Prominent SEO Trends Of 2016

"There is nothing permanent except change"- Heraclitus. The Greek philosophers comment some 2500 years ago is still applicable today to the fast-changing world of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). With advances in new technologies, use of latest devices, and rapid changes in search engine algorithms, the SEO industry is constantly being redefined.  Businesses must keep up with new SEO tactics as part of their digital marketing strategy to ensure the brand’s visibility to its intended audience. With search engines getting smarter, 2016, so far, has been less about black hat practices to optimize websites for search engines and more about making sites suitable for people across a variety of platforms. Whether mobile or desktop, on-page or off-page, being aware of the current trends shaping the future of SEO will help businesses take a considered and structured approach to it.

5 SEO Trends You Cannot Ignore In 2016
It’s been an exciting year so far and we don’t expect things to slow down as we move into the last quarter of the year.  With advances in mobile websites, the massive increase in social sharing, the release of some pretty cool geo-specific Google tools and more, here are some of the SEO trends that have shaped the search landscape in 2016,

1. Mobile-Optimization Is An Absolute Must

In the US, the volume for mobile search surpassed desktop search in the middle of last year, making mobile traffic a far more important factor for SEO.  With the Mobilegeddon update of the Google search engine algorithm, it pays to have a mobile-friendly design in 2016–particularly when it comes to SEO!  People today use multiple and diverse devices to access the net, so businesses have to design mobile-optimized sites for smartphones, tablets, laptops, smart watches, etc. A mobile-friendly approach leads to an improved user experience and it also gives your site a higher score–boosting its Google rankings. With desktop computing predicted to fade into obscurity over the next few years, Google has already clarified that a desktop-specific site isn’t necessary anymore. Moreover, their recent shift from the usual seven-packs to the local three-packs in the desktop search results for local businesses shows their commitment to a mobile experience across different devices.

All webmasters can easily make their site responsive when coding it from scratch, or by using a responsive framework/theme. The main design features of a fully mobile-friendly site are that the content should not be wider than the screen viewport; the text should be formatted in such a way that it is readable; the links should be spaced out well and the mobile viewport should be set. Here are some tools available to check the mobile-friendliness of your site or blog.

Google’s Mobile friendly test
Google’s PageSpeed insights
Bing’s Mobile Friendliness Test Tool
Hubspot’s Marketing Grader

This year deep links pointing to specific pages of a mobile app carry more value in terms of SEO than ever before. Therefore it is important to ensure that Google understands the content within a mobile app and to leverage the app correctly in marketing strategies. Even if your business does not have an app, you should look at getting your business listed on as many other apps as possible.

2. Faster Loading Time, Higher Ranking

Not only are sites with a slow loading time annoying for visitors, they also have an adverse effect on SEO rankings on Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Studies have shown that people generally click out of a site that takes more than 3 seconds to load. The pages on the top ranked sites are usually fully loaded within 1.1 seconds. Your site should ideally load between these two limits.

You can use tools such as PageSpeed Insights or GTmetrix for analyzing critical issues causing your site’s page speed problems. There are some general measures you can undertake to improve your site speed such as using compression to reduce the size of your CSS, HTML, and JavaScript files, improve server response time, use browser caching, and optimize image files by choosing the right size and format.

3. Social Media Signals To Boost Ranking Positions

With the increase in indexation of posts, hashtags, tweets, and profiles on social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter, the signals coming from these sites have become influential in the search engine algorithm of Google and other search engines. From an SEO perspective the line between the ‘web’ and ‘social platforms’ is gradually blurring, so much so that social posts now carry a value similar to a web page in improving the ranking position of your site. Ever since Google signed an agreement with Twitter, official Twitter profiles are shown in top three results automatically. Twitter also provides data to Bing and Yahoo’s search service. On social media, there are more chances of people reading and sharing your posts, which can result in more inbound links and mentions–all of which directly impact rankings.  Sometimes social media posts can even rank higher on the SERPs than the site itself, with company pages appearing on top of the search results for a given brand keyword.

For your SEO strategy to hit the roof, your business has to have an official page on all important social networks, with clear information details on your website, working hours, contact number, call-to-action, and more. In order to produce SEO friendly social media posts, it is important to focus on relevant content, build natural links, and use promotional campaigns wisely. After all, the more social media buttons offered to visitors, the more click-through rates you will receive.  

4. Intention Is Significant In Your Keywords   

You no longer need to pack headlines with keywords to drive traffic to your site. While finding the right keywords to match your audience searches is still important in SEO, there is need to upgrade the process. New search engines have become more intuitive in providing relevant results based on the users browsing pattern and interactions with the website. For a definitive search result, search engines like Google and Yahoo are determining user intention instead of depending on what is typed into the search bar, to save time and effort on behalf of the user when browsing the internet.

More than getting the click, search engines are looking at the post-click activity and whether your site is satisfying user intent. Besides classic tools like Google’s Keyword Planner, there are unique tools like Moz’s Keyword Explorer and Answer The Public to help you maximize your keyword campaign.

5. Stress On Local SEO

Ever since Google’s Pigeon update in 2014, local search engine optimization has become important for every small and medium-sized business that desires to rank well in search results. This has not changed in 2016.  Both desktop and mobile searches generally have a local intent. More than just finding directions and guidelines, local SEO also helps to make sites more user-friendly and naturally improves its position on SERP. The user’s geographic location, data from sites with updated geolocation, and search history all are determining factors in the type of results that people see when performing a search. Local SEO has naturally grown in importance along with the rise of individualized search results.  

To ensure that your local business remains relevant locally, be sure to create a Google Business Page along with your business description and list your name, address, phone number, and include links to your information. You can also maintain business profiles on review sites such as Yahoo Local and Yelp. The more inbound links you can get from local news sites or community sites, the better it is for your local SEO.

Stay On Top
In the beginning of the year some pundits had written off SEO as dead but they have been proved wrong. Sites implementing traditional old-school SEO tricks and unethical practices are being duly punished through low search ranking and the only way ahead seems to be by implementing a SEO strategy, combining different approaches with the singular aim of providing value to users. For successful marketing, the focus is not just on digital presence and web-related activities for branding but on diversified content and usability on different mobile devices. Stay on top of the ‘position’ game by utilizing the latest SEO trends to give your audience a great experience.