Here are our 2017 search predictions to help you prepare for the start of the upcoming year
As we prepare to head into 2017, we would like to continue our tradition of making predictions about what will influence search marketers in the new year. At our Share conference in October, many of these trends took center stage as experts discussed the rise of various technologies, such as progressive web apps. We have been monitoring the changes in digital trends across the industry. Here are our top 6 2017 search and marketing predictions.
1) The continued rise of the micro-moment
Google has pushed the idea of micro-moments strongly over the past year, and we think the importance of these high-impact touchpoints will become even more critical to SEO strategy in 2017.
The Google SERP has become increasingly oriented towards providing customers with rapid answers to their queries. Rich answers at the top of the search page increased from 22.6 percent of queries in December 2014 to 31.2 percent in July 2015, and they continue to grow in popularity. Rich card displays for certain queries were introduced as well, also providing searchers with easily-scannable solutions to their problems. For brands to succeed in this digital environment, their websites need to speak to the immediate and temporal needs of customers and the efforts of Google to provide the quick responses.
At Share16 this past October, one of our keynote speakers, Chris Bennett, spoke at length about the growing importance of Quick Answers and how to attain them. When your brand secures one of these prized locations, you achieve position zero, prominently featuring your content and url and driving traffic to your site. Since Quick Answers can also address questions throughout the early stages of the buyer’s journey– including offering details, such as cost estimates, in certain situations– brands need to incorporate these rich answers into their strategy to ensure they can hit the important buyer touchpoints.
Brands should develop content with the appropriate micro-moments in mind, making it easy for users to find the information they want quickly. The four main categories to focus on are the:
Brands should identify the micro-moments that apply most directly to the different stages of the buyer’s journey for their customers, and then create content that meets the needs of those touch points. Understanding the intent of the users, such as through the usage of the BrightEdge Intent Signal, can help you produce the content needed to engage people throughout these new micro touch points.
2) The rise of contextual marketing
Search, content, mobile and local are converging to create contextual digital marketing opportunities that makes search more important than ever. Marketers must learn to play at the intersection of search, content, mobile and local.
The rise of micro-moments and contextual marketing means a resurgence of SEO. Marketers must elevate the role of organic search as the focal point of marketing efforts; it’s strategic, important, and warrants more investment, especially as it drives down the cost of paid acquisition channel. Organic fuels digital transformation – and transforms all downstream initiatives – (content, paid acquisition, digital, mobile, social, email)
3) The user-first experience
Although marketers have generally touted the importance of the customer-first outlook in digital marketing for years, Google and consumers now force the hands of any slow adopters. Google has continually updated their algorithm to reduce the impact of webspam and poor-quality content. Customers have also begun to expect highly-relevant, valuable material from the websites they visit. They have low tolerance for slow-loading websites– a one-second delay can result in a 7 percent decrease in conversions– and websites that are so poorly designed that it is hard to find the information they need.
As the digital marketing world continues to mature, and brands produce even more content, competition will also increase. The digital ecosystem is expected to grow from 130 exabytes in 2005 to 40,000 by 2020. With this tremendous growth comes immense competition, and organizations that want to maintain strong rankings and establish themselves within their industry are going to need to acknowledge the user-first mentality that Google wants sites to adopt and that customers have come to expect.
AMP will begin to spread beyond news sites
Google continues to push brands toward AMP pages. They see the ability to quickly access desired information as an important component of a successful mobile experience for customers. Currently, AMP pages are mostly for news articles, but there have been numerous conversations about the development of AMP for other types of sites and pages. Ebay was a trailblazer when they announced that they had designed over 8 million pages in AMP. Although it has not caught on very quickly in the ecommerce world or for other non-news sites, it is likely that 2017 will start to see more developments in this arena.
Brands should continue to look for AMP trends for their types of content. Even without AMP, however, organizations should look to maximize their site speed.
Developments in the mobile experience
Conversational queries have been on the rise as voice recognition becomes increasingly popular on various mobile devices. Google has said that about 20% of mobile traffic comes through voice search. This means brands will need to start thinking about the implications of how people phrase their queries. Using more casual language that aligns with how people phrase questions when they are speaking to a phone will likely end up being significant as this trend becomes more prominent.
We also cannot discuss mobile 2017 search predictions without touching upon the implications of the mobile-first index that Google has begun to develop. In November the search engine giant released their first test of this new index. In doing so, they did answer several questions that we had about this impending change.
- There will not be a second index– the mobile-first index will impact both desktop and mobile searches.
- They are also still working on rectifying potential challenges with the mobile-first mentality– particularly the use of backlinks as a ranking factor, since most people tend to link to the desktop version of websites rather than the mobile version.
While these issues still need to ironed out, it is likely that we will see significant tests and maybe even the release of the final version in early 2017.
To prepare, brands need to make sure that their mobile sites are fully equipped for the new mobile search. To learn more, please read our blog post on the release of the mobile-first index as well as Google’s own webmaster recommendations.
Shift to mobile commerce
From 2014 to 2016, mobile shopping spend grew from $19 billion to a estimated $31 billion. Mobile commerce is also expected to be 50 percent of all digital commerce by 2017. Seizing the mobile ecommerce opportunity with strategies such as:
- Mobile friendly check-out processes, such as mobile wallets
- AMP or fast-loading product pages
- Page design that simplifies navigation for those on mobile
At Share16 this past October, we also had Thao Tran on the main stage offering a keynote. During her talk, she discussed the rise in importance of progressive web apps. Google would like to create a shopping experience for customers that will allow them to move seamlessly from online to offline. This means that customers who have spotty internet connections or are temporarily not connected can still interact with their favorite brands. These PWA have already become increasingly popular with overseas brands, particularly in Africa and Asia. It is likely that this technology will grow in 2017, becoming the cutting edge of the digital mobile shopping experience this year in the US. It will then become increasingly mainstream starting in 2018 and moving forward. Brands that want to show themselves to be industry leaders, however, need to think about how they can begin to take advantage of this emerging technology. As a part of our 2017 search predictions, we believe we will see multiple top brands shift towards this technology.
As the role in mobile grows in commerce, brands will also need to be able to better track customers from one device to another. Customers today might perform research on a mobile device while on-the-go and begin using a desktop to finish the process upon arriving home that night. The better brands can link different devices to one person, the easier it will be to further personalize marketing. This drive explains why several major brands, including Oracle, announced acquisitions and investments that would boost their ability to match different devices to a single consumer (Gartner, Hype Cycle for Digital Marketing and Advertising, 2016). This type of cross-device tracking will grow in importance in 2017.
5) Better integration with paid search
Our research at BrightEdge shows that 51 percent of traffic to your site arrives from organic search. Recent trends on the SERPs, however, indicate, that paid search may become a greater part of brand success in 2017.
Last February, Google introduced changes in the SERP layout that included the increase in ads along the top of the search results, with some queries resulting in as many as four paid options before the organic results begin.
Many queries, such as ‘how to decorate a small bedroom’, feature several image-based paid ads at the top.
Google has incorporated paid results into the local 3-pack on local results. Brands that want to remain relevant despite these changes should be consider integrating their paid search planning with their organic SEO efforts.
Organizations can use their paid search opportunities to help them fill in gaps on keywords where they might not rank highly. Studies have also shown that paid search can help to increase clicks on your organic results when both results appear on the SERP for a single query. The data pulled from paid marketing campaigns can even help inform SEO strategy. The closer these two groups can work together moving forward into the new year, the stronger search will perform for the brand.
6) The continued rise of video and images
We have been watching the rise of video and images over the past several years, and we are expecting even greater prominence heading into 2017. Already, 59 percent of senior executives say that they would prefer to watch a video than read content when they are both on the same page. The human brain can also process images 60,000x faster than standard written content, making it a fantastic way to better engage with users. Content with images, for example, receive 94 percent more views.
In 2017, the digital content world will only become more saturated with people vying for the attention of your audience. Brands do not want to overlook any potential fodder than can help encourage people to stay and engage with the organization. Prominent and helpful images will only become more necessary in the upcoming year.
The role of video and images also plays strongly into the idea of the micro-moment. Customers have different intentions when they arrive on the search engine page. Depending upon the micro-moment that they experience, they might be looking for images– such as of products or local businesses. For example, the query, “what does an Amazon Dot look like?” which can be part of an I-want-to-know or an I-want-to-buy micromoment, returns multiple pictures at the top of the screen.
Understanding the intentions of your customers and the context of their search can help you can use images and videos to engage consumers during the modern buyer’s journey. The optimization of these types of content to attract people during the appropriate micro touch-points can help bring more people into your funnel.
The signs are already in place that 2017 will be an exciting year in the world of digital marketing and SEO. Technology continues to improve at a lightning pace, helping brands better engage their prospects and improve their understanding of the target audience. We eagerly anticipate where the industry will be heading in the next year and look forward to watching out for these 2017 search predictions and the technology bloom.