SEO: The myths, truths and predictions for this year and next

Blog | 19 Dec, 2016

Written by Josh Salvage, Josh Patterson, Peter Richards and Marco Tornow

2016 was the year we saw mobile search surpass desktop, AMP in SERPs and Google launched a real-time algorithm update. 

 

We've gathered our SEO experts to dispell some of the myths predicted at the end of last year, the truths in terms of what we were right about and the big things to look out for in 2017.

Feel free to comment on the article below and pose any questions you may have to the team of authors.

Jump to section:

  1. Quick Answers & Featured Snippets
  2. Mobile First & the Importance of Speed
  3. Penguin & Real-Time Updates
  4. Secure Servers & HTTP/2

Quick Answers & Featured Snippets

 

Myths – what was predicted last year?
 

In 2016 we were expecting the expansion of quick information being displayed from within search results, without having to navigate to another website. We, fortunately, were not disappointed. 

Weather in London - Search and Quick Answer

 

Truths – what were we all right about?
 

As predicted, we were on the money about Google providing more useful, relevant information directly from their search results.

Nick Fettiplace mentioned last year that the integration of real-time tweets in search results was an exciting step into providing a better search experience.

We’ve now seen more support with sports results (worldwide rather than just USA), including fixtures, results, video highlights and table. We saw a lot of support for big sporting events such as Euro 2016 & the Olympics.

Here's an example for "Man United":

 

What didn’t we see coming?
 

One thing which bowled us over this year was the vast expansion of ‘direct answers’ – AKA ‘featured snippets’.

An example of a featured snippet for our client, Hari Ghotra.

There is now a HUGE opportunity for business’ to rank #0 for highly relevant questions and search queries. And we keep seeing more of these appearing in search results:

% of Featured Snippets on Google Page 1 is rising.

Source: https://moz.com/blog/ranking-zero-seo-for-answers

These results predominantly covered long-tail queries, however, we’re now seeing them appear for much more generic search queries.

 

What do we think you should look out for next year?
 

  • Google is using more and more machine learning across its products. And with Google Assistant as an integral part of the Pixel phone and Google Home, expect RankBrain to get even better at understanding query relationships and measuring relevance.
  • Identify the opportunities where you can provide useful & relevant information around subjects that are related to your business.

An example of a featured snippet for our client, Walden University.

 

For a visual exploration into the current status of search marketing and where it's heading, check out Dr Pete’s presentation, “Surviving Google: SEO in 2020”:

 

Get in touch to see how Jellyfish can help you with your SEO and Content Marketing in 2017.

Mobile First - the importance of speed

 

What were the myths predicted last year?
 

 

 

What were the truths we were right about?
 

We knew it was coming, but in 2016, worldwide, mobile search has surpassed desktop.

In the US, nearly 60 percent of searches now from mobile devices.

Source: Hitwise

 

What didn’t we see coming?
 

Google are now penalising pages with sneaky app interstitials

Examples of intrusive interstitials

Source: Official Google Webmaster Blog

Google also announced the shift to a mobile-first index in November.

Whilst we’ve been shifting to ‘mobile-first’ for ~10 years, we are now shifting to an ‘AI-first’ world, with new technologies such as smart watches, chatbots and virtual assistants (e.g. Google Home & Amazon Echo).

 

What do we think we should look out for next year?
 

State of Digital recently summarised this shift to mobile-first index and what you should stop doing. Here’s our summary of do’s & don’ts inspired from this post:

Avoid redirecting based on the device.
This commonly occurs when you have separate mobile & desktop websites.

No need for different content across devices.
The content & markup is usually different when you have separate mobile & desktop websites. This will need to change.
Usually, the content & markup is different when you have separate mobile & desktop websites.

Embrace the power of structured data.
Last year, Nick Fettiplace (Head of Earned Media) mentioned the “emerging knowledge & use of Schema”, and we’ve continued to see improvements to search results in 2016 (such as rich cards).
Are you confident that you are supplying search engines with enough relevant information, in a detailed language that they support & encourage? We are continuing to see more benefits of structured data in search and expect it to continue.

