Sean Butcher

5 SEO Predictions for 2016

Road ahead

2015 was one of the most significant years yet in the SEO world, and ended up being the much forecasted “year of mobile” that many experts had been predicting.

In April we saw the release of Google’s Mobile-Friendly algorithm. This aimed to provide a boost in mobile search results to websites offering a good user experience on mobile and tablet devices, with the numbers of people browsing the web on the continuing to increase at an exponential rate.

So as we approach 2016, what are the big SEO stories and trends that we are likely to see appearing over the course of the next year?

1) A growing focus on user experience

It’s clear that Google wants SEO’s and online marketers to think more about the audience they need to cater for – particularly following the release of their User Rater Guidelines in November, and the focus on ‘Needs Met’ testing.

Content has a huge part to play in increasing user experience; gone are the days where websites can purely focus on their own goals with product/service-driven content. Instead, content needs to be created which meets the needs of the website’s various audiences.

It is vital to remember that a user is unlikely to visit a website just once before completing the desired goal – whether that be a purchase, a sign-up or something else. Content should therefore be available in various formats to guide them through all stages of their journey. Fail to do this and that user could ultimately end-up being a lost one.

I would also expect Google to develop their mobile friendly algorithm even further next year; websites not offering a multi-device experience are likely to suffer even more as a result of not catering to all types of users.

2) Optimising websites to attain Rich Answers

The use of Rich Answers, otherwise known as ‘Featured Snippets’, grew significantly through 2015. A study showed that the number of search queries using Rich Answers increased from 22.6% in December 2014, to 31.2% in July 2015. It’s likely that there has been a similar increase through the second half of the year.

What is SEO Rich Answer

With search becoming ever-more personal and conversational, and with voice search on the rise (particularly with Siri and Google Now), questions are a common theme of user search habits. Content therefore needs to reflect this, and provide answers to the questions being commonly asked by users in your niche.

The growth of Rich Answers has come with some skepticism, with many saying it devalues the achievement of getting a high organic ranking – a fair argument given that a website does not necessarily need to be ranking #1 to attain a featured snippet. However, Rich Answers appear to be here to stay, and therefore they will increasingly need to be considered in any SEO strategy.

When looking for the common questions that its user-base are asking, a website needs to provide answers in the clearest, most succinct way possible in order to have a chance of achieving that Rich Answer. The benefits of this appear to be great, with an increase in CTR from the search results and a large boost in traffic the likely result.

3) Real-time Penguin algorithm leading to a constant focus on backlink profile health

The much-anticipated release of Penguin 4.0 – the latest installment of Google’s link-quality related algorithm – was originally scheduled to be launched before the end of 2015, but has since been delayed to early 2016.

The length of time that Google have been working on the update (the last being rolled out as long ago as October 2014) suggests that Penguin 4.0 is going to come with some highly significant changes. In my opinion, these are likely to lead to a complete overhaul in the way that SEO’s think about the links they build for their websites and in how backlink profiles are monitored.

As mentioned in my earlier blog post, Penguin 4.0 is widely expected to run in real-time, meaning that lengthy waits to recover from algorithmic penalties will be a thing of the past. However, it also means that websites could potentially be hit almost immediately if they are found to be partaking in any unsavoury link building practices.

Keeping a constant eye on a website’s backlink profile health will therefore become a vital SEO task in 2016, and websites will find it almost impossible to get away with any form of manual link building that was once so common-place. It may then finally be the year that Google will have fully achieved its goal of putting an end to spammy link building practices.

4) Branded online content hubs becoming commonplace

Content marketing has already well and truly been engrained into the SEO and marketing strategies of many businesses for a few years now, and I don’t see this trend slowing down any time soon.

The benefits to creating great content are many; from providing users with the information that will help answer their questions and solve their pain points, to attracting backlinks and social shares to increase the visibility and authority of the website.

However, with the huge amount of information available online and ever-increasing competition for space within Google’s organic search results, I can see even more brands turn towards developing their own online content hubs. They will do this as a way of persuading visitors to not only stay on their websites, but to turn them into loyal brand advocates that keep coming back to consume further content.

Just creating such content won’t be enough of course, and companies will need to focus on their distribution tactics to get users onto their sites in the first place. This might involve working with industry influencers, or targeting relevant users through social media advertising.

5) A renewed focus on technical SEO

With content marketing the more “trendy” side of SEO at the moment, it’s important to remember that technical SEO still has a huge part to play. After all – without technical SEO a website’s ability to perform well greatly diminishes.

As mentioned in the section above, competition in the organic search results is increasing rapidly. As such it will be the websites that have strong technical foundations in place that will ultimately be able to stand above the rest.

Technically sound websites are also likely to provide a better, more reliable user experience. Therefore, a greater number of websites will refocus attention to ensuring that their websites have all of the important technical SEO elements mastered.

Canonical tags, pagespeed, URL structures, XML sitemaps and hreflang tags are just a few of the things that will need to be considered to help Google crawl and index the website in the most efficient and accurate way possible. Structured markup will become increasingly important in order to communicate the relevance of certain pages and content to the search engine.

In summary

2016 is lining up to be a fascinating year for SEO, with challenges likely to present themselves in all areas of the industry. The highlights of my predictions are below:

  • User experience will have an even greater influence across the content we create, and the focus on catering to multiple devices will grow stronger.
  • Rich Answers will become ever-present in search results, and they are likely to drive the tactics of many looking to achieve a featured snippet in Google’s search results.
  • The latest Penguin algorithm update is likely to come fairly early in the new year, and will result in an ongoing focus on backlink profile health due to it running in real-time.
  • More websites will create branded content hubs to increase engagement and to turn users into loyal brand advocates.
  • There will be a renewed focus on technical SEO as websites look for ways to get above the competition in crowded industries.

 

Are you interested in working with Torpedo on your SEO strategy for 2016? Contact us to find out how we could help.

 

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