SEO, or search engine optimization, is a term that dates back to the early days of search engines when they first appeared in 1997. It has become a tool that we can’t imagine being without in marketing land. It’s all about getting as high as possible in the search results list when the user enters a search term related to you.
The essence of SEO has always been shaped by search terms. By incorporating individual keywords strategically in your content and meta tags, you increase your position. Initially it mainly focused on the frequent repetition of keywords in an attempt to convince the search engines that your page is interesting for the user. In the beginning this was the only technical way that the search engines could determine which site suits the search term. Now 20 years later, a lot has changed in the search algorithms of major search engines. What used to be good for your SEO, can now perhaps be disastrous. Here we highlight 5 interesting developments that definitely need your attention in 2017.
1) Semantic search
The most important change that we have observed during the last several years, is the development of semantic search. Where once the keywords were literally compared, search engines are now able to involve synonyms and context as well. Thus, the focus shifts more and more from typed keywords into the underlying intent of the user. This provides the user with two huge advantages. First, it represents a leap in the quality of search results. The results are more likely to be related to what the user is really looking for. Secondly, it can be an improvement in the quality of the content that is behind the search result. Companies do not have to repeat forced keywords anymore, and can write text that is more pleasant to read. And therein lies the new focus of SEO: a focus on the user experience.
2) User Experience and relevance
For search engines a positive user experience is for visitors to be guided to a particular site. The relevance and experience of the user are measured by combining three factors: CTR (in this case, how many people click on a particular search result in the list), bounce rate (how many people will leave the website from the landing page), and session duration.
In the first instance, you can take this into account by providing interesting content in an attractive, clearly designed website. Which makes sense. But you can take this a step further by reflecting on the customer journey as well, an approach that some SEO experts have found
too far outside of their field. But the searching client is definitely on a journey. So you try to empathize with the intention and position of the user at the time he enters a search query. Do they just want information or are they ready to make a purchase? And what content can I offer on the website to let them take a step further on their journey? This way of thinking leads not only to conversions, but also indirectly to a lower bounce rate for which the search engines will reward you.
3) Relevant context
Another development that has been going on for some time, but which has not yet captured major attention, is the relevance of the context of the website as a whole. The search algorithms look not only at whether a particular page matches the search term, but also whether the domain is relevant and has authority. Your entire website must be one organic and functional whole.
The same goes for your backlinks. While backlinks are still important, this is especially true for links from relevant websites with high domain authority. The artificial planting of links is therefore in the past.
4) Mobile first
Last fall, Google announced that in 2017 they would start with a mobile first index. It’s no news that mobile Internet dominates desktop traffic. In 2015, Google already announced that for the first time, searches in 10 major countries were performed on mobile devices rather than through desktop computers. The new mobile index ranking of the mobile version of your website will be more important than the desktop version. If you have a responsive website, this will not matter so much; after all, your content corresponds to different devices. But companies that still offer a separate version of their website for mobile, will have to be careful that their content is indexed properly.
5) Voice search
Hand in hand with the further development of mobile Internet, voice search will also play an increasingly important role. Think searches via Siri, Cortana and Google Now. Last year, Google has stated that 20 percent of their mobile searches were introduced using voice.
The most important aspect of this that affects SEO is that voice often uses full sentences rather than single keywords. The focus on long tail keywords will become increasingly important.
With Google’s announcement of the mobile-first index you can no longer justify a lack of good mobile content. The discoverability through mobile voice search deserves extra attention.
The further development of semantic searching ensures that context is increasingly important against individual search terms. The final result is actually a no-brainer. In 2017 your web content can fully focus on the person. Create a relevant and interesting website for your visitors, then the technology of search engines will take care of the rest.