10 SEO Predictions for 2016

It’s that time of year again. The Thanksgiving turkey has been demolished, and the plans for a very merry Christmas are in full swing. A New Year’s bash is mere weeks away, and while most of the world turns its attention to festivities, those of us building online businesses are scouring the Internet for a glimpse of what 2016 holds. Without further ado, here are our top 10 SEO predictions for 2016:

#1: Mobile Technology Wins

You either have, or are creating, an online presence for your business. Before we continue, let’s clarify exactly what we mean by business:

A business can be solely digital or have a tangible office / storefront. It describes anyone offering a service or product. The information we’re about to discuss applies to indie authors marketing their book(s) just as much as it does to small, medium, and enterprise-sized businesses.

You create an online presence because you want to be found. Where do the majority of potential consumers find you? Via search engines. What do they use to access search engines? Mobile devices.

According to Smart Insights, mobile viewing has been taking over. The days of desktop browsing are rapidly coming to an end as more and more people use their portable devices to access the Internet.

Earlier this year, Google reported that mobile search queries had overtaken desktop queries. In fact, in a direct statement Google confirmed that “more…searches [took] place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries including the US and Japan.”

What does this mean for 2016? Simply put: a responsive website is an absolute necessity.

Greg Sterling, a contributor to Search Engine Land, has argued for more than a year that mobile would soon become the “primary screen” for marketers, and he’s right.

What should you do in 2016? Focus on the mobile user’s experience. Use Google’s mobile-friendly test to analyze your website and its pages. If your website isn’t sporting a responsive design or has out of place elements that just don’t look right on a Smartphone’s screen, start updating. A website designer intimately familiar with responsive designs is likely to be one of your best investments.

#2: Search Will Be Mobile AND Vocal

Typing on tiny buttons sucks! Am I right?

2016 will likely become the full-fledged birth year of voice search. Voice input has grown by leaps and bounds over the past five years. Instead of trying to type a search when on the go, more and more people are asking digital assistants like Google Now, Siri, or Cortana.

According to LifeHack.org, this trend has “brought about subtle-yet-profound changes in the way…search works.” Google and other search engines are beginning to use structured data as a way of answering the questions posed by the user. At last count, roughly 19 percent of queries provide rich snippets or direct answers like this one:

Google-Search-Direct-Answer

What does this mean for your 2016 SEO? It’s time to start including structured data in your website. Otherwise, you will find your site left out.

#3: The Penguin Shall Waddle Freely

In his coverage of SMX East, Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Land reported that Google’s Gary Illyes is predicting an update to the Penguin algorithm. Since it has yet to release and Illyes was shy about sharing a specific timeline, the buzz among SEOers is that it will likely release in early 2016.

Now, we could be totally wrong about the release time frame, but one thing is certain: the update will be a real-time algorithm update.

What does this mean for your website? It means the days of waiting month after painstaking month to recover from Penguin penalties is ending. Links will be evaluated on an ongoing basis versus in large, capsizing waves. Practicing current, earned backlink strategies and conducting routine audits to disavow questionable or unfavorable links will become a necessity.

The good news is that marketers will have the ability to immediately see the impact of new links. This will hand them more power over pinpointing positive link action whether created or disavowed.

#4: Social and SEO Will Be Attached At the Hip

Exactly how social media impacts search engine optimization has been the subject of debate for a while. In 2016, the line separating SEO from social is about to get a lot thinner. Hell, it might even vanish entirely!

Earlier this year, Google struck an agreement with Twitter for indexing tweets. Since then, you’ve probably seen tweets displaying more prominently in organic search results. For example:

Google-Search-Tom-Hiddleston

What does this mean for you online presence? The number of indexed social media posts is expected to increase in 2016. They will be vying against websites for spots in the SERPs. If you haven’t already, it’s time to invest in a social media plan. Focus on posting continuous, engaging social content across numerous networks.

#5: Blogs Will Be More Necessary In 2016

We’ve talked about the value of blogging in the past, but 2016 is shaping up to be the year when blogs become even more of a necessity.

Small and medium businesses (SMBs) will need to invest in high-quality content created for the purpose of attracting consumers online. This means that identifying and reaching your target audience is about to become a huge piece of the puzzle. That being said, not all copywriting services are created equal. You will need a skilled and experienced service provider in your pocket.

While skill and experience are both important elements for any hired wordsmith, you need to find a service provider that does their footwork. Consider:

  • Does your current content creator or copywriting service provider charge you additional fees for one-on-one time with the writer or writing team handling your content? If they do, it’s time to find someone else. One-on-one collaboration is no longer an add-on for those who can afford it; it’s an absolute necessity if you are to produce the kind of copy needed to attract and retain a following of consumers versus a fan following.
  • When you meet with your content provider—whether via phone, email, or in person—do they ask the questions that matter? A provider worthy of your investment will constantly be concerned with your target audience. They’ll always be looking for constructive feedback that details what is and isn’t working in your current content. There should be a continual dialogue because content needs are not static; they evolve.

