Technical SEO in 2016 FTW. Welcome to 2016! The year has changed but the principals in SEO have not. Its time get serious about Search Engine Optimization and how it relates to you. Get started on the path to SEO gold as we welcome in the new year.
A few Google updates are major and worthy of updating your strategy for. Most of them are not. There are hundreds of updates every year. You can’t update your strategy every day. That’ll do nothing more than wear you out and keep your strategies in limbo. You’ll get nothing done.
Most SEO experts that practice true “white hat” SEO say that their tactics don’t need to change often and that most of the major algorithm updates are to catch spammers and cheaters.
So what’s changing and what’s staying the same? That we can only guess at. However, the smart money will bet on the following:
- Keywords will never fully go away. All the SEO experts who say they’re not chasing keywords are either throwing you off their trail, or they’re jumping on a foolish band wagon. The simple fact of the matter is that when somebody sits in from of a computer and opens their browser, they have to type something if they want Google to send them somewhere. That keyword may be a single word such as “tool” or it may be a complete sentence like “What is the best tool to plant daisies without having to bend over and hurt my back?” Both are essentially keywords, or key phrases if you prefer, and are what people are searching for. It is the SEO’s job to get a website to rank for a word or phrase that will help the site owner make money.
- Branding is becoming even more important. Mentions of your brand, as well as citations, will become more potent, possibly even as powerful as links have been in the past. A Google patent submission shows that they are differentiating between what they call “express links” and “implied links”. Essentially, express links are what we typically think of as links because they send you to a different webpage. Implied links, on the other hand, are loosely defined as referencing or mentioning a brand or website, even if there is no actual link going to the brand’s site. I believe this is due in large part to the abuse of link building. It seems that Google is starting to put a higher emphasis on brand mentions and citations. Of course, whatever Google decides, is sure to be abused so expect this to change later.
- Correcting 404 Errors. If you have pages that end in 404 errors, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. Google is looking for sites that put usability first and having links that end in errors doesn’t look good. For this, you would do well to use Screaming Frog to find your dead links and fix them. Also, use a link checking service to find backlinks that are coming in to your inner pages. If those links end at dead pages, you’re losing usability as well as SEO equity. Use a 301 redirect to improve your website’s usability and get back those hard earned links.
- Content matters. If you’re putting out thin content, you should rank accordingly. If someone is looking for an authoritative piece and you put up a short list of bullet points, they’ll be irritated if you rank for that. And your site visitors should be angry that you rank well. An authoritative post that presents real facts should always rank over thin, spun or off-shored content. Either put in the work or you shouldn’t deserve to rank. If you don’t have the time to write high quality content that gives your web visitors what they’re looking for, get your site off the web. No one wants to read crappy content and Google shouldn’t let it rank.
- Sites must be optimized for user experience and mobile devices. Google is rightly putting a lot of importance on usability with mobile devices. Lately Google’s been testing new icons in the search results to help mobile users. In case you’re curious about how well your site works on a mobile device, you can check the Google Webmaster Tool’s usability section to see how well your site performs on standard mobile devices. You can head to Google’s Mobile Testing Tool now if you’d like.
- Small business SEO needs to get local. Optimizing your site for your local area will be absolutely necessary in 2016. As a small businesses owner, you need to focus on local search. Google is going to give more attention to local directories and business citations (not links). To do citations correctly, your business name, address, domain, and phone number need to be consistent with your directory listings.
- Think like a publisher. The way that news and media are being consumed has changed. With that, your formula for creating content needs to change. The content creator, be it writer, videographer, interviewer, and podcasters need credit and they need to use their own voice. This will give weight to both the author and the company that publishes the whole work. Companies have a hard time with this because they want the credit. But what they need to realize is that the credit they give will also come back to them as the authors will list the company’s website as a place they’ve been published. Search engines give respect to people and brands now. And as a company, you must become more. You must become a publisher.
- Go for the long-term results, not quick wins. SEO doesn’t happen overnight. If your company is looking for fast and cheap wins, you’re probably going to use less than honorable methods (buying links, poor quality authorship…) and your marketing strategy will probably lack consistency. With SEO, whenever you change direction and methods, you’re creating a trail of failed links and tactics in your wake. Google is brilliant. They can tell when you change directions. They can tell when you switch SEO companies. If you want to remain in Google’s good graces, be consistent in your strategy, tactics and quality of content creation.
- Keep the content on your site fresh. You need to continue creating new, high quality content. Google has a tendency to rank sites higher if they regularly post new and interesting material. This probably means you should add a blog to your business site. It’s easy. If you don’t already have a WordPress site, add one in a folder, not subdomain, called “blog”, “news”, “updates”, or something similar. And create a section on your home page that alerts visitors when you update your blog. This way everyone can be kept in the loop, and yes, that means Google too.
- Long tail searches are becoming more important. We’re seeing a shift toward longer keyword searches. This means you don’t have to optimize just for “pliers” if you own a hardware store. Ranking for keywords and phrases like “channel lock pliers” can be far more profitable because there is less competition for them and your audience is more likely to find exactly what they’re looking for. For example, the word “pliers” gets 49,500 searches per month. But then you have to compete with 387,000 other pages and you have to hope that they can find the pliers they’re looking for. On the other hand, a page that specializes in “channel lock pliers” will do far better. It gets 6,600 searches per month, but there are only 1,940 pages that have those 3 words in the title. Optimizing for these searches isn’t difficult. You just have to find keywords that are relevant to what you sell and what people are looking for.
As we saw in 2015, I expect 2016 to be a bumpy road if you are going for “Quick-Win-SEO” or if you’re chasing the algorithm. If you are a company that jumps ship to another SEO company every year or so, Google know that you’re chasing them. Google knows what you’re doing and you’re making yourself vulnerable to updated and penalties.
However, if you have a solid SEO strategy and your tactics are for the long-term, you should weather the storm quite well. Stick to the basics, create high quality content, optimize for keywords that people looking for your exact product search for, don’t get caught up in the cheap link game and you’ll be fine.