It is that time of year again when SEO predictions are made for 2017.
Most industry predictions are logical ‘next steps’ for things announced in the previous year. Others are assumptions about the impact of changes that Google has already made.
But, in a world where Google can announce algorithm changes with little to no prior warning, should you be preparing for those ‘crazy ideas’ that until now have been purely speculation?
We have put together our speculative list of leftfield ideas that would (should they happen) have a significant impact on your website’s SEO. Not only that, we’ve detailed what we think you would need to consider should they happen.
1. Paid Google Autocomplete
Google's Autocomplete tool provides the search suggestions you see when searching Google. This service is intended to speed up your search interaction by trying to predict what you are searching for when using Google (see example below):
Could Google Autocomplete become a paid channel?
But what if companies could pay to have suggestions relevant to their website served to the user? Following in the footsteps of the paid search ad model, it is not out of the scope of possibilities that there could be a move towards the first two autocomplete suggestions being paid for by companies looking to influence your search. This model could just as easily be applied to the ‘Searches related to …’ suggestions at the bottom of Google’s search result page.
“This model could just as easily be applied to the ‘Searches related to …’“
On the one hand, this could mean a move towards a more integrated approach to SEO and paid search (as you do not want to rank high organically for the autocomplete suggestions you have paid for).
On the other hand, it could mean that high search volume suggestions could be hijacked by paid suggestions (as organic search real estate is pushed down the list of suggestions). The result? Less users clicking on alternative organic suggestions for which your website ranks.
2. AMP becomes a ranking factor
In an earlier blog post, I mentioned that Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) do not currently give your news website a ranking boost, but what if they did?
The AMP Project is an open source initiative that embodies the vision that publishers can create mobile-optimised content once and have it load instantly everywhere.
AMP pages are already popping up in Google search
However, with Google’s latest mobile-first index in the pipeline, it is not unthinkable that AMP could become mandatory for websites that are content-heavy. As a result, Google might start to penalise websites that are slow to load on mobile devices.
For SEO, this could mean that there will, at least temporarily, be an extra factor to deal with when optimising your website. Now could be a good time to start experimenting with converting your website pages to AMP. Having a website with AMP could mean that you get a headstart on your competitors, not only in a mobile-first index, but in terms of improving the user experience, too.
3. Google as a personalised, real time information provider
If you want an insight into how Google is changing its approach to search, look no further than its app. Google no longer simply produces a list of 10 blue links, but actually serves personalised answers for the user straight to their app.
Could 2017 be the year that Google takes a further step towards becoming a real-time, personalised information provider?
The Google Search App adapts to the user
It is not unimaginable that the app could become capable of serving information to the user based on time of the day, without the user having to search for it. With Rankbrain (a component of the Hummingbird algorithm) in action for some time now, it is possible that Google could start serving real time search results. For the user, this would mean that Google would becomes a real-time information source, instead of a database with links.
For SEO this could mean that there will be less visibility of websites in Google and that ranking could go out of the window. Instead, SEO would need to focus on getting clients’ information stored in Google’s database and made ready in case it becomes of importance to the user.
So keeping timely information, such as store opening hours (Google My Business), the latest deals (Google Shopping) and that article about this summer’s trends up to date will become more and more important – as opposed to long-term, slow ranking content.
4. Reading video content
In search terms, videos currently gain ranking by optimisation of their metadata, such as title, description, duration etc. Search for your favourite quote from Pulp Fiction, however, and you are unlikely to return an exact match to your request unless someone has published a transcript of the video or there is a favourite movie quote website.
But what if there was a video search engine bot that could actually read the content of your video?
Could video content become more easily searchable by Google?
This would mean that you are no longer dependent on publishing your videos to YouTube (owned by Google) in order to gain ranking, but you could publish it on your website to make it outrank YouTube. Users could also finally search based on video content without over-optimisation of video metadata.
5. SEO becomes search experience optimisation
In the past year, Google has gotten a lot better at understanding what your website is about without you having to tell it. Traditional page signals like title tag, metadata description, subfolders and image alt tags are basically old-school SEO these days. Even link building has become less important as brand mentions on websites are enough for Google to understand where your brand or website sits in the ecosystem.
So, could 2017 be the year where on-page user experience, time on page and conversion rate optimisation will become ranking factors? Could bots become ‘mystery shoppers’ and replicate the user experience of a website? Google can already tell if the button size on the mobile version of your website is designed with even the fatter of fingers in mind, so why couldn’t it rate your shopping cart experience?
For SEO, this would mean that on-site experience would need to focus on conversion rate optimisation, A/B testing and user experience. Technical, on-page optimisation could change to consist of checking button colours, shopping cart optimisation and returning users, meaning SEO experts would need to become a UX specialist too, not just a website technician.
In 2017, SEO could finally become Search Experience Optimisation.
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