Voice Search, Local SERP, AMP & Schema: 2017 Priorities for SEOs

So, the end of the year is approaching. We’ll soon be feasting fork over knife, then opening presents, then saying, “I can’t believe it’s Spring already” – you know the drill.

For now, we can take a minute to reflect on the year behind and the year ahead. And, if you like, let’s consider it through the lens of an SEO. What of importance has happened, and what is likely still to happen that impacts our worlds?

A pretty serious shift this year toward AI has happened. While that may have influence via personal assistants, it’s still a very green field. As far as 2017 is concerned, I believe these the areas SEOs need to focus on in the year ahead:

  1. Preparing for voice search
  2. Taking a continued look into local search results
  3. Rewiring page code to be screaming fast
  4. Marking sites up with schema

1. Get ready for Voice Search

  • What is voice search? Voice search is spoken search.
  • How is voice search unique? Voice search tends to be more question-based, a bit longer, and is in the rise.
  • How do you prepare? Make your content conversational. This really should have been on our minds and something we’re doing already.

According to ComScore 50% of searches in 2020 will come from voice search. 

With semantic search, Google’s algorithm forced us to begin being less focused on one keyword phrase and to consider a broader approach. Include synonyms, speak topically. Be useful.

Being useful has – arguably – been not simply a search manifestation, but a marketing manifestation. With millennials we have a generation larger or as large as any alive. One that also has – like the rest of us – found itself to be tired and untrusting of corporate advertising messages. Bored and ‘done’ with corporate-speak – this generation is looking for brands that can be helpful, human, and handy. I can’t stress that enough. Authentic, genuine, real. Time has come. … Make your content conversational. Write how you speak. It’ll pay dividends with voice search, and with millennials and anyone else looking for a real voice.

2. Continue to Optimize for Local SERP

Continue to look into local search engine results pages (SERP). Things continue to change there, and depending on your type of business this could be a pretty serious battleground.

There are a whole host of variables that play into ranking in local search engine results. Furthermore there are many great articles out there to provide timely insight as to how to optimize for local search engine results.

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Monitoring (and mobilizing on) these things in 2017, I believe, will continue to be a priority for SEOs.

3. Continue to Model a Mobile First-Mindset

Make your pages screaming fast (and optimized for all users). We’ve know for a while to put the mobile experience first. Google made their preference for a mobile-mindset through a variety of updates this year. 

  • The introduction of Accelerated Mobile Pages (aka AMP) is one of Google’s bigger directives for webmasters and SEOs in 2016. This project has only just begun. AMP opportunities continue to evolve, allowing more and more pages to be marked up with the mobile-first language.
  • In May of 2016, at their Performance Summit, Google announced many of the changes we came to see in 2016.
    • They got rid of right side rail ads admitting the value of them wasn’t future-oriented 
    • Changed their ad mobile layouts
    • Introduced new mobile ad features
    • Introduced new ad extensions
    • They even updated Google Analytics replacing traditional web metric language with mobile app terminology. 
  • They’ve been recommending that page speeds be a point of interest for a while now (to accommodate at large mobile users), even providing tools for webmasters and SEOs to get site and individual page download speed ratings. Advising site owners to use page speed tools info to deploy optimizations.
  • In 2017 they’ll be making their index mobile-first. There’s some debate as to what this will ultimately mean, but no doubt there’s no excuses not to have a mobile-first mindset. 

4. Elevate Your Schema Game

We’ve seen more and more happening directly in SERP, and will continue to do so.

At-large, schematic markup (which involves applying additional markup for Google to better understand and further showcase page content) is helping inform and colorize general search SERP as well as the aforementioned local SERP.

Instant answers, the knowledge graph, and rich snippets continue to push the envelope on what is bound to show up in text-driven SERP.

The most current recommendation from Google on schema is to use the JSON version. As of November 21, 2016 – restaurants now have their own rich cards.

SEOs need to be familiar with AMP and schema in 2017. No question about it. AMP and schema are being used together in some instances; and Google, in 2017, is set to make it’s index mobile-first. Getting very familiar with AMP, in its current and more than likely continuing to evolve states, is something SEOs should be doing now and into 2017.  

There you have it. We could throw in a note or two about optimizing and including images in your search + content creation plans. Strategize having relevant images to offer the world and search engines.

Too, we could touch on the (6 years in a row) declaration that video is set to explode; and discuss the value of such a rich media, but let’s end here.

We’ve got plenty to do with the main four notes above.

Keep in mind these trends are only directional anyway, each of those areas is likely to continue to grow, expand, and tighten in the next week, month, and quarter. Get ready. Take 2017 by the horns.  

