Search engine optimization in 2016 is light years different than it was in 2006.
SEO today is a mash up of content marketing, PR, mobile, and social media. Therefore, in order for your business to be successful in organic search, you should weave SEO into the fabric of the different facets of your marketing. In 2016, to grow and even just maintain search visibility, you must adhere to the new rules of SEO. Welcome to this new world, as outlined below in our list of the hottest SEO trends coming your way in the months ahead.
Mobile Dominance and the AMP Project
The growth of mobile is undeniable. According to Google, mobile searches surpassed desktop searches for the first time in 2015. Google’s Mobilegeddon last April was just the beginning. In December, Google said that Accelerated Mobile Pages, aka AMP pages, would be integrated into its algorithm as early as February 2016.
The Google AMP Project is an open source initiative that relies on AMP HTML, which allows websites to build lightweight pages to improve the performance (high speed) of the mobile web. And social media channels, like Twitter and Pinterest, are on board as well as messaging apps like LINE and Viber. These channels have stated they will begin to link to AMP content in early 2016.
Mobile’s influence on search will only intensify moving forward, with 88% of search marketers surveyed by Moz predicting mobile friendliness to increase in importance as a ranking factor over the coming 12 months, a higher percentage than any other factor.
Search Goes Social
Search is no longer only Google, Bing, and Yahoo. While these engines still have the lion’s share of the market place, there are numerous other ways people can, and do, search. People today search in social media on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. They search by hashtag. They search by emoji.
Voice Search Is Taking Over
Speaking of mobile dominance and new ways to search, voice search has taken the world by storm. And voice search is growing by the day. In 2015, Apple stated that Siri was receiving 1 billion requests a week. Could it be 2 billion a week by the end of 2016? We think so. Google also plans to add voice recognition to its apps soon. Today, instead of typing on a phone people are asking questions into their phones and getting answers. Popular questions include asking for an address, driving directions, etc. SEO efforts should be optimized for these types of search queries where appropriate.
Intent, Not Keywords
While Google Hummingbird was announced back in 2013, the rise of social search, mobile search, and voice search will make it ever more important. Google Hummingbird was Google’s sophisticated algorithmic change that allowed Google to judge the context and intent of a person’s query to determine what the user wanted to know. Rich, contextually relevant content that mimics spoken dialogue has increased in importance in the content mix as a result.
Also coming out of Hummingbird, optimization should no longer focus strictly on keywords but instead on rich, contextually relevant content across a topic area. Google now places more weight on being authoritative on a topic, including an array of related keywords, synonyms and phrases. This gives a whole new meaning to long-tail keywords, and further reiterates the fact that in order to be successful it is imperative to create rich, integrated and user-centric content.
AI’s New Influence On Search
Google loves artificial intelligence, and now the search giant uses it to refine organic search results. Expect to see Google’s love affair with AI heat up further in the future. Google spent $500 million to acquire the AI startup DeepMind and overall has invested in AI technology underlying videos, speech, translation, and search. In the past year, Google introduced RankBrain, its AI platform that has transformed into an important ranking signal for Google. In fact, it was revealed by a senior research scientist at Google that RankBrain is already the third most important ranking signal for the SERPs. It’s with this in mind that AI’s impact on search is a major SEO trend for the coming year.
Real-Time Penguin Updates
In 2015 Google announced that Real-Time Penguin updates were on their way. This means that anything under the Penguin purview is going to be immediately impacted upon identification by Google. For example, if a link is disavowed, the Penguin algorithm will theoretically process the request immediately (whereas historically the timing has been a mystery). This means that implementation speed with certain SEO tasks is going to take on much greater urgency in the coming year.
Content Isn’t Just King, It Is The Master
An amazing 86% of B2B marketers include content marketing as part of their marketing mix, and 70% are generating more content now than in the past (Source: Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs). Clearly, content is key to SEO success. Furthermore, it is critical that this content is relevant, enticing, and original. Businesses that aim to improve their organic search results should have a strategic content marketing plan that aligns to their business goals, fulfills customers’ needs, and engages their audience more deeply. Successful companies use different types of content to engage their readers, such as infographics, blogs, SlideShares, podcasts, videos, webinars, surveys, and quizzes.
Google has deals in place with Facebook and Twitter already—search for a news item, and you’ll see a tweet or two appear in your mobile search results. Twitter is experimenting with a feature called Moments. Twitter Moments combines posts, images, and videos from live events into a single channel for their readers.
In 2016 we expect more platforms to become more heavily indexed in the search engines. Social posts may even start to carry a value more similar to any web page. The separation of “web” and “social” will continue to blur even further from an SEO perspective.
While there are still many brands that have yet to focus on the production of video content, the tables may turn in 2016 due to the rise of video apps like Snapchat, Vine and Flipagram. This is evidenced by a 2015 Vidyard/Ascend2 study that revealed that 71% of companies plan to increase their video marketing budget, whereas only 5% planned a decrease. It is expected that video will ultimately outpace written content in terms of reach, engagement, effectiveness, and overall ROI. This may not happen in 2016, but putting the steps in place now to capitalize on video through increased production and targeted video SEO will keep your company afloat in years to come.