GOOGLE SEO: What are the SEO trends in 2017?

London, UNITED KINGDOM
MEHFUZ HUSSAIN (writer) with VIJAY SHAH (editor)

 

This article was written by Mehfuz Hussain, a digital marketing specialist based in London with expertise in online marketing concepts and Google Analytics.

Search Engine Optimisation has seen many changes in 2016 thanks to Google. From the launch of its ambitious AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) Project in February 2016, Google has shaken up the way traditional SEO worked. Understandably, Google knows well that the best way to dominate the industry is to be aware of how search engines are changing, and strategising SEO and content techniques accordingly. The world of SEO continues to evolve at high speed. While some SEO techniques have been a staple for several years, there will be many new ones that you will have to pay attention to. Here are some of the game-changing trends to help you stay ahead this year.

 

Photo credit: BigOakInc.com

 

1. Mobile-first Approach by Businesses

With ongoing improvements in the mobile computing field, browsing on mobiles has become equivalent to desktop browsing if not more In many countries, mobile browsing is more popular and dominant than via traditional desktops and laptops. In the last few years, the plethora of new smartphones with internet capabilities has changed the way search engine look at them. Remember Mobilegeddon?

A few months ago, Google said, “To improve the mobile search experience, after January 10, 2017, pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly.” This influenced their latest search algorithm which prioritised ‘responsive’ websites at the cost of older, mobile-unfriendly sites.

So, in 2017, your top priority is to separate your desktop and mobile measurement plans to account for the fundamental differences between mobile and desktop behaviour.

 

2. Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, and Google Rank Brain

There is no doubt, Google’s main focus in 2017 is on Artificial Intelligence. If you followed the Google I/O event 2016, most announcements were related to AI. Google also said that the speech recognition errors have reduced from 25 to 8 percent. It’s been officially named Google’s third-most important ranking factor. Voice search will grow even more in 2017, with better voice recognition and understanding.

 

3. Infographics

Infographics make complex information eye-catching, shareable and easily digestible. An image coupled with information tends to stay in the minds of readers. Such content generates more social shares and also generates leads. Of course, your content should also be suitable enough to add Infographics to it, and they can really make it pop.

 

4. AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) takes centre stage

A great way to ensure better user experience is switching over to Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). More brands are using this option as Google also has begun to favour the use of AMP. It contains three sections – AMP HTML, AMP JS, and Google AMP Cache. Accelerated Mobile Page (AMP) allows websites to make pages equipped for loading right away onto mobile screens. Interestingly, sites that have switched over to AMP are given more visibility with a special icon in Google searches.

 

 

5. Branding gets personal

There is no denying the power of personal branding. If used strategically, it can be a powerful tool in ensuring the success of SEO campaigns. Even social media platforms like Facebook refine their algorithms to favour individual posts over branded posts. Also, once you have a personal brand in place, it gets much easier to boost user trust and engagement. This, in turn, will up the traffic to your site.

 

6. HTTPS Everywhere

Google has inducted https as a ranking factor in its algorithm. Since then many companies hurriedly made the transition from HTTP to HTTPS in order to protect their own and their users’ privacy. It helps even more if there is money transactions happening on the website (e-commerce) and gives consumers extra confidence about their privacy. Let’s expect more websites switching to HTTPS than ever before in the history of the Web.

 

7. Focus on Content Curation

Though many people do not realise it, content marketing and SEO needs to work together for better results and visibility. Include all types of content in the mix: press releases and newsletters as well as articles and blog posts. A good content mix will help you increase backlinks on authority websites and establish you as an expert in your field. This strategy will help you boost your business to the top of Google’s SERPs.

 

2017 will see a massive hike in Internet usage. People are more concerned about the content they read. Now is the right time to prepare a well-developed strategy to survive in the market and beat the competition. As an SEO marketer, you have to be prepared for changes. Keep an close eye on SEO trends in 2017. All the best everyone!

