Regardless of whether it’s flying by or moving at a snail’s pace for you personally, it was just seven weeks ago when industry watchers predicted what search would look like in 2017. While it’s way too soon to know whether those many (many) predictions will come to fruition or not, we already know at least five things to be true about search in the new year. Read on to discover the steps your digital enterprise should be taking to be in compliance with search engine expectations.
HTTPS is a Priority
Google announced late last year that in Jan. 2017 it would begin marking HTTP pages that collect passwords or credit cards as “non-secure,” as part of a long-term plan to mark all HTTP sites as non-secure in Google Chrome.
The industry is already supporting site owners who are ready to be in compliance with Google’s “request.” BigCommerce, for instance, teamed up with Symantec for a solution called Encryption Everywhere, which will give Big Commerce customers access to a suite of encryption products, including a free standard SSL certificate, which can enhance security and improve shopper confidence (Google’s Chrome browser is marking any page with a password or credit card field as unsecure if the page is not on HTTPS).
A “not secure” label has the ability to impact conversions, key performance metrics and search rankings. When a person visits a site on their Chrome browser and Google indicates the site is not secure, it is very unlikely he or she will stay on the site (reducing time on site and increasing bounce rate – all ranking factors) let alone enter their personal information. What’s more, Google indicates that sites served over HTTPS load significantly faster than their HTTP counterparts, and page speed is considered one of some 200 ranking factors that Google considers and definitely impacts conversions as well.
Algorithm Update Rumors Are Alive and Well
There’s no way seven weeks could have passed in the new year, without a rumor or two about Google algorithm updates. Rumor has it, for example, that Google may have improved how it detects spammy links (including those from/within private blog networks) with many search result tracking tools including MozCast, Algoroo and RankRanger showing significant turbulence starting in early February 2017.
Small Business Owners are Still Intimidated by SEO
Small businesses owners (SBOs), including many car dealers, are relying on strategies such as social media (45 percent), public relations (31 percent), display advertising (24 percent) and mobile marketing (21 percent) to promote their businesses, according to a recent poll from Manta, but far fewer are using true, professional grade SEO. While social media has its benefits (like brand awareness and loyalty), of course, organic search remains the top driver of website traffic for most organizations, yet very few business owners plan understand the correlation between SEO and Conversion Optimization relative to website visitor conversion into lead generation.
Content Marketing and SEO Need Each Other
Nearly 80 percent of content marketers say that increasing their company’s online visibility is their primary content marketing goal according to a new study from Clutch released today, but there is still confusion over how much content is too much and when quality is more important than quantity. In addition, the majority of content marketers say they want to improve their company’s content, according to the study findings, making optimizing content for access across multiple devices (26 percent), creating more original content (24 percent) and including more visual elements (21 percent) all priorities.
“As far as SEO goes, without content there are no rankings and there is no opportunity to appear in results,” said Moz Founder Rand Fishkin in an interview with Clutch. “[Content marketing and SEO] are two practices that very much need each other.”
The survey also explored the types of content businesses produce in order to support three goals: brand awareness, SEO and lead generation. Clutch found that companies focusing on brand awareness tend to create infographics (19 percent) and product reviews (18 percent), while those focused on SEO and lead generation are most likely to produce research/original data (21 percent) and infographics (14 percent).
Fishkin warns, however, that “the age of infographics is dying, and most of them are quite bad” anyway.
“The ones that have success do so in a slightly manipulative way,” said Fishkin. “The embed gets linked back with very particular anchor texts that take advantage of search algorithms.”
Rather, using content to rank on the first page of Google requires paying attention to the quality of content produced. It needs to be “10x better than anything [you] can find in the search results today,” according to Fishkin.
Google My Business More Important than Ever
With recent updates to the dashboard as proof, Google My Business is already playing a prominent role in the search landscape of 2017. Mike Blumenthal has reported on two significant improvements to GMB like the upgrade of “the interface and functionality of the photos section within the My Business Dashboard” as well as support for temporary business closures with a process within GMP and an appropriate messaging on the business Knowledge Panel. In addition to those two updates, it’s reported that Google is testing a Google My Business website builder tool, which as of now is a “super simple” single-page website builder, but one has to imagine it will grow in capabilities and support Google-friendly elements from the start (e.g., HTTPS, responsive, etc.).