The message for SEO in 2017 is loud and clear: Design your website in a fashion that makes mobile users the priority. If you listen closely, you can almost hear Google whisper, "Or be left behind, mwah ha ha..."
Now, where you may have been focusing very little (if at all) on mobile up to this point, don't just pull a 180 and relegate the desktop version of your site to the digital doldrums while going 100-percent mobile. Think of it this way: You need two websites now -- each of them being as efficient, effective, and targeted as you can make them -- but, thanks to responsive design, your one site can function as two.
While that can inevitably mean more cost in development and maintenance, going the extra mile could mean significantly more conversions for you by baking in the appropriate functionality to provision for all visitors. With the ratio of desktop to mobile visitors being nearly 1:1, neglecting one group potentially means neglecting half of all visitors. You do the math as it relates to your digital goals.
Don't just take my word for it.
In November 2016, Google let everyone know it was experimenting with making its index mobile-first -- that is, serving up search results based on the mobile version of a page (as opposed to what might reside on the desktop version of a page).
That, in conjunction with mobile users officially bypassing desktop users in certain types of searches, paints a verifiable, actionable picture. And let's not mince words here: While there is certainly ancillary information to glean from efforts by Microsoft and others, appeasing Google is the primary objective.
The core tenets of SEO have been normalized for long enough now that the argument of not putting all your eggs in one basket (that is, focusing SEO efforts squarely on what Google seems to want) is moot. To put your eggs in one basket is to place them in all baskets, more or less, save for utilizing cutting-edge techniques/technology that could be treated differently (if at all) between search engines or become defunct altogether.
Speaking of the core tenets of SEO, link-building, content, site speed, etc., are still going to be integral to ranking. However, the weight of any given metric is expected to vary wildly through 2017 as mobile-first carries the regimental flag of search for Google.
Some industry professionals are theorizing that the importance of keyword-specific landing pages will fall by the wayside in the face of topic-specific pages that ultimately don't make the user visit page after page after page. That would mean giving preference to targeting multiple related keywords and long tail keywords all on one page -- a practice that would fly squarely in the face of conventional SEO wisdom.
Taking a step back from theory-laden conjecture, the incentive is clearly there to use structured data to help Google quickly understand your content at first pass. Its algorithms likely have the mojo to check the veracity of your mark-up claims, so err on the side caution and sensibility should you endeavor to implement structured data.
Speaking of that, if you're looking for a guide of helpful recommendations that will bolster your SEO efforts in 2017, read through our list of 10 SEO recommendations for 2017. At the very least, you'll learn where you stand in Google's eyes and have multiple points of action to consider.
So, is "mobile-first" really the key takeaway for SEO in 2017? My humble opinion (and that of countless SEOs firmly entrenched in the hard data of the matter) is a big, fat yes. But that's assuming you have your ducks in a row with SEO fundamentals. The good news is that you're reading this now, so you're ahead of the curve -- but not for long, so be intentional and strike while the iron is hot.
Nike might have trademarked it, but I think Shia LaBeouf said it best: Just do it!
Google expands crackdown on bad ads and fake news sites: