Top 10 SEO Trends for 2016

How people use the Internet is changing, and SEO experts must evolve to stay relevant. Last year was defined by the rising importance of mobile website optimization — and while that trend will continue, expect social media, apps and Google advancements to make increasingly large impacts on the SEO industry.

Google WordleHow people use the Internet is changing, and SEO experts must evolve to stay relevant. Last year was defined by the rising importance of mobile website optimization — and while that trend will continue, expect social media, apps and Google advancements to make increasingly large impacts on the SEO industry. Technology is moving at breakneck speed. That’s great news for ambitious businesses, but bad news for folks who’d prefer to maintain the status quo.

Looking ahead, we predict these 10 SEO trends will set the tone through 2016:

1. Quality video content will become more valuable than written content.
Content is king, right? Until now, written content has been the gold standard. Going forward, though, video content will become increasingly important, and 2016 may be the year it surpasses written content. That’s because video content — which can take the form of videos, animations, dynamic infographics and more — is much more engaging and shareable than text.

Not only are videos taking over social media and many of the most popular apps, but Google is also experimenting with embedding video ads within search results. The bottom line is that social media and mobile devices are the driving force in online interaction, and social media prioritizes user experience over traditional SEO signals. That’s why video may get a leg up.

2. Search queries will change as more people search the Web by speaking into their phones.
When searching Google for running shoes, a person might type “running shoes men” or “trail running shoes” into the search bar. But that same person would likely make a completely different query if speaking it aloud: “Find running shoes for men in Seattle.” Siri, Cortana, Alexa and Google Now — the digital assistants that are built into new smartphones — are changing the nature of online search queries. As a result, content that contains more colloquial and conversational long-tail keywords are more likely to be rewarded by Google’s ever-evolving algorithms.

3. Social media posts will be indexed by Google.
If you didn’t already believe that social media would profoundly impact search results, then you should believe it now. Google has already started to display Twitter and Facebook content in mobile search results. More social media platforms are expected to be similarly indexed throughout the next year, highlighting the importance of strong social media marketing to go hand-in-hand with SEO optimization efforts.

4. Deep links on apps will become as important as deep links on the Web.
Apps are tailor-made to thrive on mobile devices, and it’s not hard to believe that people may eventually use apps more than they visit websites. This is why Google started indexing apps, and it’s why more apps will be indexed throughout 2016. App developers can take advantage of this trend by creating sharable deep links that can be easily viewed and shared. Deep links are highly valuable for website SEO, and deep links on apps could soon be just as meaningful.

5. Local search results will become even more focused.
The proliferation of smartphones with GPS apps is driving search results to be increasingly local. Now, people have smart watches and other wearable gear equipped with that same technology. That’s why local searches are expected to become even more hyper-local as the year goes on. Want to find the best Italian restaurant near you? Coming soon, search results won’t be optimized by just city and state — they’ll be optimized by your street, neighborhood or district.

6. Real-time updates to Google’s search algorithms will keep webmasters and SEO experts on their toes.
Google usually rolls out its algorithm updates in large chunks. However, Google may start launching real-time updates to its Panda and Penguin algorithms, which were implemented to weed out thin and black-hat websites from the search rankings. Webmasters and SEO experts who already go the extra mile to stay ahead of the curve may not be significantly impacted by real-time updates, but nobody will be able to rest on their laurels if Google ups the frequency of its algorithm adjustments.

7. Top organic search positions may have diminishing returns.
Until now, a top ranking in organic search results guaranteed hefty amounts of traffic — but that was before standard results competed with video ads and social media posts for clicks. As Google places more dynamic and engaging content along with its top-ranked results — and as other search engines eventually follow suit — then those once formidable rankings may experience diminishing returns. This highlights the need to diversify SEO and social media efforts heading into 2016.

8. Google’s rich answers will make websites with unique or proprietary information more valuable.
Did you know that Google responds to more than one-in-three search queries with a rich answer? These automatic answers to people’s search queries appear to the right of the organic results, and they can completely negate any need to visit actual websites. Not only is this bad news for websites with content that’s readily available anywhere, but Google is working hard to make rich answers even more thorough. That said, websites containing unique or proprietary content could benefit greatly from rich answers, which typically include links to their sources of information. This is one more way for quality content producers to create success in SEO campaigns.

