9 Crazy Predictions for SEO in 2017


It's January, which means you've probably read about 200 expert predictions on the future of SEO in 2017 by now. But if you stick with me, I promise this post won't be like any of the other SEO predictions posts you've seen so far. You know...

2017 seo predictions

When it comes to making SEO predictions, a lot of experts take the safe route. We all know mobile SEO is going to be increasingly important. Talking about the obvious is always safe.

If you're anything like me, the SEO predictions for 2017 have let you feeling underwhelmed. No one has been sticking their neck out this year.

Mobile will be big?

UX will matter?

Really?! You don't say!

best seo predictions

I think it's time for a few more bold predictions – nine of them in fact. These SEO predictions will be a bit more out there – maybe you could even call them a little crazy.

Just don't blame me if/when these predictions become reality. I'm just the prognosticator, basing my predictions on the things I've seen lately – and where I believe Google is heading next.

1. We'll Experience the Biggest Rankings Shift in the History of Google...

Major algorithmic changes are always a big deal – from old school classics like Florida and Caffeine to more modern algorithmic updates like Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird, and RankBrain.

So here's my first SEO prediction for 2017: We’ll see the biggest shift in rankings in the history of Google.

Machine learning and AI was an undeniable force in 2016. And I expect machine learning signals to become a bigger and bigger piece of the pie. In case you're unfamiliar with RankBrain, here's a simplified diagram that breaks it down:

google rankbrain diagram

RankBrain helps Google select and prioritize the signals it uses for ranking. Engagement is one of the very important signals Google looks at for ranking.

It's been my theory that RankBrain (and/or other machine-learning elements within Google's core algorithm) are increasingly rewarding pages that have high user engagement. In other words: Google has built its own ultimate unicorn detector to ensure that the pages people are clicking on and engaging with the most are rewarded with better search positions.

2. …But Nobody Will Notice Anything!

Remember how, for a few months before RankBrain was officially announced in that Bloomberg article, everyone in the SEO industry knew a big algorithm update  was brewing? Remember all the discussion on Twitter, Facebook, and the top search industry publications?

Yeah, me neither because it absolutely didn't happen!

rankbrain predictions

So here's my second SEO prediction for 2017: Even though we're about to see the biggest shift in the history of Google rankings, nobody will notice anything.

RankBrain is more subtle than updates like Panda and Penguin, where up to 90 percent of your organic traffic disappeared instantly overnight. It was easy to see such a ridiculously huge traffic drop, that occurred on a specific date, in your analytics.

But with RankBrain, the rankings shift is happening every day, bit by bit, rather than all at once in one big update. Google is shifting traffic away from your donkeys (pages with average or below average engagement) and toward your unicorns (pages that have 5-10x higher engagement metrics than normal).

Whatever SEO rank-checking tools or weather reports you're looking at aren't set up to notice these small and gradual types of changes. They just get lost in the noise. 

3. Google Will Unite Featured Snippets & Organic Listings

Why is Google's featured snippet so often different from its top-ranked organic listing? Basically, Google is currently saying to its users: "Our first listing isn’t really the correct answer, so use this other answer instead."

Huh? Why isn’t the first listing simply “the answer” instead?

My third SEO prediction for 2017: Google's featured snippets and organic listing will converge.

Here's my theory. Snippets were just a sandbox/testing environment where they could try out user engagement signals in search and the rest of the rankings didn’t use them. Now that they’ve bought into this idea, they can consolidate the two concepts.

4. Google Will Kill Organic Positions 6-10

As a result of new user-engagement signals being used in search rankings, fewer and fewer people are clicking on results in lower positions, while clicks on the top positions are trending higher. Check out this surprising click curve WordStream put together:

ctr by organic position on google

(Note: This data was obtained from the Google Search Console, tracking the same set of keywords in the Internet marketing niche for three separate 30-day periods)

This chart really illustrates the idea of a subtle change, as discussed in my second prediction.

What's it all mean? That it's time for my next SEO prediction: Google will eliminate the bottom half of search results in 2017. (Bonus prediction: SEOs will freak out BIG TIME!)

search engine optimization predictions

As a result of machine learning, I believe Google will decide that it no longer needs to show positions 6-10. The decluttered SERP will be populated with more ads (which will generate higher CTRs than the organic listings they replaced).

Think it can't happen? Let me remind you of that time waaaay back in early 2016 when Google killed right-side text ads on the desktop. But when you looked at the data, it made sense why Google did it: only 14.6 percent of desktop clicks came from the right ads.

What happened after Google eliminated right-side ads? CTRs increased and traffic remained steady.

I imagine the same will be true when Google eliminates the bottom half of search results. The actual impact for most websites should be minimal because most people aren't clicking on those organic listings now anyway.

