Five SEO challenges to look out for in 2017

As a transformational year recedes, here’s a look at what 2017 holds in store!

Cracking down on intrusive interstitials

The only Google update to have so far been confirmed for January is a move to potentially penalise sites for the use of intrusive interstitials. The update pencilled for January 10th – although relevant to desktop as much as mobile – is likely the first of many mobile-first oriented updates we’ll be seeing this year.

Google classifies the following examples as ‘intrusive’:

intrusive interstitial

While this would be deemed acceptable:

acceptable interstitial

Entering the mobile first era

On the subject of mobile, Google has yet to announce the release date for their mobile first index but it is coming – and soon. Optimising for mobile has never been more of an urgent requirement, so be prepared. Secure your mobile visibility using these resources:

A safer web

As of January 2017, Chrome will be labelling sites that do not offer a secure HTTPS connection, beginning with pages containing form fields (i.e. password logins and credit card details) and eventually rolling out to all HTTP non-secure pages as reported on Google’s security blog.

a safer web looks like this

This move comes about as adoption of HTTPS has continually risen throughout 2016 at a steady growth, with Google rewarding sites with a slight ranking boost for making the switch.

In Google’s transparency report it states that almost 70% of pages loaded over Chrome OS are now on HTTPS, closely followed by other OS which have all seen progressive growth.

With Google’s mobile first index also on the horizon and adoption rates of HTTPS reaching more and more sites, it’s likely we’ll see some sort of negative ranking signal eventually rolled out or an increasing benefit for sites that have already migrated over. It’ll take time but given the steps being taken to address non-secure sites, it makes sense.

A more visual structured web

In case you missed it, Google is now displaying product information wrapped in mark-up within Google images:

visual structure web

As mentioned earlier, Google has also begun releasing ‘rich cards’ and testing the visual layout of structured data driven components.

They’ve also started displaying rich snippets for course details and knowledge graph panels for books:

knowledge graph panel example

Google is actively looking to work with sites that house other specialist data that is already or partially supported within the current vocabulary (e.g. ‘Science Datasets’). This proactive drive is definitely a sign of things to come… and just because Google isn’t generating a rich snippet, card or knowledge panel at the moment, it doesn’t mean they won’t.

Speedy browsing

We’ve seen the release of Facebook’s Instant Articles, Google’s AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages), and adoption rates for PWAs and JS libraries (Angular & React) continue to gain traction.

Whilst they continue to receive mixed reactions they ultimately share the same objective of improving the speed and accessibility of content delivered on the web. With the upcoming mobile first index and performance considerations for moving to HTTPS, webmasters should be looking at opportunities to make performance gains where possible and test the water with new technologies. There’s also HTTP2 and Angular 2.0 to think about.

In summary

The mobile first update is a significant change and we’re likely to see more tests, updates, and visual changes within the new year. We’ll keep our ears to the ground and post new updates as the changes unfold.

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