9. Page load optimization will matter more than ever.
Pages that load faster rank better in Google — that’s a known fact. In addition, large websites that load slowly may not be completely indexed by Google’s bots, effectively wasting your SEO efforts. But there’s more. Snappy, properly performing landing pages are more likely to gain traction on social media, while under-performing websites are more likely to have high bounce rates. Advertisers will also find that slow-loading landing pages are also prone to higher costs in Facebook because of the platform’s emphasis on quality user experiences.

10. Mobile website optimization will surpass desktop optimization.
Mobile Internet usage outpaced desktop Internet usage more than two years ago, and since then search algorithms have been shifting to reflect users’ priorities. We predict 2016 will be the year that mobile website optimization in certain industries will matter more than desktop optimization for overall SEO strategies. It’s not just website presentation that’s driving this seismic shift — it’s also the rising importance of apps and social media. Expect mobile optimization to not only surpass desktop, but to eventually leave it in the dust.

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Is Your Content Fresh, Frequent and Unique?

Today, your content plays a much larger role in getting top search results than ever before; therefore, it may be time to adjust your SEO content. In September 2013, Google unveiled Hummingbird, the single largest revamp of its basic search algorithm in more than 10 years. The intent of this major change was to improve the speed and precision of the processing. It was also designed to address the changes in searcher behavior as search volumes continue to shift from desktop computers to mobile devices.

Today, your content plays a much larger role in getting top search results than ever before; therefore, it may be time to adjust your SEO content. In September 2013, Google unveiled Hummingbird, the single largest revamp of its basic search algorithm in more than 10 years. The intent of this major change was to improve the speed and precision of the processing. It was also designed to address the changes in searcher behavior as search volumes continue to shift from desktop computers to mobile devices.

Hummingbird uses signals derived from the query and the user’s behavior to assist in delivering a result that quickly and precisely answers what the user really wants to find. When users search on mobile devices, they are frequently asking specific questions in conversational language: “Where is the nearest flower shop?” or “How many miles to … ?” Hummingbird was designed to address these natural language questions and provide specific and precise answers. To be found relevant, your content must address the needs of searchers for real information.

Although Hummingbird is expected to impact 90 percent of searches, many marketers are unaware of its influence on their search traffic. No significant shifts in Web traffic were reported worldwide after its launch. This is because the impact on most well-optimized sites was negligible. This should not be interpreted as a license to maintain the status quo on your search efforts. As users become more accustomed to receiving quality results from their conversational search queries, they will expect content that is honed to specifically address the questions that they form into queries.

To meet these expectations, your content should present answers to the types of questions that might be posed in a search query. It should be rich in useful information that is presented clearly. If you expect your content to appear near the top of the search results, it must meet these three criteria: fresh, frequent and unique. Over time, we can expect to see steadily improving search results for sites that understand and actualize these content requirements.

Fresh content does not necessarily mean that all of your content must be new. If you previously developed, as part of your search program, evergreen pieces, such as “frequently asked questions” or how-to articles, you should revisit them and check how long they have been on your site. Would they benefit from an update or a revision, or just a reformatting? For Google, fresh content is better than stale content. Just as no one really wants to read the stale magazines in the doctor’s waiting room; they don’t want the digital equivalent delivered in response to their search queries. Google obliges this by screening for the newest, freshest content. Now is the time to refresh those evergreen content pieces, even if you have not seen a negative shift in your search volumes. You may be able to capture additional visitors who are seeking answers to those questions that you have cleverly addressed.

Because frequency is another criterion used to evaluate the value of your content, you should be sure to have a schedule for adding more content and for refreshing older pieces. Take a lesson from the success of blog sites. Those with frequent posts of fresh content are rewarded with more search traffic than those with just a few stale posts. Consider how you might apply the same principles to content additions to your website.

Your content must also be unique—not just an aging chestnut. Avoid stale recitations or rehashes of information. Ask yourself: “Does this provide something that is new, unique—or is it just content for the sake of content?” For search success in the future, you will need to pay close attention to your content strategy and deliver fresh, frequent and unique content.