What does this mean for your 2016 content? Be ready to spend a little more time planning. The more readily you can collaborate with a knowledgeable and skilled content creation service, the less time you will spend trying to fix content that just isn’t working.

Keep in mind that quality content is still a must. It will be in your best interests to avoid the woes of dollar menu content. While investing in gourmet-like copy will call for a larger budget, it’s the smartest decision any business or brand can make. As tempting as content mills are with pricing of $1.25 per article, the impact of cheap content can dramatically decrease the effectiveness of your SEO.

Written copy directly influences your online visibility. Do not skimp on this crucial element!

#6: Bing Will Rise

Google has been the Zeus of search engines. It has singlehandedly set the pace for SEO since—well—forever. But sources like LifeHack.org are predicting Microsoft’s Bing will become a serious competitor in 2016 and we agree.

Microsoft’s search engine has been gaining steam over the past couple of years. Bing’s integration with digital assistant Cortana has been packaged with Windows 10 on PC and mobile. One of the most popular gaming consoles, Xbox, has been benefiting from voice search via Cortana and Bing.

The key to the battle between Bing and Google is that Google, although the traditional trend setter, has made some unpopular moves in recent months. Bing is quickly gaining a foothold and catching the interest of more and more users. It is likely Bing will continue to rise in popularity and use during 2016.

What should you do with this information? If you are not already familiar with Bing, it’s time to start checking Microsoft’s search engine out. Whether you prefer it to Google or not, understanding how it works and why users are trending toward it can only benefit your future SEO.

#7: Video Content to Compliment Written Content

A few sources have said that video content will overtake written content in 2016. They’ve claimed written content is old-fashioned and “rudimentary.”

The truth is written content is timeless. It will always be one of the foundational pillars supporting a strong online presence. However, it IS going to start meshing with other forms of content in new and exciting ways.

Mobile users are on-the-go, which means they don’t always have the ability to read. But they can listen and even watch short bursts of content.

What does this mean for your 2016 content strategy? Try dabbling in videos, podcasts, and other forms of content that make digesting large amounts of valuable information easy. You will still need the services of skilled copywriters and content creators to help create this content. So don’t start cutting your content creation budget just yet.

#8: The Importance of Local SEO Will Grow

Almost every business wants local consumers. Local SEO has always been important, but its level of importance will grow in 2016.

The number of businesses vying for attention on the Internet is growing exponentially on a daily basis. As a result, local SEO is rapidly becoming one of the best ways to find a target audience in a specific, easier to reach area. It’s likely to explode in the same manner mobile queries overtook desktop in early 2015.

How should you react to local SEO? If you haven’t started targeting local search, it’s time to. You’ll need to stay on top of local SEO by using smart keywords. Keeping your information updated on Google Maps and including app integration also boosts local optimization.

The perks of establishing a local presence are huge. People love to support the little and the local guys.

#9: Meaningful Connections Will Matter

People want to find what they need in a snap. They don’t want to wade through a dozen irrelevant, poorly designed, and badly written websites. They want instant results yesterday and popular search engines are catering to this desire.

Meaningful connections are rapidly becoming the focus of SEO and content marketing. In 2016, you will need to produce and publish meaningful and relevant content. You’ll need to share it where it matters, and you’ll need to focus on starting conversations.

But the buck doesn’t stop at starting. You’ll need to budget time to continue those conversations by participating.

Social media is the new face of customer service. Use it right and you’ll be able to kill two birds with one stone.

What does this mean? If you haven’t seen the connection between blogs and social media, it’s time to do your homework. Your prospective customers want to buy from companies they can connect to. They want a company that prepares and shares meaningful content on a regular basis. In addition, they want to follow a company’s social networks and see more content.

If you haven’t already, make 2016 the year you leverage social media. Prepare different content for each network to avoid redundancy. Yes, it is a lot of work, but with a great content creation service in your pocket, it’s a doable and smart marketing investment.

#10: New Trends Are Bound To Emerge

2016 is sure to hold an abundance of new SEO trends. As the realm of search engine optimization continues to evolve, so too will the content marketing and copywriting industries. One thing is certain: you will need a strong team of SEO gurus, content marketing experts, and copywriting authorities to continue to thrive in the New Year.

So there you have it. These are our top 10 SEO predictions for 2016. Is there anything you’d like to add?

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