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Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)

Andrew Girdwood, head of media technology, Signal:

2017 has felt like quite a good year for search marketing and a busy one. My favourite change came quite late this year, only in November, when Google announced stricter rules on AMP.

I think the jury is still out on Accelerated Mobile Pages, especially with the content not living on the publisher’s domain, but as a reader I like the speed. Google’s tougher new stance was to ensure that the contents of the ‘full page’ was a good match for the AMP page. This was designed to stop publishers serving up a tiny summary and then insisting the user click a ‘read more’ link to get to the article. Google saw it as gaming the system, I saw it as an unnecessary step and my marketing brain worried about the display impressions associated with the interstitial page as they could only be terrible value for the buyer.

Google power-shifts

Will Critchlow, founder and CEO, Distilled:

For me, the most interesting development in search in 2017 wasn’t something technical, nor was it a change in user behaviour. It was two seemingly-unrelated pieces of news that point to interesting times ahead for Google search:

  1. The EU ruled against Google in a landmark judgement. I personally think the ruling is dubious but totally acknowledge the broader point that there are myriad areas where Google has significant market power and is not afraid to use it.
  2. We saw Apple drop Bing in favour of Google for Siri web search – apparently continuing to reinforce Google’s monopoly, but also continuing a trend of dramatic increases in the Traffic Acquisition Costs (TAC) Google pays its partners for search volume.

It seems to me as though we are in a weird position whereby Google’s search market share is only increasing, but their power may be slightly decreasing (as shown by increasing TAC), just as regulators and media start to wake up and take notice of the potential for abuse of power.

It’s hard to predict the end-game here, but plausible outcomes certainly include increased Governmental regulation and interference just at the tail end of dominance (somewhat similar to the way regulations were placed around Microsoft’s treatment of Internet Explorer just as they became unnecessary).

Voice search

Sophie Moule, head of marketing, Pi Datametrics

For us, 2017 saw the gradual realisation from businesses that voice search might just happen in the way it’s being mooted – with up to 50% of searches being predicted to be made by voice by 2020. That’s not to say that they’ll take half of the current searches, but a whole lot more will go on top.

This was hammered home when Amazon announced last week that over the recent Black Friday holiday shopping weekend, its Echo Dot home voice assistant was the best-selling item across its entire product catalogue.

Local search

Andrew Girdwood:

Lastly, I’m a big fan of Google Local. I think the new (also rolling out) ability to determine not just when a restaurant is busy but how long the wait for food is will be significant. This is a new level of transparency restaurants and franchises have not had to deal with before and I think it’ll be uncomfortable for some.

Stephen Kenwright, Strategy Director, Branded3

Location marketing took a big step forward this year, with the conversation driven largely by Yext – the company IPO’d in April and quickly reached $1bn.

Like links and content, local SEO is quickly becoming something that requires contributions from the wider business and not just the SEO team. Yext launched some much more robust analytics; Google started to do a better job tying up online and in-store sales with some extremely promising betas and Foursquare continues to prove that anonymised data doesn’t really exist when it comes to location with some impressive analysis of shopping trends.

Next year we should see the UK start to invest in location marketing on a similar scale to the US.

Success of pureplays

Sophie Moule:

2017 was a mixed year for retailers, with some struggling in the current market, and some, such as ASOS, Missguided and Boohoo seeing impressive growth in the ever-changing digital landscape.

Is there a correlation between those prioritising search data as business insight, and those profiting commercially?

That’s it for our roundup of 2017 SEO trends. Check out our 2018 predictions, and stay tuned for a more beefy report for marketers wondering what to prioritise in the coming year.