Thanks to everyone who contributed to this article. In no particular order, they are:

  • Andrew Girdwood, head of media technology, Signal.
  • Max Holloway, senior search manager, Pi Datametrics.
  • Glynn Davies, head of search strategy, Pi Datametrics.
  • Will Critchlow, founder & CEO, Distilled.
  • Ruth Attwood, SEO consultant, 4Ps Marketing.
  • Felice Ayling, SEO and Social Director, Jellyfish.

And for more on this topic check out these resources from Econsultancy:

Now, on with the trends.

New search considerations 

Andrew Girdwood, Signal:

Remember trying to pin down the Year of Mobile? I can’t but help wondering whether 2017 will be a candidate for the Year of Everything Else. 

What do I mean by that? This year I’ve encouraged clients to think about how chatbots work, when they suggest search results and how to optimise for those search terms.  I think we’ll see more of that in 2017.

I’ve helped brands think about how their Alexa recipes might be found. That’s another form of search engine optimization; just as App Store optimisation is for mobile apps.

All these new ‘search’ considerations, landscapes and audiences will be things to think about in 2017. We might get fed up of people talking about Voice.

google assistant 

Mobile growth and semantic strings

Max Holloway, Pi Datametrics:

Mobile will continue to gain dominance across the search market and I think will consistently have higher search volume than desktop next year.

In SEO we will see a bigger push towards mobile-first design and copy aimed at targeting semantic strings.

We conducted an experiment earlier this year of 2.8m search results which showed that only 35% of pages had a traditional keyword ranking i.e. “London tailors” and its semantic cousin “Where can I find a tailor in London” within 20 positions of each other.

This shows us that there is still a lot of work for both search engines to improve their understanding of user input and search marketers to optimise their content for semantic strings to ensure that the correct and best content is being shown to users.

local search

Artificial intelligence (& voice)

Will Critchlow, Distilled:

I think that machine learning will continue to have a massive impact – in ways both visible and invisible.

The rate of progress with tasks previously only humans could do (like image recognition) and even those that humans aren’t great at (like lip-reading) is astonishing.

I definitely buy into the thesis that some of the cutting back of the crazier Google projects is because Sundar is doubling down on artificial intelligence / machine learning as the future and culling projects that don’t fit that model and vision.

We’ve been experimenting with doing our own little bit to combat machine learning with machine learning, and I’d be excited to see more intelligence built into the tools that marketers have available.

As a result of the machine learning explosion, voice search in particular is going to continue to improve, and I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of that through 2017. Dr. Pete’s post is a must-read on that subject.

voice search

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)

Ruth Attwood, 4Ps Marketing:

For 2017 the only thing I’m reasonably confident of is that AMP is going to get bigger before it goes away.

Google is pushing it immensely hard and it seems to be only a matter of time before it extends to full capability deployment in new verticals like ecommerce.

This will be particularly interesting as and when the mobile-first organic index gets rolled out, as despite Google’s claims that they’re aiming for a “low delta” I suspect that non-responsive sites are going to see some big shifts in visibility if they don’t get their content and markup synced up.

Andrew Girdwood, Signal:

AMP (and Instant Articles) are interesting. I wonder if Google will continue to tweak how it copes when a brand has both an indexable app and AMP content; it seems likely, especially as app builders get better about considering SEO factors.


A change in SEO procurement

Andrew Girdwood, Signal:

I predict there will be a glut of experienced SEOs who get to say, ‘Look, I think my track record proves I, and my agency, can keep up with algorithm changes.’

This means some of the procurement focus might shift towards areas like delivery techniques, creative ability, transparent costs and access to technology when it comes to SEO pitches.

Mistrust in advertising leads to organic focus 

Glynn Davies, Pi Datametrics:

In 2017, growing concern for paid channels’ performance (due to click fraud, misreporting, ad blocking, etc.) may lead to more emphasis on organic in digital strategy.

ad blocker

SEO closer aligned to business strategy

Felice Ayling, Jellyfish:

Moving into 2017, traditional SEO performance will become almost inseparable from the overarching business strategy. SEO is no longer a channel that can be isolated in its implementation.

Areas such as your customer service record, competitive position, price points and service offerings will continue having a greater impact on the overall performance of your digital assets.

With this in mind, the role of content within SEO will once again grow and rich media such as video, interactive assets and graphics will continue to contribute to search campaigns in capturing the interest and interaction of users.

Successful campaigns will be the ones that blend brand awareness, creativity and innovative marketing with technical excellence to give users a high quality, relevant and increasingly personalized experience. 

Progressive web apps (PWAs) 

Glynn Davies, Pi Datametrics:

Growth in PWAs may bring content out of the mobile app ecosystem and back to the web, providing both new opportunities and challenges for SEO.

Growth in experiential marketing (and VR?)

Felice Ayling, Jellyfish:

If content was king in 2015/16 then experience will rule in 2017, meaning that it’s no longer just about serving the right content at the right time on the right channel, but also delivering the best possible experience to your customers.

Whether it’s in-app uses of VR to bring together a variety of content assets, or immersive video that the user controls, the role of SEO and improved organic performance will rely on its ability to utilise new technologies.

Combined with the increased power of 5G next year, the mobile experience will potentially change the way we interact with brands, share content, shop or travel.

VR provides the biggest opportunities to brands that can connect physical assets with the online experience – virtual stores you can walk around, test driving a new car, walk around a hotel room before you book, the possibilities are endless.