The SEO landscape has changed drastically over the last few years.
If your marketing strategy hasn’t followed suit, your business probably hasn’t received the attention you feel it deserves.
Adhering to outdated SEO practices will prevent your site from ranking high still in 2016 (and forever). Even worse, if you are still practicing outdated tactics 2016 could be the end for you.
The consequences of apply questionable strategies might not only cause your website to actively drop in rank but if you’re strumming at the wrong strings you may get de-indexed from the most influential search engine in the world completely.
What Should You Be Doing Differently?
Lucky for you, this no-fluff guide (actionable guide) is going to be your ticket to implementing SEO best practices in 2016 and beyond.
The most influential factors with regards to SEO haven’t come out of the blue. No, they’ve grown and developed gradually throughout the 2015 year.
Sure, you’ll most likely recognize some of them and want to just move on to a catchier title on another blog but you need to stop, accept and start to apply them. Now is the time to act, or adjust your course if necessary.
1. Local SEO
Top placement in Local Search is now more valuable, and harder to get, than ever.
Here’s a few ways local SEO is going to be different in 2016.
2015 brought Google infamous Mobilegeddon aimed to increase visibility (“rankings” if you didn’t catch that) of mobile-friendly sites and decrease the visibility (again, “rankings”) of non-mobile-friendly sites.
Let’s face it, this is an update we (Google users) wanted anyway. I know that every-time I tried pulling up a website from 1995 on my website I’d shout something like “Get with the times people”. You did too and you know it.
Google’s Pigeon update increased the importance of reviews and that hasn’t changed. In fact, it’s easy to see that businesses with reviews still rank higher. The only other factor that can rival the effect of good reviews is age of the business (website) listed.
There has been rumor that Google+ may be beginning to phase out however there are arguments to the contrary as well.
So let’s watch to see what happens with this one in 2016 – together.
Why is it more important than ever to be more aggressive in your Local SEO endeavors? In 2015 we saw big changes to Google Local but last year we witnessed the amount of real estate (pun intended) available in Google Local shrink down from 7 local results to just 3.
2. Social Signals
In an early report by Simon Penson shared on Search Engine Watch we could see that Social Signals, specifically Facebook signals and Google Plus Ones were most definitely affecting rankings.
The question is why? The answer is – because it does.
There is lots of speculation out there. In 2014 Google said it’s not part of the algorithm yet there is a direct correlation between social signals and rankings .
So what should you do? Go social.
Talking about the future of SEO and social media Jayson DeMers said that in 2016 “social posts will carry a value and a consideration similar to any independent web page, and the separation of “web” and “social media” will begin to blur”.
3. Link Building
Let’s be honest, link building has come a long way. I’m not going to insult your intelligence by telling you not to buy 100 backlinks from an overnight link supplier.
Link building isn’t link building anymore. It’s more or less website promotion. Here are a 5 tips for building a link campaign as it might appear in the ‘natural’ world.
- Get a variety of link anchor text (mostly your brand name or blog post titles)
- Get links from a variety of sites (not just awesome sites – a natural blend of sites)
- Get links to more than just your homepage
- Get different types of links (follow, no follow, banners, everything)
- Get a natural volume
4. Quality Content
Remember “The Quality Update”? In May of 2015 it was one of the first adjustments Google had made to its core ranking algorithm in a long while.
A few tips for making sure your content meets Google’s quality guide lines.
- Make your content useful to YOUR visitors (Got a restaurant? Include a menu on your site)
- Put your own spin on EVERY article
- Do research – link to other sites
- Generate An Expected Amount Of content for your industry
- Be engaging – use images and graphs
Google has always told us how much they love fresh, unique content but now it’s time to do it.
Previous SEO Updates
. Panda (implemented on February 23, 2011)
. Penguin (implemented on April 24, 2012)
. Hummingbird (implemented on September 26, 2013)
This algorithm change raised the standards for on-page quality. Gone are the days when 40- word articles could rank at the top of the results with a little meta tag hacking and keyword stuffing. The modern algorithm is smarter than that. It rigorously scans content for the following two quality indicators: length of content and originality. Make sure you content is unique and, when at all possible, in depth. Anything less is just asking to be ignored.
Until recently, a common technique in the SEO world was to build as many backlinks (links on other sites that point to your website) as possible. Submitting to every directory and “link farm” under the sun, marketers would try to build a site’s authority with one almighty metric: total number of links.
The post Penguin world works a little differently. Google now penalizes unnatural backlinks like paid or low quality links. Instead, you would be wise to shoot for quality over quantity. Do research on potential sites that you want a backlink from, and make sure it has a good reputation.
As techniques like guest posting become increasingly prevalent, this is hugely important. Be diligent and build relationships with other authorities and thought leaders in your industry.
This is a completely different animal than Panda or Penguin. If we suppose that Google is an engine, then Panda and Penguin are like auxiliary parts of the engine such as an air filter or carburetor. Hummingbird, on the other hand, is an entirely new engine altogether. It’s a complete overhaul, though it still uses some of the same parts, including Panda and Penguin.
Hummingbird is designed to better understand user queries. It has smarter artificial intelligence. For example, if someone types “What’s the best place to find pizza?”, Google will assume that “place” means “restaurant,” and the user experience will benefit from this increased intuitiveness.
Therefore, focus on the creation of content that’s based around long-tail keywords and concepts, not just keyword density. This means you should think about the different ways that users might search for the content you provide. By changing up the phrasing of your keywords and concepts, you can find ways to work them naturally into your content.
You might have noticed an overall trend with these algorithm changes: SEO is moving away from spammy tricks and more toward a focus on great content. This is a good thing for everyone. As Google’s algorithms get smarter, search results will be more and more relevant, rewarding well crafted content instead of low quality fly-by-night sites that look to cheat the system. So, lets recap. If you can’t just stuff keywords into meta tags anymore or build shady links, what can you do to rank higher in the SERPS?
1. Start with Great Content
SEO has grown up. It’s expanded into a comprehensive exercise that’s connected to all of your marketing efforts including social media, copywriting and content marketing. The only long-term strategy that is guaranteed to work is building amazing content that people want to use and share. Don’t skip this step: it enables everything else to pay off.
2. On-site Optimization
This refers to everything on your physical website. Title tags, meta descriptions, 301 redirects and all of your on-site elements need to be curated appropriately. I’ll give you a hint, if you don’t exactly what those terms mean, it’s time to learn or hire someone who does.
Meta Description and Title
The meta description doesn’t really have an effect from the technical aspect of SEO, but it’s primary purpose is copywriting – getting the user to click on your page. But how is the title is also off-site SEO? Because it shows up on the results pages. And both of these should include your keyword and entice your audience to read more.
3. Offsite SEO
This now plays huge role in SEO. The logic is simple, if a lot of people find content worthy of sharing or mentioning, it must be providing value, whether it’s entertainment, information or something else. Make a point to have a presence on social media, including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and anything related to your industry.
SEM (Search Engine Marketing)
This is technically its own field, but the principals of keyword research, market testing and competitive analysis apply. You can continue to tweak to get better conversions, relying on data such as the exact phrases that users typed to find your site.
Getting in touch with people on their blogs, via email, and in person is a great way to build up a network of relevant individuals in your niche. You need to reach out and make connections in order to pitch high quality backlinks, so don’t skimp on this step.
SEO is all about reaching the right audience with the right content. Now more than ever, quality content is the key to ranking highly in Google and other search engines. Not only that, but your audience will respond to the message that you communicate about your brand, your business and your commitment to your customers. Don’t kill your business: Elevate it by acing the SEO best practices in 2016 and beyond.