5. We'll Say Goodbye to Local SEO

Google Shopping (a.k.a. Product Search) used to be great. Then Google changed the game and Google Shopping became a 100 percent pay-to-play system.

The local SEO train has gone on for way too long. These are 100 percent commercial queries and Google’s next big land grab.

There's no easy way to cushion the blow for my fifth SEO prediction for 2017, so I'll just say it: local SEO as we've known it will die.

sad unicorn

Google plans to make $5 billion from local search. So that means one thing: goodbye local organic packs.

6. Black Hat SEOs Will Create Fake Engagement

Google already has a pretty lengthy list of tactics that are against its Webmaster Guidelines. Well, expect that list to expand in (or after) 2017.

One thing we've been talking a lot about so far in this post is the importance of engagement metrics and how this can impact your SEO success. This includes metrics from click-through rates, to dwell time, to task completion rates (a.k.a. conversion rates).

Well, you know how it goes. Anytime somebody sees some success with an SEO tactic, then everyone starts doing it. But a select few who can't make that tactic work legitimately will figure out a way to fake it.

seo predictions larry kim

This is exactly how the whole link buying problem got started 10 years ago. People knew links increased rankings, so people went crazy buying links, not worrying about quality, only quantity.

Which brings us to SEO prediction number six: CTR and engagement hacks will become the new black hat SEO.

Look for huge spammer innovation once more SEOs finally start realizing that improving CTR and dwell time also can help improve rankings in today's machine-learning world. The black hat revolution won’t be televised, but people in the know will know all about it.

7. Google Will Declare War on Tool Providers

Why does Google have a TOS (terms of service) and not enforce it?

Companies like Raven Tools have been bullied to not include rank checking. But Google allows it on some tools but not others?

So, my seventh SEO prediction is that Google will declare war on tool providers that violate their TOS.

Why should Google care more about this now? Probably because rank checkers screw up CTR and bounce calculations.

A few Google people have tweeted about this actually.

google terms of service

If Google wanted to be really mean about it, they could devise a kind of penalty where if they found that you were doing excessive rank checking of your domain, they could infer you were violating the TOS. 

8. An SEO Company Will Die

Following on the previous prediction, and other factors, here's my next SEO prediction for 2017: one or more major SEO vendors or service companies will be sold off.

Google sometimes “makes an example” of a small company they believe is behaving badly by publicly punishing them so badly that they close.

9. SEO Will Be More Valuable Than Ever

Though much of this post may seem like doom and gloom, one thing's for sure: SEO won't die. (Though it's an extremely safe bet the entire practice of SEO will be declared dead and/or dying at least a few times this year!)

Despite all of its challenges (and the many more on the horizon), SEO will be an even more valuable marketing channel to the lucky winners in 2017 and beyond.

seo unicorns

My final SEO prediction: Fewer and fewer winners will win bigger and bigger SEO jackpots. 

So find and focus on your unicorns!

What do you think?

The over/under for these predictions is 50 percent. What do you pick? Over or under? Which do you think will come true and why?

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Jan 09, 2017

Pretty good post! I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Very creatively formed the 9 crazy predictions for SEO.This will help my work,Any way I'll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon.

Jan 10, 2017

Nice Article. Its very useful for SEO. I have learned a lot from this article. thanks for sharing this post. I will try this for my eccommerce website

Akash Srivastava
Jan 10, 2017

Amazing predictions!

Jan 10, 2017

Interesting article...worth reading thanks for sharing

Jan 11, 2017

Hi Kim,

I guess some of the predictions will come true. No. 4 particularly will impact those rely solely on organic traffic

"4. Google Will Kill Organic Positions 6-10"

I mean they have to work harder to get into the top 5 now rather than top 10!

What do you think we could should do?


Jan 25, 2017

I think this would equivalent to Google shooting themselves in the foot. It would not be long before there was a new go to search engine, even if it wasn't as fast, as a culture we do not want to be told what to do.

Jan 11, 2017

Interesting and insightful article. Great information for anyone who is curious about SEO in 2017. I have just researched that all the mentioned predictions, all are quite helpful for my site to get better ranking. Thanks a lot Larry for posting.

saul malpass
Jan 12, 2017

Under 50% - Pretty sure the local one won't become true. Organic predominantly still has best engagement metrics so feel Google will be moving too far away from what they are there to do and provide the best results for the users.

Jan 12, 2017

Agree with the previous commenter, the Local will remain organic. Google has to return a result for every local entity and they know that most of the local listings are not claimed. If they move away from the possibility to show a (more or less) relevant result for every query (this would happen if they only show results for paying listings, and all the not claimed organic disapear) then they would have a much worse user experience. But others seem great.

