Now that you’ve had time to settle back in your work chair and remember everything you didn’t do before Christmas, it’s a good chance to review what we saw in 2015 as far as Search Engine Optimisation is concerned, and what this can tell us about our efforts to come over the next 12 months.
Search Engine Optimisation is funny in that it is continuously assumed to be forever changing and endlessly evolving, and yet there are many key aspects that remain immovable. What we will discuss below comes frequently back to Google’s mantra that they are ‘for the searcher, not the business’ – a good line to keep in mind when working your way up the SERPs this year.
A 2015 SEO Recap
The main development was of course Mobilegeddon earlier in the year. This saw immense changes across the online world and was a window into the future as far as SEO is concerned. Most people saw it as a signal from Google that mobile browsing was the only way forward but, more than this, we think it was a sign that users are key to performance.
It seemed to us this was a tip of the hat by Google to the consumer and the searcher – “what works best for you is what we will focus on”. And this can be seen in the creeping implementation over the past 18 months of minor adjustments to Google SERPS wherein a page’s content has been introduced, or a missing search term highlighted.
On top of this we saw the importance of page load speeds increase, and the structure of a site – both content and menus – come under the microscope as Google honed their user-algorithm on a daily basis.
What Does This Say About 2016?
What will be of importance going into this next 12 months is how the above is reflected in site SERP performance.
We mention page structure, and this can refer to a number of aspects including content. Font size, for example, has seen an increase on average to almost 16 points at the top of a screen and to more than 11 in the middle sections, according to Searchmetrics. This may be particularly reflective of mobile leanings, but also symbolises the gained importance of ease of access on whatever device a user might be on.
Whilst talking about content, it’s a good chance to think on how this affects link building from an SEO perspective in 2016.
Obviously link building has undergone a substantial shifting of dynamics over the past few years, and this continues through to the next 12 months. Brand building links will continue to grow in ranking importance, with solid content that gets shared being far more important than random links on other sites.
In Searchmetrics’ 2015 Ranking Factors report, they spoke on the declining relevance of links when not related to successful or useful content. They wrote:
“We are also convinced that links will continue to lose relevance in the age of semantic contexts and machine learning with a user focus. For search engines it is a question of ranking the best and most relevant content.”
Content Is King – Still
It seems strange to be in 2016 and still feel the need to push the importance of content for online profiles, but it really is a case of strength upon strength. Where two years ago content was seen as important if a little unrelated to other parts of SEO, it has become close to the be all and end all as far as Search Engines are concerned when combing the web for user-friendly content.
Not only are we seeing algorithms that are stronger in the aim of picking our relevant content through semantics filtering, but search engines are now tying this content to other ranking factors like page structure, User Experience, and link catalogues.
Does This Mean Nothing Else Matters in SEO?
Most certainly not. Whilst it’s important that website owners understand just how critical it is to be on board the content train, there also needs to be that base understanding of site structure at the back end of things.
To start with, the effect of User Experience practices continue to involve more than just content – and contrary to what some folk in the industry are saying, we don’t think that the only sites that matter now are mobile. Consumers are still using desktop computers and laptops to do a lot of their online browsing, often finishing a purchase started on mobile once they’re home. This being the case, 2016 is no time to let our design and building skills for desktop websites slip.
Indeed, building a site that encourages user traction and limits bounce rates is becoming even more important, with it becoming apparent that search engines are counting whether users find the answer they were looking for on your site or not. If they consistently click back to the SERP to find a new page, algorithms are assuming that your site just doesn’t cut it for that search term.
And then there’s the little matter already noted above of Mobilegeddon – being a content specialist won’t allow you to optimise a website for the mobile sphere. Websites can’t rely on being effective on one device anymore, and time needs to be spent to find unique ways of highlighting your brand’s eagerness to help consumers. This means mobile capability.
So, User Experience is notably critical, but what about website performance mentioned above? That’s right; page load speed continues to be a focus this year, with many in the industry saying that with increased mobile usage this will only rise in its significance.
As for links, although we’ve talked above of a decline in importance of backlinks with latest algorithm updates and a lean towards content, internal link structures in your website couldn’t be more important. This comes back to User Experience and ensures that all those crawlers find it easy to navigate from page to page. It also helps the search engines understand the nature of your site, and pinpoint relevant sections that will all help your rankings.
So, a lot to think about, but the key takeaways are that content is growing in importance so long as it helps the consumer, and this can be aided by a site that favours User Experience design.