How well did you keep up with Google's frequent updates in 2016? Didn't you feel, at some point, that striving to keep the ever changing “rhythm” that Google imposed was like “striving to keep yourself steady on quicksand”?
Preparation is key, right?
So, if you want to keep a steady balance while “walking on wire” this year (whether as a marketer, as a web developer in Toronto or as an online business owner) you need to anticipate the upcoming shifts in the SEO landscape.
In order to lend you a hand with that we have analyzed Google's most significant changes in 2016, read the forecasts of some the most influencing experts' in the field and we're here today, in front of you, ready to empower you with a list of 6 updates in Google's algorithms that you should expect to impact your business this year. 
And here they are! Each one could easily win its own star on Google's “walk of fame”, the one grouping its most impactful updates along the years:

1. Google's Index Goes Mobile-First 

In this respect, we couldn't be happier here, at our web development company in Toronto, with Drupal 8's mobile-first features!
Now this Google update is huge! It will most likely shake the entire SEO landscape and will challenge you to reconfigure all your digital marketing initiatives, plans and strategies.
If you have already implemented all the right measures for optimizing your website for mobile, for turning it into a welcoming place for your mobile users to land on, good for you. 
Don't rest on your oars! Keep up the good work: 2017 means higher search ranking for you!
If, for various reasons, you've missed the train, and you stubbornly put all your faith (and therefore your brand's whole future) in your desktop website, “take a cold shower” and then get to work!
The wind of change will blow from Google's direction and might just sweep off your online presence if it lacks a strong foundation!
And that foundation, my friend, is made of mobile optimization-oriented measures.
Just think about it: not only that mobile-friendly will become a ranking signal, but it will be the primary source of ranking!
Google will push forward, right into the spotlight, mobile-optimized websites, while the desktop ones will remain behind, “in the dark”. 
Moreover, it's not just a whole new way of marketing online that you should adopt, but a whole different mindset, too: you need to think mobile, not just to “act” mobile!
We witness the end of an era when marketers geared all their efforts towards making Google happy.
The modern day marketer should first and foremost make his user happy: by crafting the best mobile user experiences!
Here's how:
  • crafting unique content adjusted to the mobile's particularity (long gone are the days of keyworda and links-stuffed content and of those when you would transfer content from your desktop site to its mobile version in such a rudimentary manner)
  • ensuring them an intuitive navigation
  • guaranteeing them fast-loading web pages
And Google will always favor those who pay attention to and rush in to meet their (mobile) users' expectations.

2. Google Will Start an Intrusive Pop-Up Ads “Hunt”

Or better said “Google has started...”, for the announced change came into effect on the 10th of January.
How will this impact your website? 
Well, the proper question would be: are you using interstitials on your mobile pages? 
How much screen space do they take up?
You should know that Google has started to rank lower precisely those mobile website which keep annoying users with interstitials covering most of the content they want access.
Here are just a few of interstitial-related signals that will make Google wave its red flag:
  • a pop-up ad that the user has to close before he's given full access to the main content
  • a pop-up add that covers almost entirely the content the user is reading, the he has to dismiss before (re)gaining access to the main content
  • the usage of a specific layout where the above-the-fold section of the web page is an interstitial, while the main content is moved underneath the fold and thus is hardly accessible to the user
If the above practices sound too familiar to you, you should definitely consider revising your mobile marketing strategies!
Google is sure to strengthen its efforts for tracking down and penalizing those websites that will continue to annoy their users with pesky interstitials contributing to a bad user experience. 
Accessibility, in the sense of easing users' access to that valuable content prepared for them on your mobile site, which goes had-in-hand with a good user experience, is what Google favors.
And intrusive ads are definitely not a means for achieving it!

3. Google Assistant Will Outshine the SERP Search

It's true that Google has a lot to catch up for being able to “rival” Siri and Cortana, voice assistants who've had the time to constantly improving their technologies, but we've gathered some really strong signals from this direction.
Can you imagine an SERPless future? 
Google's Voice search technology would then efficiently guide users towards the information they're looking up for!
And, given the long-tail keywords, their whole search experience will get significantly improved: Google will bring the risk of irrelevant search results close to zero.
How prepared are you to reconfigure all the ads on your website, your overall online advertising strategy?

4. Google Will Expand Its Use of Rich Cards in Search

In the name of an optimized search experience Google's complimented its snippets with rich cards. It did this last year in May, so no news here.
The news is that Google's strengthening its efforts for adding even more industries to its list of verticals included in its rich card results. And this might impact your business, too, more precisely: the way your brand gets listed in searches, before your future visitors' eyes.
Therefore, even if you're not operating in the movie industry, you don't organize online courses or run a restaurant, mind you don't leave this Google trend out of your sight!
These days Google might add your industry, too, to its list and then you'll be challenged to adapt, quickly!
Get yourself prepared by experimenting various pieces of content presenting your brand and “luring” users in, content that would go in the richer previews enabled by Google.

5. Google Will Favor Those Participating in Its AMP Project

Here's another strong signal that Google's moving at high speed towards mobile indexing! 
We've already talked abut Google's Accelerated Mobile Page on this blog, but we'd still like to stress this project's importance.
It's Google's way of encouraging website owners/web developers to focus their efforts on perfecting the mobile web experience for their users.
Expect this open source initiative to become even more impactful in 2017!
And here is how you could benefit from getting involved in this “mobile-friendly environment creating” initiative that the AMP project aims at:
  • you improve your users' overall experiences on your mobile website (and this is definitely a benefit for you too: happy users= higher search ranking in Google)
  • improved loading speed for your web pages, which, again leads to a better exposure in search results

6. Google Will Start Penalizing Unsecured Websites

It looks like it's “raining Google penalties” this month! 
In addition to the pesky interstitials-related one, scheduled to come into effect on the 10th of January, Google will start to penalize websites that do not run on HTTPS secure browser connections.
Of course, not any sites, but those requiring all kinds of private details from their users: passwords, credit card details etc.
If your website falls into this category, here are the 2 major measures you should take lest you should start 2017 with a Google penalty:
  • install a certificate from a trusted vendor on your website 
  • migrate all the traffic on your website from HTTP to HTTPS
Now that you've taken a peek into the future of SEO, that Google's drafting for you right now, it's up to you to incorporate all these impactful updates into your future digital marketing initiatives.

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