 

IMAGE CREDITS:
“Google SEO Magnifying Glass” – BigOakFlickr, Flickr (1 July 2016) https://www.flickr.com/photos/31682982@N03/27940989741
“Free illustration: Seo, Web Page, Responsive – Free Image on Pixabay – 2016484” – Templune, pixabay https://pixabay.com/en/seo-web-page-responsive-web-design-2016484/
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GLUTEN-FREE DIETS: Gluten Free Centre launches new mobile app for foodies

For people who have gluten intolerances or wish to have gluten-free diets, finding the right foods when out and about can be a minefield. With many restaurants and hotels not even aware of the existence of these intolerances and gluten-free diets, diners and travellers avoiding gluten can find themselves in awkward situations. However a new mobile phone app from the Gluten Free Centre promises to change all that.

The Gluten Free Centre – the United Kingdom’s most comprehensive online directory and community hub of for all things gluten free – has launched a new app that will help those living a gluten-free life find hotels, restaurants and stores that cater to them and stock food products without gluten. To promote all kinds of businesses supplying the gluten-free market, the GFC app will feature independent shops and hotels as well as big chains.

The app is designed to help anyone live a gluten-free life and locate their nearest businesses that can cater for their needs. Completely free of charge, the app will be launched officially at the The Gluten Free Centre’s corporate stand at The Allergy and Free From Show at Olympia, London from Friday July 3 to Sunday July 5, 2015. The app will be launched by GFC founders Diana and David Murphy.

(c) The Gluten Free Centre via Journalism.co.uk

 

Of the app, Diana said “We’re very proud of the new Gluten Free Centre app which will help our fast growing gluten free audience to access important information on the go.

“Users can choose from thousands of gluten-free friendly places to eat out, stay, shop or get a take away.

“What makes our app different is we include small, independent restaurants and hotels alongside the most popular chains.

“We’re selective about the places we add to our database – only the ones offering real choice, quality and understanding of gluten-free food are included.”

Based in the small town of Brinkworth, in the English county of Wiltshire, the Murphys launched the GFC in October 2014, based on their vision of creating a comprehensive and useful resource for people on gluten-free diets to find shops, eateries and businesses that place a high emphasis on their needs and requirements, as well as a supportive online community for everyone living gluten free in the UK.

The GFC’s website, along with its highly-acclaimed directory, the first of its kind in the British Isles, also offers fun gluten-free recipes, a blog and details on gluten-free events and competitions. The site aims to provide a wealth of information for for those with coeliac disease, wheat allergy, gluten intolerance and for people eating a gluten free diet for other health reasons such as Crohn’s Disease, MS, IBS or ASD – in addition to those who choose a gluten free diet as part of a healthy lifestyle. They also aim to bring together businesses, consumers, gluten-free organisations, experts and bloggers into a supportive and informative community, while also raising awareness of coeliac diseases and other intolerances affected by gluten, which is often found in wheat-based products such as bread and breakfast cereals.

The GFC community now stretches to 22,000 members and fans on Facebook alone. Its website receives 10,000 visitors per month and its free e-magazine reaches the inboxes of 6,000 readers across the UK. According to its website, the Gluten Free Centre has been featured in numerous glossy and women’s magazines and several regional newspapers and is a recipient of the SBS (Small Business Sunday) Award for new entrepreneurs by the BBC’s Dragon’s Den judge Theo Paphitis.

About 1 per cent of the UK’s population suffers from coeliac disease in particular, according to statistics from the Kantar Worldpanel, but increasing numbers of people are cutting gluten out of their diets for health reasons. Kantar claims that in 2013, 49% of gluten free customers were new to the category. Currently 55 per cent of the British gluten-free market is made up of people opting out of gluten for health reasons.

The app is available to download from the Google Play store (for Android devices – http://bit.ly/1SJDfdX ) and from the iTunes App Store.

SOURCES:
“Award winning online directory for gluten free living launches its first mobile app!” [Press Release] – Journalism.co.uk/Mousetrap Media Ltd (24 June 2015) https://www.journalism.co.uk/press-releases/award-winning-online-directory-for-gluten-free-living-launches-its-first-mobile-app-/s66/a565585/
“The Gluten Free Centre” – The Gluten Free Centre/The Gluten Free Centre Ltd http://theglutenfreecentre.co.uk/
“UK FREEFROM MARKET” – Incredible Bakery Company/incredibleshop http://www.incrediblebakerycompany.co.uk/uk-freefrom-market/
IMAGE CREDITS:
“Award winning online directory for gluten free living launches its first mobile app!” [Press Release] – Journalism.co.uk/Mousetrap Media Ltd (24 June 2015) https://www.journalism.co.uk/press-releases/award-winning-online-directory-for-gluten-free-living-launches-its-first-mobile-app-/s66/a565585/
Getty Images via Zemanta.

