2017 is coming to an end. It’s been a busy year, especially with regards to SEO in general and Google in particular. Having studied new products, updating algorithms, patents and acquisitions of the search corporation for the last year, we can draw the following conclusions:
- Google is moving steadily toward the mobile-only world. The upcoming launch of the mobile-first index is an inevitable consequence of this transition.
- Although links are still important for ranking, Google is paying more and more attention to the essential, predictive and personalized search – which is quite logical if you take into account such devices as mobile gadgets and home assistants.
- Voice search for the same reason is the next milestone in the development of search. The most powerful competitor to Google in this arena may be Bing.
- Since John Jananrea became the senior vice president of Google search, machine and in-depth training began to be used by default in almost all aspects of the search engine. In 2018, their application will be expanded. Perhaps this will happen due to special algorithms that improve the work of the main Google algorithm – Hummingbird – in each phase.
- In the mobile-only world, the relevance of the results of local search will be even higher. This trend is associated with the launch of the Possum update and all the tests that we see in this vertical. The same goal is the purchase of Google by UrbanEngines, which specializes in the development of monitoring and analysis systems in the field of “Internet of Moving Things”.
- The acquisition of such startups as MoodStock, EyeFluence, Anvato and Famebit, says that video / image and video marketing will be the focus of attention for Google.
The transition from the desktop-first to the mobile-first world
Until recently, SEO experts considered mobile search as one of the specializations in the field of search engine optimization – the same level as local search or international SEO.
After the launch of the Google AMP project in 2015, this mentality has not changed much. Moreover, optimizers view AMP as another “additional item” in their task list, and not a signal of the real intentions of Google: to make the entire search mobile.
After the announcement of the forthcoming launch of the mobile-first index, these intentions became 100% clear and mark a revolution in the search: after 18 years of domination of desktop devices, we must give priority to mobile devices.
The reason for this epochal change will become obvious if we look at the sources of traffic (paid and organic) for our sites:
The diagram above uses similarweb data for November. For all branches, allocated by Similarweb, the first five sites were taken by traffic volume in the USA. This analysis can not be called exhaustive. However, its results indicate that mobile search brings sites more traffic than the desktop. This situation is observed in 20 niches out of 24. The remaining four categories recorded a reverse situation. Among them are the following:
- Computers and Electronics;
- Internet and telecom;
- The science;
Of course, this does not mean that the sites in these topics are not visited from mobile devices. In addition, in the future the share of mobile traffic from them will grow.
According to the “Google Consumer Barometer” for 2016, the percentage of people using a predominantly smartphone is growing. At the same time, the share of users who prefer desktops is decreasing.
Does this mean that we should forget about desktop search? Of course not. That would be a big mistake. Especially, as for selling websites. Desktops remain the primary device for searching for products:
What to plan for 2017?
Prepare for the launch of the mobile-first index. Most likely, it will be held in 2017. Google gave Webmasters enough time to prepare for this change:
- Create a mobile version of the site, if it is not already available.
- Reduction to a common denominator of content and pages in the desktop and mobile versions. In this case, the optimal option will be the use of adaptive design.
- Add markup of structured data to mobile versions of pages.
- Revision of UX and optimization of conversion.
- Rethinking and developing a new strategy for linkbuilding, if different strategies were used for desktop and mobile sites. It is not yet known whether links to desktop versions of pages will be taken into account after launching the mobile-first index.
- If you know that you will not be able to create a fully functional mobile version of the site by the end of 2017, then the optimal solution will be to leave only the desktop version of the resource. In Google repeatedly said that the transition to mobile-first indexing does not mean a failure to scan the desktop version. If the site does not have a mobile version, Google will index the desktop. The same approach will be used if the site has an AMP version, but there is no mobile version.
- Finally, we strongly recommend that you install the latest version of Screaming Frog.
This project was one of the most important for Google in 2016. The launch of the AMP took place in October 2015. If initially the new format was available only for news sites, now Google also shows AMP-results for the sites of recipes and e-commerce.
If your resource already receives a large amount of traffic from mobile search, you need to make the creation of the AMP-version in your task list. This task should be a priority for a blog, a news resource or a recipe site.
