[Guest Post]: All the major SEO changes in 2017
Although 2017 hasn’t been quite as turbulent as previous years, we have definitely seen some changes within the SEO industry. Most of these changes revolve around mobile devices, site speed, HTTPS and user experience.
When it comes to bigger algorithms changes, we were introduced to a new major update. The Fred update that hit shallow content and ad heavy websites.
If you’re working on SEO daily, these changes shouldn’t shock you or catch you off-guard. They are nothing more than continuation of Google’s previous work. The most popular search engine is trying to find a system that is fairer, even relying on user engagement metrics.
Although the last statement is not officially confirmed by Google, there are lots of case studies like this one from Moz which are serious food for thought on the subject. How much of an impact they will have in future remains to be seen.
Below, four of the major SEO changes that have occurred in 2017, so far, are outlined.
1. Fred update
The Fred update rolled out at the beginning of March and created quite a stir. It is another attempt by Google to boost websites that provide real value to users. This algorithmic update mainly focuses on sites that have thin content and a lot of affiliate links and ads. According to some experts, such website types lost up to 90 % of traffic.
This update hit e-commerce websites most. If you have an e-shop with content that barely provides any value to end users there is a high chance you could be affected. You can see if you were hit with this algo-update, or other algorithm changes by using a combination of the Panguin tool and Moz’s extensive algorithm change history article.
Essentially, the Fred update deals with sites that wish to make profit out of blogging. The majority of affected websites are focused on generating profit directly from sales without trying to provide real value to their visitors.
2. Using mobile version for search
There are 2 main versions of each site – for desktop and for mobile devices. Responsive design makes sure that design and development responds to the user’s environment and behavior based on the type of device that they are is using. When you browse from a particular device, you will be presented with an appropriate page; desktop friendly for computers and mobile friendly for tablets and smartphones. This is precisely why optimizing pages for mobile devices has become such a hot topic.
We are constantly seeing an increase in number of people who are accessing the Internet from mobile devices. If we talk about percentages, more users access it from mobiles than desktops making mobiles dominant in terms of access. Google recognized this and decided to adapt to it. In November 2016, Google began testing its mobile-first index. This means that the desktop version will no longer be the default version for Google. Instead, the mobile version of your site is going to be used, for ranking purposed. The mobile-first index is expected to be rolled out fully in the coming months.
This is a response to constantly increasing number of people using mobile devices to access the Internet. However, this isn’t tragic for people who only have desktop versions. Like previously, if you only have one of two versions, readers will be presented with it so this isn’t an issue. In fact, this change is more of a technical kind.
3. Explainer videos and expansion of YouTube
The Increased use of YouTube isn’t necessarily a change – it is something that has been happening for quite a while now. However, it is still something that needs to be addressed.
YouTube is currently the third most popular search engine, ahead of both Bing & Yahoo. It’s the main platform for video content on the internet. It has been since its inception.
Unfortunately, it’s a channel that has been under-utilized for quite some time. One of the reasons businesses have been neglecting it is that there were much higher odds of ranking a textual piece of content instead of a YouTube video among top 10 results in the search engine results page (SERP).
Google has finally recognized that video content is a great way to satisfy searcher intent. Nowadays you can find videos ranking for lots of queries which were previously impossible to rank for, with video content.
Good videos tend to get an awesome response especially in certain industries, like the finance industry. There will always be individuals who prefer this type of content to any other. It is definitely a way to diversify content on your pages and give everyone what they want.
With that being said, I need to mention explainer videos.
An explainer video is a short video that focuses on explaining an idea in a simple, engaging and compelling way.
Explainer videos are a great way to re-purpose your best content, on your website, on YouTube, and especially on Facebook.
Given the short duration of these explainers, usually 3-4 minutes each, they are not boring or too theoretical. They simply answer a common question and satisfy user’s need for knowledge.
I believe that explainer videos will become even more popular in future as more busineeses start using them on a regular basis.
4. Impact of longer content
One of the most important questions for any SEO (or website owner) is: “How long should your articles be?”
There has been a lot of debate regarding this and for quite a while, several years in fact, everyone would agree that longer content is always better.
In 2017 we are seeing a bit of a shift. While there are still those that claim content needs to be a bit longer going from 1500 words up, there is now a different point of view. Shorter content CAN actually convert better, on your website. This is something that goes hand in hand with user experience.
Long content has been overdone and readers are starting to put emphasis on so called “dense content”, articles where you say a lot in less words.
Most bloggers would agree with this as people are more reluctant to give links to longer pages than they would have been, in the past.
When it comes to Google, it seems that search engines prefer different content. It varies on a query. In some cases, it will be easier to rank something shorter. In other cases – a longer piece will rank better.
Although these changes may seem minor, they are really impactful. SEO world has changed a lot since the last years and due to the fact that these were minor things we implemented slowly, we didn’t even realize how the field has been altered.Optimizing for Mobile first index, improving site speed, migrating from HTTP to HTTPS protocol and measuring UX metrics will become an inseparable part of SEO’s daily routine.
About the author
Nikolay Stoyanov is a Bulgarian SEO expert and CEO of NikSto.com. He’s been in the SEO industry for more than nine years, and has been published on Search Engine Watch. Nikolay is also a regular contributor to SEMRush’s live site audit webinar series.