One can expect to see a continuation of user experience as the primary driver of online marketing efforts in 2017. Google has invested heavily in algorithms in recent years designed to improve the quality of search results. This started in earnest with the first Panda update in February 2011, followed a year later by Penguin in April 2014, then Hummingbird in August 2013.
Google further upped the ante in October 2015, with the introduction of RankBrain. Unlike previous algorithm updates, it went widely unnoticed before it was announced. Just five months after Google informed the world that machine learning was now part of the algorithm, it was revealed that RankBrain was already the third most important ranking factor, behind content & links.
In short, these algorithm updates have raised the bar for companies and websites looking to perform well in organic search. We are much closer to a time when all the search results on page one deserve to be there. That’s a radical departure from the days when link volume and keywords alone determined winners and losers. Advancements like the knowledge graph helped Google to develop search results based on “things, not strings.”
Despite the advancement in the core algorithm, one can still rely on the three-legged stool analogy to achieve online success in 2017
Leg One: Technical SEO
It’s important to start with a technically and architecturally sound website. This is the foundation for the rest of your online marketing efforts. There are several guides online to help you with this. Including this one from SEJ. Failure to address website issues is akin to sailing with your anchor down.
Leg Two: Content Marketing
Developing content has come a long way from writing keyword rich spammy 300 – 500-word articles (one for every keyword you wanted to rank for). With the focus on user experience, the typical length of an article is often 10X the old standard. Content marketing isn’t about quick wins. It’s about creating USEFUL information on a regular basis that people need and are looking for. One caveat for 2017 – keep in mind the growth of voice search when developing your strategy for next year.
Leg Three: Link Building
Despite what you may have heard or read, link building will be no less important in 2017 than in previous years. Google has publicly stated that links are among the top two ranking factors. They built an algorithm to fight link spam. Short of issuing a press release, it couldn’t be any clearer. In fact, a strong argument could be made that editorial given links from thematically related websites are MORE important than ever before.
The takeaway is this: Always keep the user in mind. Don’t let the avalanche of SEO information that you are deluged with daily, distract you from the basics.