As for online stores, you can experiment with AMP, but PWA is your priority and strategic choice.
Progressive Web Apps (PWA)
We are sure that one of the main trends in 2017 will be PWA. At the moment, e-commerce sites can not be fully translated into AMP. In addition, 3 seconds is the new standard for downloading the site. Even a well-optimized adaptive or mobile site is unlikely to be able to give such an indicator.
Another important aspect for Google is security. PWA only works with HTTPS. Adding 1 + 1, it is easy to foresee that the company will encourage webmasters to implement PWA.
If you own a selling site, you do not have an application, or you are considering the possibility of continuing support for two applications (for iOS and Android), then Progressive Web Apps will be the best choice for you. It allows the site to work on the principle of the application. Including offline.
Understanding speech is the cherished goal of machine learning
This phrase is the title of the Natural Language Understanding (NLU) page on the Google Research website. Its author is vice-president for Google search John Gianandrea.
The same page reads:
“The scientific interests of the Google NLU team include syntax, discourse, conversation, multilingual modeling, mood analysis, answer questions, generalization and, in general, the creation of more effective learning systems through the use of labeled and unmapped data, modern modeling and indirect control.”
This fragment allows us to better understand what is currently working on Google, and in what areas it will develop in the near future.
One of the main tasks for the NLU team is to work on understanding the context. Context is fundamental to understanding the implicit and complex aspects of any conversation, which is extremely important for developing completely new search environments, such as Google Assistant or Google Home.
Finally, the context and natural language is, in part, the basis of RankBrain, because vectors are also contextual.
Moreover, Google is also serious about understanding one of the most common (and most complex) aspects of the language – metaphors. Once the search engine is able to comprehend the meaning of metaphors, it will be able to quickly understand all other rhetorical figures that people use in communication.
Why is Google so interested in natural language?
First of all, Google wants to respond more effectively to user requests. For this, the search engine needs:
- Understand what is involved in every web document (semantics);
- Understand what users are looking for by processing their voice and text requests (natural language processing);
- Another reason is “the user should not be at the table to get an answer.”
If you look from the point of view of business, the reasons for this interest can be as follows:
- The popularity of voice assistants is growing.
- 40% of users of virtual assistants began to use them only six months ago.
- At the moment, 20% of mobile calls are entered using voice. According to Microsoft, by 2020 this figure will reach 50%.
- The main places for using voice search are the house and the car.
- The greatest proportion of voice calls are accounted for by adolescents. About this Google reported as early as 2014. These teenagers grow up, get a job, get a family and become a parent.
That’s why Google created Assistant and Google Home. In addition, in the future, the search engine promises to add reports on voice search to Search Console.
What to plan for 2017?
Add markup of structured data to the mobile version of the site.
This is necessary not only because Google will ultimately go to the mobile-first index. Micro-markup is one of the main tools that a search engine uses to understand a web document.
Moreover, Google expands the functionality of rich cards in mobile search. To some extent, he repeats the strategy used earlier to promote extended snippets.
If you’re worried about performance, now is the time to implement JSON-LD (perhaps that’s why Google prefers this layout format).
Optimization for the position number 0.
In the mobile search, the ready answers are more visible. In addition, they are used in Google Home. At the moment there are several tools that allow you to identify queries that show extended answers. Among them: GetStat; Moz (both the Keyword Explorer (SERPS Analysis) and MozPro Campaigns (SERP Features and Analyze Keywords in the Rankings section)); SEMRush (on the Positions page in the Organic Research section of Domain Analysis).
- Start using the Google Assistant API and experiment with custom voice commands.
- RankBrain – one of the main components in the search engine, working on the basis of natural language. Therefore, if you have not already done so, start rethinking the process of selecting keywords.
- Start looking at branding as an SEO strategy.
One of the main characteristics of Google is a personalized search. Personalization becomes even more important when voice assistants enter the arena. It means that Google will be more likely to show the user content from those sites that he previously visited, and through search entities – those sites referenced by these resources.
This means that if it’s important at the tactical level to focus on long-tail queries, then at the strategic level, you need to work on making your brand synonymous with your products and services.
