Search engine technology has come a long way since it began in the 1990s with several nascent search startups that ineffectively served up bad search results. Then Google came along and began ranking pages not just by backlinks to a specific website, but also by keywords within that website. That search algorithm gave us more accurate results that changed the search landscape forever. Since then, the algorithm has changed with the times, giving users an even better experience.
For those in online marketing, it has meant a constant game of cat-and-mouse to keep our search engine optimization (SEO) techniques relevant. 2016 is no exception. The following is a list of SEO trends we’ll be seeing in 2016.
Mobile search skyrockets
More people than ever are searching the web on the go with their smartphones and tablets. Google recognized this change in search habits and implemented “Mobilegeddon” in 2015. This change basically meant that Google would penalize websites that weren’t optimized for mobile platforms. If your website is not mobile optimized, then your website risks much lower rankings in search results. For Google, mobile optimization means much more than just an easy-to-use mobile web layout. It also means the URLs and website code stays the same regardless of the device. In other words: mobile websites are now on equal footing as desktop websites as far as Google is concerned.
The best content in the world will no longer help a website that is not optimized for mobile platforms. This basically means the foundation of a good website means that the user experience stays the same whether that user is on a laptop or iPhone.
Searches becoming more conversational
When people used to search the web, they’d enter in the keywords or a phrase that they wanted more information about. Nowadays, people are taking a more conversational tone with their searches. This is because we can ask online personal assistants like Siri, Google Now and Cortana questions, just like we’d ask another person, and get highly relevant results in return.
Today, spoken language inquiries are becoming more common. People want to know how to solve a problem or verbally research a topic when they fire up their smartphone for a quick search on the web. Google is becoming more and more sophisticated in understanding the context of our searches, not just the keywords we type or speak. For websites, this means that the content must meet this need by actually being able to help a visitor solve a problem or answer a questions. Blog posts stuffed with keywords is no longer acceptable, not just to Google, but to web users as well.
The road from researcher to buyer
Google is also analyzing the “buyer’s cycle” users go through; from the time they begin their research on a topic until they finally complete a certain action, like making a purchase, downloading a digital product or filling out a form. Understanding the map users take down the buyer’s cycle road will help Google serve up better search results in the future because it will more accurately predict what the user is looking for.
This means that Google is looking at how users engage with websites and how that engagement should affect pagerank. Some of those factors include:
– The time a user spends on certain webpages, whether or not they dig deeper into a website, filling out forms or watching a video.
– Whether or not a website is effective at fulfilling a user’s need by leading them to make a purchase, download a product, fill out a form, etc.
– Does a website give users all the information they are looking for, or does a user have to go to other websites to fill in the gaps?
Websites that can offer users a better and more efficient user experience will see an increase in their pageranks. Part of this is using targeted keywords along with useful content that will help the user and lead them down the path to taking a specific action.
Google gains access to social networks
For a long time social networks like Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter remained relatively isolated from Google’s indexing bots. But in November of 2015 Facebook opened their doors to the search giant, allowing them to index more and more Facebook content. Further, Google is also crawling Twitter and other social networks.
This means it’s becoming more important than ever to have a presence on the web that includes more than just a website. Individuals and businesses need to be active on social media as well because Google is starting to take notice. Your presence on social networks (or lack of presence) will begin to affect SEO rankings in a big way. In fact, some searches will already include tweets and other content from social media on the top of the first search results page.
Interactive content provides a customized user experience
The content on your website should be becoming more and more interactive. This means utilizing quizzes, forms and other ways of encouraging visitor engagement. The benefits of interactive content is that it can provide you with important visitor metrics and data that can shorten your sales cycle because you have detailed information about your website’s visitors.
Interactive content can also provide a visitor with a much more customized experience by utilizing the information they give to deliver information that is more relevant to them, not just general content that can apply to everyone.
The Internet is more crowded than ever and Google is constantly revising their search algorithm to serve the best search results possible. Having an effective SEO strategy in place will help your website cut through the rest of the competition and rise to the top of the search results page. When thinking about an SEO strategy, it’s important to focus on more than just keywords because they are only a small slice of the SEO pie nowadays. Having a responsive website for mobile searches, interactive content and content that helps a visitor answer a question or solve a problem will become much more favorable in the eyes of Google.