Top 5 SEO Trends in 2016: Business Analysis and Data Technology as a Concept
One of our most popular blog posts of 2015 was Staying on Top – The Top 5 SEO Trends for 2015. And we think we did pretty well identifying the changes, especially concerning content, mobile, social, and links. This year we will be even more prescriptive in identifying how to capitalize on the trends we see.
Online marketing continues to grow in response to maturing technology and new consumer habits. As the industry changes, SEO tactics must morph to better align with new goals and algorithm updates (NEW).
Over the course of 2015 we witnessed many changes that have impacted SEO. We have used these trends, along with our research here at BrightEdge, to form predictions about what will be in store for marketers on the more technical side of SEO in the coming year. Here are five key developments for which we believe brands need to prepare.
1. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning: Make your sites translate and talk machine to make them easier to interpret
The rise of A.I. means that schema tags and rich snippets may become even more important as they improve machines’ ability to more deeply understand site content.
Earlier this year we reported on Google’s announcement about their new RankBrain signal. According to Google, this new form of machine learning was designed to help it better interpret and respond to queries that are seen for the first time. An estimated 15 percent of the queries Google receives are completely original, which means that the standard algorithm may have trouble deciphering the intention of the query. RankBrain has been designed to better interpret what customers seek. Google has announced that this A.I. has become their third most important ranking signal.
Machine learning is likely to make even more inroads with search engines as the technology expands. We predict that these developments will lead to a greater importance placed on the schema of the page. This form of data can be valuable for communicating with the search engines and telling them exactly what is on the page, rather than relying on the spiders to interpret the information.
Until now, brands have been able to get away with markups that were either missing or filled out incorrectly. Although they might not receive the possible benefits of rich snippets, they otherwise experienced minimal or no negative impact on their site rankings. As machine learning and A.I. become more important factors in search engines, it is likely that this easily-interpreted information will also become more significant. It is a strong possibility that RankBrain already relies on schema, at least to a degree, when understanding websites.
Brands should take the time in 2016 to ensure that they run SEO management efficiently and that their schema have been developed correctly. Use Google Webmaster Tools to test your page after finishing to ensure it has been completed correctly.
2. Mobile: Prevent a mobile competitive ambush
Mobile success checklist includes: Responsive or mobile site, mobile site performance, mobile competitive benchmark, mobile share of voice, a mobile app where applicable, mobile app ranking, and app indexing to make the in-app content discoverable. If a user with your app installed searches for a relevant query using their phone, Google can show a link directly to the content within your app. If the user doesn’t yet have your Android app installed, Google can show an install button for it.
We have seen tremendous growth in the role of mobile for modern consumers. In 2015, mobile searches officially surpassed desktop searches. The Pew Research Center has also indicated that an increasing number of people rely on their mobile devices for a large portion of their Internet access. An estimated 19 percent of Americans say that they depend entirely or almost entirely on smartphones to access the web.
As an important outgrowth of this mobile usage has been the popularity of mobile apps. Eighty-nine percent of the time people are on their smartphones, they are using apps. Over the past year, the amount of time people have spent using apps has also increased by 21 percent. Popular applications offer customers a strong user experience and make it easier for them to access the information that they desire. People use a variety of different types of apps, from messaging apps to shopping apps to games.
These apps also have been increasingly influencing the behavior and buying choices of customers. Forty-two percent of the mobile sales made for the top 500 retailers were all achieved through mobile apps.
We expect these numbers to continue to grow as we head into 2016. It is even possible that the number of mobile searches stagnates this year as mobile apps begin to absorb more of the smartphone and tablet activity.
At the same time, mobile apps are added at an incredible rate. There are an estimated 60K apps added to iTunes and 50K added to Google Play each month. Brands who want to compete going into 2016 need to make sure that they have developed a quality, branded app that has been optimized and designed to compete for the increasingly important app marketplace. These apps should incorporate deep links and excellent imagery to maximize their potential.
