In the past few years, Google has grown from a simple keyword search machine into an advanced natural language “query processor”.
Initially it could simply find “strings of words” in different websites to showcase matching results. But now, Google is capable of taking ambiguous search queries, understand the searcher intent, relate them with specific topics and find more relevant results.
If we believe what Google says, they update their algorithm 1-2 times per day. Most of which are simple tweaks to refine their search filters, while occasional major updates (seen 4-5 times per year) are planned to introduce new ranking factors that affect search results in significant ways.
Nearly all Search Marketers keep a close look at these updates and what effects they have on the search results. But very few experts are able to track the trends and draw correct conclusions.
Based on the analysis reports of some of the most influential SEO experts and our own client case studies, we believe the following 5 ranking factors to significantly change SEO in 2017.
1) Rankbrain – The artificial intelligence system
Launched in October 2015, RankBrain is yet to show its potential to the fullest. At present this system uses advanced formulas to identify the language used by users in searches and keeps a record of what results they choose. It is developing a database of languages that it may be unfamiliar with. As the collection of sample queries with known user selections grows RankBrain will become ever more adept at bringing users the most relevant results.
In 2017, we expect Rank Brain to present greater challenge and opportunity for marketers as it uses its mechanical intuition precisely for both text and voice search to give responses in accordance with different user behaviors.
2) Voice Search
Voice Search, first introduced in 2013, has very recently seen increased adoption by users. According to a survey conducted in 2013, around 85% of respondents said they did not use voice search at all. Users were apparently not thrilled by the voice search initiative at that time. Possibly because Google was not able provide a quality user experience.
By December 2015, around 60% of respondents had started using voice search (according to a survey by Mindmeld). Since then marketers have observed a consistent rise in the interest of users for voice search above text. By 2020, voice search is expected to contribute to up to half of all user searches. Beginning in 2017 we expect to see many more opportunities for marketers in voice search.
3) High Bounce Rates
Not all marketers agree that bounce rate matters in SEO. But, Google is certainly considering it as a quality tester in 2017. The pages with higher bounce rate are considered not to be matching with the expectations of its visitors and therefore these do not rank higher on SERPs.
Google pays attention to the length of each visit to a website ranking in SERPs. So, when someone clicks a listing, and does not find the page satisfactory or related to their query, they quickly hit the back button and return to the SERP. This quickly returning of users to the SERPs plays a key role in the identifying which search results are more valuable.
4) Accelerated Mobile Page (AMP)
When browsing the web on mobile devices internet speed cannot always be counted on to be stable and fast. In order to address this issue, Google introduced AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages), an open source web page development platform. This new platform helps optimize the web experience for mobile users and Google now encourages webmasters to build a mobile version of their site using AMP.
Google now includes a mobile-friendly indexing system that checks each website for mobile compatible AMP files and prefers to rank such sites higher in SERPs. This is quite different from how Google previously indexed websites and therefore it brings in major implications for search marketers.
5) Page Load Time
Google introduced ‘page load time’ as a ranking factor in 2010 which continues to determine the position of organic listing and is expected to remain an important ranking factor for Google in 2017.
This factor is clearly more related to user satisfaction and sales conversions, lacking a direct correlation with search engine ranking. But, Google justifies this relation by highlighting its only mission of delivering improved browsing experience to its users. And if a user prefers to visit a site that loads quickly and provides useful information, it should be ranked above all other websites taking longer to load/display information.
Apart from the ranking factors stated above, there are other critical determinants of a website quality, like, High quality links, Microformats, Incorrect Robots.txt, Browser Caching, Active Social Profiles, Brand Searches, HTTP Page Requests, which cannot be ignored in 2017.