2016 has been full of surprises when it comes to SEO. Mobilegeddon, the latest Hummingbird release and the advent of machine learning have completely transformed the way people approach search engine optimisation, and forced many of us to go back to the drawing boards.
As the year comes to an end, it’s time to take a closer look at what we learned about SEO in 2016 and what we can expect in 2017.
The Rise of AI
AI has held significant promise for years, and is now being increasingly used in relation to search engine results. Search engines are now learning how to determine the context of your content and grade its readability. AI is used to determine the intent of user queries by using signals like bounce rates and time on page to determine which content fits which queries.
The importance of RankBrain, the AI behind the Google search engine, is only going to influence SEO even more in the future as it improves. This is why it is capital for webmasters to improve the functionality of their websites so that search engines can crawl and classify them properly and keep close attention on SEO signals to make sure that their content is deemed relevant by search engines.
Talking About Conversational SEO
Amazon Dot and similar voice powered information appliances were top sellers this Christmas, which brings voice search and conversational SEO right into our homes.
While tools like Siri have been using the technology for years, new information appliances can now answer questions on demand, play music or audiobooks and allow users to order items and services from home using nothing but dictation.
Mobilegeddon refers to the Google algorithm update in 2015 that gave more weight to websites that were mobile friendly. Redirecting to a mobile friendly website from your main homepage wasn’t enough. Having an HTML5 website that loaded quickly for mobile users and was easy to navigate on any type of mobile device became the minimum for search engines not to kick you off the first page of search results.
Mobile-ready websites share characteristics like large navigation buttons in place of drop down menus, relatively uncluttered home pages and text that resizes to fit the screen.
Because mobile users are often on the move, these websites have location information and maps in multiple places on the website, including the most likely landing pages. The rise of mobile users making search queries on the move, further increased the importance of mobile websites in 2016.
ASO Became a Thing
ASO or app store optimisation came into play in 2016. ASO shares many traits with SEO such as proper tagging of the app’s homepage, referencing the brand or company name in the title of the app installation page as one would with a company homepage and giving a good enough description that both search engines and people understand.
Local search engine optimisation became increasingly important this year due to the recent algorithm changes. Notable changes to local search included reducing the number of top local search results from five to three. While this helps mobile users and ultimately provides a less cluttered search space, it forces website administrators to up their game since fourth place now relegates results to the second page.
You must study the local search terms people use to find your business or content, such as the postcodes or neighbourhood references they use. Furthermore, consistency and repetition across many different business directories is more important than ever, since this information is how the AI behind the search engine decides which address associated with your business is the real one, affecting local search results.
Many of the changes we’ve seen in SEO in 2016 have had a profound effect on how webmasters tailor their page to fit search engine standards. However, they have not completely changed old practices. Apps and voice search are not eradicating SEO, only changing it. Search engines are becoming smarter at determining user intent and location based information, and SEO strategies need to be adapted accordingly.
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