It has been an exciting time in the SEO world over the past few years.
Google, Bing, and other major search engines have made several changes that have revolutionized the way websites are ranked.
This provides an enormous opportunity for marketers and business owners willing to make the effort to adapt quickly to improve their rankings.
As 2016 is now upon us, the purpose of this article is to provide you with tips for how to rock your SEO for this year and beyond.
Making the commitment to put action to these tips can help expedite the process of getting you to the top of search engine rankings.
So, without further ado, here are 8 tips for how you can rock your SEO in 2016 and beyond:
#1 – Optimize Your Website’s User Experience
The changes to Google’s algorithms have dramatically increased the necessity of website owner’s providing a strong user experience on their site.
If you are unaware of what user experience means, you can basically look at it as the reliability of your website across multiple devices.
In a quote directly from a Google representative to Search Engine Roundtable founder Barry Schwartz, the rep mentioned:
“At Google, we are aiming to provide a great user experience on any device and we’re making a big push to ensure the search results we deliver reflect this principle.”
The rep went on to say that Google was committed to ensuring that users are able to enjoy the web no matter where they are.
With information like that coming directly from Google, it is clear that improving your website’s user experience for all devices is essential if you want to make progress in modern search engine rankings.
But how exactly does one go about improving their user experience?
The first thing you can do, as UserFocus contributor David Travis says, is to run a usability test.
He lays out a fairly easy plan for doing this, saying that all you need is a participant and a few tasks for them to complete on your site.
From there, all you have to do is sit back, watch, and gather feedback from both what you see and what they have to say about the experience.
Doing this with multiple participants on different devices can provide a lot of useful information about the user experience you are currently providing.
Just be sure that the tasks that you are providing to the participants are based around the goals that you have for visitors coming to your site.
For those of you looking for a more comprehensive usability test, Travis outlines that process as well.
You will want to also be sure that your mobile website provides a solid user experience.
Fortunately, Google provides users with a free tool for you to test how mobile-friendly your website is.
#2 – Mobile App Optimization
There was once a time, not too long ago, where having a solid mobile website was enough to give you a significant edge over competition.
That is no longer the case.
Mobile apps are now becoming a huge part of the business world, and Google has played a major role in that movement.
Google’s new mobile-friendly algorithm, which some refer to as Mobilegeddon, is causing some major waves in the SEO world.
In many ways, the new update is pushing and sometimes even forcing businesses to focus their efforts towards mobile optimization in several different areas.
But Mobilegeddon is not the only change that is being seen in SEO for mobile devices.
The new App Index that Google has implemented is changing the way apps effect SEO.
Users no longer have to search through the App Store or Google Play to find apps and the content within them.
This creates a great deal of convenience for users and provides businesses with another unique opportunity for connecting with consumers.
Rob Lons of RankPay agrees with the importance of mobile app optimization, saying:
“ASO (App Store Optimization) will be the next gen SEO in 2016. If you look at the rise of mobile use and how much paid ad dollars are being spent each year, you can see the huge demand and rush to people on their mobile devices.”
While mobile apps are certainly not cheap to build, there is plenty of evidence suggesting that they are quickly becoming a necessity for most businesses.
#3 – Create More Unique Content
Content marketing has played a major role in SEO for the past decade and there is no reason to suggest that this will change anytime soon.
What will begin to change, however, is the way in which content is created.
While there was once a time when creating keyword stuffed 500-word blog posts was enough to rank well, those days are long gone.
With the fact that content of many different kinds is being created at a rapid pace, uniqueness is more important than ever.
Copywriter Julia McCoy reiterated this point when she said:
“I think in 2016 that the need for content will grow, but more so, the need for creativity and variety in content. That means both the style and intensity of research, brilliance, uniqueness in content will be in high demand.”
She went on to say that she expects to see growth in different types of content, such as interactive infographics, podcasts, blog transcriptions, and long-form blog posts.
While it can be difficult for marketers to come up with this unique, highly researched content consistently, it has almost become a waste of time to do otherwise.
Fortunately, there are tons of resources out there that can guide you through both coming up with ideas for content and how to create the content itself.
Copyblogger’s founder Brian Clark put together a tremendously useful infographic about ways to create compelling content.
You can also get a ton of great information from Neil Patel’s Quick Sprout blog.
#4 – Optimize Your Content for Rich Answers
One of the more unique trends at Google is their increased use of rich answers provided to users performing searches.
Rich answers are the search results that are displayed clearly at the top of the search engine, and in bigger font, than the others on the page.
While they have generally been used for music lyrics and one word answers in the past, Search Engine Land recently reported that 19.45% of all queries now display rich answers.
Even if that number were only to increase a few percentage points in 2016, that still provides huge potential for marketers and business owners.
While the potential here is clear, the problem once again goes back to how you can optimize your content for rich answers.
