It’s hard to believe, but the end of 2016 is already here. If there was one thing that became painfully clear for some SEOs, it was that mobile optimization is no longer optional.
With mobile usage now representing 65 percent of digital media time, Google has been making changes to accommodate this new king of traffic. Back in May, they officially rolled out the mobile-friendly algorithm boost that gave mobile-friendly websites an additional ranking boost.
The changes for mobile users don’t stop there. We have already seen many changes from Google that will help improve the experience for mobile users, and this will no doubt shape the trends that we see for mobile SEO in 2017.
The question is: what can we expect from Mobile SEO, and how can we position ourselves to take advantage of these changes when they happen?
Here are a few predictions of what we might expect in the coming year:
Preparing for Google’s Mobile Search Index
Many SEOs have expected a mobile search index for some time, but the room for doubt has shrunk to zero. Google recently announced on their Webmaster Central Blog that they have begun experimenting with a separate mobile search index. So far, the experiments have been conducted on a smaller scale, failing to impact websites in any significant way. However, a prototype is a strong indicator of a larger rollout. It is only a matter of time before Google will scale its mobile search index to include all mobile traffic.
This shouldn’t cause SEOs alarm just yet. Google has said that this should not alter overall rankings. That being said, there are a lot of questions that could come into play when Google expands the scope.
What does this mean for links? Will the indexing change eventually impact search rankings? It’s too early to provide definitive answers to these questions, but Google has recommended putting primary content on the mobile version of your site. As this rollout progresses, we can expect marketers to get more serious about mobile, devoting more resources to create mobile experiences that are every bit as helpful as their desktop versions.
Knowing this ahead of time is a huge advantage because of the significant constraints that mobile interface places on design. It would be wise for marketers to start thinking now about how to make this transition.
Increase in AMP Symbols
By now, most of us know how critical it is to have fast-loading webpages. To speed up load times for mobile users, Google released its Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project back in February and has made numerous changes to the project since then.
It’s pretty clear that Google is pushing hard for publishers to get started in AMP. Recently, Google began experimenting with darker AMP icons in search results—which are more noticeable compared to the light gray AMP icon.
What we can expect in 2017 is an increase in publishers becoming AMP-compliant so that this symbol appears in search results. As Google pushes harder for websites to adopt AMP, mobile users will be actively looking for this symbol to ensure fast load times. Everyone wants higher CTRs, and this more noticeable symbol could increase a website’s mobile traffic.
But a symbol is just a symbol. What it represents is far more important. Google’s emphasis on AMP compliance comes from hard data, which we surmise demonstrates that AMP-compliant sites serve their customers better. The icon might be more noticeable to customers in the future, but it is also important to recognize that the largest purveyor of mobile data in the world has noticed that websites with AMP characteristics perform better.
Focus on Voice Search
There has been a significant increase in the number of voice searches and use of virtual assistants such as Siri, Cortana, Amazon Alexa, and Google Home. In the keynote for Google I/O last May, Google CEO Sundar Pichai told the audience that 20 percent of mobile search queries are voice queries.
This number is only expected to grow as voice recognition software becomes more advanced. Your SEO should optimize for voice searches. And it should research potential conversational queries.
Less Intrusive Ads
If users dislike intrusive ads on desktop, then they really hate them on mobile. Intrusive ads were on the rise in early 2014, but Google has recognized just how damaging these ads can be to a mobile user’s experience and decided to do something about it. Starting January 10, 2017, websites with content that is not easily accessible in mobile search results may not rank as highly.
To avoid this, there will likely be a rise in banner ads and more targeted offers that will reach consumers without taking up the majority of their mobile screen. This will have a large impact on on-page SEO in 2017.
Emphasis on Micro Moments
Digital marketers have been paying more attention to “micro moments,” which refers to the moment when a consumer reflexively reaches for their mobile device to fulfill an immediate need. This need can be to buy, to go somewhere, to know, or to do something.
The proliferation of smartphones has made it easier than ever for mobile users to act on their impulses, and Google is encouraging digital retailers to meet the needs of consumers by addressing these micro-moments. In the coming year, mapping the mobile-driven customer journey will become an increasingly important part of every digital marketing strategy.
Churning out regular content is no longer going to be enough in 2017. To get ahead of the competition and rank higher in organic search results, site owners need to produce content that resonates with mobile users.
If you haven’t already started, it’s time to think about your content marketing strategy for 2017. With the rise in voice search, you will want to think about integrating long-tail keywords and conversational phrases that mobile users will be using to search within your content. However, it isn’t just about sticking certain keywords into your content. Mobile users can spot useless content within seconds and bounce from your page. Take the time to make your content valuable to mobile users, taking the time to consider how mobile users might want different things than desktop traffic.
Of course, no one can say for certain what 2017 has in store for us, but these changes all follow Google’s momentum, building on actions and decisions the company has made over the last five years.
Mobile users are growing at a fast pace, and Google will continue to make changes that benefit those who use mobile devices. We have done our best to include only those trends we can depend on, so that our resources are spent on the right initiatives, those that will give our clients better results than the competition.