2017 is going to be an exciting and somewhat difficult year for many SEOs. We’re used to a constantly shifting industry in which we’re always learning new things. But the landscape is taking some highly technical turns lately, and even as a 10-year veteran of search engine optimization, I find myself struggling to find the time to learn everything I need to know. Here are some of the most important SEO tips for 2017.

Single Page Applications / JavaScript Rendering / Pre-Rendering / Crawling

I lump all of these concepts together because they represent a trend toward consolidating the world of “apps” and “websites” into a single experience.

Some of the things SEOs will be learning about (if they haven’t already) in 2017 include how to crawl websites when the content is mostly loaded client-side, and how to market SPAs without access to traditional app marketplaces.

Recent crawler updates allow for JavaScript rendering, including Screaming Frog 6.0.

programming languages

Search Engine Spiders may also have some difficulty crawling these sites. Google is pretty good at executing JavaScript and rendering the contents onto the page, but they’re not as good as they’d like us to think. Sometimes pre-rendering could be necessary, which may require a service like Prerender.io or Brombone.

There is hope on the horizon for SEOs when it comes to the issue of whether or not to pre-render the content. That hope is called “universal JavaScript”, also sometimes called “isomorphic” JavaScript.

Not everyone agrees, but some have noticed significant page load time improvements after implementing isomorphic rendering in React.js. Here’s an article (for developers) about how to migrate React to isomorphic rendering.

Mobile / AMP / Dynamic Serving / Mobile Algo

This is closely related to the previous area in some ways, but we’re going to focus on different points here.

Mobile comes first. Mobile is more important than desktop. Once again: Mobile comes first. Mobile is more important than desktop. Now that we’re beginning to see this, why are we still checking rankings, keyword volume and other metrics mostly for desktop?

Google is about to force SEOs to shift their mindset in this way. Not only are they rolling out “mobile first indexing”, but they’re warning mobile users from the SERPs when a result isn’t mobile-friendly.

Our Hands Are Being Forced to Adopt HTTPs

As much as I hate to say it, because the migrations are going to suck, Google is also about to force SEOs to finally take this necessary step to outgrow their non-secure technical debt. Soon all Chrome users will see the following message for non-HTTPs websites:

http-not-secure

Everyone implement Author Markup! Submit disavow files! Remove Author Markup! Build responsive pages! Build AMP pages! Convert to HTTPs! Do you get the feeling sometimes, like all SEOs work for Google?

Voice Search / Answer Boxes / Predictive Assistance

Who, what, why, when, how, where… New voice assistance technology and predictive search features are training us to perform searches in different ways, and on a wide variety of devices.

Optimizing for this trend requires more attention to the formatting of the question and answer, as well as the markup surrounding it. The difference between a bulleted list and a numbered list in your article could be the difference between getting an Answer Box listing at the top of the page for your #9 SERP position, or just being #9.

Rob Bucci, CEO of STAT Search Analytics, shared a presentation at MozCon this year with great tips on how to earn, steal, and keep answer box listings and other rich snippet results. You can see the deck here, or download the video here.

Even while typing the query, Google is showing predictions of what you might be asking for. Because they may have otherwise typed it differently, millions of users seeing and choosing one of these suggestions has a drastic impact on keywords, landing pages and content in general. Other ways this happens is through “People Also Ask” and “Related Searches” within search results.

Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI)

We’ll continue to be obsessed with these words, even though the concepts they represent are already pretty much ubiquitous across much of the technology we use. Moving on.

User Experience Metrics

User Experience Metrics will continue to grow in importance over 2017, as SEOs monitor / audit content quality and performance. On-page changes will be made to millions of existing URLs in order to update and improve that content for better user engagement metrics like “time on site,” “conversions,” “scroll depth” and “interactions” like button clicks, shares, downloads and other micro-conversions.

More SEOs performing regular content audits means millions of pages that can’t be improved will be pruned out of search engine indexes to improve overall site quality and performance.

Log File Analysis

Log File Analysis has already made a huge comeback in 2016 and will continue to become more of a staple SEO project in 2017.

Related posts:  eCommerce Checkout Flow: What You Need to Increase Conversions

We used to do a lot more of this before the analytics packages caught up, but now we’re seeing a resurgence of interest in log file analysis. Much of our occupation these days comes down to improving page speed, ensuring everything gets rendered, and allowing JavaScript to be accessed without letting bots trap themselves in the site as they chew through an endless series of complicated scripts. Log files are key to these areas.

An old favorite of most SEOs is Splunk, but some new players like Logz.io offer more integration features and better user interfaces. If you already use Botify you may want to try out their log analyzer tool. Learn more about log file analysis from Samuel Scott, Builtvisible, and Inflow.

logz.io dashboard

Source: logz.io

Two things I don’t think will really take off fully until 2018:

Virtual Reality eCommerce
A virtual walkthrough of a store where users can select items to try on and buy will pair very well with popular VR systems like Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Sony’s PlayStation VR accessory. eBay had the first, but many more will follow — hopefully as more than just a 3D version of an eCommerce website.

We’ll be able to look into a virtual mirror as we try on virtual clothes, and even take a stroll through a virtual department store. This re-emerges us into the shopping experiences we used to have, but with all of the convenience of ordering from Amazon. Forward thinking brands stand to gain a lot of press and sales by beating big box stores to the punch on this one.

Virtual Shopping Assistants
Several brands are experimenting with these, but they’re currently at the level of glorified chatbots. Consumers would be delighted at the opportunity to have a bot go find cool clothes for them that match their size, style and budget and then return prices, online locations and offline locations to choose from.

It is likely that an existing player in the virtual shopping assistant realm will make enough headway in 2017 that it will be on the radar for most eCommerce marketing teams in 2018 with common eCommerce platforms offering more features in this area.

Making data available to these may be as important as providing product feeds to comparison shopping engines.

Existing contenders in the space, including MONA, PS Dept. and Shoppist.me, with some retail brands, such as Macy’s, are working on their own options.

One last SEO tip:

This year really needs to see the SEO and UX/Conversion teams merging in many marketing departments. Technical SEO will probably always be hugely important, but whether the user is satisfied when they reach your page from search engines cannot be ignored any longer.

For more effective strategies, check out these Effective SEO Techniques that Work in 2017.

We hope you enjoyed these technical SEO tips for 2017. Did we miss any? Leave a comment below.