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Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is an ever moving target. Just as your website starts to rank and reach the type of dizzying heights you’ve been aiming and hoping for, Google makes the slightest of tweaks and your ranking sinks.

It’s a common occurrence and, whilst annoying from an SEO perspective, Google only make changes if they know it’s in the best interest of their search engine and consumers.

We’ve seen some big changes so far in 2016. The Google algorithm update in September caught most of us off guard. The initial fallout was confusing and left many of our sites in a worse position. Our own site tumbled from page 1 to page 3 for our keywords. After weeks of studying the patterns we started to understand the way in which things had changed. We adjusted our sails and we’re now happy to report that all of our sites are performing better than they ever were. In fact the Start Digital site is consistently in the top 5 on page 1 for keywords that many consider to be the hardest industry to rank for. We are, after all, up against the best.

So, given we’re nearly ready to tick over into a new calendar year, what to expect from SEO in 2017? Of course, given the secretive nature of Google’s algorithm no one can say for certain but there are certainly some strong indicators.

Mobile First SEO

At the start of November Google announced their intention to put a preference on mobile first search results, meaning they’re going to index the mobile version of websites, when available, as opposed to the desktop version. In short, the data, structure and speed of your mobile site will dictate the overall Google rankings.

This is a pretty big deal but not one that’s such a big surprise. In August Google reported that more than 50% of global searches are from mobile, and this is continuing to rise.

So how should we be optimising sites for mobile performance? First things first we recommend putting your site through Google’s mobile friendly analysis tool. It’s a funky little site in itself but will give you a very good indication of how Google views your mobile site. For the record the Start Digital site gets 99/100 for mobile friendliness.

Mobile AMP pages

AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages. The goal of AMP is to load pages quickly on mobile. This differs from being mobile responsive in that it strips out what’s deemed to be unnecessary ‘fluff’ and delivers only the essential information. This is great for pages that are text focused, not so great for pages and sites that have a strong focus on images, layout and design.

In recent months we’ve seen Google give preference to sites that use AMP pages by placing them into search carousels and adding a lightning bolt icon to their listing. The Start Digital blog pages, this one included, are all configured for AMP.

Content is still King 

We know that Google values quality content. Nothing new there. If you load your site with keywords and poorly constructed sentences your website will suffer. To increase your sites authority and trust rating you need high quality, engaging content.

The way in which we create text content for websites has changed over the years. We started with snippets of content that were intended to create quick user engagement. More recently we’ve seen a rise in platforms such as Medium and LinkedIn, where we’re encouraged to develop long, ‘think pieces’ that demonstrate our in depth knowledge and opinions.

We anticipate that the future is somewhere in between. The Goldilocks zone of content. Content creators will focus on providing high quality content with a more reasoned word count. In a time poor world we engage more with informative content that can be easily digested.

In short, don’t say too little, don’t say too much. And, if you’re outsourcing your copy make sure you proof read it before publishing.

The robots are coming

In October 2015 Google announced the launch of Rankbrain, a super-powered algorithm that learns how to deliver the best search results. In a 2015 interview, Google staff indicated that RankBrain was the ‘third most important signal contributing to the result of a search query’.

Interestingly, voice search is becoming one of the most popular forms of searching. This is in line with the increase seen in mobile use. A Google study indicates that 55% of teenagers and 41% of adults regularly use voice search. This type of search method is more conversational and considerably different from the standard keyboard search we’ve become familiar with.

As we continue to use multiple ways to search for content online, whether it’s voice-activated, mobile, driven by SIRI or ‘old school’ desktop, it’s RankBrains job to understand how searches are phrased and update results accordingly.

2017 is shaping up to be another interesting year for web design companies, online marketers and SEO agencies, and we’ll need to stay on our toes to keep ahead of the game.

If you’re a Perth business looking to get ahead of your competitors please don’t hesitate to talk to the team at Start Digital. We have a proven track record in delivering high quality websites that rank well. No fuss, no fluff, just results.