At the end of the year, we find it useful to take stock of all the industry developments we’ve observed over the past 12 months and try to predict what trends the new year will bring. Understanding the industry’s online marketing predictions for 2017 is the best way to make sure you start the new year on the right foot. So let’s get right into it. Here are the most significant online marketing predictions for 2017 you need to know about.
1. Putting a Premium on User Experience
Industry experts widely agree that search engines like Google are putting an increasing premium on user experience. Google is shaping its algorithms to accommodate what search users want and expect from their web browsing experience. And here’s how Sam Oh of Entrepreneur.com describes the expectations of today’s users:
People are no longer satisfied with good speeds and reasonably navigable sites. They now expect websites with nigh on instantaneous load times and sites that are easier to navigate than the back of your own hand.
Oh adds that Google is showing “clear favoritism” toward websites that fulfill these expectations. Google prefers sites that have a low bounce rate and more time spent on each page, which indicate that a site loads quickly, is optimized for mobile devices, and provides whatever information the user is looking for. We’ll discuss these points in depth in the next two online marketing predictions for 2017.
2. Favoring Mobile Usability Even More
Google has already shown a preference for mobile-optimized sites this year, as the volume of mobile searches overtakes desktop searches. What you’ll need to look out for in 2017 is how the definition of “optimized” has shifted. “Mobile optimized” used to mean your webpages were formatted to shrink and fit a mobile device screen with relatively easy navigation and readability. Now, it means your mobile pages must load super fast and bear very little resemblance to your desktop pages. They must be streamlined with menus and buttons that can be easily found and tapped on a small touch screen. Frankly, design elements left over from a desktop page have no place on a mobile page. Desktop elements will only encumber the usability and speed of a mobile page, thus lowering its SEO value. These new, ultra-fast mobile pages are referred to as “accelerated mobile pages,” or AMPs for short. And they’re all the rage. Writing for Forbes.com, R.L. Adams says that, as a result, you’ll want to start designing webpages in 2017 with a “mobile-first” approach, rather than adapting a desktop site for mobile after the fact:
By building a mobile-first design, you’re looking into the future and ensuring that you’re conforming to Google’s wishes. Those wishes are steeped in reality because mobile devices have become so important in our lives, that you simply can’t overlook mobile usability when thinking about SEO, especially when talking about SEO for the future.
Therefore, giving users a faster, more satisfying mobile search experience is at the top of Google’s priorities. Make sure you factor this into your online marketing in 2017.
3. Relying on Natural Language in Searches
Furthering its drive to deliver a better user experience, Google introduced an algorithm (called Hummingbird) that uses natural-language processing to match the meanings of similar words and phrases in search queries. Known as Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI), this system places more value on content and natural language over exact keyword matches. Why are keywords taking a backseat to natural language? Because more people now use their smartphone’s voice commands to search rather than manually type searches into their browser. People tend to ask complete questions instead of speaking in disjointed keywords. For example, a couple of years ago, if someone was looking for a local restaurant, they would manually type their search term into the browser using keywords. It would look like this: “restaurants Albany NY.” But now, people are more likely to vocally ask Siri or their Android devices to do their searching for them. The same search for a restaurant now sounds like this: “What are the best restaurants in Albany, NY?” This is what we mean by “natural language.” What impact will this have on your website? Essentially, your content must be detailed, dense, informative, and generally well written. This has always been the case to some extent, but it’s truer than ever now. In order to be favored on search results pages, your site needs more than a bunch of matching keywords. It needs lots of relevant and valuable content so it can be picked up by Google’s natural language processor. While Google was already moving toward natural language this past year, you can expect an increasing emphasis on it in 2017.
Give Users What They Want
Again, our online marketing predictions for 2017 boil down to one thing: user experience. To enjoy online marketing success in the coming year, you’ll have to help search engines like Google improve user experience. Accelerated mobile pages and natural language processing are two very significant ways Google seeks to do this. Adapt your online marketing to fit these trends. Good luck!