SMX London 2017, Europe’s largest search conference, took place a few weeks ago and revealed all the latest developments in the world of Search, as well as how webmasters and marketers can embrace them. A major focus this year was mobile, with lots of technical tips and case studies presented from SEO professionals around the world.
So, what has changed since last year? Here, we cover all the new areas of growth in Search, thereby summarizing the key takeaways from SMX London 2017.
MOBILE-FIRST INDEX IS RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER
While there hasn’t been any official announcement on exact dates yet, most experts agreed that Google will fully roll-out the Mobile-First Index in the second half of this year or early 2018. This means that Google will crawl and index the web from a mobile device’s perspective and evaluate them against mobile ranking factors. Those sites that are not currently mobile-optimized risk being penalized and could experience a significant loss of traffic from organic search. So, to ensure you’re ready for the Mobile-First Index, start auditing your sites’ mobile SEO and ensuring they are fully responsive.
A WEB OF APPS
Soon, you won’t have to download apps in order to use them. Google’s move to provide app hosting and streaming within the platform is an interesting development, allegedly designed for them to retain control over app content, while at the same time, provide a seamless user experience on mobile. The slowly declining download and usage rate of apps observed by Adobe earlier this year is evidence that users don’t like downloading apps for every action they want to take online. This is also known as “the app installation barrier”, due to its disruption of the user experience. However, more and more apps are still being developed, due to the increased consumption of content on mobile devices today.
Nevertheless, companies will soon be able to host their app content and functionality on Google’s servers and compatible browsers will stream them in such a way that users will feel like they’re interacting with the app. This will also mean that content within apps will be fully indexable and inter-linkable, essentially creating a “web of apps”. Thus, users will be able to start their journey on a mobile search page, then click on a link that sends them to an app screen, and complete their task within a web-based version of the app.
OPTIMIZING FOR THE IOT
It’s not a surprise that Internet of Things (IoT) technologies are on the rise. More and more devices are being connected to the web, particularly through virtual personal assistants (VPAs). These central hubs, like Google Home and Amazon Echo, utilize different methods to access and search the web. Therefore, the next big challenge for search marketers will be providing content in a manner that is easily found and comprehended by these smart devices. These devices will increasingly be performing the search actions on their users’ behalf. This requires marketers to understand that content will need to be optimized using advanced web development technologies, to remain visible.
THE FUTURE OF WEB
The next generation of the Internet will be encrypted and even faster. In fact, we’re seeing increased collaborations between leading browsers and search engines to push this forward. To embrace this change, websites and applications will have to use the new HTTP/2 and HTTPs standards, with default security and encryption as key priorities. Websites that continue to use the non-secure HTTP web protocol will soon be flagged by search engines and demoted in their results.
It is worth keeping an eye on the new approach to SEO that is emerging, the programmatic approach, even though it is still in its infancy. Currently, it involves a lot of manual processes, due to the lack of integration among SEO data technology providers. Setting up processes and training talent around the use of data, software and research processes to inform content delivery, is still worthwhile in order to enter this space when it picks up. Theoretically, the programmatic approach is about working with a combination of search ranking algorithm data, search trend data, first-party CRM data and competitive research data, to produce relevant and timely content on landing pages at scale. This requires a series of software and a smart CMS landing pages, including programmatic scripts that enable CMS editors to dynamically update parts of the landing page with a new version of the content, or additional landing pages that target certain trending terms.
The future of Search and SEO is undoubtedly about integration. Search is now the single-most significant touchpoint in the online user journey. Integration with other channels (mainly Social and Paid Search) involves leveraging data, insights and technology to create and optimize content for organic search visibility. At this year’s SMX, many of the case studies presented involved combined digital optimization, highlighting the exceptional performance of these particular campaigns and ongoing digital activities. One of the most impressive cases was presented by Dublin based agency, Wolfgang Digital. To lift a new brand for their client Littlewoods Ireland, and address the problem of multiple user touchpoints, a combination of social, paid search and SEO was deployed in a full funnel strategy approach. This included YouTube teaser videos at the top of the funnel, in the awareness phase, and SEO and user generated content (UGC) at the bottom of the funnel in the advocacy stage. Within two months, they overshot their 3.5 million GBP revenue target by 1 million GBP.
SMX 2017 was an eye-opening experience on many levels. It was a great platform to exchange ideas with industry professionals, journalists and representative from the search engines themselves. As we’ve said in the past, such conferences are an excellent forum to discuss the future of search and how we, as marketers, must continue to progress the practice and take it to the next level.
Get in touch with us if you’re interested in finding out more about Search and how it can augment your digital marketing efforts.