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Crystal Ball to 2016 SEO and Engagement – Mystic Frog Reports!

As is normal at this time of year, I have been looking at what could trend in the SEO/digital marketing arena next year. I thought I would share my thoughts with you:

2015 has been an exciting year for the SEO ‘division’ of the digital marketing industry.

We saw the long-awaited Mobilegeddon update (April 2015), which penalised sites lagging behind with mobile compatibility, a large overhaul to local rankings with the new local ‘three-pack’ (fewer listings on Google map view for local businesses), a new quality algorithm for content, and a dozen or so other minor updates from Google. In addition, we’ve seen new digital assistant technologies and new types of mobile devices starting to shape the future of search in terms of user behavior.

Now, all eyes are on 2016. This upcoming year should prove to offer a few landmark shifts in search:

1. Video Content Will Overtake Written Content in ROI for B2C Industries and Brands.

Today, written content is considered the “standard,” even by the vast majority of us who continuously insist that including many different formats of content is a good idea. Having mentioned this, written content is a pre-requisite for most brands. The use of infographics, images, videos etc. are at present incidental activities.  In 2016, a handful of new technologies and the continuation of years-long trends will shift, and video is likely to surpass written content in terms of reach, engagement, effectiveness, and overall ROI. Vine, Periscope, Snapchat, and other video apps are partially responsible for this, setting users’ expectations toward more visual content, but the real turning point may come from Google itself. It appears to be experimenting with video ads in search results. Business to consumer brands without consistent and regularly refreshed video feeds may soon be considered to be behind the times. B2B brands will follow suit, but it won’t happen in 2016. Expectation in the UK especially is that this may not come into major focus actually until the back end of this decade!

2. Mobile-Optimisation Will Become More Important than Desktop

For the past few years, desktop searching has become the mainstay, with mobile users growing in numbers all the time. Earlier this year, mobile searches overtook desktop searches for the first time (in the United States) Alongside the Mobilegeddon update, Google announced that mobile and desktop traffic were on relatively equal footing globally. In 2015, and continuing into 2016, this changing pattern may continue, eventually making mobile traffic by far the more important – although it is my personal belief that the UK will take a while to catch up with its colonial cousins. Desktop viewers will dwindle over the next 5 years  – probably as age groups of users influences these trends.  Already, Google is claiming that a desktop-specific site isn’t necessary, and their change to a local three-pack reflects their commitment to a “mobile” experience across all types of devices. Again, I am not sure that we are there quite yet – certainly when talking about B2B and commercial website usage. Equally, the UK takes a while to catch up on the trends set on the other side of the pond – but it will happen at some point I am sure.

3. Digital Assistants Will Change the Way We Think About Search Queries

Modern search engines are receiving more and more queries from (so-called) digital assistants, which are adding a new dimension to the complexity of search (products such as  Siri, Cortana, & Google Now). Spoken language queries tend to be much different than typed ones, meaning a whole new type of longer string (or long tail as we term it) key phrase queries – especially those queries that you would use if you were actually talking.

4. Aggregated Content Will Reduce the Power of News & Event Coverage

Twitter is experimenting with a new feature called Twitter Moments, which will aggregate posts, images, and videos from live events and breaking news stories into one main channel for viewers to see. Possibly this may mean that social media site owners will actually create the content which drives this, and other users will see events develop before their eyes. Of course, Twitter isn’t the only platform to be experimenting with such a live feed, and advanced algorithms are already able to compile news stories from various pieces of pre-existing information. As a result, in 2016, the power of a news article that isn’t automatically sourced will dwindle, narrowing the field of content marketing for everyone. Fresh and relevant content (we call it ‘evergreen’) opinion-editorial, and tutorial content, as a result, will rise in importance for search visibility.

5. Social Content Will Index More Willingly

Google has deals in place with Facebook & Twitter already—search for a news item, and you’ll probably see a tweet or two appear in your mobile search results. In 2016, more platforms will become  heavily indexed in the vaults available to Google and other search engines. Social posts will carry a value and a consideration similar to any independent web page, and the separation of “web” and “social media” will begin to blur even further from an SEO perspective.In the first quarter of the year I also predict a better signal from search engines toward LinkedIn. Why? Twitter has become more imaging heavy. This reduces character count. Google reads text/html not images, in the main. LI has begun to offer more opportunities to write quality articles and insert linked content. It is also more authoritarian and engagements appear to be much more business focused . We will see how this plays out.

Rankings are harder to achieve than ever before. You may consider whether you want to chase them as a main part of your strategy for 2016. If you are not in a niche market you probably know that the top 10 on Google are ‘major players’ with brands. Furthermore, a number of these are multi-channel and have other ways to reach their audiences. If you scratch the surface of this activity you will probably also find that there is also some adwords or ad-sense spend in the company budget. So, with Google making it harder to rank a regular site (which it makes no money on I may add), you probably can gather that the push is toward paid advertising as far as it is concerned ($3.4 billion in revenue last year for Google).
Additionally, time-served cynics like me also believe that the fact that Google has seemingly stopped the publication of algorithmic updates (the calculation it uses to rank your site), it would appear that it may not actually know how to assess the calculation itself! Pretty scary stuff really.

So, 2016 is likely to see more of a push toward you not concerning yourself with the ‘SEO’ as actually driving business to your business online in whatever way you can, proactively. We shall see how this plays out in the coming months, of course.

Let me know whether you agree with this, or do you see other aspects taking centre stage?

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