Michael Georgiou
Michael Georgiou 3 June 2016

Most Important SEO Trends of 2016

SEO is hard work and the rewards are slow to come by. It is also an industry dictated by our Google Overlords. It is therefore crucial to be in the know about the changes Google introduces to its search algorithm and all the best practices it advises for businesses and marketers to follow.

Trends, as a result, become important to pay attention to if you want to continue to hold the competitive edge in the often unpredictable world of Google search.

Some of the important trends, already taking place, for this year are as follows.

Video content is getting hotter and hotter

While it’s difficult to see anything replacing text-based content entirely, given the sway the written word has had on us for millennia, other forms of content are on their way up and will continue to do so this year.

Video content in particular is speeding towards becoming an increasingly preferred format for both B2C and B2B marketers, but particularly so for the former. This is largely attributed to vastly improved Internet speeds around the world as well as the proliferation of mobile devices. The production quality of videos has also improved.

Consider this. YouTube alone gets more than a billion viewers each month. These numbers have led to the introduction of a number of video-based apps, and we expect this will keep happening until users love watching videos. Will there ever arrive a saturation point here? Maybe, but not anytime soon!

Tech-savvy marketers and businesses have been quick to spot the potential in this medium but now even small businesses are waking up to the power of the video. A Nielsen study from 2013 had found that marketers were increasing budgets for video content. The big players have led the way and there is a lot the smaller and newer ones can learn from them in this regard.

Video content will not replace written content. Instead it will appeal to newer/wider segments of audience. It is possible for a person to enjoy both a video as well as a thoughtful post. You need to find out what your audience prefers and give them that.

Quality of content will be of paramount importance

The formats may come and go, rise and fall in popularity, but one thing that will remain steady is the quality of the message it conveys. Continue directing your best resources to the creation of content, written or visual.

On the written front, expect long-form content to become more valuable. We are looking at posts between 1,000 and 1,500 words, which stand a better chance of gaining higher ranking. But length is not the only criterion. It has to be backed by information that is useful and reliable for the target audience.

In short, continue your content creation best practices.

Keywords will matter less, intention will matter more

It is often said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Well, that may or may not be true, but it certainly looks like the road to top Google rankings may be paved with great intentions.

SEO, ever since it came into being, has been about keywords to a large extent. Initially they were stuffed in contrived content as businesses scrambled to get noticed online, later entire content strategies were created around them.

But that has been slowly changing and 2016 will drive this change some more. Intentions are now crucial. What that means is that instead of responding to the exact keywords users enter in the search bar, Google returns results based on the intention of the users (as intuited by its algorithm).

Successful content marketers have long understood this – keyword intent, and not the exact keywords, matter.

More websites will become mobile-optimized

The trend towards mobile is firmly set and on a steep upward curve. Given the fact that users are relying on mobile more than on desktops to carry out searches, Google has made the mobile-friendliness of a website a ranking signal in mobile search results. While this was introduced last year, updates were made to in May this year, and the message couldn’t be clearer -- if you are still running the desktop version across devices, wake up! Your SEO efforts won’t bear the fruits you expect them to with a negligent attitude towards mobile. Mobile is not the future, mobile is the now.

Social media content to be indexed more

Do you tweet enough times a day? Do you feel your regular Facebook updates impact the Google ranking of your business?

There has been confusion over whether Google indexes the social Web pages of businesses, with conflicting statements made in this regard.

Some of us believed a link, albeit indirect, does exist between SEO and social. (After all, the social standing of a business does encourage or discourage prospects from engaging with it.) Now experts are suggesting that Facebook posts, tweets and LinkedIn updates will show up prominently in Google search results, along with the social media pages.

Even more reason for you to focus on proactive promotion of your content on social and optimize it for SEO.

Local SEO to become more important

This is great news for small businesses. Of course, you want to be found by the locals! People are also increasingly carrying out local searches via their mobile devices. They love recommendations from their friends and want to know the best places for their purpose in town.

With a combination of local optimization, social media marketing and stellar reviews, a smart local business can rise to the top. Expect this space to get more competitive.

Local SEO, however, entails a two-fold challenge for small regional businesses:

  • They have to improve their local SEO if they want to continue to gain business
  • They have to ensure their websites are mobile-friendly since most local searches take place through mobile.

If you do manage to achieve this, get ready for some sweet results.

Putting it all together

If you run an online business, you need to know about SEO and what’s trending in the field. An online marketing strategy should be backed by relevant and up-to-date practices, but that does not mean you should blindly jump on the bandwagon each time something new trends. Underlining the trends are a few basic principles that we are happy to say are constant. If anything, the message we get from Google’s tweaks and numerous updates is clear – focus on quality content that helps its audience and just keep doing it. If there’s a guiding principle in the world of SEO, this is it. 

What are your thoughts on the matter? Have you been on the right track already? Please share your experience and insights in the comments!

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