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7 Ways SEO Will Evolve in 2016

by Sharon Hurley Hall

One of the fun things to do at this time of year is to look back at your predictions and see how you did. I’m happy to report, that this past year, we did OK.  At the start of 2015 we said that user intent was going to be a major SEO focus in 2015, and we were right. So let’s take a look at what we should be looking forward to in 2016.

1. User Intent is Still Important

If there’s one thing we’ve learned through the year, it’s that user intent is more important than ever. Now, it’s not just about attracting people to your site, but about what they do when they get there, as Cyrus Shepherd of Moz points out:

“Today it’s about the post-click activity. Not only do you have to get the clicks, but you have to satisfy user intent.”

To do that, you need to:

2. Go Even More Mobile

Every year, mobile-friendliness gets more important, and if 2015 is anything to go by, it will be the same in 2015. This year, we’ve seen how the impact of mobilegeddon  has affected sites and seen the widespread use of the mobile-friendly label launched last year.

With mobile taking pride of place in search behavior, the bottom line is that if you haven’t already done so, you should focus on mobile SEO.

If you haven’t already, now’s the time to:

3. There’s an App for That

This has also been the year of app indexing and streaming mobile apps so in 2016, mobile SEO will also be about apps. Neil Marshall says on Webmaster World:

“There’s a multi-tier Internet that has developed, and it will only continue developing: Major business with their apps will capture more traffic away from traditional search. It’s why Google is doing everything it can with app indexing. People have been using apps without looking on a search engine for some time, and especially when, for example, it’s Amazon. “

In other words, you can’t guarantee that your customers will find your content the same way they always have. If you have an app, your best bet is to check that it’s ready for app indexing so you have another way for people to access your content. This guide from Apptentive is a good starting point.

4. Go Local or Go Home

One big change in 2015 that will continue to affect SEO in 2016 is the way local search results are displayed. In August, Google changed from displaying seven local results to showing just 3. This has made it essential to get your local SEO strategy right. Ray L. Perry and Phil Singleton on Duct Tape Marketing, suggest:

“Companies need to provide more detailed information about themselves in order to get a top slot with search engines. “

In other words, including your location, phone number, website and other important business details like opening times, gives you a full listing which makes it more likely you’ll show up in local search. Since, according to Google’s own research,  50% of consumers who carry out a local search visit the store within a day, this is crucial to attract your customers.

Moz recommends that if you’re looking to optimize for the 3-pack, you should focus on:

  • organic SEO
  • solid inbound links
  • citations
  • solid marketing including local promotions and expert outreach

5. Social Signals on the Rise

Your tweets now show up in search results, and add to the social signals generated for your brand. Google is also indexing some of Facebook’s app content. This adds up to more visibility for some of your social content in search results and more opportunities to build your brand.

Will Google enter similar partnerships in 2016? Who’s to say, but in the meantime, it can’t hurt to be ready.  Think carefully about what people will see when they carry out a brand search and spend time optimizing not just your profile, but your social media posts.

6. Optimized Content Rules

The importance of content optimization isn’t news, but 2015 updates mean that there’s even more to do in 2016. Remember the Knowledge Graph? Similar results now appear in a range of guises, most notably the Answer Box. If you have searched for any information recently, the chances are you have seen this box which provides an immediate answer to your query.

According to Stone Temple Consulting, almost one third of search queries now produce these rich answers.  That means that often searchers don’t have to leave the search page to visit another site. The SEO imperative for businesses in 2016 will be to produce content that shows up in these boxes. That means that producing quality content that meets users’ needs will continue to be a core part of SEO. Martin Laetsch of Act-On Software says that SEO is not about gaming search engines:

“It’s [about] how you make sure that your content is the best possible content on the Internet for the words that you care about.”

While content in answer boxes is usually short, to cater for those who need immediate information they can act on, multiple studies show that longer content remains popular and is widely shared, creating more social signals and building online authority. For 2016, SEO will include delivering the right content for the right purpose, whatever length it happens to be.

7. Search Gets (More) Semantic

We’ve been talking about semantic search and voice search on the CrazyEgg blog for quite a while. It goes hand in hand with increased use of mobile devices. The major mobile platforms all now have digital assistants that assist with using the device and searching the web. In other words, Star Trek’s communicator is more or less here. That implies big changes for SEO in 2016. To be ready, it’s essential to:

  • create and optimize content so that it answers users’ questions.
  • optimize for a range of related terms rather than a single word or phrase.
  • understand search intent so you can deliver content that meets users’ needs.

In 2016, Google will be applying machine learning to interpreting search queries via Rankbrain, which Moz sees as a glimpse into the future of search and SEO.

Conclusion

In going through the 2015 SEO developments that hold the key to SEO in 2016, there are some recurring themes. Social, local and mobile readiness will be key, while focusing on users will be a must. Looking into the crystal ball, it’s possible to predict that in the future:

  • no-one will talk about mobile optimization as that will be the de facto form of optimization
  • voice search will be totally integrated for most people as mobile devices get even more widespread
  • boundaries between the different types of interaction (such as web/social) and content (such as app/web) will blur.

How do you expect SEO to change in the coming year?

Read other Crazy Egg posts by Sharon Hurley Hall.

6 Comments

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Sharon Hurley Hall

Sharon Hurley Hall is a professional freelance writer and blogger. Her career has spanned more than 20 years, including stints as a journalist, academic writer, university lecturer and ghost writer. Connect with Sharon on her website.

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  1. Sukh Kaur says:
    May 9, 2016 at 11:32 pm

    Reading this blog in 2016, its really interesting to see what your predictions are and what has come true. I believe mobile optimising is still very important and isn’t an automatic optimisation just yet, we still need to put time and efforts in optimising mobile websites and making the websites user friendly for the mobile interface.

    • Sharon Hurley Hall says:
      June 30, 2016 at 7:28 am

      Thanks for the kind comments and personal insights, everyone.
      @Sukh, it’s always fun to see whether we get things right. I agree the mobile still needs work.

  2. Anonymous says:
    February 2, 2016 at 8:40 pm

    Hi Sharon,

    Thanks for sharing the new evolving techniques. With the frequent Google updates, SEO is becoming more of tactical things and really need to empahsise on quality rather than the quanity. Thank you so much for putting the agenda for 2k16.

    -Ashutosh

  3. Anonymous says:
    January 18, 2016 at 4:02 am

    Great post! SEO is becoming one of the most complex digital marketing technique as of now, SEO experts have to stay updated with the latest SEO trends to deliver best SEO outcomes to their clients. Your post has showcasing the ways SEO will evolve in 2016 is surely of great help for SEO professionals. Thanks!

  4. Alex Omelchenko says:
    January 4, 2016 at 5:01 am

    Interesting read, Sharon especially what you write about mobile and local SEO. In terms of mobile SEO I think we will finally end up optimizing our presence on third party sources (e.g. Yelp). It is really getting harder and harder to rank for key terms with local intent.

  5. Anonymous says:
    January 3, 2016 at 5:12 am

    Awesome article Sharon, You have just mentioned some factual points which will help to understand SEO better in 2016. I completely agree with that you must have to satisfy your users need and have to work on creating quality content which is relevant to users and complete his/her intent. Awesome job 🙂

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