Alan J. Boyd
Jan 24, 2017

I think this one has the most logical chance of happening. Every paid listing will be a claimed listing and they are already testing it with success from what I understand. Google 'plumber san francisco' and you'll see the 'google guaranteed' badge for paid local pack listings.

Sujit Senapati
Jan 13, 2017

Point 4 regarding Google removing 6-10 serp results, that would surely be a big game changer if it really happens. Regarding 1 & 2 points its still there and happening real time. Hopefully now being an SEO person we need to buckle up. Its going to be an helluva of a ride this 2017.

Lastly the predictions are nicely put. Thanks for that for which we know how to take steps this year.

Jan 14, 2017

very nice tips and info

Jan 15, 2017


Your article is awesome, this is exactly I’ve been looking.

Big Thanks !!!!

Dev Felix
Jan 16, 2017

Nice article. I think voice search play major role in upcoming SEO.

Karolina Salek
Jan 23, 2017

Very interesting predictions for 2017. I guess SEO experts need to prepare and adjust to some changes that will happen... Cheers!

Jan 29, 2017

I don't understand how the big G could kill the local seo when right now it gives the most power to promote local bussiness...

Ulrich Eckardt
Jan 31, 2017

great article. I don't know if I should be happy with these predictions or not :) It means that people need to work harder on their websites in the future :(


Ashish P.
Feb 01, 2017

Loved reading this. Gives a broad understanding of how the landscape is moving.
I’d just like to share something about mobile becoming bigger and bigger I think AMP will be huge in 2017, although it’s fairly new but every website needs to optimize for AMP and then you will be ahead in 2017 for sure.

Helaina Berry
Feb 02, 2017

Nowadays, SEO is going increasingly important. Google is the most popular brands on the internet and it is also continuous to grow by keeping up with new ways to squeeze more advertising. Despite of many challenges that you've encountered, you must stand up and adopt this crazy prediction for SEO because this is a valuable marketing channel and this could be a big help to win at SEO.

palak bhatti
Feb 14, 2017

Great article amp is new seo

Feb 14, 2017

Good Advice. When you had an article awhile back about AMP, I was serious about it. Checking stats, about 60% of my search volumn comes from mobil and about 40% from desktop. Rich snippits is something I have not paid that much attention to. After reading your article, I am going to have to get serious about it.

krishna kanth
Feb 28, 2017


Thanks for the information about SEO predictions in 2017. All points are very helpful to me to increase the rankings better than before. As we know that the era of digital marketing is replacing the traditional market and as a business, no matter how big or small you are, all are using digital branding service to promote their business online and make brand presence for that many online marketing consultants to make your business grow

Cesar De La Vega
Mar 02, 2017

Hi Larry,

I new to SEO so I'm reading every blog from every website our there trying to differentiate between white/grey/black hat SEO. I've found WordStream to be a reputable and reliable source of good information regarding SEO, marketing and optimization.

There are some so called experts out there selling programs and SEO workshops that look pretty suspicious.

I'm hoping someone here would shed some light on these things:

1- Are Private Blog Networks (PBNs) considered bad SEO that according to your predictions could be penalized by google?

2- I design websites for clients and I host websites for a lot of my clients. Would I get SEO juice from the links I place on their websites even though we are hosted on the same network? Do they show in backlink lists from let's say Majestic or Goggle's Search Console? Is this considered white, gray, or black SEO?

3- I see a lot of my competitors using PBNs and leaving blog comments with links to their websites on blogs that are obviously set up and don't provide any valuable information. Yet, they still rank better than me using those tactics.

4. It seems as though Google is slowly but surely replacing all organic listings with Paid Listings.... So this brings me to my last question.

5- Is it better to focus on Paid Ads or on building organic SEO by building a community and a knowledge bank such as WordStream?

Thanks so much in advance! Sorry for the long post!

- Cesar

Shara Jones
Mar 07, 2017

Hi Larry, thanks for your bang-up substance. Its should be very useful and interesting. Great work keep rolling I’m looking forward to more of the same.

Mar 14, 2017

Very informative post, it's very useful. Thanks!

Manoj kumar
Mar 28, 2017

Hello, Larry. It's sure that algorithm changes will impact the future of SEO practice, Anyway thanks for the article.

Apr 26, 2017

Great Post.!! thank you so much for sharing.

Aug 02, 2017

Hey man, I enjoyed the read alot! It was a great way to be reminded which technology is just about to kick in when we're talking about search engines. The rules of SEO are ever changing. Not in the "panic" way, but it's steadily turning in another direction with voice search, VR etc that we'll have to adabt our SEO effort to ;-)

Martin Lois
Aug 05, 2017

Nice Post.

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