The State of Search in 2016
To know what lies ahead for SEO in 2016, it should be important to understand what developments changed the landscape in 2015. The word on most marketers lips later in the year was “Mobilegeddon,” the secretive, massive change that was supposed to ruin everyone’s search visibility. But the reality was far simpler—websites without responsive design that allowed for a streamlined mobile experience would receive a penalty in search. Simple. Sweet. What was all the fuss?
Many of the search changes from the past year all came back to Google’s fundamental principles: Websites should be clear and user friendly—those are the sites they will favor returning in searches. This should be at the core of any SEO strategy for the coming year— focus on clarity and good content first, and the SEO benefits will follow.
In addition to its current algorithms, Google is also actively working to incorporate machine learning into search rankings, providing another reason to publish quality content only. As the technology improves, so also will Google’s ability to weed out websites that use keywords, meta descriptions, and tags in an exploitive way to climb the ranks. Google’s goal is to be serving useful websites to users, and in 2016 it is likely that we will see advancement in technology that reinforces this.
So what can you actually do to simplify and amplify your website? Here are a few SEO tips to consider:
Reevaluate Keywords: How frequently do you do new keyword research to keep your content fresh and discoverable? Take the time to see which keywords are winning you leads, which aren’t pulling their weight, and which words you can use to replace terms that aren’t helping your efforts. This is also a great time to bolster your protection of branded keywords if you aren’t bidding on them already.
Review All Onboarding, Landing Pages, and Responsive Design: Search engines aren’t picky. Any style of content you serve your visitors, whether they’re on mobile or a desktop, needs to helpful and non-exploitive. This means that any unclear or long unvisited landing pages, poorly designed mobile pages, or obtrusive onboarding could be pulling down your SEO. Review all current site content (with new keywords in mind), and make sure no hurried pages are harming your site.
Build a 2016 SEO Style Guide: This is a tip straight out of publishing houses. Now is the time to pull together an SEO style guide for everyone on the content team. This guide should outline things like keywords you’re focusing on, what pages on the site are dedicated to what keywords, rules for linking and backlinking on the site, and anything else that will keep your content team pushing toward the same visibility goals. As the year progresses, it’s also very easy to amend your style guide as you test what works and what doesn’t, making it your most up-to-date resource for search success.
No one knows what the new year will hold for marketers, but search marketing and optimization certainly aren’t going anywhere. For every new tool, technology, and advancement this year, make sure that the foundations of your SEO strategy have remained secure and user-centric. At the end of the day, good, clear content is what’s meant to win the SEO race. Will your website come out on top?