Rob Kerry will be speaking at the next BrightonSEO conference on the 22nd of April 2016.
2015 was the year that the world climbed out of a financial recession and an SEO depression. Our (not provided) keyword data started to find its way home, with greater data accessibility in Google Search Console’s new “Search Analytics” report and subsequent API access. Backlinks were no longer something to be feared, but something to be respected and nurtured. Mobilegeddon didn’t end the world, but did make brands think a little more seriously about their mobile strategy.
2016 will be an exciting year for SEO, with less turmoil expected and more innovation. Extreme ranking changes may have stifled our ability to push through new concepts and ideas in recent years, targeting the way that people will search and interact online in the future. The next 12 months will likely see a blast from the past, with an increasing percentage of Q&A search queries and results, akin to the days when Ask Jeeves was a serious search engine.
Mobile users are already becoming accustomed to searching for answers via Google Now, Siri and Cortana. Speaking at, rather than into, your phone is more socially acceptable. Devices such as Amazon Echo in the US, help to widen the normality of talking to digital devices at home, work and on the move. “Search by voice” is a prominent fixture on Google’s homepage. Users will come to expect Search Engines to understand them, rather than carefully choosing a keyword that they think the search engine could understand. This inevitably comes back to Question based searching, with [best business mobile phone] evolving into [what’s the best mobile phone I can buy for business use?]. SEOs have always known about optimising websites for long tail keywords, but never to this degree.
The change in keyword structure will only accelerate the desire of search engines to answer questions within their SERPs. Google’s RankBrain assists this further, with “machine learning” playing an important role in understanding user intent and which results (and SERP features) best match them. Whilst this can negatively affect Organic traffic to websites, there is a significant advantage for brands to become the primary information source for Q&A searches in their sector. This not only comes down to the pro-active embedding of bleeding edge Schema mark-ups, but also ensuring that content adequately answers the questions that customers may have.
This ties in nicely to the direction in which link development and authority building is going. The slain carcasses of websites that still use link building techniques from 2010, will continue to grow in 2016. The victors will be brands that encourage linking to their informational pages, that will also be the main benefactors of Q&A search traffic. I’m not suggesting filling product pages with reams of content of course, the sales pages should be kept separate from our fluffer content. Instead, we’re using our evolved content pages to get the customer interested, provide answers to our Q&A searchers, then drive link authority and traffic into the final buy-now pages.
App Indexing will play a larger role in 2016, not to be confused with ASO (App Store Optimisation). ASO is similar to SEO, manipulating a software product’s ranking in the App Stores, mostly through increasing ratings, reviews and downloads. App Indexing is where a search engine indexes the content within a mobile app and displays that data in a search result, as if it were a web page. Google has already experimented with displaying content from some apps, even if the mobile user hasn’t installed that piece of software yet. With desktop Operating Systems also moving over to an App Store model for software, it won’t be long before these apps start appearing in search results as well. The threat that comes from these App listings, is the likelihood of them pushing your brand further down the search results. The best defence in this instance is a good offence, building out new or existing apps for customers and making sure the app content is fully indexable.
2015 was the year when internet users started fighting back against the growing infestation of advertising across the web. 21% of the UK population now uses an Ad Blocker and 15% of Americans. Many of these actively block AdWords results on Google search results, causing a real issue for the search giant. They previously relied on increasing advertising real estate, to counterbalance losses in market share to Bing and even DuckDuckGo. The plethora of shopping, comparison and other industry specific AdWords placements, became an unnecessary frustration for many. To win back the trust or their users (and Ad Blocker whitelisting), Google may look to reduce the amount of ad space on their SERPs, whilst creating more cleverly integrated ad placements for their advertisers.
So my five tips for 2016 would be:
- Move forward with a single mobile-friendly responsive website, if you haven’t already.
- Build out more useful, interesting and engaging content that answers the questions that your customers may have.
- Push as much authority as possible into these pages, then pass that authority and traffic onto key sales pages.
- Investigate the possibility of building a useful mobile/desktop app for customers, or integrating more content if you already have one.
- Don’t be scared of Penguin. Continue to build authority into your brand, but to useful content and in natural ways.