If you’re an SEO, webmaster or marketer looking to dive into the particulars of some of the items shared above, here are some good resources to get you started.

Google’s recent blog post and introduction to resturant-specific rich cards: https://developers.google.com/search/docs/data-types/local-businesses#restaurant-lists

Google’s documentation and testing tools for developing schematic pages. https://search.google.com/structured-data/testing-tool/u/0/

A great AMP by example resource: https://ampbyexample.com/

An index of all things schema: http://schema.org/docs/gs.html

The Role of Sensors in the Food Industry Internet of Things, Predicted Scenarios

What might the future of the food industry look like given the impending probabilities of the Internet of Things? Here’s an interesting article that aims to answer ways artificial intelligence may reshape the food industry. 

Here’s a key bit of the article:

Food decisions could become simple confirmations. Confirmations of health-algorithm derived recommendations, hyper-personalized based on data from our DNA, stress levels picked up by sensors, and observed interactions with various foods. And hopefully your personal favorites.

I’ve talked with this author and plan to get a copy of the survey results when they publish.

So, while that article makes some very interesting predictions, this next article does well to illustrate practical scenarios for how sensors work, and may help power the IoTs. 

It provides some great examples and use cases on the role sensors can and will play in the evolution of artificial intelligence, robotics, and the Internet of things.

That article provides technical and philosophical meanderings on how it sensors can be used to innovate artificial intelligence and the Internet of things.

It takes the position that humans are the ultimate sensing ‘machines’ and that they can / should be used as models for how to improve manufacturing and other robotics tied to IoT – via sensors. Pretty wild stuff.

On Google: Local Business Reviews Shakeup & AMP Landing Pages

Local business reviews have become an area of discussion again for the search giant. On August 4 Google announced that “food- and drink-related searches will now return reviews from top critics and include best-of lists”. Beyond web searches, the Google (search) app is also seeing an update when it comes to how local business reviews are handled.

Here’s the rub:

Google has been featuring specific critics’ reviews – arguably – in an attempt to provide relevant and yet qualified content based on user interest. (Sure, it’s helpful to get reviews on places, right?)

A bit of contention, however, was added to the mix as Google’s list of local business critics included Zagat (a Google owned company), and it did not/ does not include the likes of Yelp, or TripAdvisor.

This obviously is/ was a slight to the Yelp and TripAdvisor crowd (in their eyes), outcry or possibly a tinge of conscience has since compelled the search giant to make the August 4 announcement to open it’s list of critics’ reviews (even to Yelp and TripAdvisor critics) if users apply for the qualification.

Arguably, this is a clean set of moves. Or, do you agree with Yelp CEO that it’s a monopolist play on Google’s behalf? What do you think? Tell me below.

Google AMPed Up

Another entry into the news of late for Google includes the addition of landing pages as a content type that can qualify for being shown as Google AMP content.

Here-to-date AMP pages (or accelerated mobile pages) have been limited to news article or blog related content types. Yet, there’s incentive to make more of the web instant.

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As Media Post points out, About 40% of consumers will leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load — and still, in July 2016 the average U.S. retail mobile site loaded in 6.9 seconds, according to Google data. It’s no wonder that Google estimates that 40% of those navigating to a landing page from an ad will likely not bother continuing to the page and instead click away.

About 40% of consumers will leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load — and still, in July 2016 the average U.S. retail mobile site loaded in 6.9 seconds, according to Google data.

The latest update and announcement to include landing pages as AMP pages, further qualifies and suggests a continued path for likely adoption.

I anticipate that the number of page types allowed in will continue to grow. It’s possible that other page types – say, sales pages, or functional pages such as navigational or directional pages could be added to the list.

Aside from speculations, we know, Google continues to refine and redefine what it serves up to users in SERP – rich cards are a good example of how the engine and SERP continue to evolve. (Rich cards are an evolved form of rich snippets announced in May of 2016 – for more on that see – Introducing rich cards.)

That’s it for now.

Thanks for reading. Don’t forget to tell me what you think about what you think below. You do have an opinion about that, right?

Take care.

Prepping for IoT: How Blockchains Thwart Security Concerns

For those interested, The Next Web offers a pretty convincing forecast of the future of the Internet of Things (IoT). 

In a recent article regarding interest the Department of Homeland Securities has in knowing more about Blockchain technology, the author points out a potential connection that both government and business have in using Blockchain technology to secure and support IoT innovations.

Here’s a snippet from the article: 

The blockchain, for those unfamiliar, is a new type of database developed alongside the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. It has become even more popular among security experts and tech firms, because it has the ability to verify transactions autonomously, making it a “permissionless” and public system that doesn’t need to rely on secure logins or passcodes.

