Every year brings a variety of promising new SEO tactics and strategies that business owners hope will launch their sites onto the first page of the SERPs. Throughout the course of the year, many sites implement these practices and ultimately end up in an SEO tailspin, only to crash and burn because of some tactic or understanding that went horribly awry.
2015 was no different. This year was a whirlwind of SEO news; numerous updates to Google’s algorithms, new factors to weigh and consider, and old methods reaching their demise. The SEO scene is in some ways unrecognizable, and in others it’s reliably consistent. The paradox is part of what keeps us on our toes.
As we reach the end of 2015, it is time to look back and reflect on what worked for throughout the year, what failed miserably, and what to carry with you into 2016.
Here is the 2015 SEO recap:
The Biggest Failures
Throughout the year, various aspects to SEO were altered, leaving many sites in dire conditions because of a lack of effort or by utilizing outdated strategies. Here are the prime areas of colossal mistakes:
In 2015, one of the main changes to the landscape was found in keywords. Ranking for single short-tailed keywords simply does not hold the weight that it once did. With Google’s popular voice to text search feature, more and more folks are posing casual questions to the search giant for their queries. This means that mid- to long-tailed keywords have become more prevalent, more popular and more powerful than ever before. It used to be that shorter keywords were golden if you could cut through the competition. The way people search – especially on mobile devices – is changing the game.
While content itself did not fail, certain types most certainly did. With Google’s Panda update, hordes of websites were demoted and severely dropped in rankings due to content that was thin, poorly-written, unoriginal, unhelpful, duplicate and more. Google now holds the value and usefulness of content to extremely high standards which means that content creators need to be on their A-game. No more mediocre efforts if you expect to rise above the clutter.
This is another SEO aspect that didn’t necessarily fail, but tactics did change, leading many sites to falter because of their unwillingness to update outmoded methods. When Google’s Penguin update hit the scene this year, sites that contained paid-links, unnatural links, spam-like links, links from sites with low-quality content and more were destroyed by the algorithm. Many folks have since made great friends with Google’s disavow tool but are still struggling to regain their stature in the ranks.
Success to Celebrate
There was plenty of good news on the SEO front this year; here were the biggest headlines:
As far as Google is concerned, user experience on sites is paramount. This is why Google is constantly making updates, alterations, and adjustments to algorithms; for a better user experience. With that, Google is now beginning to expect the same from the sites that rank on the engine. For sites that contain a clean design, superior usability, and top-notch content, Google will ultimately favor your site versus one with a lower-class experience. This is a major win for all Internet users because it’s forcing companies to design people-friendly websites, not those that cater to bots.
The advent of “Mobilegeddon” came with a warning to all site owners; optimize now or pay the price later. And as for those who did heed Google’s warning, it was reported in the six weeks following the update that mobile-friendly sites saw an 11 percent increase. With mobile devices taking over, it has become imperative that businesses ensure their sites are optimized for mobile in order to retain the competitive edge in SEO.
Local SEO shook things up a whole lot this year since people are increasingly conducting mobile searches seeking local solutions. According to Google, four out of five searchers use search engines for this exact reason. This year Google upped the ante for local businesses: it reduced results from displaying seven listings, to a condensed local three-pack; making local SEO all the more important.
What SEO Tips are Crucial in 2016
With 2016 just around the corner, it is time to begin refining your strategy for what comes next. Certain consistent aspects such as top-notch content, proper back linking, high-end UX, and optimum page speed will still apply, but a few newer elements will see an increase in importance.
The first big one is mobile; it is critical to implement a strong mobile design that seamlessly integrates all desktop features. Desktop has officially begun its demise and without a blueprint for mobile SEO, your site will increasingly drop in rank.
Next up are social signals. Social signals currently play a minimal role in SEO, but with Google now embedding Twitter tweets into search results, you had better expect social media to grow in importance as it relates to search visibility.
Lastly, video content will officially begin its takeover as the preferred content medium. With platforms like Vine, Periscope, Snapchat, and Blab surging in popularity, user priority is now shifting to favor visual content above all else. Google’s algorithms are becoming more sophisticated in ranking visual content, but it’s still crucial to include text descriptions with keywords for all of these related posts.
It’s no secret that SEO is constantly changing. To remain relevant in the coming year, you must embrace both the consistent and dynamic tricks. As 2016 approaches, prepare your blueprint with what you know will remain as a staple, what you can see coming down the pipeline, and as always, be ready to bend and flex because things will unforeseeably shift throughout the year.