3. Engagement: Brands need sites and apps that capitalize on micromoments, light-speed customer journeys, and support consumers need to know it or have it now
Micromoments are those instants when consumers have a need and use an app or site to research and transact. Brands that are highly discoverable and minimize friction during micromoments will gain advantage.
The saturation of the content marketing atmosphere has been a popular topic lately. An estimated 93 percent of brands say that they intend to maintain or increase their investment in this form of marketing in the coming year– further increasing the rate of content production.
Given the impressive amount of information regularly being published online, it is easy to see why engagement will become even more crucial. Brands no longer have a first-mover advantage simply by being present and publishing content. Instead, they need to make sure that the site and the content on the pages have been designed to meet the needs of the user.
Site layout and usability is a cornerstone in building this engagement. Customers get frustrated when they visit a page and are unable to find the information they sought. What makes this danger even more significant is that 40 percent of people who have a poor experience on a website will never return to give the site a second chance. Site layout cannot be neglected by those working to boost engagement.
Site layouts should be intuitive and customers should easily find what they seek. Remember that the site layout must also be optimized for users on mobile devices. Since the bulk of searches are now taking place on mobile devices, it may even be easier for brands to first optimize their site for mobile devices and then modify it to meet the needs of desktop users, rather than the other way around.
4. Social Media & Links: Social comes full circle back to awareness, link building, and traffic generation
The frenzy over user-generated content and peer distribution masked the fact that what social changed were who the writers, editors, and designers were. Digital mentions and links in social are similar to traditional linked digital content and paid digital distribution. As the hype fades, marketers will evaluate their social efforts based on normal metrics, like awareness, traffic, and sales. And where social contributes to traffic via search, it will receive that credit. The use of similar metrics will increase the focus on links, link equity, and net traffic gain.
Marketers expect the next Penguin update in very-early 2016. The Penguin updates have been responsible for largely targeting poor-quality links. Brands learned quickly that Google wants to see:
- links from high-quality sites
- links using a variety of anchor text
- links that happen organically.
The old black-hat practices of buying links and otherwise inflating backlink profiles were put to rest by this update.
Brands have been working to improve their link profiles since the last Penguin update hit and many hope that this one will help them improve their ranking. Rumors indicate that this latest update will be the one that makes Penguin function in real-time. This means that if you start to engage in illicit linking practices, you can be penalized quickly. On the other hand, if you build desirable, high-quality links, you can improve your rank just as quickly.
This adjustment means that links are going to become an even more important part of SEO in 2016. Brands will need to take the time to disavow poor-quality links and cultivate high-quality backlinks. This will require a careful monitoring of the site’s backlink profile, looking for things like sudden spikes or other anomalies that could indicate a problem. Since high-quality links are best attracted through producing engaging, shareable content, this will be another reason for brands to focus on the quality of the material they produce.
5. 3Ss: Cross-channel marketing: leverage between SEO, SEM, and SM (Social Media) becomes an even bigger focus
Leading marketers who optimize attention, labor, and resources between the paid, earned, and owned channels will achieve better balance and results.
The necessity of a strong web presence will rise to a new level in 2016. To attract the attention of page visitors, sites will have to go beyond quality content. The design behind the site and how it is integrated with the rest of the brand’s web properties will be crucial.
Brands will have to focus on growing their influence across multiple platforms, including social media, their own website, and their blog. More importantly, these different sites will need to be connected. The idea of how social, content and search can work together to raise content in rankings will be paramount.
At the same time, the site itself will need to focus on the nuts and bolts of an engaging page. This means minimizing load times, creating dynamic and personalized sites, and an overall emphasis on the user experience across the platforms. The focus should be on designing websites that can load efficiently and provide customers with personalized information. The more the page can customize itself to account for details, such as the visitor’s location or their past visits to the page, the better they will be able to meet the needs of that potential customer.
The changes in the marketing industry continue to happen at a lightning speed. New consumer habits, algorithm changes and the latest technology all force SEO experts to adjust their strategies to remain successful. As we forge into 2016, we believe these five key areas will be instrumental to remaining on top of the technical side of optimization.