SEO in 2017 and Beyond

Search Engine Optimization Changes Are in the Air (as Always)!

The 200+ ranking signals in Google’s search engine algorithms are constantly changing.  With a new year ahead, let’s take a look at some of the SEO signals we will see more of in 2017.

A few of those include:

  •  Artificial Intelligence
  • Machine Learning 
  • RankBrain
  • Structured Data
  • Local Search 
  • Voice Search
  • And more (to be determined)!

Smart Phones, Smart Homes, Smart Search Engines

Like all evolving technology, search engines are becoming less rigid and more adaptive and reactive.  The terms artificial intelligence, machine learning, and RankBrain are entering the formerly predictable world of search.

What is Google RankBrain?

RankBrain is Google’s machine-learning, artificial intelligence system used to help process search results. It is part of the Google Hummingbird Algorithm update first rolled out in August 2013. It’s intuitive, precise, fast, and it busts SPAM. The system understands synonyms and context. For example, it might understand “buy an Apple” means “buy an Apple device” rather than “buy a piece of fruit.” Further, it’s said to be the 3rd most important ranking signal. 

How to Adapt to Google’s RankBrain

Like most algorithm updates, the goal behind it is to reduce SPAM and provide a more personalized, relevant, high-quality search result. With that in mind, ensure all website content is human-friendly and provides an exceptional user experience. Content should not be written for the crawlers, but rather for the readers, with the crawlers as an afterthought.

Structured Data on the Search Engine Results Pages

The way Google serves up the content on the search engine results page (SERP) is evolving as well in the form of Rich Results and Knowledge Graph information displayed directly on the page. Some of this is achieved through technical on-page enhancements (markup to the code) and tailored content strategies (feeding the information clearly). Sometimes, Google picks up the structured data that appears in SERP entirely on its own. The benefits of having your website featured in the SERP are huge in that many times these featured results are not the top organic search result and because it greatly increases click-through to the website.

Learn more about Google’s Structured Data.


Location is Key

Local search results are continually improving and users are more comfortable sharing their location and performing location-based searches without including the location name. Searches like “plumbing companies” and “home improvement stores” are returning more relevant results, causing local businesses to question how they can rank higher in local searches. Google recently released the Google Possum algorithm on September 1, 2016 to improve local searches. Read more about it here: Google Possum Algorithm Update - Is Your Business Playing Possum? 

In 2017, local searches will continue to improve and management of local listings and online reviews will require more management than ever.

Voice Search and SEO

With the many smart devices in play, it’s important to consider how voice searches impact SEO. Essentially, voice searches change the way people search (what they say and how they say it) and the way search engines deliver content. To optimize a website for voice search, it’s increasingly important to focus on long-tail keywords and conversational language. Aim to answer who, what, why, where, when and how questions. In addition, provide guided context for search engine crawlers through Schema markup and microdata. 

To Be Determined

Finally, 2017 will hold changes for SEO with impacts that are yet to be known.  Search engine algorithms are constantly evolving and the key is to stay up to date on latest announcements and known keys to success as they emerge.

Stay tuned!

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About Author

Courtney McKeown
Courtney McKeown is a Digital Marketing Director at With 12+ years of experience in the Internet industry and an emphasis on SEO, Courtney understands the evolving nature of digital marketing and the importance of staying current on the latest practices. At, Courtney supports initiatives ranging from SEO, Paid Search, UX, Analytics, Social Media, Email Marketing, and Automation. Courtney recently moved back to Chicago from Los Angeles and will regret the decision every Winter for the rest of her life. She enjoys travel, cooking, dining out, watching sports, and spending time with her family, including her Standard Poodle named Otto.

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