From an SEO and content marketing perspective, 2015 was a volatile year. Regular Google algorithm updates, most notably, mobilegeddon, the Quality Update, Panda updates, and RankBrain caused widespread panic and concern. The content marketing ecosystem continued to change and marketers were eager to find ways to differentiate themselves from the competition and to create content that ranked in the top of the search engine results.
While best practices for SEO and marketing will continue to change and evolve to keep up with the changes in the industry and with the changes in how and where people search for information on the web, the basic good practices of SEO and content marketing will continue to generate positive results for years to come. Let’s take a look at what to expect in 2016, which practices to keep and which to modify to meet the new requirements of brand findability.
The SEO and Content Marketing Evolution
The frequent algorithm changes we’ve seen thus far from Google show no signs of stopping. Already in 2016 Google released an unnamed update that they will only refer to as a “core algorithm update” with details remaining elusive. But even with all the hype associated with last year’s “mobilegeddon”, what we’re seeing is changes that are more evolutionary than revolutionary as Google tries to improve user experiences while serving the advertisers that support it.
To minimize the negative effects of algorithm changes on how content is ranked and its findability, SEOs and marketers will want to remain apprised of frequent updates and continue to practice SEO tactics that adhere to search engine rules. While some things will change more drastically than others, most of the basic tenets of good SEO and content marketing practice will remain intact.
- Know your audience – create personas that evolve over time
- Know your competitors – continue to discover those that are taking traffic from your site
- Create original content – establish a “brand tone” and distribute content that tells a unique story
- Distribute relevant content – answer the questions and solve the problems of your audience
- Deliver a positive experience – make moving through your website logical and seamless
- Optimize for all devices – be sure your content can be accessed as easily on mobile as desktop
- Keep up to date with changes in algorithm – start making necessary changes as soon as changes are announced.
“The evolution of SEO and content marketing will be focused on a few specific areas in 2016. We’ll see a growing importance on social media’s influence on search, a continued shift from desktop access to mobile use, and a growing focus on the significance of local search results for SEO and marketing,” according to Erin O’Brien, COO.
The Growing Influence of Social
The influence of a social media presence on brand recognition and overall findability on the web is already a trend. While social media channels have been a marketing channel for posts and content to drive traffic back to a website for some time, their influence on search rankings is already being felt.
What’s changing? Search engines are incorporating tweet, Google+ share, Facebook likes, and other social media conversations in certain search results. Moving forward, having a social media presence will have an increased importance on your overall brand visibility. Although social media entries will most likely not directly affect your site’s rankings, they are growing in their inclusion in results and importance.
Best practices to get the most SEO value for social include:
- Keep an eye on your social media presence versus your competitors
- Keep track of engagements industry-wide
- Know how your share of voice is growing or shrinking over time
- Use target keywords in posts to reinforce your relevancy around targeted topics.
- Continue to work on building online reviews (not just on Google)
“When monitoring competition, consider that competition is not necessarily only brands who compete directly for sales, it’s often about who is competing with you for traffic,” notes Erin. “Look to see where social conversations are happening, how people are creating content, and how they’re engaging your potential audiences and then find a way to leverage that information to win back your rankings.”
The Move is Toward Mobile
As mobilegeddon more than demonstrated, the move it toward mobile optimization as mobile traffic continues to surpass desktop traffic. While there are plenty of people who are ready to declare desktop traffic dead, and that desktop SEO is no longer relevant, for brands in the B2B markets, desktop engagement isn’t going away. However, the significance of mobile use, even in the B2B markets can’t be overlooked as desktop use continues to yield more of its time to mobile counterparts. That being said, if you aren’t optimized for mobile yet, now’s the time.
Other best practices for mobile SEO include:
- If you’re not already using responsive design – get with it.
- Use Schema.org structured data to get search results with rich snippets that are helpful for limited screen space.
- Optimize your mobile content for local search
- Check your page load speed
- Continue to optimize your site for desktop findability
- Optimize for mobile
“I recommend optimizing your mobile content for local search if your business has a local element. There are a lot of ties between local and mobile. Essentially, once you’re making mobile content, you need to make sure you’re also optimizing to include local best practices,” suggests Erin.
In general, the good SEO best practices that have kept your sites ranking well in the desktop environment, will also help to improve findability across all devices. To optimize for mobile, focus on things that will help your page speed, such as:
- Optimizing images
- Minifying code
- Leveraging browser caching
- Getting rid of pop-ups
- Reducing re-directs
While optimizing for new devices, don’t lose focus on the good practices of today that will continue to be relevant well into the future and will help your findability across devices:
- Including relevant meta tag descriptions
- Keeping URL length under 75 characters
- Using relevant keyword in titles and throughout content
- Creating an enjoyable, seamless user experience
Local SEO Is On The Map
As we move forward into 2016, local SEO will gain greater importance as “near me” searches are on the rise and reportedly doubled over the last year.
Google has encouraged an emphasis on local with its Pigeon update in July of last year, allowing the search engine to provide more useful and relevant search results to its users.
As search engines continue to improve their distance and location ranking parameters, geographic location will play a larger role in the type of results users see. The increase in wearable technology and general consumer needs will bring about more local SEO changes in 2016 including:
- Rising importance of reviews and local citations
- Increasing frequency of geographic-based searches
- Additional emphasis on neighborhood-level relevance
- Local search accountability to prove ROI
“Moving forward, brands are going to want to how they’re performing at the keyword and content level and to be able to start showing how local marketing and SEO efforts are contributing to the bottom line. I think this will be the year that executive and management are going to how resources – time, money, new employees, or new technologies – spent on local promotion are giving back to their organization,” predicts Erin.
Good Marketing and SEO Practices Will Never Go Away
In their latest report, Content Marketing Institute reported the effectiveness rate for content marketing had slipped in 2015 from 38% the previous year to 30%. Joe Pulizzi, founder of CMI, attributes that failure to brands that either didn’t have a strategy, or didn’t execute it well. Despite these figures, content is still the focus of many brand’s marketing efforts and will be increasing in use this year.
Despite the proliferation of content in general, there is still a market need for relevant, unique, and entertaining content. Begin by establishing a method to accurately measure, monitor, and discover relevant keywords and competitors and then establish a strategy for creating and distributing content that will address their needs. Put in place some solid SEO best practices and keep an eye on the ever-evolving ecosystem and beat the competition.
Looking for some more best practices around SEO and content marketing? Visit the GinzaMetrics academy, a hub for videos, slideshares, ebooks, and other resources to help you stay current.