It's almost time to put the Christmas tree up, which means the arrival of the inevitable 2016 reviews and 2017 predictions pieces. What to expect from SEO will be something many practitioners in the field will disagree on.
So here's what I expect to see from the SEO industry over the course of the next 12 months:
1. Better Mobile Experiences
I expect that we'll see mobile sites improve driven by the SEO departments or agencies behind business marketing. Google's recent announcement that it expects to launch "mobile first indexing," means, in short, that mobile user experience and factors could influence your website rankings on desktop too.
The whole "year of mobile," is the best part of a decade old, so most websites we encounter now are mobile friendly. But that doesn't mean they're actually good! If Google is going to use mobile engagement metrics to determine, in part, desktop rankings too, there's a greater urgency even with businesses whose traffic profiles remains desktop heavy, to make sure they're delivering a great mobile experience.
I'm expecting SEO teams to drive investments into improvement on mobile sites both from a speed and technical SEO perspective and usability perspective.
2. Less BIG Content
We're going to see more content, without a doubt. And I'm sure a host more SEO agencies will rebrand as "content marketing," agencies, despite the fact that content remains still just one part of SEO.
But I do think we'll start to see less "big," content. Over the past couple of years, we've seen investments surge into HTML5 interactive content over and above simple text pieces or text supported by graphics.
The issue here is that we're also seeing they simply don't always work from an SEO point of view. It's perfectly possible to achieve better link acquisition results with simple text posts, static visuals and whitepapers than with large design and development pieces with all the bells and whistles.
We've seen countless examples of this and over 2016 really saw our better performing pieces within the agency I work in were not interactive. As the novelty of "bigger." content wears off and the market matures, I expect that we'll see agencies and in house teams alike ditching "format first," content and creating simpler content from a formatting perspective with more investment and emphasis on the core message and benefits for the users.
3. More Creative Keyword Research Approaches
Google has taken search volume data away from accounts that are not spending on Adwords. While some of his have Adwords spending accounts we can get search volume data from, many SEOs do not.
There are a host of other tools out there to assist in identifying keywords (including Moz Keyword Explorer, SEMRush and SearchMetrics) and I'm expecting these and others to release a number of new features over the year.
Many SEOs already adopt tactics like analysing Google suggest data (using tools like Answer the Public) and related searches and are coming up with great keyword led content ideas. But I'm also expecting to see SEO practitioners getting better at keyword research without Google's assistance and I'm looking forward to the community sharing creative ways to approach this part of SEO.
On the Whole, a Similar Picture to This Year
Those are three developments I'll be keeping my eye on. But ultimately, I don't expect the landscape to be phenomenally different this time next year to how it is today. We'll still be focused on link acquisition through digital PR led tactics largely and technical SEO will continue to play the vital role it always has.
I'm not expecting any of the phenomenal changes of 2011 or 2012 to make wholesale changes to the way the industry works.
But you can always count on Google to prove you wrong, right?