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2016 SEO Predictions

Written by Jonathan | 17-Dec-2015 09:48:00

Once again it’s that time of the year when we gaze into the future and come up with our SEO predictions. Last year we got mobile Armageddon right so hopefully we can do the same this year!

Accelerating the Mobile Web

After a busy year that included huge mobile search changes and now with Google announcing that it expects to be sending traffic to
Accelerated Mobile Pages early next year, we’re expecting mobile user experience and page speed to become more of a focus. With the New York Times calculating that more than half of data on news sites comes from advertising, mobile page load speed will become more important than ever.

Google’s recently released
Search Quality Guidelines state:

Mobile smartphones should make tasks easy, even for mobile users with a small screen device (i.e. size of smartphone, not a tablet). Users want results right away, at that moment, and may not be able to spend a lot of time to find what they are looking for.

Publishers like the
New York Times have already signed up to accelerated mobile pages and Facebook is launching its own initiative called Instant Articles. Apple is also getting on the bandwagon with its new news app which is available on iOS 9 and Snapchat’s discover feature has been around for almost a year.

Whilst AMP and Instant Articles might not be suitable for all sites and clients, it does expose a wider trend where the focus is on fast, useable, well designed articles that don’t require a toolbar to navigate.

App Indexing

App indexing promises to open up content to users already loyal to your brand and to help increase the number of installs. There are over 120 featured Android Apps that have already taken the plunge. We’re expecting App indexing to become even more of a hot topic in 2016 publishers and brands with big budgets will look to take advantage of this opportunity to gain even more mobile SERP real estate. Personally I’m not convinced that SMEs should try and leverage this; however I do foresee savvy marketers recognising this trend and understanding the impact an app touch point will have on the purchase decision journey.

Your Money or Your Life Pages

SEO as an industry is already well known for being full of jargon and buzzwords. Google’s latest Search Quality Guidelines include: “Your Money or Your Life Pages” or YMYL. Google defines YMYL pages as “pages that could potentially impact the future happiness, health or wealth of users”.

For the retail, financial services and charity sectors this is particularly important because Google is communicating that specific information and advice on YMYL subjects “demand a high degree of trust and need satisfying website information”.

For SEOs the whole 160 page document is a real treat and a goldmine of advice and insight. It contains lots of practical examples of which sites exhibit the highest and lowest quality characteristics, with detailed explanations for each.

Any serious SEO should have already downloaded this guide and understand that this glimpse of Google’s inner thinking is an opportunity to be savoured.

User Intent and Quick Answer Boxes

Quick answer boxes are already making a big impact on results and smart SEOs are already getting ahead of the competition by researching the types of queries that trigger these results and factoring it in their planning.

In the Search Quality Guidelines, Google introduces another new abbreviation to explain the concept. 

SCRB - “Special Content Result Block”:

Special Content Result Blocks are designed to show content directly to users on the search results page.

Because mobile phones can be difficult to use, SCRBs can help mobile phone users accomplish their tasks very quickly, especially for certain Know Simple, Visit-in-Person, and Do queries.

Again Google is giving us details about the type of use cases that trigger SCRBs and defines a Know Simple query as a “simple fact that can be answered correctly and completely in a small amount of space”. 

To take advantage of this opportunity I’m expecting more brands with high trust and authority signals to start doing more longtail keyword research to understand the type of Know Simple queries that their target audience is likely to make. They should be setting up the necessary structured data and optimising landing pages to directly answer users’ questions. Again this ties up with my earlier point about smart brands recognising these long tail queries as an important touchpoint in leveraging the opportunity to create brand awareness and influence.

Conversion Rate Optimisation

In 2016 we’re expecting to see closer collaboration between SEO and CRO (Conversion Rate optimisation) teams. Relevance and positive user experience have always been core considerations to both disciplines.

I’m sure many of you are already familiar with how the generic rankings can jump around a bit and it feels like Google is testing you when it moves you into the top 5 one day, only to move you back onto page two a day later. Whilst Google may not directly acknowledge that it is testing SERPs, we should recognise that they do have access to a lot of data points, such as the number of query refinements and time stamps between searches, to get a very good understanding about which results are driving positive engagement.

Again to take advantage of this, and not to waste the opportunity in higher search ranking positions, I think SEOs should look to move one step further than just ticking all the appropriate on page boxes and start looking at how they can improve user experience, using conversion rate optimisation and usability best practice. There’s a whole plethora of CRO and usability knowledge that SEOs can start taking advantage of, and I’m expecting a diversification of skills in this area in 2016.

Well that’s it. If you got this far, thanks for reading. Let us know if you agree or disagree with our predictions!