The world has seen SEO evolve in the last five years more than it ever did in the last two decades, but the entire progression of updates in search engine algorithms since Google Panda and Google Penguin drastically changed the playing field in 2010 has proven to be just the introductory phase. What started as an extension of SEO for mobile phones has become a territory of its own in 2015, thanks to the major Mobilegeddon update that gave all SEO players, websites, and other online marketers a compelling reason to comply with mobile Internet standards, lest they be penalized.
What does 2016 have in store for search engine optimization? Here are seven predictions to help you prepare for the competition.
- Direct answer will be the new demand.
Searching requires time and patience — two things that many Internet users no longer have. Hence, Google is emphasizing “direct answer” for its future algorithm changes. If you remember Microsoft Encarta, that is basically what Google wants — to give specific answers to specific questions in real time. Browsing and typing will be both minimized. Web pages may have to comply with simplified search algorithms whereas users are only shown the relevant parts, more like the combination of the Control+F function and search box.
Voice search, as expected, will play a big role here, especially that the use of mobile devices for online searching has surged in the last couple of months alone. SEO will no longer be a game of keywords and matching but of key questions and key answers.
- Mobile devices will completely dominate online searching.
The race is still very close, but mobile searching is increasing as fast as traditional computer searching is declining. It is a no-brainer to see that the future of online searching lies in the users’ hands, literally. The biggest SEO efforts should now be addressed to mobile users to tap this quickly expanding market.
When it comes to ad and app development spending, mobile devices are certainly on top of every businessman’s plan as they have already surpassed that of traditional computer devices as early as 2015. What more can happen in 2016?
Conversion from traffic through mobile devices is also steadily rising, so it will not take long before the majority of online transactions are finally done through these handheld gadgets. That also means businesses will be investing a lot in their own mobile applications, platforms, marketing strategies, and mobile selection interface services. In fact, businesses will no longer have much freedom to resist since Mobilegeddon — like its Penguin and Panda counterparts — now penalizes websites that are not optimized for mobile use. That is a pretty strict enforcement that you probably do not want to violate.
- Video content will be the golden standard for ROI in the B2C (business to consumer) industry.
Written content will remain the baseline for SEO practices, but video content is bound to give B2C businesses faster ROI (return on investment) because of its clearer message, more engaging content, wider reach, and potential for reaching viral status. You can attribute it to Internet users becoming lazier every minute, but to be fair, video-sharing websites Snapchat, Periscope, and Vine also deserve some of the credit.
Video and other media will still serve as major peripheral marketing tools for the most part, but SEO will start a compelling categorization of businesses utilizing this marketing strategy.
- Local searching will get even more specific.
How specific can local searching get? Apple Watch and the future of Google’s Project Glass are bound to make things more complicated when it comes to local searching (and experts are excited for possible surprise announcements in 2016), but until wearable devices become the norm for tech-savvy-ness, you have to focus on business listings and how to use local searches for a more targeted marketing strategy.
Google’s vision is to put every street and every façade of business establishment on the map, and online merchants are apparently supporting the advocacy to identify bigger but more concentrated sales funnels. Mobile directory search and mobile navigation services will also continue to become necessities for a lot of people, as proven by the upward trend in local searching. In fact, as of 2014, more than 70% of users who have used local business directories and navigation services have actually made purchases or store visits.
- Link building will become a prehistoric strategy.
Google’s very own trend analyst John Mueller said it himself: Link building should be avoided because of the many loopholes that bring it closer to a Webmaster Guidelines violation. There are still legit search operators that SEO players can use in looking for link building opportunities, but social media marketing has already taken the lead in this aspect a long time ago. Better focus your efforts on getting the “shares” you need instead.
- SEO will be a half-content, half-design Internet marketing strategy breed.
Search engine optimization is all about content. Unfortunately, Internet users are now becoming more visual and as already mentioned, lazier. They will be demanding more user-responsive designs that make everything they need readily available in just one look and one click.
As “direct answer” is bound to dominate Internet searching, websites should be prepared to provide the answers users seek without giving them too much text space to look at. Remember that mobile devices are not as spacious as traditional computer monitors are, so start thinking about what specific information and graphics you are going to put on their tiny screens.
- Google will try to monopolize everything.
Okay, that is a bit too far-fetched, but that is essentially what is happening. Websites optimized for voice searching are still at an advantage, but Google actually prioritizes its own sources when giving answers to “direct questions.” Unless your website is affiliated or is partly owned by Google, you may have to compete with other specialized search engines at the second page or at the lower part of the first page at best.
The technology is still too young at this stage and it just happened that Google has prepared for it earlier, too (which is expected since it is their technology to begin with).
The bottom line of these predictions is that SEO will no longer be exclusive to written content. It will also be about spoken content and graphics.