The end of the year is a time to reflect and look back on how things have changed over the past twelve months. As the world of SEO continues to evolve at lightning speed, keeping abreast of the latest tactics is essential to keeping your website competitive into the new year. Customer usage and expectations, and Google’s algorithm updates, keep marketers continuously adjusting, and staying ahead of the volume of information can be overwhelming.
Fortunately, this week Ben Davis, senior writer at Econsultancy, has published a useful summary of what have been the biggest SEO trends of 2016, with updates from the industry’s leading search experts.
The summary highlights several key areas;
User Experience and site speed
User Experience (UE) has always been important to SEO but this year has seen Google favour sites that are well optimised for mobile devices, load quickly, and where it’s clear that users are enjoying their experience (with prolonged time spent on page, etc.). To be successful at the SEO game, you need to deliver a great experience and build a strong online presence.
Content and engagement
Good content and good SEO are no longer mutually exclusive entities; today, great content is the engine that drives SEO as far as Google is concerned. 2016 has seen a move away from keyword focused optimisation towards optimised content and engagement strategies.
In November Google announced it had begun experiments to make their index mobile-first. These experiments are hoping to establish a system that indexes pages on websites in the way that most users interact with them, i.e. on a mobile device. Google has stated this aim in its Webmaster Central Blog. This essentially means that soon Google will be ranking content based primarily on the mobile version of a website. Although mobile first indexing is at an early stage, with Google itself admitting there are still many challenges to overcome, it signals an important shift that website design and SEO should respond to.
The Rise of Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs).
Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs) are an open-source protocol that allows webmasters to create pages capable of loading almost instantly on mobile devices. The idea is that a handful of simple structural changes can make your site load up to four times faster and use eight times less data. This year Google started to favour sites that have switched over to AMPs, giving them visibility in a carousel and a small icon indicating their AMP status. In short, AMP affects clicks, impressions and user experience which in turn affects SEO.
It is now much easier to integrate SEO analytics with your marketing channels. Improvements such as simplified navigation, customisation and adjustable default date ranges make reporting easier, the results of which can be fed back in to your SEO processes.
Changes in paid ads
This year has seen has seen some significant changes in paid ads which has impacted on SEO. We have seen Google say goodbye to right hand ads on desktop and this then paved the way for their big Expanded Text Ads announcement. This was undoubtedly the biggest change announced as every single advertiser running text ads will be rewriting ads in the coming months. Fewer sponsored links have now led to greater competition for paid positions.
2016 has been a turbulent year in the wold of search engine algorithms. In September, Google announced that Penguin was now part of the core ranking algorithm, with Google automatically discounting low quality back links, and any new back links having a near immediate effect on a website’s ranking. More recently Google announced its Possum update which has significantly changed the boundaries by allowing businesses that were based outside of the town or city’s location to rank for a local term. It also started to limit the number of results shown per address and this update has seen Google now filtering based on address and affiliation, with the physical location of the search more important than it has ever been.
So, what does this changeable SEO landscape have in store for 2017? Well that’s another blog!