atom thought

9th January 2017
By Joshua

We’ve finally put 2016 to bed, and with it another year of changes in SEO. However, as you’re all well aware the ‘fun’ never stops when it comes to SEO, and here at Atom we’ve been busy discussing our predictions for 2017.

Want to see the biggest changes of 2016? Check out our article on what changed for SEO, and read more below to find out our SEO predictions for 2017.

Google will push mobile even harder

2016 a year that contained a number of changes and announcements that made it clear Google is increasingly focused on a mobile-first search environment.

AMP pages launched at the end of 2015, and through 2016 became more prominent outside of large publishers. A search in early 2017 shows AMP pages for recipes, images, news and even some ecommerce and it’s likely Google will only push these harder in 2017. The jury is still out on whether large scale adoption will happen, but it’s clear Google doesn’t plan to slow down integration just yet.

2017 will also be the year that Google makes a large fundamental shift in the way it indexes pages, with the announcement that they’ll be switching a mobile first index. This shows that Google is taking mobile more seriously (more seriously than desktop) and that your sites mobile presence should be the main focus for 2017.

This doesn’t mean you should abandon your desktop site though; stats show that whilst consumers are using mobile more than desktop, there’s still a large amount of consumer consideration happening on desktop that shouldn’t be abandoned.

Finally, 2017 will likely be the year we see Progressive web apps play a larger role. Whilst it’s still early days, they’re a lot of positive buzz about how these can help streamline site and app experiences for a variety of different sources. Implementation is likely to increase in 2017, but it’s worthwhile considering that from an SEO point of view they can cause issues if not implemented properly with the general rule of thumb is to use canonical tags to ensure no duplicate content issues.

Voice search will continue to grow

Amazon have sold close to 5.2 million Echos by the close of 2016; Google have now added their rival ‘Google Home’ to the pack, and launched the Pixel smartphone with Google Assistant, all of which focus heavily on using voice to fulfill user queries.

A few years ago the idea of using voice search wasn’t even on most users radars, but as people get more used to the likes of Siri and Echo helping them around the house, it’s inevitable that voice search will begin to make up a larger chunk of overall searches in 2017.

From an SEO point of view, it’s going to be increasingly competitive for sites (particularly local, more on this below) to compete for these voice based queries. Now is the time to be thinking about the types of queries this might garner and strategies that can help you get ahead in this area.

Rankings will become less important..

But rankings are SEO?! Well, in some ways yes, but in a lot of ways no. The SERPs are more convoluted than ever before, with increased paid visibility, local, AMP and SERPs features making the search landscape a lot more complicated than 10 blue links. Add personalised search into the mix and we’re left with a scenario where increasingly the rankings you track in tools, or see yourself, are not the same other users see, or delivering the same CTR & traffic increases you’d expect to see when improving.

Moving into 2017 it’s likely that this trend will continue to grow, and as SEOs we’ll be tasked with measuring the performance of SEO campaigns in increasingly sophisticated ways, beyond calling ranking improvements a success.

Local will become tougher for many

In the last few years Local search has gone through a few iterations. Google have made it a focus to improve the local search experience with a number of algorithm updates (namely Pigeon & Possum), that have increased accuracy for some, but have also made the local search space much more competitive.

As mentioned above, the proliferation of voice search will only add another area that local SEOs need to focus. Google will be using organic listings and knowledge graphs to pull in data for voice, meaning a large number of sites may never even get a chance to shine. Over at Amazon they’re using apps to provide a lot of query results, perhaps arguing an even larger case for local businesses to ensure they’re featuring prominently on directories like Yelp and OpenTable if they want to be visible for this type of search.

Either way the 2017 local landscape will continue to be tough for a lot of smaller business and Local SEOs will need to find new ways to ensure they’re still visible for local queries, both typed and voice.
So there we have it, 2017 is already shaping up to be an interesting year for SEO and whilst the above list is by no means exhaustive it’s clear there’s some exciting trends we could see develop this year. In the coming months we’re going to cover a few other topics in more detail, along with findings of our own. Feel free to drop us a comment below, or reach out to us on social to let us know what trends you think will be the biggest in 2017.