5 Action Items SEOs Need to Push for Success in 2017

Sounds like the beginning of the avalanche of 2017 articles that come too soon doesn’t it? However, if you’re like me you have plans mapped out for months ahead.

And if we’re being candid, if you’re working with a development team that thinks SEO is just extra non-essentials, or working on a massive site, you know getting the ball rolling can take a while.

As much as I hate to say it, it’s time to start prepping internal efforts for the factors that will determine who gains and loses market share in search engines this coming year. So, what is on the horizon? What is starting to matter now?

Action Item #1: AMP up your site.

SEOs need to get out there, take the gloves off and aggressively lobby to make AMP pages the cornerstone of a successful company-wide growth strategy for 2017.

Keep in mind this is all part of an effort on Google’s part to expand and keep people in it’s ecosystem, even as Facebook, Instagram, and SnapChat take up more of its focus.

Google knows the younger audience is on those platforms. In order to stay relevant, and keep their all important Ad revenue, they have to win in a mobile world. How better to keep those impatient millennials (me included) by boosting the speed of sites, and handsomely rewarding those who do.

Who do you think will dominate the new mobile index? Old school websites, mobile friendly sites, or sites that have taken the time to implement Accelerated MobilePages?

When Google implemented its AMP initiative, it was a pretty clear signal that Google prefers mobile pages that load lightning fast. That makes sense, considering that your customers prefer the same thing. Whether you are using AMP or not, the trend is that, if your web pages are loading slowly, your SEO ranking will drop.

This is just a given. So, 2017 is the year to put some thought into how to improve your web loading speeds, especially for mobile devices. Think of it as painting racing stripes across your SEO strategy.

Action Item #2: Local SEO and Voice Optimization Or Bust

Local SEO is the only game to win for businesses that make their revenue from local people.

As more and more customers begin using voice search technology to make inquiries, local SEO will become even more important than it is now. To take advantage of this trend, you will need to seriously consider how your customers will use voice search. What phrases will they use? Optimize your content to match those phrases.

Make sure the sites whose business growth depends on local SEO fundamentals are ready.

Additionally, voice search makes it even more important to be certain your business is on Google Maps and has an address. For instance, when customer Joe does a voice search saying "Where can I get a (insert your product here)", you want to do everything you can to ensure Joe will be sent to your site. So, optimize your long-tail keywords to match the natural way a verbal inquiry would likely be phrased.

Action Item #3: Google’s RankBrain Makes Its Mark

Don’t think about SEO keyword tricks anymore, RankBrain at its best will handle those little tricks and distinctions that we SEOs used to exploit so well.

Since Google announced that RankBrain is the third most important factor in its current ranking algorithm, SEO experts have been pondering what that means for the future of SEO. To figure that out, you must first understand what RankBrain really is.

SearchEngineJournal.com provides this easy explanation: "RankBrain is a form of Artificial Intelligence used by Google to help filter and process a large portion of search queries, so the results displayed are relevant to, and reflective of, the search intent. RankBrain uses machine learning and AI, with the ability to predict meaning, and therefore relevancy, to display the best matching results, even for previously unknown, and new search requests."

Check out this video from the incredibly laid back Gary Illyes from Google Search to gleam a few gems on how things will shake out Obviously he’s avoiding giving big tips away but the nuances are important.

The main functionality of RankBrain, then, is to understand user intent. Using AI in this way enables Google to provide a better user experience. To put it simply, RankBrain figures out what you are really looking for even if you do not use the exact keywords that others use to search for the same information.

As 2017 approaches, SEO experts are still pondering whether it is possible to actually optimize for RankBrain. The Moz Blog notes that it is not possible to optimize for RankBrain in the same way that you can optimize for Panda or Penguin, for instance. However, following best SEO practices in general will help your content rank better with RankBrain.

For instance, it appears that long-form content and long-tail keywords are favored by Google's latest algorithms. And with the addition of RankBrain to the mix of ranking factors, it is also important to use synonyms and phrases related to your keywords in a natural way throughout your content.

Using natural language not only provides a better user experience once a user lands on your content, but also makes it more likely that users will find your content in the first place, now that RankBrain is on the job.

So, for SEO purposes, long-form, relevant content with plenty of natural language that incorporates long-tail keywords and related phrases is the way to go in 2017.

Action Item #4: SEO Will Become Even More People Focused

Google's current algorithm factors the strength of people signals into the rankings mix. Make sure your brand is recognizable so that you’re maximizing CTR’s for better rankings and reducing pogo sticking.

In 2017, social media marketing will play an even more prominent role in ensuring solid search ranking. This means that it is a great time for SEO specialists to focus on building a stronger presence on social media, or taking whatever steps they can to get in front of customers even when they’re not in the buying cycle. Forbes gives these social media marketing tips to improve your SEO:

Action Item #5: Backlinking Like a Boss

Links still matter. As much as Google wishes the algorithm knew all, the basics that originally built Google still matter today.

While Google has been steadily cracking down on spammy backlinks, and dropping page ranks like a stone if your content is of low quality, this trend is here to stay. Google will keep on fighting, even in the face of those who will continue spamming ; )

While I wish the best of luck to them, for the rest of us continuing our authoritative backlink growth plans is the only way to go.

This means that you will need to craft high quality, shareable content both on your own site and in guest posts for other authority sites. Internal linking to other high quality content balanced with external links to other authority sources will help your site gain authority as well.

Once again, for SEO purposes, content is still king but promo is God, or the queen or whatever you want to call it. If you build it, they won’t come. This means for success purposes you need to have either a built in audience or a built in promotion plan for anything you produce.

Neil Patel offers this short and sweet advice for getting quality backlinks quickly and without risking a Google penalty:

The Bottom Line

For 2017, focusing on user intent will help keep your content relevant. Use long-tail keywords and variations of phrases in long-form content to be more attractive to search engines. Create authoritative backlinks by building relationships with thought leaders in your space, and have a promotion plan for all your content. Design quality guest posts to build backlinks more quickly. For clients who rely on local search understand that user reviews and local citations matter for rankings in the all important local carousel and map.

While search engine ranking algorithms are constantly evolving and changing, good SEO practices stand the test of time. If you are providing relevant, highly-engaging content, you are well on your way to achieving your SEO goals.

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