Understand the nature of on-page content.
When was the last time you reviewed your on-page targeting? Are you still stuffing keywords? We’ve come a long way from there, particularly thanks to voice search.

Start paying attention to local SEO.
You would have seen lots of local packs in search results in 2015 and throughout 2016. Are you missing out on opportunities to be seen above the #1 organic listing?

Speed up your pages.
If your page is slower than the average, you’re going to struggle to rank. Most markets are very competitive, so you will want to provide a faster (better) experience than any of your competitors.

Additionally... If you are a publisher, provide recipes, or have an eCommerce site, then we highly recommend that you explore the world of Accelerated Mobile Pages.

Jim Yu also recently summed up Google’s shift to mobile-first rather well. Consider the four statistics below;

  • By 2019, mobile ad spending is expected to increase to $195.55 billion, and mobile ads will account for 70.1 percent of all digital advertising, Source: Venture Beat.
  • By 2019, PQ Media estimates that content marketing will be a $300+ billion industry.
  • By 2020, SEO-related spending will be worth $80 billion.
  • According to Google, 34 percent of online purchases now happen on a mobile device.

Penguin and Real-time updates 

 

The truths from 2016
 

The big prediction for 2016 was that Google would release another algorithm update. This wasn't a myth as it actually a truth, and we were ready. 

This time however it wasn't just any old algorithm update, this one is in real-time. Meaning no more Penguin algorithms coming after this. It’s always running.

Google Penguin

 

What didn’t we see coming?
 

What we didn't see was that now, most of these unhealthy backlinks are ‘devalued’, rather than them demoting your web page. Thanks to all of our disavow requests, Google has a much clearer understanding which website neighbourhoods are online purely to manipulate their algorithms.

 

What do we think we should look out for next year?
 

In 2017 it’s important to continue to monitor your backlink profile. We recommend continuing to disavow new links that seem suspicious, as this helps Google understand which backlinks they should devalue. Otherwise there is nothing stopping people from sending a negative SEO attack your way.

See how Jellyfish got ‘nuked’ by a negative SEO attack & our recovery story.

Secure Servers & HTTP/2

 

Myths – what was predicted last year?
 

We predicted last year that there would be more websites moving to the HTTP/2 protocol - the update that brings advancements in efficiency, security and speed.

 

Truths – what were we right about?
 

  • SPDY (Google’s own protocol, similar to HTTP/2) would be depreciated. On February 11, 2016, Google announced that Chrome would no longer support SPDY, in favour of HTTP/2.
  • The support of HTTPS would increase across the web, since Google announced it as a ranking signal.
  • The amount of HTTPS results on Google page 1 would increase.

 

Source: https://moz.com/blog/https-tops-30-how-google-is-winning-the-long-war

 

What didn’t we see coming?
 

We have not seen too many websites switch to HTTP/2 just yet. However, there has been an increase in HTTP/2 usage across the web. At the beginning of 2015, it was approximately 2.3% of the web – increasing to around 10.9% currently, and likely to double again over the next 12 months as more websites decide to take the plunge.

 

Source: https://w3techs.com/technologies/details/ce-http2/all/all

One of the recent websites that now support HTTP/2 is Expedia.com.

There are some tools available online that allow you to enter a website URL, and will indicate whether the site is using HTTP/2:

  1. KeyCDN – is a free HTTP/2  online test tool for verification of support for HTTP/2.0
  2. Akamai – allows you to test to see if your browser supports HTTP/2 and, In addition, the site also offers a demo to compare page load time of an HTTP/1 against the new HTTP/2 version.
  3. CloudFlare – have a special subdomain set up to allow access to their site in full HTTP/2 format.

 

What do we think we should look out for next year?
 

Be prepared for more encouragement and support from Google on setting up HTTP/2.

 

 

If you haven’t already, plan your migration to HTTPS and maximise the benefits of offering visitors a secure experience, whilst bagging some Google boost. Aleyda Solis provided a thorough checklist for a migration to HTTPS.

To read more of our 2016 round-ups and predictions on what 2017 may hold, head back to our News and Views page. 

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