SEO is an evolving landscape where best practices can turn to dated tactics in a few months. It’s important to stay current with what’s going on in the industry to future-proof your website and make sure you are optimizing your site the right way.
Over the last year, small business owners saw the landscape for local SEO change and mobile-friendly affordable web design become even more important. Below is seven SEO trends to pay attention to in 2016.
1. Video content will trump the ROI of blogs for brands.
Online video is being consumed at an astonishing rate. Over 4 billion videos are watched every day on YouTube alone. By 2019, Cisco estimates 80% of global Internet consumption will be video content.
The web has become a more personal space and with that transition people want to connect with the people behind the brand. Apps like Vine, Snapchat and Periscope are partially responsible for this trend taking off.
The other reason is differentiation. With blogging now the “standard” for any business, it’s expected. Video goes the extra mile. Not only that, it allows brands to repurpose content for SEO.
2. Mobile-first design will be the new trend in web design.
First it was mobile sites. Then came responsive design. Now, more people access the internet with a phone than a desktop.
In 2016, if your web designer is not taking a mobile-first approach, you have a problem. Google rolled out an update early in 2015 giving the “yes/no” vote whether a site is mobile-friendly or not. While there are over 200 ranking factors that have an impact on where your site appears in search, design that works well on mobile will only become more critical.
The first thing you should do is test your site to see if it is mobile-friendly using Google’s tool.
3. Local SEO will be more important than ever.
Last year the 7-pack was reduced to only showing three businesses at a time — making things even more competitive for businesses in a crowded market.
Most experts agree this change happened because listings not in the top 3 received far fewer clicks. This makes sense, considering that nearly 80% of local searches are done on a mobile device. In Google’s eyes, this is just another way to increase usability for searchers.
For business owners, this means local reviews are more critical than ever, especially if your competitors have not gotten started.
Local 3-pack rankings are heavily weighted towards what business has received the most positive reviews. The best move for local businesses to make is to create a Google My Business listing, verify it with Google and reach out to customers for some reviews. Being proactive here can often mean an immediate jump to the first page.
4. Content from social networks will be indexed more.
Not only will content be indexed more and appear directly in search results, social signals pointing back to your brand will have more relevance.
There’s been talk in the past about how having employees on LinkedIn and other networks listing an association with your business can impact rankings.
It won’t just be about having social profiles or making sure they are optimized. Building a community around your business will begin to have a bigger effect on rankings.
RankPay, a pay for performance SEO company, did an internal study of their customers and found that 91% of sites ranking on Page #1 are engaged in social media in some way.
5. White Label SEO will be the go-to for agencies.
The intersection of marketing and data has allowed companies to reverse engineer what works when it comes to SEO. While no company can claim they can beat Google’s algorithm with complete certainty, companies who have spent time harnessing data are able to use this information to produce real insights on what works.
These new insights allows these firms to offer white label SEO services, which enables other businesses to branch out into new markets and provide services to their clients without adding to the cost of doing the work in-house.
6. Voice search will have more influence on rankings.
Digital assistants like Siri, Cortana and Google Now has brought in a treasure trove of plain language data that search engines will use to rank pages using colloquial or conversational speech patterns.
Typed search queries are vastly different than spoken phrases. This added layer of data (and complexity) will help search engines determine intent with much more accuracy.
7. Conversion rate optimization will be king.
As Rand Fishkin says — always err on the side of user experience. All site owners want more traffic, but another part of the game is getting the most out of the traffic you already have.
Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is the secret sauce to unlocking growth for any site. The entire process works by showing different versions of your website to different users and recording the conversions that take place. After enough data, you’ll be able to identify what messaging or content causes more conversions.
Thanks to the availability of free tools like Optimizely, launching your own A/B tests can be done fairly quickly. All it takes is adding a snippet of code to your site and you’re off. The best strategy for increasing conversion rates on your site is to test, test, test.
What does this mean for SEO? Time on site, bounce rate and clickthrough rate are all ranking signals, so improving the experience for your visitors plays a role in upping your rankings.
SEO is still as important as ever, especially for local businesses. What business owner doesn’t want to show up when someone types in what they’re looking for? If they’re looking for your products and services, there’s a good chance you’ll have a new customer (assuming your site can turn visitors into customers).
If you’re thinking about how you can improve the SEO of your site, here are a few quick suggestions:
- Focus on your website before you go after backlinks. A mobile-friendly site built following best practices can sometimes rank without any additional SEO work — especially for local.
- Claim your Google My Business listing. The quickest way to get to the top of Google for a local business is verifying your business with Google. Once your listing is confirmed, prioritize getting reviews because this alone will often put you to the top of local results.
- Keep things simple. Scale back the information you try to present visitors. The action you want visitors to take should be immediately obvious as soon as they land on your site. Make the next step obvious and you’ll see conversions go up.