SEO remains one of the most important marketing strategies for businesses fighting for recognition in the saturated online environment. Many a business owner has experienced the frustration and loss that comes with incorrectly-executed SEO, and many more have reaped the rewards of going the long route and investing in quality SEO services.
As the year comes to a close, this article examines some of the most significant changes witnessed this year, and what we can anticipate for 2017.
SEO never dies
A few years back, we had the cry that SEO is dead, but today we see that SEO is still as important now as it was then, maybe even more. The SEO industry today is worth over $65B, and even small businesses have finally appreciated the importance of a strong SEO strategy to improve their business outreach strategy.
Users and search engines are continuously evolving, and so now SEO has ceased to be a small-time marketing strategy to be entrusted to your internet/tech-savvy cousin working freelance from their basement. There are so much data and knowledge, so many tools and experience to decipher and use. As a high-power industry, the divide between those delivering results and those who don’t is becoming clearer. However, it’s certain that SEO is here to stay.
Artificial intelligence use for business solutions
Artificial intelligence, AI, is now a prevalent part of our lives in many areas. The world’s largest tech companies – Google, Apple, IBM, and Amazon – have invested millions into development and usage of Artificial Narrow Intelligence, ANI, for the automation of repetitive tasks. Businesses can use such solutions to automate finding product details, order histories, shipping information and other customer-related requests.
Consumers are now more comfortable with AI solutions and can now trust their results. According to Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai, voice search, which is powered by AI technology, accounts for 20 percent of Google searches on Android devices through its app.
Google also has implemented AI for search ranking, the most significant of them being RankBrain, a machine-learning AI system that makes up one of the three most important ranking signals for the company’s search algorithm. This is because Google processes over 3.5B searches every day, among which 16-20 percent are unique queries. Google’s tech team, therefore, uses RankBrain to deliver more useful results for these queries.
Even though it is impossible for us to ‘direct’ the system, SEO consultants should drive to understand how Google uses RankBrain and then create high-quality content that can be easily interpreted by the tool. This too will help you to build quality connections, build trust and earn good quality shares, mentions and links from within related niches – all signals that can help to improve your rankings.
AI technology is a relatively new entrant in the market, but we can expect that in future more homes will install smart AI tools, such as Google Home and Amazon Echo as well as their business equivalents. Be the first in your niche to harness the convenience and power such tools present so that you’re at the top of your niche whenever new signals are introduced based on these changes.
Google updates/tweaks its algorithm up to five hundred times a year, with the bulk of these changes being small. Every so often, though, Google rolls out a major update to keep up with changing user requirements or some vice they have noticed among search engine marketers. This year, we’ve had four major algorithm updates, as follows:
- Mobile-friendliness update – less than a year after April 2015’s Mobilegeddon, Google announced their intention to increase the significance of the mobile-friendliness ranking signal to raise mobile-friendly sites’ rankings for mobile search. This change rolled out in May 2016, but its effect wasn’t as significant as its counterpart – probably because many sites had already invested in improving their mobile accessibility.
- Penguin 4.0 update – the latest Penguin update was rolled out on September 23, 2016, and it is considered to be gentler than all its predecessors. Instead of penalizing sites with bad links, this update simply devalued those links. This update rolled out in two phases, with the second being a recovery period for sites that had been hit by previous Penguin rollouts – provided such sites had made an effort to sanitize their link profiles.
- ‘Possum’ – this update was not officially ratified by Google, but local SEO experts can swear by a major change in local SEO and Google Maps sometime in early September. This is possibly the largest update made for local SEO since the release of Pigeon in 2014. Experts, based on the research following this period, state the purpose of this update as being the diversification of local search results and prevention of spamming on local search rankings.
- Divided index – given that the number of mobile search queries globally continues to increase, Google is working towards becoming the best company for mobile search. To this end, Google announced this November that they were testing a mobile-first index, which means that every site’s mobile site would be eventually taken as their default version for ranking, rather than the desktop version. Mobile versions would eventually be used in understanding structured data, showing rich text snippets and all rankings, both desktop and mobile search.
SEO in 2017
You’ve probably already read entire posts on SEO trends that will rule 2017, but concluding with my own views on this subject is the aptest way to end this post.
First, we can expect to see RankBrain being further developed to become much smarter in examining page links, content and their interaction. With this, businesses that harness AI tools to improve site performance and functionality will perform better in search results.
The legitimacy of SEO isn’t in question, not now and certainly not in the future. SEO will continue to distinguish itself as an important marketing approach for any business, online or offline. Businesses that are still using average Joes that ‘dabble’ in SEO will find themselves distinctively disadvantaged compared with their counterparts. Similarly, those that invest in getting real pros will be rewarded with thriving revenues and high rankings.
Finally, big data will play a big role in the efficacy of SEO. Technology has made collection, digestion, and application of information much easier, and businesses that leverage this information will definitely succeed going forward.
This article is written by Barrack Diego. He is a leading member of SEO Services USA, a multiple digital marketing and consultancy agencies devising strategic content for online SEO. He is passionate blogger on SEO issues.