For better or for worse, if you want to thrive in the online arena you need to follow the rules set down by Google.
Having a presence online is one of the most important parts of any modern business and, with 81% of users finding the information they need via search engines (according to study by Jupiter Research), there’s a lot of value in following some search engine optimisation (SEO) best practices if you want to stand out.
Unfortunately, however, this isn’t a one-time deal. Simply doing some SEO work once won’t be enough to keep you at the forefront of Google’s brain. SEO is a constantly evolving practice and that means you’ll need to update and refine your content in order to stay on par with the latest algorithms.
For example, the Hummingbird update, as outlined in Greenlight Digital’s white paper of 2013, http://www.greenlightdigital.com/blog/whitepaper/the-greenlight-seo-brief-summer-2013/, brought a whole new meaning to the idea of search queries and synonyms.
In summary, author Adam Bunn picked up on the fact that the update signalled the shift from the literal interpretation of phrases to a more intelligent form of understanding. Essentially, what this update, along with subsequent improvements, meant for website owners was that their content needed to improve.
Fortunately, to see where Google is going it’s possible to look at where it’s been in the past and make some assumptions based on that. Across the internet you can find potted histories of Google’s algorithm updates (see the one provided by RankRanger) and it’s from these that you can begin to build up an idea of what Google likes and what it doesn’t like.
Using this as our base, we’ve come up with three SEO considerations you need to be thinking about in 2016 if you want your business to make the grade online.
Think About the Landing
If you’re an online business, it’s worth thinking about the first page your customers see when they hit your site. While most people will simply direct visitors to their homepage, MarketingSherpa found that 44% of clicks for B2B companies went to a landing page.
This page needs to be optimised for SEO and contain all the important keywords in your niche. However, this is also the place where you build up a relationship with the visitor and, moreover, set the tone for your site. According to imavex.com: “Many good landing pages will have succinct and concise verbiage that tells users what process to follow so that each party gets what they want.”
With Google focusing ever more on the user’s experience (it started paying people $75 to complete a usability study), well-crafted landing pages that outline your brand and give users an easy insight into your products are bound to get more love in the coming months.
It’s All About Intelligence
If we go back to 2014 and the launch of Hummingbird, we can see the first instance of Google becoming an intelligent search engine. Although it wasn’t the first algorithm to try and tap into the mindset of a user and better predict what they were thinking, it was one of the most significant infrastructure updates in recent years, according to that research conducted by Greenlight’s Bunn. Commenting on the update in his SEO white paper, Bunn noted the significance of Hummingbird’s attempts to interpret synonyms using its query revision engine.
Since then the idea of interpretation has been taken a step further thanks to RankBrain. The latest signal from Google is capable of learning autonomously and deciphering non-understandable queries. There are plenty of round-ups of RankBrain’s impact on SEO available online and, thanks to them, we now know that RankBrain will force everyone to up the quality of their content if they want to continue ranking highly.
Picking up on the points made by Moz Blog’s Cyrus Shepard, all content now needs to be more complete, answer more questions (beyond the head term) and be numerous enough to be an authority if it’s going to rank well with RankBrain.
Embrace the Mobile Madness
The final thing you need to think about if you’re trying to get inside Google’s head and rank better in 2016 is mobile content. An issue as far back as 2013, Bunn’s whitepaper outlined how “speed and user experience” were being more important with regards to mobile SEO. That principle not only stands today, but should be seen as an integral part of your overall strategy.
According to Jim Yu, “task-centred content” based on the user’s overall expectations of your mobile site is crucial. Suggesting that mobile penetration will reach 90% in the US and UK in 2016, Yu believes that mobile SEO should be about creating a more efficient experience rather than a complex system of information. Essentially, show it and move on is the principle Yu is advocating.
Following these steps will certainly give your site an SEO boost in the coming months. However, as we all know, Google never stands still so don’t expect this list to stay true forever.