This can be achieved by targeting higher levels of the consumer funnel with the appropriate content in a suitable format, published and promoted at the right time for the right people. This approach was well described by Jono Alderson at the 2015 conference Searchlove London.
Rethinking the role of Bing.
If you think that Bing is “the search engine that has cool background photos,” it’s time to change your mind. Based on Bing technology, the search is in Siri and Alexa. Bing is also the default search in the Cortana Voice Assistant. Estimating how many devices based on iOS, OSX, Windows 10 and Amazon Echo are used by people all over the world, you can imagine how important this search engine becomes as voice search grows.
SE.LO.MO (Search Local Mobile)
Just a few years ago, digital-marketers talked a lot and often about SO.LO.MO (SOcial, LOcal and MObile).
However, now, when the main source of traffic are mobile devices, and personal assistants and chat bots are becoming increasingly popular, marketing should concentrate even more on mobile and local search.
Perhaps in the near future we will observe the following trend: the appearance of more verbose queries in connection with the active growth of voice search.
The search results for these queries represent a problem for webmasters and one opportunity. The problem is that, despite the clear local content, the SERP page often does not contain a block of local search results. The possibility is that Google is not always able to provide relevant results in response to such requests.
Thus, the perception of local SEO only as an optimization in Google My Business, can limit the opportunities that the business can have for obtaining visibility in search and traffic.
In addition, the sites of local companies should start working to intercept the potential traffic generated by such requests. In these requests there is a real opportunity – simply because (for the time being) no one thinks about them.
How can this be achieved?
You do not need to try to cover all possible combinations of local searches that a user can commit to your business category or location. This would be the same as creating very low-quality content, focusing on Hummingbird and RankBrain.
In contrast to this approach, David Mim advises to think about the site (his or her client’s) as an API:
“Even if you are not a publisher in the traditional sense of the word, you should prepare for the moment when no one else comes to your site. Awareness of the need, information search and conversion – all this will occur in the search results. Those companies that adhere to this paradigm for their websites will receive more customers. This means the maximum addition of Schema.org and JSON-LD markup and a partnership with third-party services that work with Google to facilitate transactions (for example, OpenTable and ZocDoc). “
Consumption of online video is growing, although traditional television is still in the lead:
However, if we look at the statistics for different “generations”, we will see a different situation:
In this diagram, however, the youngest audience is not shown – children between the ages of 4 and 13. If you have a child of this age, then you know that they watch the video for the most part online.
The main devices for viewing online video are laptops and desktops, but the popularity of smartphones in this segment is growing rapidly.
Below are some more statistics:
- The average age of the child receiving the smartphone is 10 years.
- Children aged 5 to 13 years are better at perceiving visual information than textual.
- Their influence on the buying habits of their parents has been known for many years.
Although the above was mainly about children, the growth trend in the consumption of online video is observed in almost every age group among Internet users.
Given that, along with the growth of video, there is a rapid growth of native advertising, Google acquires companies such as Anvato (a platform for video content monetization) and Famebit (a media network that facilitates the creators of content interaction with brands). Google needs to find new ways to monetize the video. One YouTube is not enough anymore.
In other words, if we talk about strategies for SEO and Internet marketing in 2017, video is the channel that needs to be studied more thoroughly. Of course, if you have not already done so.
In 2017, the renewed interest in the marketing of images is expected, especially in the search for Google.
Image Search is a dinosaur in the Google search engine. For SEO, it was of no interest, because it did not help to attract traffic to the site. For Google, it’s just not profitable. Perhaps this is one of the reasons for buying Google’s Moodstock and increasing investment in image recognition.
Launching Schema.org/Product’s markup support for product photos will allow Google to easily link product images with other characteristics, such as price, discounts and stock availability. As a result, he can begin to monetize the search by pictures.
A virtual reality
- Which company was the last acquisition of Google? Eyefluence.
- Which product did Google release in October? Headset DayDream VR.
- What is the most impressive feature that YouTube launched (and other platforms)? Support for photos and videos in 360 degrees.
What are the prospects for VR for Internet marketers? Perhaps in 2017, virtual reality will remain a technology accessible only to a limited number of users. However, if I were you, I would start preparing myself and prepare my clients for the growth of her popularity.