As 2017 gets underway it’s a good time to summarise some of the main ranking factors for SEO in recent years, and which are likely to remain at the top of the list during the coming 12 months.
That’s not to say there won’t be some new surprises along the way as Google update their algorithms, but while individual updates can cause short-lived panic among SEO experts, these are the longer trends that everyone online should be aware of.
- Responsive web design
It’s still crucial to make sure your website displays correctly on screens of any size, and the modern way to do that is using responsive web design rather than triggering a switch to a mobile site template.
Responsive web design gives you great control over how things look on different screen sizes or ‘viewports’ and will help keep you higher in the search rankings for searches conducted from mobile devices too.
- Quality content
For a long time SEO was about tricks and tweaks, but the one longest-running trend of all is Google’s priority ranking of good quality content.
That doesn’t necessarily mean more words, although that can help, but it means producing authoritative and insightful text content on your specialist subject, using the right number of words for the topic, and making sure your grammar and spelling are spot-on.
- The right kind of links
Developing more incoming links to your site is still a major ranking factor, but more important is to avoid any artificial-looking linking patterns, such as if you were to pay other sites to link back to you.
Build links naturally by publishing good content that other people actually want to share, and your rankings will benefit.
- Meta is better
The good old days of getting a search ranking just by adding meta keywords and description tags to your page may be over, but modern equivalents are still important.
Heading tags, hyperlink anchor text and your page title all help, as does your URL, folder structure and page filename.
Image alt text made a comeback in 2016 as both Twitter and Facebook started using it in different ways, and to take that principle even further, microdata and Schema.org allow you to add meta information to almost any kind of structured data on your page to help the search engines index it better.
One of the big trends to emerge over the course of 2016 was Google’s move towards prioritising HTTPS websites in its search results – that is websites with a secure server connection.
With the recent news that credit card and password login forms must also be on a HTTPS server to avoid security warnings in Google’s Chrome browser, there’s no excuse for delaying any longer if you don’t want to harm your search rankings and website traffic.