Before we know it 2016 will be gone and 2017 will be here.

In fact, many businesses have already started the countdown to Christmas, which is often one of the highest spending seasons for many brands.

In digital marketing, keeping ahead of the trends is especially important. If you are starting to put strategies into place for the coming months or even for 2017, it is definitely going to be helpful to have some idea of the latest search engine optimisation (SEO) trends.

In recent years, there have been many rumours about the future of SEO. Some businesses swear by it and use it as the holygrail, whereas other businesses give very little regard to it.

There really is no right or wrong here,  but the one thing that we know for sure after working with hundreds of companies and clients- if you want to grow a scalable business you have to pay attention to SEO.

How much attention you choose to pay depends on your business and your exact goals, but ignoring SEO altogether is going to make it very difficult to build any kind of profitable venture online.

Over the years, SEO has changed drastically. What worked 5 years ago definitely does not work today and it seems that this trend is here to stay.

As Google and other platforms get savvier and more intelligent, the rules of SEO are always going to keep changing.

This means that as a business you need to have your finger on the pulse and be up to date with all the of the latest news and trends.

Of course, this may be challenging to do when you have a million other things on your plate to worry about, which is why having a knowledgeable guide like this one can definitely help.

Whether you are getting ready to adjust your strategy for 2017 or you are simply looking to see if your SEO process is up to date, this guide is for you.

We are going to take you through step by step on how to approach SEO and what direction we feel that it is heading in.

We will also share with you some SEO predictions from top SEO marketers in the industry.

Let’s get started….

SEO Then Vs. SEO Now

A few years ago SEO used to be about single keywords and was much more page focused. Knowing the top keywords for each page was paramount and boosting your ranking on top search engines was the primary objective.

Now however, SEO has shifted to being more about engagement and long tail keywords. It has also shifted to have an emphasis on brand building rather than just a single product or service.

When it comes to SEO strategies, keyword research is still important but so is analytics, content creation and social media marketing.

In fact today, keyword research is nowhere near as important as social media marketing or content creation.

Nowadays, in order to really understand SEO, you have to have a solid understanding of your website analytics.

This is because search engines like Google are starting to give priority to sites with high engagement rates. This includes the average time spent on your site, your bounce rate and your overall traffic quality.

As a business, SEO has also shifted to more of a ROI focus than a ranking focus.

Even if you do manage to get the top spot on Google’s search page results, what good is it if you are not generating any sales?

In recent years, the focus has definitely shifted away from ranking and onto ROI. Even if you are 10th on Google’s search results, if you are turning over a handsome profit, who really cares?

As you can see, there have been many shifts in the direction of SEO over the last few years. To summarise-

  • SEO has moved away from a single keyword focus to long tail keywords
  • SEO has moved away from a ranking focus to more of a ROI focus
  • SEO is now all about engaging with your audience rather than simply promoting a product or service
  • Analytics, content creation and social media marketing are just as, if not more important than keyword research

Lets now take a look at the growing and emerging trends in SEO for 2016 to 2017.

Keywords: Then and Now

As we have already mentioned, singular keywords were often the main focus when it came to SEO marketing a few years ago. If you could rank for a single keyword, it is likely that your site would have earned a lot of traffic.

This of course is highly desirable for businesses and would have helped them to turn those visitors into sales.

Now however, SEO is all about long tail keywords, as these help Google to match specific search queries with the best website.

Long tail keywords also help search engines to match up search results with users needs, which in turn, helps users to find what they are looking for with minimal stress.

Research has also found that 70 percent of traffic comes from long tail keywords. This means that your brand could be missing out unless you take advantage of longer keywords.

Long tail keywords also help your brand to generate more specific content, which in turn helps you to attract your most desirable customer.

For example, if your keyword is simply “avocado” it would be very difficult to attract a specific customer to your website. While you may get a lot of traffic, that traffic is not likely to convert into actual sales.

Compare this however, with “avocado recipes for celiacs” and it is likely that your page will be attracting a very specific customer. While you may not get as much traffic, your conversion rates are bound to be higher.

Especially when it comes to online marketing, appealing to the masses is not always the best strategy.

Sometimes it is far more rewarding to narrow in on a highly selected target audience and work on getting those visitors to become life long customers of your brand.

Content: Then and Now

In the past, content was created purely for the search engine. It didn’t really matter the quality of the content as long as it was stuffed with keywords.

