As we approach the final month of 2016, it’s time to reconsider your ongoing SEO efforts and look at ways to step it up a gear for 2017.
SEO, or search engine optimization, is the lifeblood of online business. And while it might be simple to master in theory, the fact is that the algorithms and search patterns that inform your SEO efforts are in constant fluctuation, changing, shifting, and increasing in complexity like a giant Rubik’s cube.
In 2016, there’s been a lot of speculation on the value of technical SEO. It was called makeup; some of it was proclaimed dead; but ultimately, it was brought back to life gracefully and conclusively with outstanding examples of technical SEO tactics resulting in major traffic boosts.
One of the most important ways to gain and keep a competitive advantage within your industry is to carefully watch the subtle changes in SEO trends and alter your campaigns to match the new realities of the online world.
So as we gear up for 2017, let’s take a look at what you can expect from the wonderful world of search engine optimization in the coming year and ultimately keep ahead of your A Game.
1. Check indexing.
Let’s start with the number of your site’s pages that are indexed by search engines. You can check this by entering site:domain.com in your target search engine or by using an SEO crawler like WebSite Auditor.
Ideally, this number should be largely proportional to the total number of pages on your site, minus the ones you don’t want indexed. If there’s a bigger gap than you expected, you’ll need to review your disallowed pages. Which brings us to the next point.
2. Optimize crawl budget.
Crawl budget is the number of a site’s pages that search engines crawl during a given period of time. You can get an idea of what your crawl budget is in Google Search Console:
Sadly, Google Search Console won’t give you a page-by-page breakdown of the crawl stats. For a more detailed version of the data, you’ll need to look in the server logs (a specialized tool like WebLogExpert will be handy).
Once you know what your crawl budget is, you must be wondering if there’s a way to increase it. Well, there is, kind of. SEOs don’t know for sure how Google assigns crawl budget to sites, but the two major theories state that the key factor is (1) the number of internal links to a page, and (2) its number of backlinks from other sites.
Our team recently tested both theories on our 11 websites. We looked at backlinks pointing to all of the sites’ pages in SEO SpyGlass, internal links to them and the crawl stats.
Our data showed a strong correlation (0,978) between the number of spider visits to a page and its backlinks. The correlation between spider hits and internal links proved to be weak (0,154).
But obviously, you can’t grow your backlink profile overnight (though it’s still a good idea to keep building links to the pages you want to be crawled more frequently). Here are the more immediate ways to optimize your crawl budget.
• Get rid of duplicate pages. For every duplicate page that you can afford to lose — do it. In terms of crawl budget, canonical URLs aren’t of much help: search engines will still hit the duplicate pages and keep wasting your crawl budget.
• Prevent indexation of pages with no SEO value. Privacy policies, terms and conditions and expired promotions are good candidates for a Disallow rule in robots.txt. Additionally, you may want to specify certain URL parameters in Google Search Console so that Google doesn’t crawl the same pages with different parameters separately.
• Fix broken links. Whenever search bots hit a link to a 4XX/5XX page, a unit of your crawl budget goes to waste.
• Keep your sitemap up to date, and make sure to register it in Google Search Console.
3. Increase quality content and “density.”
Have you ever noticed how in a given day, you can go to a dozen different websites and read the same content over and over with slightly different wording? Well, so has Google, Bing, Yahoo and the rest of the world.
And they are sick of it.
However, this problem was addressed this year with the meteoric rise of long-form, detailed “uber-guides” that covered topics in extensive (borderline excruciating) detail. The problem now, however, is that there is no happy medium.
People are either subjected to bite sized remakes of the same boring filler that you have seen plastered across websites for the past several years, or they are forced to endure guides and articles that are so long and drawn out that they make Tolstoy’s War and Peace look like a children’s bedtime story.
The solution? Dense content. Content density can be described plainly as content’s “per word value.” So for example, even though you might write a 3,000 word article that explains all the nuances of Snapchat marketing, the actual amount of value you deliver per-word might be very low. However, by providing denser content that is focused more on function than form, you can deliver the same value in only 300 words.
Every major SEO authority agrees that 2017 will be the year where we see the rise of content density across the board. And this is a good thing. The world of content marketing is adapting its standards to the decreasing attention spans of the American populace, meaning that you get to spend less time writing and your audience gets to receive more value.
What are your thoughts on the technical SEO of tomorrow? Which tactics have you seen to be most effective recently? Shoot us a message on Twitter or in the comments below and let us know what you think!
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