I recently had the privilege of acting as a judge at The UK DXAwards, for the “Best use of SEO” category. SEO is a real passion for me, not to mention an industry in which I have worked in since the late 90s. Through the span of my career, I have been client-side for a decade and a half, and a little over three years ago, founded my own SEO and content marketing agency, SESOME on the guiding principles I believe in. On a day-to-day basis I work with businesses across all areas of SEO from technical, to digitial strategy, to reputation building.

It was a great opportunity to review the submissions, and see how others are executing their strategies in 2016. During the process, the panel was introduced to a number of exciting and inspiring businesses. One of which had totally rebuilt their website from the ground up, with a massive focus on reviewing and optimising content. Another agency had used bespoke research to produce content to attract inbound links and social engagements, and a number were migrating to a single enterprise level CMS migrations.

In my line of work, I see the same topics and issues coming up again and again no matter the size of company. Since the late 90s, the core tenants of any SEO strategy have not changed. In my opinion, they are as follows:

  • A strong, technically sound core site – the site should be fast, responsive, adaptive, and adhere to all the fundamentals of web best practices
  • Relevance – this is all about content and keywords
  • Reputation – building a strong and healthy inbound link profile

Taking the above on board, here are the five areas I suggest you focus on when constructing your 2017 SEO strategy:

1. Put mobile first

In nearly every sector, the majority of searches are completed on a mobile device.

Google recently announced and then confirmed that they are using their mobile index as the primary, and the desktop version is to be retired.

Sites that are not designed for mobile or at least mobile optimised will lose out, especially as projects like AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) are prioritised for information queries, and lightning-fast answers.

2. Prioritise the user to instil confidence

This has never changed, but it should be called out. Designing and evolving your site and content to reduce bounce and increase continuance is essential. You need to work on other things to give confidence by being secure – make sure you are using https and your site is in good health!

3. Produce content with a focus on answers

Content has always been important, so ensure that you are actively answering questions. Search engines want to answer questions, so use this angle in the titles of your content and in the body content. If you have structured information on your site like events or recipes, then you should use microformats to allow the engines to interpret and use this content with you as the source.

4. Ensure you have a healthy link profile

Ever since the Google Penguin updates started back in 2012, when there were domain level algorithm or even manually issued penalties given out, website owners have updated their link building strategies and stopped taking short-cuts. I regularly help businesses review and clean up their profile from bad or ‘toxic’ links.

Now that Penguin is part of the core algorithm and even more precise, individual pages can be down-weighted in real time. It is essential to build a healthy profile at the same time as constantly policing it too.

5. Use blogger collaborations

Working with bloggers is a hot topic right now. This used to be the preserve of marketing and PR agencies, but now many in-house teams are doing it to, or at least trying to. However, the upfront cost of time and tools makes it challenging to tackle alone, and there are a number of new platforms out there to make collaborating with influential bloggers accessible to all, as fair and straight-forward for the influencers too. Commissioning content, working collaboratively to amplify your message, sharing your content and actively building a quality reputation are all essential in 2017 and beyond.

The UXDXAwards was a fantastic event, and the networking lunch was truly inspiring. I hope to be be involved again in the future!

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