Our MD Phillip Monk talks SEO for 2016
Every day, Google gets a little bit better at determining a website’s true value in response to a user’s search. As a result, Google’s organic rankings often fluctuate, frustrating search engine optimisers like us who have to spend a vast amount of time speculating and testing on what organic SEO techniques will work next week, next month, and even next year. Now that 2015 has come to a close, we have already started implementing plans for 2016. We’re reading between the lines, looking at what Google changed last year, and taking in the bits of information Google has given us in order to make good predictions that will guide our work in January and beyond. Here’s what I think so far:

#1: The more things change, the more they stay the same.

When I was first learning SEO in 2004, I read the phrase “content is king” more times than I can count. Twelve years later, content is still the single most important element of search engine optimisation, and publishing unique, relevant, useful content that real people value (and share) is the best way to succeed at SEO. This was as true in 2004 as it will be in 2016. Content marketing strategies do change over time, but creating quality articles, guides, videos, info graphics, and blog posts is still the first step toward the top of Google’s search results. (That’s after you have made sure the website has its basic meta data, and you have jumped through the hoops of page speed insights and the webmaster tools guidelines.)

#2: Mobile is going to matter more says Mr MonkeyFish.

In April, Google rolled out a mobile-friendly update to its algorithm. This change was highly anticipated by SEO professionals, and so many sites had time to prepare (and avoid the consequences). The sites that didn't bother to update to a responsive design or design for mobile stopped appearing at the top of Google’s search results on smartphones. SEOs speculate that we haven’t seen the last mobile-friendliness update from Google. In fact, we expect that responsive design will become even more important in 2016 as more and more users research, shop, plan, and interact on their smartphones.

#3: Google is going to tell us less.

We’ve already seen huge cut-backs in terms of how much information Google is willing to give us about our visitors. Google Analytics reports most keywords as “not provided” these days, making it extremely difficult to see whether or not our SEO efforts are paying off. Now Google is adding “Dark Traffic” to its “Direct Traffic” numbers. This means that any time Google can’t readily identify a traffic source, it shows up as Direct Traffic. As more and more people interact with various apps, messaging programs, and other tools, we can expect these numbers to grow – and we can expect to be in the dark when it comes to knowing which efforts are really driving traffic. 2016 may be the time to invest in a paid analytics service like Moz.

#4: We’re going to be competing with Google itself for placement on the SERPs.

If you haven’t already noticed, Google has spent this past year making their search results (and likely, their pockets) much richer. Today’s searchers often don’t need to leave Google to find the answers they’re seeking. Things like game scores, factual information like definitions or maths equations, and other pop ups at the top of the SERPs, keeping users right where Google wants them. Map listings, carousels with local business information and images, and other rich snippets are taking up more of Google’s real estate, making it even harder for sites to get found organically. As Google continues to give itself a bigger share of its own results pages, SEOs will have to seek out clever ways to achieve the ranks they need.

#5: Factors that previously haven’t mattered are going to make a big difference.

For a long time, Google’s official policy stated that click-through-rate (how many people visit your site after seeing it in their search results,) social signals, and engagement metrics didn’t play a role in a site’s rankings. As 2016 approaches, Google has given us reason to believe that things may be about to change. Social signals like “likes,” “shares” and Tweets are a good indication of how much users value your content, and so they’re an obvious choice for Google to factor into its algorithm. Similarly, CTR and engagement (how long a user visited and how many pages they looked at on your site) offer a potential indication of how well your site answers a particular query. Google is all about developing an algorithm that mimics natural search behaviour, and all these metrics will only further that goal. Once again, SEOs who want to succeed need more than just technical know-how. They need to be experts at digital marketing and content.

Contact us for Internet Marketing Services in 2016

How do you see your strategy adapting for the new year? If you’re not sure then I suggest you give one of the team here at MFM a call and let us help you. We can be reached on 01282 504730, or you can request a free expert website health check online.
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