SEO Trends for 2016: A Roundup

Griffin Kay on SEO

The future is difficult to predict at the best of times, but the future of marketing is even hazier.

When it comes to SEO’s future it’s even more of a random roll of the dice.

Anyone who has worked in marketing or SEO for more than a few years can attest things are rapidly evolving, making the work that puts the “o” in search engine optimization anything but static.

This year, MarketerGizmo waited for the hype of year-end lists and predictions to wane, and we sifted through them so you don’t have to.

After culling through dozens of proclamations from influencers and vendors of note we found the most common predictions. Without further ado, here are the SEO trends of 2016:

1. Mobile Dominance Continues

Last year spring Google unveiled their mobile-friendly ranking algorithm. This caused a flurry of activity and a fair amount of panic, spawning nicknames like mobilegeddon and mobocalypse.

Shortly after the update, Google confirmed what many predicted: mobile searches outnumbered desktop searches. Mobile dominance in search will undoubtedly continue this year.

Benedict Evans summarized this most succinctly, stating “…[T]hinking about ‘mobile’ as another bullet point next to ‘SEO’ misses the point… It’s not a subset of the internet – it IS the internet. ”

What this means for you:

  • Mobile strategy and marketing tactics should be at the top of your list of priorities
  • Remain focused on good user experience. What you ‘should’ do for mobile optimization and making a good experience are not always the same thing. In the end, good user experience will win out.

2. Voice Search and Digital Assistants

Similar to the rise in mobile, voice searches will continue to increase in 2016 thanks largely more digital assistants entering the market. We will see them go from common to ubiquitous. This promises to be very convenient for users, but potentially problematic for search professionals.

Meghan Keaney Anderson points out, “These searches remove a step, or several, from the research and get me to the point of action more quickly.” The heart of what marketers do is to reduce the steps to get users to act, so do not sleep on optimization for voice search!

What this means for you:

  • Continue to utilize structured data and rich snippets to supply additional content in search results. This will result in more value and context to search results for voice/assistant searches and provide a good user experience.
  • Incorporate words & phrases used in spoken searches into keyword optimization. This is particularly important to RankBrain, Google’s AI which has quickly become a high ranking factor in search results.
  • Voice search and digital assistants are relatively new, so expect lots of new developments and changes as the market and consumer demand evolve.

3. Local Search

More and more searches are done with mobile devices (which conveniently contain GPS devices in them). Wearable technology is improving, and so are local indexes.

These factors make for a perfect storm of local search to increase in importance in search algorithms. Your SEO strategy should follow suit.

As global competition increases local SEO can provide a great advantage to all businesses. Josh MacDonald nailed it, saying, “Local SEO has always been important but in 2016 it will be more important than ever.” We couldn’t agree more!

What this means for you

  • If you haven’t done so already, then get the ball rolling on local SEO ASAP!
  • Make sure your information is accurate and up to date in local business directories, review sites, and other directories relevant to your business. You will be rewarded for consistency across multiple directories, but penalized for discrepancies.
  • For small or newer businesses this a fantastic tactic to increase visibility.
  • Even if you are not a “local” company (like most SaaS or cloud-based companies) this makes it easy to find your product and your offices.
  • If you are a large business with multiple locations, this a great way to show how close users are to nearby stores or offices.

4. Social Search

Last year Twitter and Google renewed their partnership, resulting in recent tweets dynamically appearing in search results. This was a pretty big development and we will see more developments from their renewed alliance.

Now SEO also includes tweet optimization.

What this means for you

  • This is a big step in unifying SEO strategy and social media strategy. If they were siloed in 2016 they need to buddy up this year.
  • Users not on twitter are exposed to most recent tweets in SERPs, thus broadening your audience. Tweet accordingly.
  • Keep an eye towards more advancements. 2015 was just the start of what is sure to be an intricate and quickly evolving relationship between these two tech giants.

Other SEO Predictions of Note

Nearly all the predictions made by various SEO experts were related to by updates made by Google. Only a few saw anything of note related to Bing in 2016 when gazing into their crystal balls.

One exception was Josh MacDonald at Lifehack. He predicts that Bing will compete more with Google, thanks in part to Microsoft’s digital assistant, Cortana.

This prediction is worth noting for a few reasons.

It is one of the only predictions that is not about Google. More importantly, it highlights the interconnectivity of the SEO universe.

Cortana is the digital assistant on Microsoft phones. So in order to effectively optimize and show up in Cortana results (and everywhere else), SEO strategy cannot be lopsided; it must be balanced across the interconnected factors.

Gone are the early days when SEO inspired you to cheat the system.

SEO has come to include social, local, mobile voice, and overall more relevant content. Even if all these predictions turn out wrong, there is no doubt this year will be interesting for SEO.