So what did we learn about SEO in 2016 that we can carry over into the New Year and improve our SERP positioning? We learned numbers! Lots of numbers!

I think that the most interesting statistics this year (and even from previous years) center around mobile, voice search on mobile, and voice search through present and future home devices. And they’ll probably all be applicable to a greater extent as the year unfolds.

In this article, we will take what we have learned from the past year and share what we think are the most important SEO predictions for 2017 and beyond.

1. Mobile Search Dominates Desktop

According to Search Engine Watch, we know that 93% of encounters online begin with a search, and from a Search Engine Land article, we learned that 65% of those searches worldwide are done through Google.

Impact has told us that 80% of users on the Internet own a smartphone, and Smart Insights indicates that the same percentage of smartphones (80%) are used to search online.

Marketing Land suggested that 56% of traffic received by the top 10,000 US websites in 24 categories came from mobile. However, if we read that actual webpage prologue by SimilarWeb that produced the report, we find that it reads the “…leading 10,000 most mobile sites in the US in 2015.”

The report itself, however, loses the most mobile reference entirely, so there is some uncertainty as to whether just mobile-friendly sites were included in the report, or mobile and desktop sites were the ones for which the stats were presented.

What does all of this mean for search in 2017? There will be some distinct changes and unique approaches developed to provide mobile-search-worthy content in 2017. SEO will not only have to address mobile’s consumption of quick, complete responses to specific questions (whether by voice or text), and produce more content pages optimized for mobile; it will also have to reflect the growing needs of the voice-only market created by home devices.

2. Voice Search Over Text Search

In a May of 2016 article, Search Engine Land cited Google indicating that 20% of mobile queries were voice searches. Now that Google has prioritized Mobile over Desktop, our takeaway should be that we can expect that number of voice queries from mobile to continue to increase significantly.

The anticipated high adoption rates of home devices such as Google Home, Amazon Echo, and Windows’ upcoming device, will all contribute to the growth of voice search.

As discussed in Voice Activated SEO Strategy for Google Home Device, Google is expected to ship nearly 3 million voice-activated speaker devices in 2017. According to Geek Wire, Amazon has already sold 5 million Echo units. That is at least 8 million reasons to focus more intently on voice searches.

The argument for voice-activated searches will direct the purposeful route of website content toward more specifically-tailored responses to voice searches from 2 very different devices. Those responses will need to be capable of serving their two new online masters (mobile and home assistant) while maintaining desktop traffic. Do any other SEO writers feel like a sideshow juggler already?

Even though both user groups could be searching for similar content, determining user intention based on separate schemes for each style of device will become extremely important, depending on the way voice search tactics by users evolve over time for each group.

SEO companies will need to develop ways to uniquely satisfy the needs of each group of device users without risking duplicate content issues that could be detrimental to their overall SERP strategies (mobile, home, and desktop) as a whole. Target strategies for keywords will no doubt appear somewhat disjointed initially.

It wouldn’t surprise me if as many as 3 different plans evolved for the 3 disparate search methods:

  • Mobile Voice
  • Home Assistant Voice
  • Desktop

3. Apps (plus or minus) Mobile-Friendly Websites?

Smart Insights has quoted Yahoo! Flurry stats, indicating that apps are used predominantly on mobile devices, with 90% of time on a mobile device being spent on an app, as opposed to using a browser such as Chrome (only 4%).

For some companies, I would argue that an app offers some great potential. But, for companies with a consistently changing landscape of information, articles, blogs, and other forms of data not conducive to being presented in app form, their websites will remain as go-to places for individuals with an interest in their products, services, or culture.

Such sites will still require ongoing SEO attention, but how that attention might translate into SEO planning will undoubtedly take a step sideways as more prominent mobile and voice usage begins to nudge desktop to one side until, dare we even think it, we’ve evolved into a totally mobile and voice driven world?

4. Time to Get Hyped About HTTPS

According to Search Engine Journal, as of February 1, 2017, Google has warned that Chrome will mark sites as unsecure if they have forms that collect information such as personal information, credit card information, or password information, and the site does not utilize HTTPS.

Even if only one page collects information insecurely, the entire site will be marked as unsecure, and Chrome users will be unable to access it without clicking through against Chrome’s warnings. Without HTTPS, most websites are open to man-in-the-middle attacks, through which sensitive information can easily be collected. Considering that 55% of desktop and mobile traffic is searched through Chrome, this is a significant wake-up call for website owners.

In February of 2014, I did some research on my own regarding the security of 86 major corporate oil company websites through which I was attempting to submit job applications at the time. Only 13% of these websites were attempting to collect my personal information securely through their own domain. 17% were attempting to collect my information through unsecured pages on the company domain. And probably the most shocking stat was that 23% of these companies were attempting to collect my personal data through unsecured third party domains.

While Google’s move on HTTPS is going to create some pain points for companies ill-prepared for the transition, I applaud the move. It’s time that major companies and corporations started taking more responsibility for safely handling our personal data.

If your company hasn’t done so already, start taking measures NOW to secure your domain before February 1. For more information on the importance of HTTPS, read my other blog article What Does it Take to Rank #1 on Google?

5. Mobile-Friendly Sites and Soft Selling

We’ve all visited those sites. You know the ones. You arrive on your mobile device and have to start zooming in and scrolling from side to side just to read the content. The links are so small, and so close together, that you inevitably click on the wrong link, and close your browser in frustration when the page is only half loaded.

Impact has written that Google indicated 61% of visitors won’t return to your site if they had trouble gaining access to it on mobile, claiming that 40% will visit the site of a competitor instead. CMS Report states that 57% of users won’t recommend your business if your mobile site is poorly designed.

And, a whopping 87% of purchasers, according to Search Engine Watch, indicate that online content has an influence over their decisions to purchase, with 43% disliking a hard sell or conspicuous advertising.

What Does It All Mean?

So what does all of this mean for 2017? Mobile, Home Assistants, HTTPS, and more mobile-friendly websites are probably going to be some of the most important aspects of SEO to pursue this year.

How user intent is defined, particularly where voice search is concerned will likely be one of the most important, ongoing discussions in 2017, making it worthy of its own developmental approaches and evolving strategies.

For an even scarier reminder of how things change so quickly online, visit Live Internet Stats and become mesmerized by their stunning visuals.

If you want to know more about any SEO strategies for 2017, contact 1st on the List today at 1-888-262-6687. Or drop us an email.