 

XIAOMI MI NOTE: New phablet to take on iPhone 6 Plus

Xiaomi, the Chinese phone manufacturer who have had runaway success in the Asian mobile phone and tablet markets, has launched a new larger-sized model which it is touting as its biggest challenge to the Apple iPhone yet. The device, known as Mi Note, is the latest to join the ever-growing list of ‘phablets’ to hit the market, as consumers move away from wanting to spend big funds to purchase separate phones and tablets and look towards gadgets that combine the best of both worlds.

The Mi Note comes at a good time for Xiaomi, who have recently been declared the world’s most valuable start-up, according to technology news site TechCrunch. The company’s new-found bravery in its launch to break the hegemony of Apple Inc. comes as it enjoys runaway success in the rapidly developing and emerging markets of the Gulf, India and east Asia. The company plans to become the world’s premier manufacturer of smartphones in the next decade, knocking Apple off the top spot. It is now China’s largest, and the world’s third largest, smartphone giant.

The Mi Note, which bears a strong resemblance to the Samsung Galaxy Note as well as its newer iPhone rivals, was launched at a special press conference in the PRC capital, Beijing this past Thursday. At the launch event for the Mi Note , which retails at 3,299 yuan ($530, £350) for the largest 64 gigabyte model, and its more advanced sibling the Mi Note Pro, the Xiaomi chief executive officer and co-founder Lei Jun was said to have been very keen to play off the iPhone 6 Plus and his new product together, making frequent comparisons and references between the two in his speech. He claimed that the Mi Note devices were lighter and thinner than the latest reincarnation of the iPhone, all the while bearing a larger screen. Jun also took a swipe at the iPhone’s back-facing camera, criticising its jutting out from the main body of the iPhone, while the Mi Note has a flattened back camera incorporated into the body of the Mi Note, so no annoying obtrusion.

(c) thebudcloud.com

A selection of products manufactured by Xiaomi, China’s largest smartphone manufacturer. The company has recently released its lightest phablet yet, the Mi Note.

The Mi Note was not just better than the iPhone merely for having a flat camera lens; CEO Jun told the gathered media at the launch event. He also claimed the new front camera boasted 13 megapixels and came with image stabilisation which will put an end to shaky and blurred snaps.

The Mi Note also comes with a 5.7-inch screen, with a Snapdragon 801 2.5 GHz processor under the bonnet, alongside 3 GB RAM. As for the Mi Note Pro, that comes with a more powerful 64-bit, 8-core Snapdragon 810 processor, and a whopping 4 gigabytes RAM. The device includes 64 GB of storage and costs 3,299 yuan ($535, £350), while the cheapest 16 GB model will retail in at 2,299 yuan ($370, £244) — Xiaomi says support LTE-CAT will give users lightning fast 450Mbps download speeds. The Mi Note Pro is the most expensive phone that Xiaomi has ever sold, and its best on paper too, in TechCrunch’s opinion.

The phone has a revolutionary new ‘curved’ screen. While LG  have already burst into the market with ‘flexible screens’, and Samsung have recently released a version of its Galaxy Note phablet with a screen that stretches over the side of the devices and offers virtual buttons, the Xiaomi recipe goes for aesthetics, giving the Mi Note sleek curves and a more natural design.

Xiaomi has gone in for slimmer phablets, treading a path well worn by its rivals. The Mi Note has a thickness of only 6.95mm, tipping the scales at 161 grams, making it incredibly lightweight compared with the iPhone or many other phablets, which have been criticised for being clunky and demanding on users’ pockets. Finally, Jun mentioned the Mi Note’s battery life; the best of its products yet, with a 3,000 mAh battery manufactured by Korean electronics firm LG. Xiaomi also produce its own range of portable chargers, although it is not known if the company will be producing chargers for the Mi Note in particular. The phone can also support multiple SIM types, such as micro-SIM, which is very rare in the phone world.

