By Gary Nugent

SEO in 2016Adaptation is the name of the game in 2016 where SEO is concerned and here’s why:

1. Build Deep Links Not Wide Links

You’ve probably noticed that the area available to actual search results on Google’s results page is getting smaller and smaller as Google add more ads and prioritize its own content (or content widgets) above the fold. Years ago, 10 results fit into this space. Expect as few as 4 to appear in 2016 and beyond.

Consequence: If your site lies at position 5 or below, you’re going to see traffic drop away (it’ll be like appearing on Page 2 currently). Those few site above the fold will get the lion’s share of the traffic. If you pay for link building, then unless that service gets your site into one of those top 4 positions, you’ll be getting less and less ROI for your link building spend.

What To Do: Concentrate everything (your ROI and Key Performance Inicators) around getting into the top 4, with an eye on ranking in the top 2 for your primary keyword(s).

2. The Increasing Importance of High Quality Backlinks

Build High Quality Backlinks

Google has become very good at evaluating the quality of backlinks. It’s been recommended for years that building a few high-quality backlinks to a site is a far better strategy that building lots of low(er) quality backlinks. That strategy will become ever more necessary in 2016.

A common practice is to use a software tool (or to hire someone who uses such tools, perhaps without your knowledge) to build backlinks to your site. $5 gigs on Fiverr abound and look good value. But can you realistically expect a top quality link-building campaign for just $5? Let’s face it – you get what you pay for.

The real problem here is that this strategy is too often employed when building Tier 1 backlinks (the links that point directly to your website). If you provide a link building service for your own clients, this is a strategy that will end up hurting them and you need to change how you build links.

Consequence: Using tools to build Tier 1 links will provide no boost to a site in 2016. Independent assessments of the value of such tools right now are that they result in  10% ranking increase at best.

Links will continue to be a huge ranking factor. They are going to carry some weight into the foreseeable future. The difference going forward is that Google will simply become smarter at determining the true value of a link.

Action: Only build quality links and leverage those links.

3. Only Boost High Quality Backlinks

While it’s not a good idea to use software tools to create Tier 1 backlinks, using them to boost those backlinks (building links to your Tier 1 backlinks) is still a good idea.

Consequence: Link building gets easier as you only need to be careful about building a handful of high-quality links.

What To Do: Make the most of the high-quality backlinks you’ve built to your website.

4. Social SEO Will Increase In “Weight”

There’s been speculation for some time that Google are using social signals as a ranking factor. And it’s likely that sometime this year, Google will come clean and basically admit that social signals do have an impact on how a site ranks.

Consequence: You need to factor social signals into how you promote your site(s) from here on out.

What To Do: Get social signals from high authority accounts (like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc) and focus on getting SHARES. Don’t worry so much about getting LIKES which currently have practically no affect on rankings.

5. Google Will Reduce The Impact of “Negative SEO”

Negative SEO

One of the bugbears of website owners has been how Negative SEO can affect their sites. Anyone can build links to a website, it’s how information is shared. However, some unscrupulous people build backlinks to a competitor’s site, but built spammy links, links in questionable neighborhoods and so on. All this serves to get the targeted site penalized. It then drops in ranking. You can fight this kind of attack by disavowing links, but that takes time, energy and resources that could be better used elsewhere in your business.

Google have received a huge number of complaints, and bad press, about the negative SEO issue and how they deal with it. Too many companies have been killed off online due to this tactic with the, perhaps unwitting, help of the current Penguin algorithm setup.

It’s highly likely that Google will just start ignoring low quality/spammy/bad neighborhood links instead of punishing sites for accruing them (either as a result of their efforts or through link attacks).

Consequence: If Google implements this change, it will save webmasters time and money by them not having to engage in the link disavow process.

What To Do: Until Google actually change how they deal with these bad links, it’s still  critical to keep disavowing / removing bad links on a monthly basis to avoid penalties.

6. Mobile SEO can’t be ignored anymore

It was called “Mobilegeddon” and Google introduced this algorithm update that had a huge impact on how sites ranked. Google came out and said that if a website wasn’t mobile friendly, it would be penalized. Millions of websites online weren’t designed with responsive themes – ones which would rearrange the site pages to appear on different-sized mobile devices.

This was the first of many updates and the algorithm is only going to beome far smarter.

While many sites “comply” with being mobile-friendly, they actually look terrible on mobile devices. A good example would be a WordPress siet built with an older non-responsive theme that’s been made “mobile friendly” through the addition of a plugin. These sites are next in Google’s crosshairs.

In addition, Google will continue to tighten up on mobile advertising to avoid the user being bombarded with ads before seeing the content they’re looking for.

Consequence: You may need to look at redesigning your website with a mobile-responsive theme. You may need to re-position ads on your pages.

What To Do: Don’t put off upgrading your site’s theme. If you don’t have a mobile responsive theme in place, add one today. The primary goal of a website should be to give a visitor a good experience, not for the webmaster to make money (i.e shoving loads of ads in front of the visitor). A good site with good traffic will make money.

7. Goodbye Duplicate Content

Google hates duplicate content and sites with such content continue to get hammered. Google hasn’t done all it’s going to do with such sites either. Expect Panda updates in 2016 to continue demoting duplicate content sites.

Consequence: Unless your content is largely original, there’s little point in building a website.

What To Do: Remove any duplicate content and watch your sites climb the rankings. Removing duplicate content doesn’t mean deleting it. You can simply NOINDEX a page with duplicate content on it. Google won’t index the page, you won’t get penalised for the duplicate content and your visitors can still see the content on your site. Just because content is duplicate doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable to a reader.

8. Long Articles Are King

There’s a tactic used on certain sites – a long article is broken out into several sub-pages and the visitor has to click a “Next” button several times to page through the whole article. This tactic is used to expose the visitor to as many ads as possible in the hopes they’ll click on one of them. If you’ve encountered a site like this, you’ll know how annoying they are.

Google favours extensive, well-researched, in-depth articles. Anything over 1,000 words long used to be considered a good article length. Now, 2,000+ word articles will be the ones that dominate the top 10 positions in Google.

Consequence: Thin content is dying, fast.

What To Do: If you want a page to rank in the Top 10, you need to go all-out on the content on that page.

9. Google Will Keep Quiet About What’s In Its Updates

ShhhhThis one’s just a prediction. Up till now, Google have disclosed what changes have been included in their algorithm updates.

On the positive side, that’s given webmasters time to update their sites so that they comply with Google’s new guidelines.

On the downside, it’s allowed black-hatters to find loopholes and game the system to the betterment of their own sites. Some then teach these techniques to others who may not be aware of their black-hat nature.

It’s likely that all the changes Google makes will be combined into a single, unnamed, algorithm and that Google will no longer announce when an update will happen or what’s in it. They’ll still issue compliance guidelines though.

Consequence: Sudden upheavels in rankings could occur out-of-the-blue. It’s only when one of these hits that people will realize that Google have tweaked things again. It will be left to SEO services and organizations to back-engineer the results to determine what the algorithm update actually addressed.

What To Do: Keep on your toes! 🙂

Tagged with:

Filed under: SEO