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As 2016 Comes To An End, Where Next For SEO?

What to know about SEO in 2016

Search marketing is in an incredibly exciting stage. The industry is well and truly in the growth phase of its life cycle, and this has improved the quality of services due to the intense competition in the field. As more and more businesses realise the value that increased visibility and ease of access for enterprise and consumer buyers bring to their company, the demand for SEO is on the rise. As a result of the incredible surge seen in the world of SEO, Google has continued to increase the complexity of its search algorithm to provide its users with greater access to relevant content and results. User behaviour has become increasingly sophisticated, and customers want a higher level of on-page quality, greater functionality and smooth transitions between platforms. This rapid change provides digital marketers with an exciting challenge, and some of the changes we’ve seen in search behaviour and Google’s algorithm are discussed here, and I’ve listed some of the major changes in the industry that you can take advantage of in 2017

Death of Pagerank

Ultimately, rankings are important the higher your site shows on a search result, the more traffic you’re going to have. But SEOs need to update their approach. PageRank was an incredible gift for SEOs, a numerical rating of how important Google considered a page to be. However, it was only ever one part of how Google ranks pages, and a high PageRank score never meant that a site was guaranteed a top search engine result. Just like any market, if there is an incentive to exploit and opportunity, it will be exploited, and Google soon realised that the PageRank was being abused. Slowly Google began to update the scores less frequently and now google’s approach to ranking it’s site is secret once again. This means that SEOs have to work harder to determine the real value of the backlinks they capture and spend more time optimising their off-site approach.

Importance of Responsive Design as a Ranking Factor

Ultimately, Google wants to serve the best possible results to its users. It’s essential to ensure your website is sound from a technical perspective, no matter what your link building techniques or content strategies, if your site isn’t responsive and your users have a poor experience than your SEO strategy is simply not going to work. You need to understand what platforms your users are using, whether it’s on a laptop or a tablet or mobile and understand what software is and isn’t likely to be processed efficiently by your user’s device. Site speed is an often ignored aspect of optimisation, and you need to ensure that your users have a smooth, seamless transition across every touchpoint.

Research from Akamai shows that 47% of people expect a web page to load in two seconds or less and 40% will abandon a web page if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. That means that minor delays can really impact the way your users perceive your site. There are a few simple and advanced tricks to solve this, so I’ll offer a few suggestions on how to improve your site speed.

First off all, think about code structure and how your sites visitors use your site. Most users are more interested in instant stimuli and you can create the perception that your site is loading faster by including your Javascript in the bottom bottom of your website code. Javascript often takes the longest to load and your user will perceive less of a delay.

On page assets, think large images, videos and other media that will cause your page to load slowly. They add a lot of value to your website because of the extra information they provide customers, however they can really slow down your website. Compressing these files reduces the bandwidth of your pages and reduces the HTTP response time. There a number of great tools such as GZIP that you can use to compress your on page assets and improve your page’s loading time.

Spotlight on Security

In the end, SEO is a combination of the best practices of marketing and web development, and part of that is ensuring that you protect your user’s data. Search results will now prioritise websites that encrypt user data, with more users showing concern about the security of their information. Google has announced that HTTPS and SSL will provide rankings boosts, while this is only one element of your SEO marketing mix, you may see some advantage if you are neck and neck with a competitor and SSL may be the deciding factor. To beef up your pages security, first decide the kind of certificate you need: single, multi-domain, or wildcard certificate. Like any marketing decision, consider the cost to move from HTTP to HTTPS and determine what cost/benefit your decision will have because ultimately, increasing the security of your page is going to be hit with users.

Appearance of Social Networks in Knowledge Graph

Firms with a strong social media presence can now leverage their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. to increase the visibility and authority of their brand in search results. You can use the knowledge graph for links to your social profile. Giving users greater access to information about your social media presence. Now that social networks are now part of schema results you can enhance the appearance and coverage of your website by demonstrating ‘physical evidence’ of your brand’s authority. The knowledge graph can allow brands to capture a greater share of the SERPs and decrease the likelihood of your competitors drawing any of your customer’s clicks.

Is authorship markup a Thing of the Past?

Authorship started as a very good idea, to connect the various content pieces such as blogs and articles by authors in a way that Google could assess the authority and trustworthiness of the content creator’s work. The idea being that a writer with a history of creating popular, engaging content could influence the search rankings of sites hosting their content. However, the experiment didn’t go to plan. Google will stop showing authorship results in Google searches, and the search engine will not be tracking data with an author markup. While influencers and writers with authority on a topic will still attract an audience with their personal brand, it won’t impact search engine results in the same way your other optimisation efforts will.

Local Search Options Redefine Small Business Strategies

Small businesses can use the local search options to capture users searching for products and services in their area. Using more targeted location settings allows for more precise targeting and can help small and medium enterprise by giving them access to higher quality leads.

Optimising your site for local search is quite simple and offers great potential for small businesses and startups. First, set up a Google My Business page and be sure to add your opening hours, location and contact details. Then be sure to include the same information in your ‘contact us’ page of your website and the footer of your site, use data markup in search console to then highlight this info in your footer as your contact information. This will ensure that google knows where you are and how users can contact you. Two more simple things that you can do to optimise local search is to add local business information to schema data in your homepage and add links from your social media presence to both your website and your now completed Google My Business page. Finally, adding a listing to a relevant local niche industry directory is another great way to improve your presence on local search, for example if you are a plumber add a listing to plumberdirectory.com.au and be sure to add your name, address and phone number consistently across all of your channels.

Local search is a great way for small businesses to find activated customers who are ready to purchase without a huge marketing budget or unlimited resources. Optimising local listings through Google+ is an excellent way to maximise the impact of local searches with google map results. Having a strategic approach to reaching your target market will increase your likelihood of greater ROI and finding high-quality customers.

So what does the future have in store for SEO?

Google will continue to update its algorithm and evolve how it prioritises sites and SEO will have to continue to update strategy to capitalise on the growing market space opportunities available. It is clear that Google is no longer focusing on links alone and the emphasis for marketers is to improve the way users interact with their brand with rich and engaging content, cross-platform functionality and increased on-page security. Today, climbing the SERP ladder involves much more than a quality backlink portfolio, you need to cultivate a value adding experience for your customers. I’m looking forward to seeing what SEO can do for web based businesses in 2017!

andrew