively as possible, with very few people trying to compete with Google, but with all the other hardened SEOs on page 1, all vying for the top position yet jumping around on page 1 or 2, and new entrants rarely making it to the top.

So, in summary, the more things change, the more they’ll stay the same…”

Josh Steimle

Twitter – @joshsteimle

Website – mwi.com

“I predict I will stop getting those emails that start out with “Dear sirs, can you please outsource some SEO business to us?” Actually, that’s probably too much to hope for. Instead, I give the same prediction I’ve given for the past 15 years – Google will become more human, and so will SEOs. That means if anything about Google annoys you (as a normal person, not as an SEO) then that annoying thing will disappear, and whatever you like and use will stay.

The challenge for SEOs remains to have empathy with normal people and optimize for them, rather than for how SEOs wish Google would change to make life easier for the SEO industry.”

Kelvin Newman

Twitter – @kelvinnewman

Website – brightonseo.com

“I think in 2017 we’re going to see more of search marketers using techniques like machine learning to make their processes more efficient and scale. We all know Google are using machine learning but we’ve not seen many search marketers using the technology to make their life easier.

For example, did you know there’s a huge open source image recognition library that’s been trained to caption images? Sounds like something that would make writing alt text much less laborious!”

Barry Schwartz

Twitter – @RustyBrick

Website – rustybrick.com

“Honestly, I expect to see more of the same. More focus on mobile, more focus on AMP, more focus on structured data, more focus on building quality sites over aggressive link building. I don’t think we will see anything major in terms of massive quality algorithms from Google in 2017, but you never know.”

Mike King

Twitter – @iPullRank

Website – ipullrank.com

“We are legitimately stepping into the future. In previous years when I’ve answered this question, things were more incrementally shifting. I think Google has solved most of the cat-and-mouse spam problems at this point and they are focusing on the bigger picture vision of being the Star Trek computer.

Vocal Search is the next thing that will be very commonplace and there are a lot of implications from an Organic perspective because in those cases there is only one answer. Sure, we’ve had things like Siri, Cortana, Alexa and all that, but we haven’t had one that is truly powered by the full weight of Google. I anticipate that Google Home is going to change the game.

The future of Search is really the future of Google’s obsessions. Right now they are obsessed with page speed, structured data and better mobile user experience. They continue to roll out products to support that on the development side and push for adoption for more adoption from users. One dramatic shift that it seems like we’re seeing is that the new initiatives are getting more weight internally.

We’re seeing things like AMP get more internal support and not being a fly-by-night thing that Google will dump in a couple months. Finally, Google’s focus on Machine Learning fuels all the really cool things they are doing as of late. I anticipate that we will continue to see an explosion in their capabilities around things that we thought they wouldn’t be able to do.

Really, at this point, it makes more sense to follow the technology than follow the algorithm.”

Anna Lea Crowe

Twitter – @annaleacrowe

Website – annaleacrowe.com

“In 2017, we’re going to continue to see the rise in mobile, voice search, and Allo. Brands that are not tailoring their keyword research to voice search are going to suffer. The search engines are forcing SEO marketers to think about the intent of queries and how they answer it on their site.

Marketers need to align their content with searcher interest. This is where content mapping comes into play to pair content that satisfies the searchers intent. As a result, I believe we’ll start seeing location-specific content and FAQ pages get an increase in site traffic. Brands finding new ways to engage with their searchers through video, schema, and product reviews will increase their findability in search engines. The same goes for optimizing these mobile features for Allo.

Also, with the new mobile-friendly update in January 2017, Google will now take smartphone content visibility into consideration when ranking your site. Optimizing your mobile site to reduce pop-up boxes, implementing AMP, and other key elements will greatly affect your rankings on mobile search.”

Larry Kim

Twitter – @larrykim

Website – wordstream.com

“SEO in 2017 should see more SEOs focusing on improving engagement rates like CTR and time on site as Google is increasingly leveraging those signals in everything from featured snippets to search rankings.”

Britney Muller

Twitter – @BritneyMuller

Website – moz.com/britney-muller

“My hypothesis for SEO in 2017 is that Google will continue to place more and more emphasis on page speed, mobile UX, PWAs and popups. Page speed continues to be a driving factor for qualitative user experience, especially for mobile. AMP will likely continue to rank above non-AMP pages and app deep links.

We could start to see Progressive Web Apps taking the place of current mobile applications. PWAs have direct access to firebase, are incredibly fast (and instantly cached), and can implement personalized push notifications.

Google might prefer sending people to in-browser PWAs over Apps in the future because: 1. People will have a higher chance of coming back to Google sooner (instead of getting sucked into an in-app experience). 2. Google would have more tracking capability. 3. PWAs provide a better, faster user experience (for most content consumption purposes).

We should also expect mp4, gif, jpg, etc. (media file) optimizations to become more of a priority and older media tactics, like Sprites, start to die off as HTTP/2 becomes more mainstream.”

Jayson DeMers

Twitter – @jaysondemers

Website – audiencebloom.com

“In the early days of content marketing, marketers would produce as much content as they could, aiming for a ‘quantity’ approach. More recently, marketers have realized the need for ‘quality’ content to rise above the noise amidst a highly-crowded content atmosphere as content marketing as become wildly popular, which resulted in long-form content. Now that the market is flooded with both long-form content and short ‘quantity’-based content, we’re going to see some significant changes.

First, content promotion is going to become more important than ever before. Even the best quality content will struggle to achieve visibility unless it has significant promotion backing it, which will often mean a sizeable promotional budget.

Second, in 2017, we’re going to see the rise of ‘dense’ content. Dense content isn’t necessarily long or short, but it packs as much valuable info into as small of a space as possible. Users are tired of fluff content and their attention spans are continuing to decline, which will lead to a preference for denser content, which provides value while eating up as little time as possible.

Such content will receive more links, shares, and engagements, which will, in turn, result in higher rankings in organic search results. As marketers realize this trend, they’ll adjust their content marketing efforts accordingly. Since video is a high barrier-to-entry content medium that has seen explosive growth, and since visual content often allows for faster information processing, I predict we’ll see an even-more-accelerated preference for video as a medium. Brands will flock to YouTube, hire video producers (as budget allows), and finally join the video content marketing party.”

Share and Comment Away!

Hopefully this article will allow you to take away lots of useful information, helping to guide your search marketing strategy for 2017. If you have any more thoughts we would love to hear more from you in the comments or on social media. If you don’t already, you can follow us on twitter and you can like our Facebook page for more news and updates.

Happy SEOing for 2017 and beyond.

Written by
Aaron McLellan
Aaron McLellan

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