With constant changes to the SEO industry and new best practices coming up every month, making SEO predictions for 2016 seems daunting at first. While SEO from 2010 is completely out of date, we strongly believe that some big changes taking place next year will be around for much longer.
2015 has been an important year for SEO, in particular for mobile traffic; we saw the long-awaited “Mobilgeddon” update which penalised non-responsive websites and produced an overhaul to local rankings.
Now all eyes are on 2016. The upcoming year will offer a few landmark shifts in search but some elements of SEO 2015 will still be applicable.
Changes & Challenges:
Social Content Will be More Readily Indexed
At present social media has played a relatively minimal role in influencing your rankings. Content sharing can help you rank higher but for the most part social media serves to generate more (inbound) traffic for your site. In 2016 posting on social media will continue to grow in importance to search visibility. Google has deals in place with Facebook and Twitter already, to show social media results embedded in certain search results. Twitter tweets are starting to appear in your mobile search results as well. In 2016 more platforms will become more heavily indexed in Google and other search engines, therefore social posts will carry a value similar to any other independent web page. This will blur even further the separation of “web” and “social media” from an SEO perspective.
Mobile-Optimisation Will Become More Important than Desktop
For the past few years, desktop has been a standard form of search, with mobile users growing in numbers. In 2015, mobile traffic finally surpassed desktop traffic and Google released its so-called “Mobilegeddon” update to phase out any sites that weren’t optimised for mobile devices. Google’s Webmaster trends analyst John Mueller stated this year that mobile-only sites suffer no ranking penalty. Mobile traffic will continue to grow over 2016 with desktop fading into obscurity over the next five years. Google is also claiming that a desktop-specific site is not necessary anymore and to confirm its commitment to the ‘mobile experience” Google has recently introduced an important change in mobile search results showing the so called “local three-pack” (three paid search results first). This means that all organic results now fall below the fold (i.e. they are not visible unless you scroll down) on a mobile search (see Local SEO).
Less news and more aggregated content
Aggregated content like the one produced by Moments, a new feature on Twitter that will aggregate posts images and videos from live events into a single channel, is on the rise. Twitter of course is not the only platform experimenting with live feed channels, advanced algorithms are already able to put stories together from pre-existing sets of information. This new trend of content aggregation will make users the ultimate content creators. As a result, in 2016 the impact of a news article that is not automatically sourced will slowly diminish, narrowing the field of content marketing for everyone. However, to counterbalance this almost sad news, evergreen opinion-editorials and tutorials will rise in importance for search visibility.
Deep Links in Apps Will Become More Important while traditional link building will shrink
Google is anticipating a future where apps may overtake traditional websites in popularity and functionality. They have been indexing apps for a good few years. Starting from 2016 “deep links” to apps (links that point to a specific section of an app) will grow in importance along with app optimisation in general. While deep linking is on the rise, traditional external links building have been shrinking in importance. However brand mentions, which do not include any explicit link, and off-site reviews will carry more meaning as new forms of off-site authority building.
Video Content Will Overtake Written Content
Today written content is considered “the standard”, it is a baseline for most brands, with images and videos serving as mere additions. Years-long trends along with new technologies will help video outplace written content in terms of reach, engagement, effectiveness and ROI by 2016. Snapchat, Vine and Periscope are partially responsible for enticing users with more visual content, but the real culprits are search engines again, mainly Google and Yahoo, which have been experimenting with video ads in search results for a few months now.
The big SEO shakeup in 2015 was the introduction of the local three-pack in August. This Google update changed the number of results you see in a query from 7 to 3. This obviously penalised those businesses that appeared in the fourth position or lower. The local pack is not just showing fewer business listings, it is also redesigned to fit more with the mobile user interface, having in mind mobiles and wearable technology first. In 2016 there will be more changes in local SEO, reviews and local citations will become more important along with geographic- based searches. In the past we rarely went past region or city level, in the future we will perform even more specific searches at neighbourhood level.
What’s staying the same?
Content is still king. Despite some forms of information-based content starting to lose out to digital assistants and aggregated material, unique, quality content is still your best friend.
On-site optimisation is still about user experience. Some on-site factors are growing or shrinking in importance but on-site tweaks are still focused on user experience. If a change would make your site faster, safer, and easier to use, it’s probably good for SEO.
Authority building still occurs off-site; to build a reputation, you still need off-site signals like inbound links, social signals and reviews. While the nature of external links is evolving, brand mentions, off-site listings and consumer reviews are rapidly becoming a new form of off-site authority building.
One thing is certain; SEO in 2016 will not be the same as SEO in 2015. My best piece of advice to all business owners would be to prioritise their mobile responsiveness amongst their website implementations for 2016.