Our SEO Predictions for 2016

Online marketing strategies have changed drastically in the last couple of years. As a technology-driven sector, changes are expected, and being prepared for these changes can mean the difference between survival and extinction. We have listed our major predictions for the year, some of which may have a profound impact on your operational strategies.

RankBrain1. Artificial intelligence will transform Google SERPs, but this will barely register with users.

Google developed RankBrain, which is proprietary AI technology intended to handle Google queries. At present, RankBrain can handle 15 percent of the total volume of all search queries, but it is not a separate technology from Google’s ranking metrics. It is part of the ranking algorithm that considers various signals to determine how responses to a query are presented on the search engine results page. By using artificial intelligence, Google is able to handle a larger volume of queries. Google’s AI is intended to help deliver a more intuitive response to search queries, including those that are not structured clearly.

Users tend to take things for granted until something affects them profoundly. As such, the effects of Google’s big AI project will remain largely unnoticed by users because the search function is doing exactly what it is designed to do.

2. Semantic search will improve and become more meaningful.

Accuracy and speed of delivery are important considerations when assessing the efficiency of search techniques. Semantic search aims to deliver more refined search results by analyzing user intent as expressed by keywords and the contextual presentation of these keywords.

semantic-webWhen a query is entered, the search engine initiates a process called word sense disambiguation that aims to find contextual clues to define the goal of the search query. An ambiguous single-word search term will yield too many results drawn from various fields, most of which will be irrelevant to the user. Google may establish context by referring to search entities, including user location, search history, spelling, variations of search terms and co-occurrence of words in search terms.

Search engines are turning into learning machines as industry leaders, including Google, seek to organize the world’s information, designing strategies to create context that will help generate more focused search results. Schema.org is a collaboration of Google, Yahoo, Bing and Yandex to develop a reference for on-page HTML semantic markup that would help search engines understand the content of web pages. Contextual framework boosts the effectiveness of semantic search, generating results that are more relevant to the query.

3. SEO utilization of social media will have more of an impact than local SEO.

social-mediaBusinesses with a physical location use location-linked keywords to optimize for local searches. A Google study found that more than half of searches made on mobile devices are local, indicating that optimizing content for local SEO is a sound strategy.

Google’s Matt Cutts previously stated that social profiles, such as Facebook likes and the number of followers on various social media, have no effect on the rankings. Online marketing experts contend that social profile may not factor into the rankings, but links provided on social media may be considered credible backlinks that factor into algorithms for search ranking. Bing, the second most-utilized search engine, has clarified that social signals factor into their search algorithms. That said, social media as a whole will continue to be a force in online marketing because it facilitates quick and effective communication while raising visibility and brand awareness in the process.

4. Mobile will continue to grow.

In 2015, use of mobile devices to access digital media officially surpassed the usage rate for personal computers and laptops. This information came from the latest Internet trend analysis by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. On a different note, Google Research found that 72 percent of consumers prefer mobile-optimized sites while 67 percent are receptive to buying products or services on mobile-friendly websites. With positive reception of mobile payment services and the popularity of social media apps, mobile devices and mobile-friendly sites will continue to loom large in the online marketing landscape.

mobileMost interestingly will be to see how Google’s AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) will have an impact on mobile SERPs. The shift is just as likely to be a “Mobilegeddon” as the last one, which is to say over hyped and blown out of proportion by SEOs that have become “twice-shy” when dealing with Google’s changes to search algorithms.

5. Content marketing will be a critical strategy for driving commercial success.

Content marketing is not a new approach to online marketing strategies, but demand will continue to increase for relevant and high-quality content that is focused on appealing to a specific audience to drive conversions. Credible content is accessible, actionable and relevant to the query.

6. Penguin will continue to dominate SEO concerns, but the real issue should be on quality algorithm updates from Google.

When it was first launched, Penguin aimed to eliminate web spam by penalizing transgressors that use strategies, such as keyword stuffing, cloaking and using paid links, to manipulate search rankings. Google continues to tweak its search algorithms to deliver accurate and useful search results, but the company will rarely pre-announce algorithm changes. For instance, tracking tools picked up on the effects of an unnamed update rolled out on January 8, 2016. Google confirmed that this was a core algorithm update that was not Penguin related. Google makes numerous changes to its algorithms in a year. Many of these updates are minor, but the best defense to avoid penalties is to comply with Google’s webmaster guidelines.

microphone7. Google will implement an algorithm for Voice Search that affects SEO if it hasn’t already.

The mobile-friendly update launched in April 2015 rewarded mobile-ready sites with improved ranking visibility. Voice search, which is most often used with mobile devices, has changed the way that search results are shown. Direct answers are loaded in response to voice search with related links listed after the direct answer. The goal of Google’s direct answers is to provide useful search results upfront for easier access on mobile devices. Clicking on the links provided is optional, so it is up to marketers to provide descriptive titles and meta descriptions that will encourage users to follow the links.

8. Content farms will still be successful in spite of Google’s changes.

Numerous websites ceased to exist after the roll out of Penguin and Panda. These websites accounted for some of the business at content farms. Content providers that re-focused their services to comply with new guidelines survived. As the demand for quality content increases, so will the fortunes of content providers that can deliver what the industry needs. While content farms doing have the overwhelming SERP authority that they used to have, it won’t be surprising to see them still popping up in our search results, especially when they offer content that few competitors have published on the web.

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