Those days however, are long gone and now there is a huge emphasis on content creation and quality.

Sites that make it their aim to create engaging, well written and well presented content are consistently ranked higher than sites that don’t.

Many search engines also give huge priority to websites that offer content of value to their readers and regularly update their content as well.

Back in 2014, one survey found that just 45 percent of businesses had integrated content marketing into their SEO strategy.

Today, this number is expected to be a lot higher and close to 80 percent of businesses have at least one blog.

Content creation is super important if you want your website to rank higher in search results, but not just any old content will do.

Search engines like Google for example, favour content that is-

  • over 2, 500 words
  • uses short paragraphs
  • has subheadings and dot points
  • is original and not duplicated
  • focused on providing value
  • not stuffed with keywords
  • has correct grammar, spelling and punctuation
  • is actually read by your audience

One of the easiest ways to check to see if your content is up to scratch is to take a look at your website analytics. Pay attention to factors such as-

  • Average time spent on site/session duration
  • Returning vs. new visitors
  • Daily uniques vs. daily sessions
  • Bounce rate
  • Demographics
  • Referrals

By looking at these statistics, you can work out how engaged your audience actually is in your content. The higher engagement rates you have, the more likely your site is ranking well on search engines.

Referrals are also important when it comes to SEO. If your referrals are from high quality sites like Huffington Post, The Herald Sun and Facebook, it is also likely that your website is going to get ranking preference.

Google are also excellent at detecting discrepancies in traffic. If all your traffic seems to be coming from suspicious sites based out of Asia for example, it is also likely that your website may not rank as high in search results.

Link Building: Then and Now

It makes sense that search engines would give preference to sites that have been back-linked to multiple times around the web. This shows search engines that these particular sites are important and are perhaps even an authority.

Many years ago you could add your webpages to databases and build spammy back links. This was a great, quick and easy strategy that helped to increase the importance and therefore the ranking of your webpage.

Now however, this strategy simply does not work and can actually harm your brand. A good example of this comes from QuickSprout.

They shared a case study whereby a marketer bought a cheap link building service from the outsourcing platform, Fiverr –

“Barrie Smith bought a Fiverr link building service that drove 10,000 verified comment backlinks for $5 targeting the keyword “womens underwear online” to a domain he owned.”

What were the results?

You guessed it- Barrie’s website was no where to be found and never even made it into the top 100 spot on Google for his specific keyword.

Buying cheap backlinks don’t work and can even get you blacklisted by Google. A much more productive way to increase links to your site is to write guest posts and work on creating excellent content.

Both of these may take more time and energy, but the results are definitely worth it. Here is another case study from QuickSprout just to prove it-

“Brian Dean from Backlinko was able to increase his traffic by creating better content than his competitors and reach out to the backlinks for the competitor’s outdated content and replace them with his. (This resulted in a) 110 percent increase in organic traffic in 14 days.”

As you can see, taking the time to build up your authority online by creating exceptional content is a great way to not only boost your brand but to boost your SEO rankings as well.

Social Media: Then and Now

Social media is relatively new on the scene, but in 2016 and definitely into 2017, it is taking front and centre.

If you are not present on social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, chances are your SEO is going to suffer.

Social media pages are now receiving top ranking preferences and in order to capitalise on this, your brand needs to be apart of it all.

Being on multiple social media platforms does require some effort, so perhaps take the time to work out which social platforms may benefit your business the most.

For example, if you are a product based business that is targeting mostly women, being on sites like Instagram and Pinterest are probably going to be your best bet.

If you are a B2B brand that mostly works with high profile clients, being on LinkedIn and Twitter may be a better fit.

Most brands today have some social media presence, but another way to go one step above and beyond your competition, is to also get your brand mentioned on popular review sites like Yelp or on video sites like YouTube.

You may also want to submit your blog content to Google News to also increase your page rankings.

Most businesses don’t realise the importance of being on sites like these, so if your brand can get ahead of the curve it is likely to stand out to your customers and search engines.

Mobile: Then and Now

Mobile web browsing has grown so much in the last few years that search engines are definitely paying attention.

Just last year, Google announced that it would be giving preference to brands that had a responsive mobile site and would be featuring them at the top of their search results.

Since these changes have been implemented, most brands now have at least some type of mobile site. While this is a great first step, it shouldn’t just end there.

In order to really impress your customers and the search engines, you need to have a mobile webpage that is easy to use, quick to load and offers a way to purchase or sign up to your products and services.