The Mi Note will be available in China from 27 January. There are no currently scheduled release dates for markets abroad as of yet.

SOURCES:
Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/
“Xiaomi Launches Mi Note Phablet To Fight The iPhone 6 Plus” – Jon Russell, TechCrunch/AOL Inc. (15 January 2015) http://techcrunch.com/2015/01/15/mi-note/
IMAGE CREDITS:
CC Search, Creative Commons http://search.creativecommons.org/
“Buy Xiaomi Mi3 & Redmi 1S Easily – Best Android Phone 2014” – Abhay Nagpal, thebudcloud.com (29 August 2014) http://www.thebudcloud.com/buy-xiaomi-mi3-redmi-1s-best-android-phone/

FLAPPY BIRD: Developer says he “got lucky”

with Huzaifah Jearally (idea contributor) & Arjun Shah (Flappy Bird fan/review assistant)

Flappy Bird is the new game that is causing a whole generation of phones to be dashed to pieces against walls as more and more people try to guide a tiny bird past pipes without causing a collision. Yet the developer behind the runaway success has admitted that he just got lucky, according to technology news site Tech Crunch.

The game, which is influenced by the 8-bit graphical technology associated with hit old-school games like the 1980s Super Mario series, was the brainchild of a Vietnamese ‘indie developer’ named Ha Dong Nguyen, who claims to be the one-man operation behind a small franchise named .GEARS Studios, the makers of Flappy Bird. He has coded games for the past four years.

(c) AndroidPIT

.GEARS is one of a new breed of mobile games and app powerhouses that have come into their own since the development of smartphones took off post-2005. On its website, the company’s production policy states “mostly, we’re making arcade games that are bite-sized, take no more than a few minutes of playing right on smartphones and tablets.

Our work is heavily influenced by retro pixellated games in its golden age. Everything is pure, extremely hard and incredibly fun to play.”

While his popular game has stormed the Google Play and iTunes store charts, Nguyen much rather prefers to keep a low profile. He avoids requests for media interviews and when Tech Crunch journalists sent him a list of personal questions to answer, he commented “I’m not comfortable with being exposed.” Even on the internet, that haven of anonymity, Nguyen is virtually unknown and his name appears not be mentioned on the Flappy Bird game itself. Recently however, he has opened a Twitter account and has made appearances on a web forum for game developers. His wish for secrecy also extends to his company. .GEARS offers almost no information on its development team, such as staff bios and keeps its repertoire of gaming apps largely under wraps.

In the interview with Tech Crunch, Nguyen stated that it took him around two to three days to set up Flappy Bird with both influences and artwork borrowed from other games. It is not known however if he obtained permission from the other games’ manufacturers to do so. He keenly expects Flappy Bird’s rampant successes among gamers to translate to big opportunities for .GEARS. Though Nguyen insists his studios is not a company and he is the only one behind it, the game’s popularity has given him hope of further expansion in both the payroll and the bankroll. He added “Before ‘Flappy Bird’, none of my games have 1/100th of that popularity.”.

I don’t know how my games can be so popular. Most of my players are kids in schools. I would like to thanks them for playing my game and sharing it to other people.

It is hard to believe, I understand. I have no resources to do anything else beside uploading the game.”“The popularity could be my luck,”

Indeed, Nguyen’s almost impossible to play homage to the humble bird-in-the-sky has rapidly gone viral, with millions of fans and new downloads per week, challenging the dominance of more established multi-developer titles such as Candy Crush (King Inc.) and Roxio’s Angry Birds games. Thousands of players have given their take on Nguyen’s money-spinner with the hashtag #flappybird on Twitter, and fans have also set up social media accounts and hobby sites for Flappy Bird without Nguyen having to lift a finger. Both friends and foes of the game have competed to write zany or less-than-complimentary reviews and analyses. Already 300,000 reviews have been posted across the internet, according to figures by Tech Crunch, and the number is growing. Some observers in the industry have suspicions however, that a garden-shed game that only saw the light of day last year has already reached epidemic download proportions, despite no clear marketing strategy or support from advertisers.

