How SEO Evolved in 2016 and Predictions for 2017

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Ever since Google revolutionised how we find information, SEO has been a fundamental part of marketing a business online. 2016 saw many changes for SEO, and 2017 is sure to bring more.

So how exactly has SEO evolved for businesses that wish to thrive online, and what can we expect to happen in the near future that may have an impact on rankings, and business in general?

SEO searching on laptop

SEO is More Important Than Ever

Every so often there will be a blog post proclaiming that SEO is now dead, and is outdated. However this is still untrue, and until people stop using search engines, SEO will be an important part of any digital strategy.

More and more SEO tools now exist, helping more businesses succeed in the search results. Now that most businesses realise the importance of SEO, it means that it’s become much more competitive than in recent years, and this is set to continue into 2017.

Artificial Intelligence

Google, Amazon, Apple and IBM have developed artificial intelligence that has helped to enhance the online search process for users.

20% of queries on the Google mobile app was done via voice searches.

RankBrain, which is Google’s machine-learning AI, is one of the top three ranking signals within Google’s own search algorithm. With machine learning, this helps Google to deliver superior results for queries that haven’t been searched before.

Voice search and machine learning will help to power the AI of the future, and improve search engine results.

Algorithm Updates

Mobile-Friendly Boost

Mobilegeddon happened in 2015, and this ranking boost for mobile-friendly sites was increased in May 2016.

Penguin 4.0

In September 2016, Google rolled out Penguin 4.0, which devalued bad links, alongside allowing some sites to recover from penalties from previous Penguin algorithm updates.

Possum update

While this was never officially confirmed, the Google Maps results and the local pack seemed to be updated in September.

This was to prevent spam from ranking highly, and also diversified local results for relevant searches.

Mobile-First Indexing

Google is pushing for a mobile-first world even more this year, announcing that it would be switching to a mobile-first index soon enough. While they are still currently experimenting with this, it means that mobile versions of websites would be considered the default soon enough.

What can we expect from SEO in 2017?

Despite the fact SEO is an important part of any business serious about digital marketing, 2017 will see more businesses realise the potential for SEO. SEOSEO will become a more important marketing approach

RankBrain is sure to become more powerful, helping Google provide more relevant results to users. It would make sense that this will become an even more important part of Google’s core search algorithm in the near future.

As more and more people use mobile devices to search, voice search will increase in popularity.  Smart home devices such as the Amazon Echo will also grow in popularity through 2017, and it will be interesting to see how this will impact the everyday lives of those who adopt the devices.

What will really take voice search to the next level are the more advanced virtual assistants, such as Apple’s Siri, Google Now, and Amazon’s Alexa. These are on both smartphones and the smart home devices, and are likely to crop up elsewhere, such as in your car. Once these become even more powerful and iron out any errors that the public may find, more people will begin to use them to search online.

Big data will become even more important. Technology now has the capacity to collect huge amounts of data, and so utilising this most effectively will provide the best results in 2017.

It’s likely we will see more SEO tools become available, while existing tools merge and improve the current offerings in order to provide better results.