What’s on the 2016 Horizon for SEO?

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The times they are a changin,’ and likewise, so is SEO.

Users are increasingly using mobile devices to search; they are also foregoing websites in favor of apps. Voice and direct search are becoming increasingly popular as opposed to the traditional typed-in kind. Social media is taking an increased role in the buying journey.

As a consequence, you also need to change your SEO strategies.

Here are some growing SEO trends that you should be aware of so you can grow your traffic and product sales come 2016.

Mobile and voice search are growing.

It’s no secret that users are increasingly using mobile devices to search, and some users don’t even own a desktop/laptop computer anymore. Users are also employing voice search rather than typing words into a keyboard or screen.

These trends have been aided by the development of natural language search programs such as Apple’s Siri, where the user simply asks a question and receives a direct answer without having to rifle through 5-10 search engine results.  The success of Siri has led to rival programs including Microsoft’s Cortana and Google Now.

What this means for you.

Make sure that your website and content are really, really mobile-friendy (also known as responsive). In fact, one of Google’s 2015 algorithm updates, affectionately called Mobilegeddon, penalized websites that did not have a mobile-friendly version of themselves. You can quickly test your site’s mobile-friendly attitude here.

To better understand your traffic, use Google’s Webmasters Tools to learn which devices are being used to find your website. Currently, the analyzed devices include desktop, mobile and tablet and the respective number of clicks from these devices to your website. Also, find out which search terms and phrases are being used by your traffic.

Once you have this information in hand, add those search terms and phrases to your content, including its meta-description, H1 headers, sub-headers, introductory and conclusion paragraphs. Don’t neglect to add supporting keywords and phrases, which are often called ‘proof and relevant terms’ and which Google looks for as proof that you are providing not only relevant but comprehensive content.

For example, if someone is searching on the keyword phrase “how to increase ROI,” some proof terms would be “return” and “investment.” Relevant terms would be “revenue,” “cost of goods” and “profit margin.”

Incidentally, when this concept was first introduced a few years ago, it was called Latent Semantic Indexing.

The Google Knowledge Graph is growing too.

Since 2012, Google has been organizing and growing the Google Knowledge Graph, which is a search-generated knowledge base that currently consists of over 18 billion facts. In so doing, Google is effectively eschewing showing only websites within its search results.

This is happening for a number of reasons, one of them being the increased use of mobile devices by on-the-go users who don’t have the bandwidth to sift through SERPs. Also, with users performing voice search on their phones, search engines are delivering direct answers to those questions, not websites.

What this means for you.

If you haven’t done so already, you should start creating structured data markup on your website. Structured data is the “extra” information that you see when searching online; for example, a search on a local business will now often showcase that business’ phone number, hours of operation, and customer reviews.

For your website, you can first test out how structured its information already is via Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool. Then, consider setting aside some time so you can engage in Structured Data Markup, which is a method for annotating your content so that search engines can understand it.

If you are an expert in a particular niche, you should also consider expanding your reach and submitting content to sites like Wikipedia, Google+, Structured Snippets, etc. These sites are increasingly being drawn upon by Google when populating its Knowledge Graph, and even when answering basic search queries.

Social networks and apps aren’t going away either.

Google’s Knowledge Graph often pulls in customer reviews and other factoids from social media platforms including Facebook, Yelp and Twitter. Likewise, visitors are increasingly going to third party websites, and especially social media platforms, to research products before they buy them.

The apps landscape is also expanding, both in terms of the number of apps available (many being free) and in terms of total downloads. User attention is being increasingly diverted from traditional Internet “surfing” to downloading, installing and using apps.

What this means for you.

Your website and content need to have a presence on social media, and within that presence, there should be some measure of SEO. Keywords and key phrases, provided in both traditional and natural language format, should be a constant presence in your posts.

Don’t stop at just directing viewers to your social media content: Make your posted social notices lead people back to your website or app page. This can accomplished by only providing a snippet of your information through your social posting and offering a web link to the rest. Alternately, you might consider publishing a post that announces a special incentive on your website, such as an e-book or webinar.

If you have an app or are planning on developing one, keep in mind that App Store Optimization (ASO) is now a very real thing. Apps need to be optimized with tags and deep-linking in order to effectively compete against other like-minded apps in the search results. Also, because mobile users are increasingly using assistants like Siri to get to their intended results, you should include natural language search terminology as well as traditional keywords and key phrases to increase your app’s likelihood of being found online.

The Bottom Line

As social media platforms, mobile devices and apps increasingly come into play, your SEO strategy should plan for and include these additional entities. Clearly, it all starts with having great content; however, different tools need to be used to ensure that your content is now found through different platforms. “Findability” can include content organization, such as through Structured Data Markup, and it can also include tagging and deep-linking for apps.

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