Even with the controversies over Flappy Bird’s successes in the download charts, Nguyen has more in store for the future of the anger-inducing avian. He plans to update the game as well as a couple of others in the .GEARS Studios portfolio and intends to branch out into other gaming formats.

(c) product-reviews.net

Flappy Bird was released by .GEARS Studios, a company based in the new technology hub of  Hanoi in Vietnam, south-east Asia. The game was made available for download in May 2013. By January 2014, Flappy Bird was Number 1 in the Apple App store, with two other .GEARS Studios titles, Super Ball Juggling and Shuriken Block, riding pillion at second and sixth place respectively. The success of the two other titles has been put down to dripfeed popularity from the Bird, as Ha Dong Nguyen does not cross-promote his games outside of the website. In fact a quick visit to the site by this article’s author could not find any mention of Flappy Bird, which makes for a very confusing situation in understanding the game’s popularity.  Nevertheless, Flappy Bird now gets 2-3 million downloads a day on iOS and Android. The game is graphically basic, using 8-bit retro games design, a major reversal from the current trend among major gaming app developers of making their offerings true-to-life, 3D or packed with features.

The objective of the game is simple. You are a small bird of species unknown. You are given a countdown and then while cutting through blue sky vertically, you need fly through the gaps between green pipes without touching them or the ground. There seems to be no power-ups or bonuses, the more pipes you pass through unscathed, the better your high score. Though it sounds easy, playing it is a different story. Tech Crunch journalists have expressed admiration for anyone who can make a double-digit score, referring to them as ‘gods’. TC have described Flappy Bird as a game that is irritatingly impossible and yet somehow so addictive. 

“As you quickly die and die and die again, the urge to press “OK,” and “Start” seems impossible to resist, so you continue to re-spawn your stupid little bird and try to pass your best score. Overheard at TechCrunch, discussing the game: “Flappy Bird is the downfall of humanity”

One reviewer, also quoted by Tech Crunch, commented “The only reason why I have not yet deleted this horrid game is the overwhelming sense of relief and accomplishment I feel when I finally beat a high score…“. Another said “I assume this feeling will soon consume you, too, but don’t say you were never warned.” “Let me start by saying DO NOT download flappy bird (sic)…People warned me about it, but I didn’t care,”. And a third dramatically stated “My life is over. Your life is over. The world is over,”

The author got a chance to experience the antics of the ‘stupid little bird’ for himself this past Friday, in an impromptu high score challenge with his younger brother. My little brother’s highest score was 32 as far as I can recollect, making him a ‘god’ in the eyes of Tech Crunch’s now frustrated hacks. My first impression of the game was that it looked somewhat cheesy, especially its silly sounding title, but as someone who has seen Super Mario in action eons ago, I did readily appreciate the look of Flappy. My first few attempts at making that little birdie fly were woefully pathetic, with the animal crashing into the first pipe. A distraction from my niece even caused Flappy to nosedive into the ground, making a spectacular thud of failure. After a couple more tries however, I managed to make a respectable score of eight. The game is frustrating (my brother admitted lugging his phone to the floor at one point in utter frustration) but the unearthly and powerful urge to top your previous best score keeps you hooked. I soon got a feel for the gameplay. Tap the screen slowly and keep your eyes peeled. Be ready for breaks in the pipes in unexpected locations. Make sure your phone insurance will cover any unexpected destruction of your handset. Flappy Bird is frustrating, even comically stupid, but it is great for training your attention span and dexterity. The graphics inspire nostalgia without wallowing in it and the gameplay keeps you hooked and focused.

SOURCE:
“Developer Behind “Flappy Bird,” The Impossible Game Blowing Up The App Store, Says He Just Got Lucky” – Sarah Perez, Tech Crunch/AOL Inc. (2 February 2014) LINK
IMAGE CREDITS:
“Think you’ve got mad game skills?: try your hand at Flappy Bird” – Kris Carlon, AndroidPIT/AndroidPIT International LINK
“Flappy Bird record score” – Matt Tran, PR (31 January 2014) LINK
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