Need to Know: Search Marketing in 2017


Google is constantly evolving to try and improve the search results for users, and search marketers need to keep up. Let’s review some of the biggest changes from Google in the last year and what marketers should know about SEO for 2017.


Search engine marketing (SEM) is constantly evolving. Google updates its algorithm daily and whether you’re an SEO expert, or simply concerned about your company’s digital presence, staying up-to-date is essential.

Last year, we saw a lot of changes from Google aimed at improving and tailoring the search results it serves users that everyone tasked with managing their brand online should consider moving forward in 2017. Let’s look at the a few of the most important shifts in search marketing from the past year.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and SEO

Mobile-Friendly Algorithm Boost

Google officially rolled out their mobile-friendly algorithm boost in May of last year. The intention was to “increase the effect of the mobile-friendly ranking signal” that had already been in place. Over half of all searches are now conducted on mobile devices, and Google has continually increased the importance of mobile-friendliness as a result.

The idea is that mobile-friendly websites provide a better experience for the user, and Google wants to serve up the best results possible for its users. Nowadays, all websites MUST be mobile-friendly; it’s no longer optional. If you’re still trying to drive business with a non-responsive website, you’re fighting an uphill battle.

Penguin 4.0

“Penguin” was originally launched in April 2012 and was intended to shut down link farms and other “black hat” SEO link-building efforts like buying or obtaining links through link networks to game the system and boost SEO. It now includes even page-level and keyword-level devaluations for those who try to manipulate results through bad links.

Last year, Google rolled Penguin 4.0 into its core algorithm (Hummingbird) which only increased the importance of disavowing bad or spammy backlinks. The good news is that Penguin 4.0 runs in real time, which means disavowing backlinks can take effect immediately but that failing to do so can also take effect immediately.

It is critical that you run backlink reports regularly to identify bad links and immediately disavow them. However, “good” links are still the most important ranking factor for Google! Acquiring links from reputable sites with strong domain authority still demonstrates your credibility in the eyes of Google, so don’t stop doing this the right way.

Panda 4.2

This algorithm was originally launched in 2011 and it is essentially a spam-fighting filter intended to prevent poor quality sites and their content from winding up in the top search results. This is a content and UX-focused algorithm and it uses on-site behavior statistics to try and determine whether the user found what they wanted on the site they chose from search results.

Google does not share the details on how this works, but it is reasonable to assume that measurable stats like bounce rate, time on site, the number of clicks needed to reach what they were looking for (page depth) and other behavior indicators are signals. What Google does share is that they view Panda as a “content quality” score and ranking factor.

Panda is the reason why SEOs are always pushing for more content, but also why the modern SEO is focused on quality content versus the keyword-stuff content of the past. This algorithm rewards sites for answering questions that users are asking Google well, but it also penalizes sites for an abundance of similar or redundant content as well as a failure to answer the searcher’s question.

Panda 4.2 rolled out incrementally over the first half of 2016 and was eventually enveloped into Google’s core algorithm (Hummingbird).


This is the “Google Maps” or “Local Search” algorithm and it launched at the start of September 2016. This algorithm increases the importance of a searcher’s location (remember: over half of all searches are conducted on mobile now) on the results they see.

Searches within Google Maps now account for 1/3 of all mobile searches, so Google has increased the importance of location in all searches, not just within maps. This is all part of a broader effort to improve and personalize search results for a user.

This “Possum” algorithm also fights spam in the form of local business aggregators (lists, directories) to make it harder to manipulate local search results. When this launched late last year, many brick-and-mortar businesses disappeared from search results for terms they used to rank for. This disruption increases the importance of creating and managing a Google My Business page so that Google favors your business when people near it are searching relevant terms.
The overall moral of the story is that Google continues to make changes that emphasize the user experience and trying to serve the best results possible. Whether you are thinking about the content on your site, the backlinks that point to your site or the way users access (through mobile! through maps!), it’s all about the quality your website delivers to a user. 2017 will surely bring more changes, but a strong SEO and search marketing strategy is all about doing everything with the user in mind and keeping up with the trends.

Contact Carbon8 today to learn more about how we approach SEO and how we might be able to help your business.

Matt O'Connell
written by MATT O'CONNELL

Matt is a Digital Marketing Manager at Carbon8 with a wide range of experience in SEO, PPC, Content and Social Marketing as well as direct sales. He has worked in a variety of business development roles in multiple industries across the United States and Latin America and he loves finding innovative ways to improve his clients' search marketing performance.

Matt holds a degree in Geography from the University of Maryland and is passionate about language and culture. He spent three years living and working in Buenos Aires prior to joining Carbon8.

A transplant to the Denver area, Matt is originally hails from Maryland and is a diehard Redskins football and Maryland Terrapins basketball fan. When he's not toiling away in the office, Matt can be found carving up the Rockies on his snowboard.

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