A Blockchain database, “is a distributed database that maintains a continuously-growing list of data records secured from tampering and revision.”


A “permissionless” and public system that doesn’t need to rely on secure logins or passcodes.

It’s potential for unlocking the IoT, by covering the security issue so many legitimate concerns about, is what makes this technology so interesting.

Someone responding to the article put it succinctly: 

“The Blockchain tech will solve one of the major issues and fear people have when it comes to IoT – security and protection of data.”

The DHS aren’t alone in getting excited about blockchain technology. Developers are said to have already begin pushing new products to the blockchain.
Investment companies are also weighing in. Gartner and IDC separately forecast 26 and 30 billion dollar investments in IoT via smart devices over the next 5 years.

Last year (early 2015), IBM published proof-of-concept research study on the proven potentials of blockchain technology.

Samsung and IBM imagine how a washing machine could become a “semi-autonomous device capable of managing its own consumables supply, performing self-service and maintenance, and even negotiating with other peer devices.”

As companies, investments, and developers get more involved, it is becoming more clear that the blockchain’s very nature as a secure encrypted and autonomous network could help empower other smart applications to also be linked, autonomous, and secure – thanks to the Blockchain.

See more on the potentials of the Blockchain, or the aforementioned article, DHS looking to link to the Blockchain

South by Southwest LIVE – 2016 Schedule of Events

It’s that time of year again! This is the 30th (wow, really?) year of the South by Southwest (or SXSW) convention. Once again there are a variety of events being live-streamed out to the interwebs direct from Austin. Here’s your guide to what’s live in 2016.

President Obama SXSW Live
President Obama among the keynotes being live streamed from South by Southwest 2016. (Photo credit mystatesman)

*Note: all times are CT, which is 1 hour behind ET.

Here’s a list of the events planned for:

SATURDAY, MARCH 12

9:30 AM: Countering Violent Extremism on Digital Platforms with John Allen
11:00 AM: Distributed: A New OS for the Digital Economy with Douglas Rushkoff
12:30 PM: The Future of Media Companies with Frank Cooper
2:00 PM: Keynote: Daring Greatly with Brené Brown
3:30 PM: Unstoppable Trends that are Changing the World with Max Levchin
5:00 PM: Creating the Modern Media Company with Jim Bankoff and Julia Boorstin

SUNDAY, MARCH 13

11:00 AM: Rodney Brooks in Conversation with Nick Thompson with Nicholas Thompson and Rodney Brooks
12:30 PM: Wikipedia: Beyond the Encyclopedia with Guy Kawasaki and Jimmy Wales
2:00 PM: Elephant in the Valley with Michele Madansky and Trae Vassallo
3:30 PM: Anthony Bourdain as Interviewed by Nathan Thornburgh with Anthony Bourdain and Nathan Thornburgh
5:00 PM: Crowdsourcing the Hyperloop with Dirk Ahlborn

MONDAY, MARCH 14

9:30 AM: Meet Nom: Food and The Future of Live Video with Steve Chen
11:00 AM: We the People: Using Tech to Solve Big Challenges with Aden Van Noppen, Clarence Wardell, Haley Van Dyck, and Megan Smith
12:30 PM: Accessing the Inaccessible: Evolving Search with Biz Stone and Danny Sullivan
2:00 PM: How a Sports Giant Is Now Tackling Your Health with Kevin Plank and Robert Safian
3:30 PM: Coding on Camera: MR. ROBOT and Authenticity on TV with Christian Slater, Kevin Sullivan, Rami Malek, and Sam Esmail
5:00 PM: 12 Inevitable Tech Forces That Will Shape Our Future with Kevin Kelly

TUESDAY, MARCH 15

9:30 AM: Creating a Movement: The Story of SoulCycle with Elizabeth Cutler, Julie Rice, and Kim Last
11:00 AM: Stewart Butterfield in Conversation with Farhad Manjoo with Stewart Butterfield and Farhad Manjoo
12:30 PM: What Works: Gender Equality by Design with Iris Bohnet
2:00 PM: Why Happiness Is Hard and How to Make It Easier with Andy Puddicombe
3:30 PM: It’s Not About an iPhone: Fixing the Encryption Mess with Charles Henderson, Kayla Tausche, Michael Slaby, and Misha Govshteyn
5:00 PM: Closing Remarks: Bruce Sterling with Bruce Sterling

The interactive portion of south by ends on Tuesday, but you can get a full list of live streaming events on the site (extending through March 18), or follow the conference twitter account for live sxsw news.