Next year will yield more than a few of the typical "SEO is Dead," "Link Building Deemed Ineffective," "Inbound is the New SEO" type articles, and I can say definitively that these articles will be nothing more than click baiting headlines followed by recycled information, leaving just enough room at the end for a twist of plot to let you know that guess what.....link building is actually not dead, it has simply evolved.
If you are looking for one of those, sorry to disappoint. Now, if you are looking for some actual differences to be aware of in 2016 and some tips on how to remain a dominant force, keep reading.
Google is a worth more than 30 billion dollars and they reached that value by creating a search engine that outperformed all others. After building a solid search engine, they monetized it with AdWords and in order to keep users, they must continue to evolve and outpace other search engines.
As an SEO, that means that how they evaluate sites and what they deem to be the most useful content will be in a constant state of change. If you are going to be effective at marketing a business online you must identify the coming changes and use them to your advantage.
Even in 2016 it will be possible to game Google, engage in grey/black hat link building, and rank for any number of keywords ahead of much better websites. As a matter of fact, as long as links remain crucial to rankings, that will be the case. For some of you, a trip to the dark side may be in order, for the rest of you, why not make 2016 the year to make ranking easier?
If you take a moment to look at your competition and how the search engine result pages (SERPs) look for keywords you want to rank for, you will see a clear plan unfold before your eyes. Are the SERPs for your keywords dominated by directories? Are YouTube videos prominent on the first page for your terms? If so, you may need to brush up on Barnacle SEO or review how to rank YouTube videos in Google.
Takeaway #1: Find out what type of content Google likes for your keywords and give it to them. Find out which sites Google wants to rank for your business and make sure you are found on those sites. Look at what your competition has failed to take advantage of and own that area.
If you search around for just a few minutes you will be able to find countless companies offering pre-made link building plans. Stop buying them! There is not a pre-made package that meets your exact needs while serving Google idea content for your keywords. If you are not willing to invest into a well-defined SEO strategy, you better stick to phonebook advertising. If you want to attract targeted traffic it is time to offer content in many forms: video, audio, images, downloads, short posts and whitepapers to name a few. Couple this with the various types of sites Google is returning for your terms and the need to have a diverse presence should be very apparent.
Takeaway #2: SEO is all grown up, in 2016 you must be committed and willing to invest into SEO if you hope to build a solid presence that delivers a return. If you are one of the many businesses who will spend $24,000 per year on print and want to spend $300/month on SEO, you are not going to be successful, at least not for long.
Google has rolled out update after update for the past few years. These updates ranged from targeting spam to most recently reducing the local 7 pack to just 3 results, quite possibly to make more room for paid search, like the locksmith listings being tested in San Francisco.
Diversity is not just about using SEO and PPC though, you should identify your idea customer and focus on reaching out to them where they gather. Let's say for example that your target audience is attorneys, you need to think about where they are likely to be online and reach out to them there.
Developing content and pitching it to sites that attorneys frequent is a good example of diversifying within your SEO strategy. Let's say that your site is hit with a negative SEO attack and you lose rankings, the content you have placed is still going to send traffic to your site.
If you sell a product, content may not always be the best way to diversify. Let's say that you sell sunglasses online. Creating listings on eBay, Amazon and Pinterest could send traffic to your site, cutting Google out of the process and ensuring your continued success.
Takeaway #3: We can't predict the future so we must prepare for the worst. If your site lost every bit of organic traffic today, would you still have a thriving online business? If not, it is time to work with a digital marketing specialist to create a better diversified strategy.
Have you ever worked extremely hard on a piece of content only to find that someone scraped it from your site and they are now ranking with your content? Equally annoying, imagine if you spent hours coming up with best pricing online for your products and moments later a bot scraped your pricing and knew exactly what to price their items at.
Even though Google has made numerous improvements, they are far from perfect and one area this is apparent is with scraped content. Regardless of who actually created a piece of content first, Google looks at which site is was indexed on first.
Takeaway #4: Make sure your content creates a link back to your site when scraped. Keep your site current so your content is indexed quickly and consider using bot blocking software to keep your content safe from spam bots seeking to scrape and steal your content.
A while back Google mentioned that they tested a version of the SERPs that did not include links as a ranking signal and that the results were much worse than the version counting links as signals. In 2016 links are still going to be the primary driver of rankings but once your site is ranked, your content is going to need to demonstrate to Google that they are showing the content people wanted for those searches.
Takeaway #5: If you want a strong presence on Google that lasts, you need to earn it. Regardless of which cheap trick you use to get to the top, your website must meet the desires of the searcher or you're not going to be on top for long, even with more links.
In 2015 mobile searches surpassed desktop search which must mean mobile users must get priority in all things digital...right? No! What that means is we must create truly user-focused digital assets, driven by our market, not searchers as a whole. Where does most of your traffic come from? Do you have an app that your customers would actually use and benefit from?
Takeaway #6: Stop following trends. You need to instead worry about your target audience. No two industries are exactly alike and no two marketing plans should be either. If your strategies are not customized and targeted to your users, they will find someone who understands them better.
Is 2016 going to be another year full of changes, some big enough to upset entire verticals? You bet! The difference is this time you should know it's coming so you don't have any excuse to be caught off guard.
What type of changes to you expect to see in 2016?