To help those concerned about SEO take stock, we’ve pinpointed the top SEO considerations that all marketers and website owners should be focusing on over the coming year.
Keywords aren’t dead
As search engines get better at interpreting meaning and context, single, specific keywords become more powerful when they are accompanied by other thematically relevant words and phrases. We’re entering the era of ‘semantic search’. Here’s Google’s definition:
“Semantic search seeks to improve search accuracy by understanding searcher intent and the contextual meaning of terms as they appear in the searchable dataspace, whether on the Web or within a closed system, to generate more relevant results.”
SEO advice used to be that single, short tail keywords be used in page titles, meta descriptions and the body text of a web page almost exclusively – but with search engines growing smarter, they’re now looking for keywords to be accompanied by other words they might expect to be on that page too. For example, in an article where the subject and the main keyword is ‘house prices’, search engines might also be keeping their algorithm’s eyes peeled for mentions of ‘mortgages’, ‘interest rates’ or ‘property market’ to signify that this is a strong and authoritative article.
So it’s time to reevaluate your keyword research strategy to tick the semantic search box. Rather than focusing on the short tail and using that in the title, throughout the content, in anchor text and bold text religiously, consider what other related phrases should also be seeded strategically throughout each part of the page. Use your keywords in conjunction with other relevant phrases to add context.
Back in 2012, 300 words on a page was considered plenty by Google. But nowadays it’s the longer articles that are generating more traffic and achieving higher rankings. Articles and copy between 1,200 and 1,500 words with plenty of headers, sub-headers, images, videos and bullet points constitute excellent content as a general guideline. This feeds into the old mantra that content really is king. When you’re creating new content, it’s now more important than ever to ensure it’s lengthy, informative, shareable and media-rich. Of course, not every blog post will be a lengthy one. Make sure that you strike the right balance as a content publisher with a sensible split of short snackable content and longer, more informative pieces.
Go for rich answers
It used to be that the top ranking position on Google was the sweet spot, the coveted prize that all websites are vying for. But now there’s a new contender for most sought-after position on Google – the rich answer box.
You may have seen this box before. It’s the small text box which appears above all of the organic search results. Stone Temple Consulting found that rich answers currently appear on around 31.2% of all Google searches, and the number is set to soar in the future.
In order to have a shot at being included in the rich answer box, you need to rank well for the query itself, use <li> tags and very clear headings. Ensure that your answer is short enough to fit into the box and fight to get your page onto the first page of the results. As always, there’s no exact science behind this – the algorithms are kept under lock and key for a reason – but these are ways you can increase your chances.
Rumor has it that app store optimization will join the SEO ranks in the coming year, with Google kicking mobile content up a notch. Apps are now indexed on Google search and this brings in millions of extra search results. If you’re ranking for a target keyword, but there are hundreds of apps out there also ranking for that keyword, your competition just got even more fierce.
Getting local and vocal
Google Places used to show seven results for a business search term, now it shows only three. Competition is growing in the local business realm, as more SMEs wake up to the fact that they absolutely need to be marketing their business online. Even large-scale companies will be getting in on this, optimizing their local outlets to capture local markets. To make themselves heard, businesses that rely on local searches for traffic need to get vocal about it.
UX has its day in the sun
There has long been speculation about user engagement being a potential ranking factor for Google. It makes sense that a page which users engage with (high time on site, lots of page clicks etc.) would rank higher than a page with a high bounce rate, little time spent on site and no navigation to other pages within the domain.
While there’s no official Google metrics to measure user satisfaction, the consensus is that if users are finding the page useful, it’s highly likely that search engines will too. You won’t rank on user experience alone – you’ll need keywords and great content and all of the other important factors too – but UX will play an important role in dictating your overall rank.
With SEO constantly evolving and new branches always coming into play, it’s getting harder for marketers and SEO agencies to predict accurately what the future holds. We’ll check back in a year’s time to see how these predictions fared, and take a look at yet more seismic changes in the world of SEO.
What new considerations for 2016 are you factoring into your SEO plans? Let us know in the comments.