Here at Studio 24 we are exploring the idea of what might become of SEO in the future, what will be the top techniques and trends for this year and further beyond?
To begin at the beginning (well… almost), 5 years ago, digital marketers were in the midst of using poor techniques like keyword stuffing, dropping links in forums and comment sections of websites, duplicating content, poor link-building with directory submissions and completely disregarding user experience.
Over the past 5 years we have been though an evolution of updates and new algorithms. Each one of these updates contributed to majorly changing the digital landscape and how digital marketers work.
Panda 2011 – Seen as the biggest affecting 12% of search results, this mainly affected duplicate content.
Penguin 2012 – “over optimisation penalty” targeted keyword stuffing techniques.
Link Warnings 2012 – unnatural link warning sent out followed by penalties.
Pirate 2012 – this was a move to de-rank sites offering copyrighted material.
Hummingbird 2013 – improvements made to sematic search.
Pigeon 2014 – altered how local search handles and interprets location cues.
‘Mobilegeddon’ 2015 – the only update to date that was pre-announced, mobile rankings now favour mobile friendly sites.
For a full list of updates visit: https://moz.com/google-algorithm-change#2015
At this point in time, we’ve been through a lot in terms of updates, we have had to adapt to new concepts and techniques. In some cases, repair damages caused by penalties. For example: BBC, yes the great BBC, had an unnatural link warning in 2013 and a ‘single page penalty’ (which was apparently degraded in rankings). Google have even given themselves some penalties over the years for breaking their own rules!
We have now learned to heed Google’s advice and are at the point where some phrases commonly heard are: ‘content is king’ and ‘link-building is dead!’ Focusing on likes, sharing and reach, encouraging responsive websites, and most recently the importance of location targeting.
Our predictions for 2016 and going forward:
Keyword data looks like it is set to disappear or, more likely decrease in importance. We can see from the Hummingbird update that Google has become advanced enough to tell from surrounding content when a page is relevant to a search term. Therefore, your site does not necessarily need to rank well for a certain keyword to be included in search results.
Link-building & user signals
Link-building will continue to decay. Most digital marketers will know that poor quality link-building has become a huge no no, but good quality links will still contribute to site ranking. In the future we foresee Google deciding that links are too risky as a ranking signal and that all backlinks will automatically be classed as ‘nofollow’ (passing no page authority).
In the future, user signals will become more important as ranking signals. Time on page, dwell time, bounce rate and engagement will become important ranking factors. This is a move towards Google using site usability as a main signal.
Rankings & paid advertising
Ranking #1 will not guarantee organic traffic. As we see Google moving towards paid search in its many, many forms we also notice the prominence of the #1 slot in SERPs becoming less and less obvious and pushed further down the page. Local search results, paid ads and carousels all become very distracting and divert a large bulk of clicks that possibly, should have been destined for those hard earned #1st places in the rankings.
Mobile friendliness while already high in importance, will become more essential, naturally with the rise in mobile users, together with the recent update ‘Mobilegeddon’ which indicates that Google will favour mobile friendly websites in mobile SERPs.
Voice search is one of the next big developments that we have earmarked for success in 2016 and beyond. Although initially a bit of a gimmick, voice search is now achieving 92% accuracy in search queries and is getting better at understanding different dialects and languages all the time. In the future we will see the introduction of ‘Google’s Personal Assistant’ which will introduce complete hands free searching. This will further evolve how we use search, creating new challenges for the digital marketer.
The digital marketer themselves will need to adapt all these new ideas, we think in the future to successfully work in search, there will be a need for a wide breadth of skills and individuals will need to be experts in content, creative and technical.