Over the past few years, SEO has evolved considerably.
Complicated strategies that relied on heavy keyword-based optimisation (and often black hat tactics) are now redundant; in their place, methods centred on user experience are flourishing.
Despite its proven benefits, many business owners fear SEO. Commonly perceived as difficult and somewhat dodgy, it comes down to a “fear of the unknown”. People are wary of what they don’t understand.
However, over the past few years SEO has actually become simpler. While Google’s algorithm is more in-depth than ever, the SEO process is relatively straightforward – it’s about providing a better user experience. Effective SEO is certainly not an easy process; however its human focus means that you no longer need to be a tech expert to understand how it works.
How has SEO changed over the past 12 months?
SEO has changed considerably over the years – and 2015 was no exception. Google implemented a number of major changes that consequently altered the SEO process, including:
On April 21st 2015, Google released an algorithm update that favoured mobile-friendly websites. In short, any sites that weren’t mobile-friendly could no longer rank as well for searches carried out from mobile devices.
It’s all about user experience; when searching via a smartphone or tablet, users want to be provided with results that can be viewed on their device.
Released last year, RankBrain is Google’s new form of artificial intelligence that uses “machine learning”. It provides a measured and facts-based approach to interpreting and ranking pages; something that is essential when handling more than three billion queries each day.
When RankBrain receives a query it’s not familiar with (these days, around 15% of all search queries are brand new), it’s able to guess which words and phrases have a similar meaning. This has become essential with “Digital Assistants” such as Siri and Google Now, as these apps allow users to speak queries rather than type them -– resulting in greater diversity.
Google stated that RankBrain has now become the third most important ranking signal. So what does this all mean for SEO?
It’s about providing quality content that addresses your target audience’s queries. Latent semantic indexing (LSI) comes into play here, as content needs to go beyond merely utilising certain keywords; it needs to be written from an “expert” perspective and include a wide range of buzz words and phrases that are synonymous with the topic.
3. The Quality Update.
Back in May 2015, Google released an update that changed how the core algorithm processes quality signals. Unlike the forewarned Mobilegeddon, the “Quality Update” –- as it was dubbed by many –- was unleashed quietly.
Google hasn’t explained exactly what was affected by this update, but it seems as though it’s working towards the search engine’s primary goal: providing its users with better quality search results.
What trends can we expect to see in 2016?
It is likely that the next 12 months will carry on in a similar fashion. Google is continually striving to provide users with a better search experience, and thus SEO will follow this trend. Three key factors to watch in 2016 are:
1. Mobile optimisation is set to become more important.
If last year’s Mobilegeddon wasn’t enough, mobile optimisation is set to become more important. Why? Because mobile internet usage is still on the rise.
Experts have long been predicting that mobile internet access would overtake desktop internet access. In the United States, the tipping point has already occurred. A comScore report showed that the amount of time spent accessing the internet via a mobile device equates to 51% of total internet time, while desktop/laptop internet access accounts for 42% (7% attributed to ‘other’ devices).
However, here in Australia desktop internet access is still ahead. Statistics published by Margin Media (March, 2015) show that Australia is behind the United States in terms of mobile internet access; desktop internet usage still outweighs mobile internet access 72.5% to 27.5%.
As Australian mobile service providers offer better data usage deals, mobile internet access will only increase. Will 2016 be the year that Australia reaches the tipping point as well? Either way, a mobile friendly website is essential!
2. Video marketing is increasing.
Written content is currently considered standard -– however video content is quickly catching up. Video apps such as Snapchat and Vine have meant that an increasing number of users are expecting sites to provide visual content. For B2C businesses, video feeds are becoming far more common.
Google is now starting to experiment with video ads in its search results. It recognises that users are becoming more familiar –- and therefore starting to expect –- visual content. If the search engine giant is already starting to back this trend, it’s a fair indication that video content could become standard in the near future.
3. Social media content will be more readily indexed.
If you’ve searched for a news item recently, you may have noticed a Tweet or two appearing in the search results –- this is because Google has deals in place with Facebook and Twitter.
In the coming year, more social medial platforms are likely to be heavily indexed by Google. The line between web and social media is set to become even blurrier as internet users spend an increasing amount of time on social platforms. Therefore, it is likely that social posts will soon be considered in a similar way to independent web pages.
From an SEO perspective, it’s one more reason for businesses to utilise social media. It’s what the people want!
While search engine algorithms become increasingly complex, the SEO process is simpler than ever before. Major search engines such as Google have one primary goal: to provide their users with the best possible search results.
From an SEO perspective, this means you need to consider your target audience -– it’s about addressing their needs as best you can. In 2016, good SEO is about implementing basic on-site optimisation, creating high quality content (including useful blog articles), acquiring natural and relevant inbound links (e.g. via guest blogging), ensuring your business features in reputable online directories, developing a strong social media presence, and making sure your site is mobile friendly.
An effective SEO strategy requires considerable time and effort if you’re to see results.
However, it’s no longer rocket science; Google wants what your customers want. As a business, you should know what that is!
Adele is a passionate horseback rider. When she’s not riding horses she is reading and publishing innovative digital tips and the latest in digital marketing in Australia. You can check out 5 Digital Quotes for more up to date digital marketing tips here.