Google loves to keep search marketers on their toes.
The industry has seen some drastic changes over the last decade, and it often feels like the next big algorithm announcement is just around the corner.
The reality is that Google is built for users, not websites, and much of the user experience is influenced by technological trends. As technology moves forward at an alarming rate, so do the rules that govern search engines. That means SEO best practices from just a few years ago could be detrimental to your website today, and that’s why keeping up to date with key changes is vitally important.
So what can we expect for 2016? Here are a few trends you need to know that are on the rise.
Voice Search is Rising
First there was Siri, Apple’s voice recognition app that was briefly entertaining to ask questions due to preprogramed human-like response. Next came Google Now, and earlier this year Cortana was released by Microsoft.
These ‘virtual assistants’ have become more accurate and sophisticated since the early days of Siri, which has lead to the rising prominence of voice search.
But what does that mean for SEO?
When people use voice search they use conversational queries to find basic answers quickly. For example, on desktop you might search for, “Hotels New York,” but with voice search, you’ll say, “What are the best hotels in New York.”
These question words: Who, what, where, when, why and how, will begin to define search patterns from mobile devices. Google’s attempt to directly answer these questions means ‘rich snippets’ and structured data will be increasingly important to SEO.
Local SEO Will Become Increasingly Important
Local SEO has always been important, but with online competition intensifying in many industries, going local will be the solution businesses will need to meet their audience in search.
There’s a clear link between local SEO and mobile and voice search, and Google’s recent Pigeon update confirms the prominent role of local signals.
Video Content Will Be Most Effective
Video has become one of the most powerful content formats over the last few years, and Cisco predict that it will account for 69% of all consumer Internet traffic by 2017.
And it’s easy to see why. Video is naturally engaging and easy to digest, making it especially effective in the age of information overload. The inimitable rise of social platforms such as Snapchat, Vine and Periscope is testament to our love of video-centric content.
In SEO terms, video is one of the best tools for keeping visitors on your website and engaging with your brand. It’s also incredibly shareable, making it one of the best ways for brands to maximize reach, engagement and overall ROI.
Social Content Will Be Indexed
There’s still some hoopla over the whole ‘do social signals affect SEO’ debate, but regardless of whether or not shares and mentions boost a brand’s search visibility, social content does now matter.
Early in 2015, Twitter announced a new deal with Google that would grant the search giant access to its entire catalogue of Tweets. Since then, Google has started to index real-time tweets in search results. This means that tweets will not only generate social media exposure for brands, but also offer additional SEO value with increased presence in related searches via Google.
It’s still unclear exactly how Google are selecting Tweets to index, but it’s likely that authority signals such as followers and engagement will play a big part.
Building a strong Twitter presence and considering the wider context, such as the potential for social mentions from authority figures, will increase the chances of your brand appearing in relevant Google searches via Twitter.
Bottom Line: The Future is Mobile
Mobile devices have officially taken over desktop as the most popular way to browse the web. Google made the widely anticipated announcement earlier this year, confirming the importance of mobile marketing.
This trend towards mobile is only going to continue, which means you need to have a mobile mind-set when developing your website. It’s often easy to put the mobile experience second and focus your efforts on optimising your site for desktop users. But in 2016, how your content, product pages and layout appear on mobile will affect your search performance more than ever.