With the holiday season right around the corner, you can be certain that customers are going to be using their phone or tablet to make purchases and discover information about your brand.

To check the efficiency of your mobile page, have a friend or family member visit the page and ask them to order one of your products or sign up to your email list. Time how long it takes them to complete the task and ask them how easy it was to navigate through your site.

This should give you some indication as to what changes you may need to make on your mobile site. Another way to test the effectiveness of your mobile webpage is to visit your analytics.

This should give you a pretty clear indication of how your customers and audience are using your mobile site.

While we have a comprehensive guide on how to create a top notch mobile landing page, here are some quick pointers that may help guide you in the right direction-

  • Simple layout and design
  • Clear call to actions
  • Aim for one call to action per page
  • Don’t ask users to fill out numerous forms
  • Make text big and scannable
  • Make buttons noticeable and easy to click
  • Have a fast checkout option
  • Have a contact option -phone or email
  • Have a social share bar or links to social media

Voice Search: Then and Now

A recent statistic has found that 55 percent of teenagers use voice search on a daily basis.

Voice search is definitely a growing trend and shows no sign of slowing down.

Google is one of the leaders in voice search technology along with Apple’s Siri, but there are plenty of other apps on the market that are also aiming to take their share in the technology.

Voice search is something that many business owners have disregarded in 2016, but in 2017 it is going to become something to pay attention to.

Voice search is ultimately going to change the way you use your keywords and will change the way you structure your content.

For example, lets say you looking for a French cheese shop in Melbourne. If you were to type this search query into your phone or computer, it may look something like- “french cheese shop melbourne”.

But if you were to speak the search query, you may say something like- “where is the nearest french cheese shop?”

As you can see from this example, voice search queries are often going to be questions that use the words – who, what, where, why and how.

This means that focusing on these keywords and optimising your content to actually answer these questions for your customers is going to become more important.

Local: Then and Now 

Local SEO has been growing in importance and this trend is expected to continue well into 2017.

For most businesses, local search queries offer the best opportunity to stand out from their competitors.

After all, if you own a florist shop in Ivanhoe, why not target local customers who are more likely to drive to your store than someone else’s.

Even if you don’t run a brick and mortar business, customers are often drawn to online companies that are in the same area as they are. Psychologically, this is because they feel connected to you and are therefore more likely to trust you.

Local search and voice related searches are expected to go hand in hand as more people start making search queries on their phone when they are out and about in a particular area.

The best way to optimise this growing trend is to make sure your business is on Google Maps and has an address listed.

You may also want to add your business to local directories and review sites and write content that uses local keywords.

The Future of SEO for 2017

Any good marketer knows that SEO is always changing and evolving. By keeping ahead of the trends and up to date with what is happening online, you can be sure that your online business will always be ahead of the curve.

Here is a summary of the SEO trends that will lead us into 2017-

  • SEO will continue to be dependent on engagement rates and on how well you can keep your readers interested.
  • Analytics, content creation, social media marketing and keyword research should not be ignored.
  • Long tail keywords are better than short, one word keywords as they help to attract a specific audience to your site that is more likely to convert.
  • Create backlinks through guest posts and exceptional content, rather than cheap, quick and easy means.
  • Focus on creating valuable content for your readers before you do anything else.
  • Optimise your mobile site and ensure that it is easy to use and navigate through.
  • Put emphasis on local keywords and list your business on directories and review sites.
  • Make your content voice search friendly by including question phrases such as how, what, where, why and who.

The trends for 2016-2017 listed above are a great place to start if you are looking to update your SEO strategy in the coming months.

It may also interest you to know however, that a recent poll was conducted by SEO experts around the world. They were asked to share their predictions for SEO in 2017 and this is what the results were-

(Results are listed in order from highest to lowest)

Top SEO Experts Weigh In on the Growing Trends for 2017 

(Source: Alameda Internet Marketing)

  1. Mobile
  2. Epic content
  3. Voice search
  4. Micro Formats
  5. Artificial Intelligence
  6. UX & User optimisation
  7. Outreach and Influencer marketing
  8. Backlinks
  9. Paid channels
  10. Video
  11. Market Consolidation
  12. HTTPS
  13. Site Speed
  14. Internet of Things
  15. Real Marketing Campaigns
  16. Google will buy Twitter
  17. Virtual Reality
  18. Push Notifications

What do you think will be the next trend for SEO in 2017?