The SEO industry is constantly growing—experts predict spending will reach $80 billion by 2020—and constantly changing. In large part, changes in SEO are driven by the whims of Google. As the owner of the world’s two largest search engines (Google and YouTube), any changes Google makes to its algorithm have direct, and not insignificant, impacts to an organization’s bottom line.
Google updates its algorithm on a near-daily basis. Not all of these stick, and many changes are too minor to talk about. However, with time, these small changes add up to major differences in the way search results appear and how Google chooses to rank your website.
That’s why it’s imperative for marketers to stay abreast of these changes. By recognizing the trends early, you can begin incorporating them into your website marketing strategy now. This gives you ample time to get ahead of the curve before they become mainstream—and accumulate gains in organic traffic along the way.
The following are the top three trends you need to discuss with your marketing agency to prepare your website to rank well, both for today and well into the future.
1. The impact of AMP on site speed
The Accelerated Mobile Pages Project, or AMP for short, is a relatively new, stripped-down open standard for rendering web pages. It’s designed to make pages load twice as fast as normal mobile pages, by removing all the unnecessary elements that bog down load time—like popup banners, video ads, and external CSS.
Google rolled out its Speed Update last July, making page speed a ranking factor for all web pages—including mobile sites. AMP itself is not a ranking factor yet, but, considering its relation to mobile page speed, don’t be surprised if it becomes one soon. In the meantime, implementing AMP on the front-end of your site helps you earn featured spots in Google’s mobile search results, like the Top Stories news carousel. It also makes your visitors and customers happier, as they enjoy a faster-loading, streamlined mobile experience.
AMP supports a variety of page types, including blogs and articles, web forms, and e-commerce landing pages. Work with your developers now to implement AMP across your site, using Google’s resource page as a guide. Over 25 million domains have already implemented AMP. This isn’t an initiative you want to press snooze on.
2. Shaping a new search landscape with schema
Schema, or structured data markup, is a vocabulary developed and used by search engines to read and contextualize website content. Schema is what powers the specialized search results you see in Google, such as star ratings and price information for products, Jobs and Recipes carousels, and company Knowledge Panels on the right rail.
Using fields defined by schema vocabulary, your developers add code to the backend of your site. When Google displays your site in search, it transforms this code into rich results that stand out to users—compelling them to click and visit your site over another, plain blue link.
Schema improves your ranking and click-through rates among mobile and desktop users, but it also boosts your visibility for another type of search: voice search. Over half of all searches will be performed via voice by 2020. Schema will be the way for many companies to show up in those voice results. As voice search technology develops, it leans heavily on structured data to understand what websites are all about and source answers for searchers’ questions.
Schema is available for an impressive range of website content, and Google’s adding more support all the time. You can identify applicable schema types for your website in Google’s Guide to Structured Data Format.
3. The evolution of “mobile-friendly”
For some time, mobile-friendly simply meant that there was some version of your website that looked decent and functioned about the same on a mobile device.
Shortly thereafter, the definition expanded to making your website fully responsive. Many site owners implemented responsive design, then stopped and gave themselves a pat on the back. But just as SEO is evolving, so is the concept of mobile-friendly.
It's time to think beyond smartphones and tablets. You need to think about smart speakers and screens, which leverage voice search to answer their owners’ questions. Voice search has skyrocketed in the past few years, and just under a quarter of Americans already own a smart speaker.
In addition to implementing schema on your website, you need to consider how you present content overall. Are you using HTML tags to organize your content into headers and paragraphs? How are you optimizing your site for featured snippets? Have you adjusted your keyword strategy to include more of the conversational queries voice search users favor? These are all questions to answer.
There are even more devices to consider, like screen readers for visually-impaired users. This population represents nearly 300 million people worldwide, and they’re also browsing the internet. Don’t forget that user experience has become an increasingly important ranking factor. Make sure your marketing agency develops a UX that serves all of your users’ needs.
Future-proofing your site
Search behavior is changing, from desktop to mobile, and from text to voice. For you to stay competitive, you need to invest in modern SEO best practices like AMP and schema markup. You need to update your keyword strategy and personalize your content for a variety of user needs—based on device, location, and ability.
Brainstorm with your marketing agency and developers on these trends, and how they apply to your business strategy and target audience. What can you do today that will prepare your site for the SEO of tomorrow?
Jason Perry is President & CEO at Engagency, a trusted Sitecore Silver Partner that specializes in Sitecore implementation, consulting, training and support for agencies and Sitecore customers. Find him on LinkedIn.