Unfortunately, there is no exact science to this, although the Northcutt Consulting Group came up with some simple instructions for doing so:
- Rank yourself well in search engines
- Start sentences within your content with command words
- Write a clear, unambiguous heading
- Use <li> tags, and keep the sections of your content short
It is important to realize that it is still essential that you are following other white hat SEO methods to rank high in the query.
Without first being a site that ranks high for a specific keyword, it will be difficult for you to rank when rich answers appear.
#5 – Improve Page Speed Across All of Your Devices
While this falls in line with creating a strong user experience, page speed deserves a section of its own because of its direct importance in SEO rankings.
Google has made it clear that page speed, along with the overall quality of the user experience, will continue to be a priority in the way they rank websites.
But not only are your rankings effected when your page speed is slow, your ability to convert users is as well.
You probably would not be surprised to hear that attention spans have been shrinking drastically over the past decade.
In fact, NBC News reported in May of 2014 that the average attention span of consumers had shrunk from 12 seconds in 2000 to just 8 seconds in 2013.
This creates a challenge for website owners that are looking to keep visitors on their website for as long as possible.
While things like copy and ease-of-use are both major factors in how long visitors stay on a site, page speed is clearly the most important of all.
A study completed in 2006 by the team at Akamai revealed that 75% of people would not return to a website that took longer than 4 seconds to load.
A decade later, you can bet that the number of seconds has decreased even more.
While fixing your page speed may seem like a bit of a difficult task, Google actually provides a free tool to test this.
Along with showing you the status of your page speed, they will also provide you with some analysis about the things that you can do to improve.
Crazy Egg contributor Kathryn Aragon also put together a fairly comprehensive post about how you can go about improving your page speed.
#6 – Make Sure Your Website is Secure
Google and other search engines have always been in the business of encouraging website owners to secure their sites.
In 2016 and beyond, however, it seems as if search engines are making a push to make website security mandatory for ranking purposes.
The process of securing your site is not that difficult, and can be done by acquiring a dedicated IP address along with a private SSL certificate.
You can get a private SSL certificate for less than $100 and the cost of a dedicated IP address will depend on the website host that you are using.
This security process is not just important to Google, but also to your visitors.
As Marketers Paradise founder Chris Luck points out:
“Your secure site will display https at the beginning of your web address, and this will confirm to both your web visitors and to Google that your site is safe.”
Need more reason to make website security a priority?
How about the fact that there are over 1.5 million victims of cyber crime every day.
You certainly do not want yourself or your visitors to be a part of that statistic.
#7 – Continue to Build Strong Links
Link building is not quite as important as it once was, but there is no doubt that it still holds relevance when it comes to search engine rankings.
The important aspect here is that your links are being created as naturally as possible and coming from authoritative websites.
As Tractus points out:
“Not all links are weighted the same and you may even be penalized for irrelevant links.”
The problem here is that monitoring this can be a significant challenge.
For the last few years, website owners have been told that they need to focus on creating amazing content and let the links come to them.
While this is reasonable strategy, simply creating content and sitting back waiting for other websites to link to it is not going to work for already low ranking website owners.
In these instances, there are several things that you can do to increase the likelihood that you will build authoritative links.
Moz outlines many of these strategies in their Beginners Guide to SEO chapter on Growing Popularity and Links.
#8 – Focus on Content Promotion
Content marketing continues to be a main emphasis for succeeding in SEO.
But promoting that content is becoming more of a priority and even a necessity than ever.
As content marketer Zac Johnson points out:
“While content is extremely important for the immediate and long term success of every web site or blog, it’s the actual promotion, social shares, and links back to the site that are going to make it rank higher in the search results.”
Johnson makes the recommendation that website owners should focus on creating content that is easily shareable and can be referenced on other relevant sites.
This opens up the opportunity for your content to go viral, which is one of the best ways to receive expedited link building from authoritative websites.
The process of actually promoting your content is a bit of a difficult task.
Most marketers will tell you that you can do it three different ways; through paid, earned, or owned media.
When it comes to paid media, there are quite a few unique opportunities opening up for content creators.
StumbleUpon paid discovery and Reddit ads are two solid paid options for promoting content.
When it comes to earned media, you can earn promotion through social sharing, bloggers writing about your content, or placement on sites like Reddit and HackerNews.
You can find more great information about promoting your content through Neil Patel’s The Advanced Guide to Content Marketing.
The Final Word
At the end of the day, the way the SEO world works will only continue to evolve.
While much of what was true in 2014 and 2015 is still true today, this industry is in a constant state of motion.
Overall, you can expect content marketing to continue to be as important as ever and for more businesses to focus on developing a content marketing strategy.
You can also expect that future SEO trends will continue to emphasize catering to mobile users as much as possible.
Taking note of the tips outlined in this article should provide you with a great opportunity to get ahead of the competition in 2016 and beyond.
Here’s to a great 2016!