2015 marked a series of significant changes in search engine marketing, setting into motion a move from what many analysts referred to as ‘creating content for content’s sake’. This year that has all changed, as there is much more competition these days to be not only keyword focused –but also relevant, and much more useful.
If “Content is King”, then Value is its military general; meaning that no longer will content, for the sake of itself, appease the Lords of Search over at Google HQ.
This shift has already revealed itself to play a dramatic role in the website visitor conversions, however that doesn’t mean we can forgo the technical aspects of search engine optimisation any time soon.
Here are 5 trends that are already beginning to unfold in the world of search that will certainly impact your business’ bottom line;
Even the use of apps on mobile have been increasing overall –to the tune of 52% of all digital media consumption taking place on them, so it is already not a secret that mobile applications will be incredibly important in 2016.
And the point I am about to make lay in how users of any app store find your app: another search engine –albeit one within the walled garden of an App Store.
You’ve got no more than a handful of words and an icon to pique a user’s interest. As if dealing with their lower intention span wasn’t enough.
What this means: Your icon, associated preview images, and copy below your mobile application title will need to beautifully attractive and concise. We recommend doing a little audience testing to ensure you get it right the first time, and keeping an eye on your reviews. Correct technical problems with your mobile application as they arise and push out updates as needed to ensure customer satisfaction (even if your app is free).
Machine Learning and Structured Data
SEO professionals are getting a little more adept at identifying important trends in technology and oncoming shifts. Slow reaction time to previous, precious clues made by the world’s largest search giant rewarded the lax with serious consequences. Just ask anyone who still runs a blog network or uses meagre “spun” content.
This year in 2016, it is this blogger’s prediction that this will be the year to get all your ducks in a row for Google’s next big shift: Machine learning.
The internet is a big place and Google needs help to keep up with indexing the millions of new pieces of content that appear online daily, so they invented Rank Brain.
Rank Brain is Google’s fighter in the ring as far as artificial intelligence goes, and it grows more sophisticated every day. Rank Brain is used to help the search engine route a search query it has never encountered before to the right content at lightning speed.
Rank Brain is definitely a key ranking factor to keep an eye on this year because as it stands today, Google has declared it is currently in third place as far as their most important ranking signals are concerned. As the Rank Brain’s brain continues to grow and understand human search queries, it is only a matter of time before machine learning takes over for the search engine altogether, replacing algorithms they work in parallel to once and for all.
A technical focus on structured data this year will ensure that brands are ready for this shift from its infancy. Structured data like the kind very effectively described on schema.org, assists websites on the internet in communicating to search engines what is on a specific page. This is a much more ideal scenario than the alternative, which is to have spiders crawl the website and interpret what’s on it on their own.
As machine learning becomes more prevalent, the forgiveness of search will continue to dissipate. Poorly marked up websites will likely see a drop in traffic much like spun content does today.
And of course, structured data markup will also improve your click through rate from human beings, too. Rich snippets have been proven to increase organic search traffic because they appear more attractive on search result pages.
Site Layout and User Experience
This year the next step in evolution beyond the aforementioned factors is all about website visitor engagement.
Up until late SEO has been all about compliance with Google, but a successful online campaign of any sort is nothing without human engagement. In other words, your content must encourage visitors to interact with it and come back time and again.
While there is no “one size fits all” way to encourage visitor engagement across the board because every niche serves its own unique demographics, there are some basic tenets that an SEO professional can follow –after all, some analysts estimate that over 50% of online conversions fall by the wayside because website visitors cannot find what they are looking for.
In order to increase website sales and conversions, make it easy for a website visitor to find what they are looking for. This can be done by analysing user types, and breaking down your navigation into options that suit them. You can’t force your visitors into anything, so be sure to look at the data and what a majority of your visitors are doing on your website; and then make it easier for them to do it. This goes double for mobile website visitors, who spend even less time on a page than desktop visitors.
Clean up your link profile
Cleaning up your link profile to remove spammy or low quality links is an absolute must this year, as the latest Penguin update has continued to place importance on the quality of links which point to your website.
In order to clean up your link profile, a little detective work might be required. Look for irregular increases of back links and check their quality; if you are being hit hard by a number of new links in rapid succession, there is a good chance that they’re low quality and could have negative SEO consequences.
While there is nothing much an SEO professional can do to prevent negative SEO, it can be mitigated by being vigilant and continually building links with positive SEO value and disavowing bad links with Google’s tools.
Trustworthy websites understand the value of linking to other trustworthy websites, so this shouldn’t be too difficult to facilitate while your website has a healthy ranking and quality back link profile.
The key is to write quality content, make your website easy to navigate, social media promotion and engagement, and seeking quality guest posts on trustworthy websites.
Facebook and Twitter are poised to up their game this year, and with them so should brands that wish to remain top of mind with users of these social networks.
In particular, Facebook is working on its search engine to make it more sophisticated. This means that you will likely need to observe and evaluate the content you are putting on the social network to ensure it remains visible during and after Facebook churns out updates to its algorithm. Here we go again! Same cause, new search engine.
Just as YouTube and Amazon are popular search engines, as Facebook continues to up its game it will become a more significant factor in search, over all.
Last year was a very interesting year for search, and this year many of the changes that took place in 2015 will come to maturity this year. Have anything to add? Let us know in the comments.
Joe Ryan is the Founder & CEO of UK online marketing agency, Digital Search Group, which specialises in smart internet marketing. He is a specialist in online marketing strategy and brand building. When he’s not considering the next best online marketing strategy with his team, he enjoys travel and spending time with his family.