It’s a New Year (happy New Year, by the way!) and that probably means it’s a new you. Whether or not you are actually getting in the best shape of your life (at least for a few weeks), saving money for your dream vacation, or giving up any bad habits, you can be sure that the world of SEO is going to change (and change is usually for the better!). Adapting to those changes is what sets results on Page 1 apart from Page 10 — and, by the way, 90% or more of the clicks go to page-1 results.

This guide will spell out how to succeed at SEO in 2017 by showing major trends, pooling advice from all corners of the web, and analyzing data to make predictions about the future.

Part 1: Understanding search engine trends

We’ve all seen fashion trends come and go over the years — search engines aren’t much different. While there are certainly pillars of SEO that aren’t going anywhere anytime soon (great content, solid keyword research, and readability just to name a few), there are trends that are slowly shaping the future of SEO taking hold today. Identifying, preparing for, and eventually joining in on these trends is what will help you get to the top. Here are some of the biggest search engine trends of 2017. Get with them and you are well on the path to SEO success!

Understanding keywords AND identifying intent

Keywords are still incredibly important, but the days of producing content matched up to a single keyword are like the days when people used pay phones: gone. Updates such as Hummingbird and other developments such as Rankbrain show that Google wants to figure out not just which words people are searching for but what they mean when they are searching.

Our take: more and more users are searching impulsively with intent in mind. Google estimates that 70% of customers are missed out on when you rely on demographic data alone. Understanding their needs and meeting them in the moment is the key to success. This requires more research and a better understanding of how your customers are finding you! Producing content that solves a need is the key to getting to the top.

Putting user experience above everything else

Google really cares about its users and their experience. Any time they make an update, it is almost always with the intent of bettering the user experience. Recent updates to penalize annoying overlays and pop-ups show that Google cares more about UX than just about anything else. Site speed, readability, user interaction, and uninterrupted browsing are going to be more important than ever.

TIP: According to some very bright minds, the average attention span of users looking through the web can get as low as 2.8 seconds. Most experts agree that you have 4 seconds or less to grab user’s attention before they bounce. Getting your site’s message across immediately is more important than anything else, and that includes fast enough function for your site to load quickly.

Cultivating your brand will become more important

Ever wonder why brands rank #1 most of the time in their fields? It’s because Google trusts them, and Google trusts them because people trust them. Brands are an easy way for people’s brains to compartmentalize a group of things, and to associate them with a mark of quality. In a web full of pretenders, Google likes to have a bit of certainty. Being a brand isn’t all you need, but cultivating your brand via multiple channels is more important than ever.

Tip: expand your reach and be as comprehensive as possible. Social media, local and national campaigns all matter. You need to create content as well as take on a personality. Growing your brand will help put you at the top of the rankings.

With SEO budgets constantly expanding, it would be a shame for companies to not be doing it right. These trends have been materializing for years and are finally coming to a head. Get on the bandwagon and ride the wave. Stay tuned for part 2!