Every year business owners hope to get their page on the top of the best SERPs. The guidelines for a winning SEO strategy has changed dramatically over the past five years. Experts are always coming out with new tips on how to increase your search engine presence and maximize returns on your investment.
In 2015 we saw some interesting developments. As Google and other search engine’s AI continue to develop, so do the rules on how to increase your SERP rankings. Many sites will implement strategies that don’t reflect the current SEO landscape, resulting in wasted efforts and low rankings.
I’ve worked with a lot of SEO experts that built their business on putting sites on the map. Many times I’ve seen people hold on tightly to practices that no longer fly in today’s web. In some ways SEO can be consistent, but each year there are new developments that change the game. 2015 was no different.
Looking back on 2015 can help us make some predictions on what strategies to take in 2016. It’s true that there’s always something that throws us for a loop, but there are certain constants that we can draw valid conclusions from. This includes strategies that don’t work, as well as ones that do.
The Biggest Fails
This year a lot of things changed when it comes to getting search engine results, leaving those who held on to outdated strategies scratching their heads. First let’s look at a few of the biggest blunder SEO strategists have made in the year 2015 to understand where things are heading into the new year. Following are some of the biggest SEO mistakes of 2015.
In the old days, we’re talking seven years ago, it was all about getting clicks. Ranking for single keywords don’t hold as much weight as they used to. Search engines are getting smarter at understanding how people interact with website. It’s not enough to just get keywords on the site or in the meta description.
It’s also not as important as it used to be to include keywords in headlines. In the past if you wanted to get a ranking for a real estate site in California, it would be a good idea to have “real estate in California,” included in the text as H1, H2 or H3. Nowadays that won’t get you an edge. The semantics are much more important now. It’s still wise to mention real estate in California, but discussing the topic in a relevant manner will get the attention of search engines.
Content is still important, but there are certain types that failed this year. After Google implemented the Panda update, tons of websites were penalized for containing content that was thin, unoriginal, not helpful, duplicated and poorly curated. It’s taken a while, but search engines are onto SEO practices that masquerade useless content as useful. The bar has been raised. If you don’t bring good content to the table that people like, you won’t be able to beat the competition. Today there’s more emphasis on what visitors do after they’ve reached your website as well. You need to get clicks still, but you also have to satisfy your guests.
This SEO strategy is not necessarily a failure, but it’s been changing over the past few years. Many sites lost out because they used outdated models for backlinking. Sites with spammy links, paid links, unnatural internal links and low quality content took a big hit by the newest algorithms. Many people who use nofollow links had to rethink their strategies. Search engines now look at a lot more than just link juice.
Interaction with social networking sites are becoming measuring sticks for useful links. Backlinks are still important, you can build conversations, get visitors to see your site and more. It’s just becoming harder and harder to hack the web crawlers with black hat techniques.
Tips for SEO in 2016
Here I will offer up some tips on where I think SEO is heading, and some solid things you can do to get recognized. Just like in the past, there’s no substitute for diligence and a little consistency. It might be a pain to try and keep up a solid SEO campaign but it’s worth it. Even if you are conservative but bring useful content to the table, you can get a nice return on your investment and build a quality place for people to go. This site is a good example, it’s not quite where we’d like it to be, but we have been slowly gaining steam.
The way people are searching on mobile devices has helped changed things when it comes to keywords. With features like voice to text searching, more people than ever are asking search engines like Google casual questions. Strings of keywords that were 3 to 5 characters long are more important for SEO. So long-tailed keywords are much more important.
Bots looks for sites that contain a collection of keywords and other than longer strings, keyword optimization hasn’t changed that much. It just holds less influence on ranking than before. As we mentioned earlier, having strings of keywords used in queries is important. The more the better. Keep in mind what words people would use. Say you were writing a blog about cooking a steak and you wanted to attract visitors. Phrases like “How to cook a perfect steak,” can give you a clue on how to go about this.
Focus on User Experience
Google’s web crawlers are in a constant state of flux. There are hundreds of algorithm changes every year. Every change that is made, from what Google’s developers have said, is about making sure that people who use Google to search find what they are looking for on the first few pages. It’s all about giving people a good experience. Many SEO “experts” I have worked alongside are more interest in finding ways to trick Bing, Google or Yahoo into bringing up their websites.
It’s these kinds of hackers that usually fall to the wayside and end up selling their services to those who don’t know any better. To me, it’s about figuring out what the audience wants and doing my best to make sure they get it.
Search engines are getting better at spotting original content, and it’s becoming more important to produce it than ever. The more you can produce, the better. This goes for long form blogging, videos, pictures or anything else that people enjoy. As long as people want to read, share, watch and view your site you are already on the right track.
It’s good to get clicks, but keeping an audience is better. An important thing for 2016 will be creating good content across different multimedia channels. Aggregating content will be big. It would be wise to create an editorial calendar to keep a tight grip on your marketing strategy. If you are showcasing content from other sites, it’s a good idea to give full credit and attribution and come up with some thoughts on why you enjoy it, adding your own voice.
Long form blogging is not dead! Thank goodness, because that’s what we like to do here. A few years ago search engines would rank pages at 300-500 words as long. Nowadays longer articles are getting more traffic and they rank high with search engines. The reason is many people still like to read longer blogs with good information. As long as the people continue to like long form blogs, search engines will continue to rank them high.
I like to break up longer articles into chunks to make them easier to read. This also makes them easier to digest. Things like images, bullet points, tables, lists and videos also helps break up some monotony. For blogs like this one, writing short, easy to read sentences is a good idea as well.
This can help people who scan (admittedly I scan too much) into people who read. Longer article do well in search results because there is more content to rank on the page. Shorter articles can do well, especially if they have videos alongside them, but on average longer posts perform better.
Optimize for Mobile
It sounds like a broken record now when you hear someone suggest that you optimize all your posts for mobile, but it holds true. More people read on their smartphones than anything else. So make sure you leverage the power of marketing for mobiles. One way to do this is to make sure that search engines can understand the content found in web or mobile apps. This will help people find them and lead to more conversions.
Having unique images on your site is valuable. It’s always better if you can create your own images. If you aren’t a photographer, don’t worry. It’s not too hard to produce original images from content that is free to use and modify. Check out How to Cheat in Photoshop, it’s a really handy reference guide for editing photos in PSD. Having your own images can set you apart from the crowd. I like to use stock images, but if I have the time I always opt for unique ones. It doesn’t matter if it’s custom photography or some interesting editing, it always pays off.
All of these concepts are pretty simple to grasp. SEO isn’t rocket science and you can always find safe bets when it comes to getting noticed. Staying competitive in 2016 is pretty much the same as staying competitive in 2015 was. The basic principles of good SEO involve staying true to your niche and making your site easy to find by web crawlers. You still need to get clicks, but keeping people’s attention is more important than it was last year. Social media aggregation has proven to be a powerful tool for lots of SEO warriors. Don’t forget to take this into account. Keep your audience happy and you are off to a good start. Aside from that — stay on top of your game by making sure you are be visible and keep coming up with fresh, interesting content. Let us know if you have any SEO tips you’d like to share in the comments section.