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SEO trends to watch out for in 2016

DSC_000120e7f8a18ef08fcc18545184_1920This article was borrowed from by Paul Morris

Ever since the release of Google’s Penguin and Panda updates, the world of search engine optimisation has seemed to be a rapidly shifting environment, which has forced digital marketers to adapt and change strategies numerous times. That being said, the idea that content and user experience are king and queen have both been around for some time and both still hold true.

The very concept of SEO is beginning to change into something more integrated and overlapping with other disciplines like content marketing, paid search, social media and outreach.

2016 has undoubtedly still got some surprises in store, but it could be the year that we see lots of longer running trends come to the fore in terms of their influence on SEO. Let’s have a look at some of the big trends to watch out for.

Mobile friendly SEO

Despite initial reports into ‘Mobilegeddon’ being a bit of a damp squib, Google’s much talked about 2015 update has clearly had a big impact.

A study from Adobe found a 12% drop in non-mobile friendly sites in the first two months since the update was released. As time has gone on and mobile search has rocketed (overtaking desktop search in 2015), it seems that 2016 could be the year when businesses with mobile friendly websites could really start to overtake the non-mobile friendly competition when it comes to mobile conversion rates.

Mobile assistants and the ‘no search’ future

Mobile assistants may not have caught on in a big way yet, but they’re not going anywhere and 2016 could be the year where we start to see their rise affecting the way SEOs think about search.

These voice activated searches aren’t confined to mobile either, with Cortana now coming bundled with Windows 10 and a Mac OS X version coming soon.

The way voice searches will affect SEO or bring about a ‘no search’ future is uncertain. What is clear though, is that digital marketing strategies will have to adapt in fundamental ways as and when these technologies become more advanced and therefore more popular.

User engagement a growing ranking factor

It’s no secret that the better an experience you can give your website users, through well designed UX, relevant engaging content and easy to navigate menus, the more likely they will be to come back.

The idea of user experience being something Google wants to measure and use as a ranking signal isn’t new, but 2016 will see it continue to grow as a ranking signal, helping to drive traffic to your site through the SERPs, as well as through returning visitors.

More rich snippets and rich answers in search results

Rich answers, also known as ‘instant answers’ or ‘featured snippets’, are enhanced search results that directly addresses the searchers questions in the search results. They are usually text but can be tables, maps, charts, forms or sliders.

A 2015 study by Stone Temple Consulting found rich answers were increasing at a huge rate (22.6% to 31.2% between Dec 2014 and Oct 2015 based on identical sets of 855,243 queries) and 2016 looks set to see this trend continue. Optimising your content for these rich answers involves identifying the questions your target audience are asking in the first place that aren’t already being used as a rich answer and using schema and good SEO practices.

For the complete lowdown, Search Engine Journal has a great guide which is well worth reading.

Penguin update imminent

This has been a hot topic amongst the SEO community for quite a while now but there are still no definitive signs of Google’s next Penguin update. That being said, the ever vigilant SEO Roundtable have recently stated that we could be on the verge of seeing Penguin 4.0 launched.

Penguin was launched in 2011 to clamp down on spammy link building practices and did take down a lot of sites. One of the major complaints about it though was the large amount of time between update, meaning sites that had been hit with a penalty and cleaned up their act had to wait a long time to get reinstated in the rankings.

Google has promised to fix this by making Penguin 4 ‘real-time’, meaning sites hit with Penguin penalties should recover almost immediately after expunging the poor quality links from their backlink portfolios.

Accelerated mobile pages

Page load times have always been a crucial element of user experience and with the huge growth in mobile search, the need for sites with very fast load times has grown. As a result of this and undoubtedly to some degree as a response to Facebook’s Instant Articles publishing platform, Google and Twitter have teamed up with a load of other companies to roll out Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs).

The open source project uses a stripped down form of HTML and streamlined CSS to create super lightweight web pages with fast load times. From an SEO perspective it’s unclear whether having an AMP friendly site will affect mobile search rankings, but it’s certainly something businesses should be paying attention to.

Google started showing AMPs in its search results in the form of a carousel to a limited audience in February of this year, and the project is expected to roll out fully over the year, so you can bet there will be a lot more buzz on this in 2016 and beyond.

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