While technical SEO will remain important in 2017, SEO strategists will become more like website designers, user experience architects, and content strategists. Marketers relying too heavily on technical SEO will suffer if they do not diversify their skill sets. Here’s why. 2017 SEO = Web Design Google is already introducing and refining analytics tools that help non-technical marketers optimize website design. For example, Google’s Optimize 360 allows marketers to test and tweak different layouts in order to improve site performance. Better site performance leads to better search results. Such a focus from Google on elements that previously involved creative design suggest that we’ll see more overlap in 2017 between SEO and web design best practices. We’ll also find that responsive web templates, which automatically adjust layout and content to whatever device a person uses, become the norm. Google continues to update its algorithms to favor mobile-friendly websites. Increasingly, mobile users won’t linger on a site that fails to render properly on their devices. Websites that aren’t responsive will get left behind in the dust by competitors. 2017 SEO = UX I recently wrote a post focused on SEO and UX, and its key points apply to how UX will impact SEO in 2017.
- Search engines will continue to better understand and behave like users. We’re already seeing this trend with personal assistants like Siri and Google Home as they learn more about us. As search engines behave more like a user, user experience best practices will matter more to SEO.
- Technical SEO that interferes with UX will continue to disappear. Tactics like hiding CSS files and adding special HTML to paginate content will go away as Google penalizes or ignores old technical SEO activities. Google will continue to approach a site more like a user and less like an algorithm “reading” the site.
- The practice of UX will affect search even more. UX designers already emphasize creating websites that work well for users on all devices—especially mobile. Attributes like site speed and mobile-friendliness will get rewarded more and more by search engines.
2017 SEO = Content Strategy If content is the last thing you think about after website design, UX, and SEO, then you’re going to find yourself at a great disadvantage in 2017. Google will continue to heavily reward websites that practice the essential elements of a solid content strategy. That includes:
- Timely, relevant, quality content: Demand for fresh content will only increase. Google will continue to penalize low quality, irrelevant web pages that do not meet users’ needs.
- Intelligent content: Content expert Ann Rockley famously defined intelligent content as: “…content that’s structurally rich and semantically categorized and therefore automatically discoverable, reusable, reconfigurable, and adaptable.” We’re not quite there in 2016 but intelligent content will become more of a reality in 2017. More technologies and tools will become available to help organizations create taxonomies, store and label content similar to how data is typically treated, and publish content in innovative ways that helps maximize investments in content assets.