Where do we stand with search engine optimization in 2017? Optimization has always been about tweaking your content to allow search engines to more easily classify it, or, in certain scenarios, to trick the search engine into ranking your website higher than it should appear. But, as we know from the Terminator movies, future generations of robots are always getting smarter and more difficult to defeat.
So what does a good SEO strategy look like in 2017? Here are 3 trends you need to know:
1. Lighter HTML for a better mobile experience
The continuing dominance of mobile web browsing has had an effect on how search engines rank pages. Google’s AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) Project aims to encourage websites to use a lighter and more nimble version of HTML to load more quickly on mobile. Sites built using these guidelines rank better and have higher clickthrough rates than their competitors.
2. Embracing voice search
Voice search already accounts for about 20% of all mobile searches, and some estimates say that up to 50% of all searches will be done by voice by 2020. Businesses need to account for this change in search habits just like they did for the rise of mobile searches.
How to prepare for voice search? A lot of the answers for voice search come from the “featured snippet” box you sometimes see at the top of Google search results when you search for something common. To increase your chances of being chosen for one of these featured snippets, optimize your content for them by using structured data markup (also known as schema markup).
3. Simplify keywords, focus on quality of content
Google’s Rankbrain and other similar machine-learning based search algorithms are getting better at distinguishing abbreviations, plurals, synonyms and other word derivations. That means content creators should be less worried about using every instance of a relevant keyword in a block of text, and instead focusing in delivering value to the reader. In short, search engines are getting considerably better at knowing what you’re trying to say without you having to spell it out to them by feeding them preset keywords.
Will that be the end of SEO? Probably not. Computers are still machines, and someone will always figure out a way to temporarily trick them into producing a higher search ranking. But the sustainable SEO strategy modern marketers should embrace is to focus on the content, and let search engines do their work.