What Does SEO Really Mean in 2016?
Search engine optimization, or SEO, continues to be one of the best ways to promote a website. As has always been the case, effectively optimizing a site can dramatically boost its ranking on the search engine results pages, or SERPs. However, SEO looks a lot different today than it did just a year or two ago. This makes perfect sense given the fact that the search engines are constantly updating and tweaking their algorithms to deliver the most relevant results to users, but it can wreak havoc on website owners’ planning. Find out what the SEO landscape looks like in 2016, including what matters and what doesn’t, to maintain an effective SEO strategy now and in the future.
Content Marketing: The New SEO?
We’ve all heard the saying “content is king.” That’s been true in general for a long time, but it’s assumed even more importance in the context of SEO over the last few years. More specifically, content marketing is quickly becoming the most crucial aspect of any well-designed SEO campaign. As you will see, quality content influences nearly every aspect of proper website optimization, so it’s far too important to be ignored.
For content to have a positive impact on SEO, it must be crafted with care. Generic, bland content that’s essentially there to take up space won’t cut it. Instead, content should provide value to those who consume it. For that to happen, it generally needs to be long-form, in-depth and comprehensive. The best content is chock-full of facts that are backed up by statistics and other data–and the sources are cited too. If you only have time to adjust one aspect of your SEO strategy, make it revamping your content marketing efforts.
Are Keywords Dead?
If you ran a website in the early days of SEO, you probably remember being admonished to include specific densities of carefully selected keywords within your content. Back then, that more than sufficed to send a site rocketing to the top of the SERPs. Things couldn’t be more different now, which begs the question: Do keywords even matter anymore?
Even today, the fundamentals of keywords and keyword research still apply. However, Google and the other major search engines are more sophisticated in how they interpret them. These days, users’ search queries aren’t just assessed for keywords; they’re also assessed in terms of intent. Google’s algorithms now try to discern not just what a person is looking for but why they’re looking for it. Therefore, don’t stop with researching and selecting an assortment of keywords. Identify relevant themes and topics around which to structure the content that you create. Make sure to include plenty of long-tail keywords too, as more people are performing searches with more natural language patterns thanks to mobile tools like Siri.
On-Page SEO in 2016
While keywords still matter a lot in SEO, they’re no longer the be-all, end-all of an effective strategy. Where does that leave on-site SEO, then? Today, on-site SEO largely revolves around structuring content effectively. A few things to keep in mind when engaging in on-site SEO in 2016 include:
- Comprehensive Content – For a long time, short, snappy content seemed to be the best way to please the search engines. As it turns out, though, it doesn’t do a whole lot for human readers. Today, content that is around 1,200 to 1,300 words long tends to perform the best. However, merely achieving a specific word count isn’t enough. Every single word counts, and fluff must be avoided at all costs. In this way, when it comes to content in 2016, quantity in terms of length and quality in terms of value are equally important.
- Internal Links – Research has shown that highly ranked websites tend to have more internal links than ever. However, that doesn’t mean that you should add internal links willy-nilly to your site. The main purpose of internal links is to make it easier for people and search engine spiders to navigate around a site. Therefore, optimizing the link structure of your site matters more than simply adding extra links. By optimizing link structure, we mean designing links in a way that guide users easily, naturally and intuitively around a site.
- Proof Terms and Relevant Terms – Keywords have taken the backseat a bit when it comes to SEO in 2016. In their place, emphasis should be placed on “proof terms,” which are words and phrases that are commonly expected to be included when a specific topic is discussed. For example, you won’t find an article about Google that doesn’t include the term “search engine” somewhere. Search engines seek out proof terms to confirm what a website is about. Relevant words should also be used in conjunction with keywords to flesh out the overall meaning of a page. For a keyword like smartphone, a relevant word might be iPhone.
- Meta Data – You may not hear a lot about meta tags, meta descriptions and other types of meta data, but they still impact SEO in 2016. Indeed, 99 percent of the top websites have them, and 80 percent have H1 tags, or header tags. When crafting meta tags and header tags, make sure that they are keyword-rich and that they directly relate to the content below.
- General On-Site Optimization – Overarching on-page optimization is still crucial. Effective content structure is a must, and it can be achieved through the use of buttons, menus, bullets, subheadings and the like. Site loading speed is still a huge part of effective SEO because people still don’t like waiting around for sites to load. Finally, the highest ranking sites are optimized to be mobile friendly or–better still–have responsive designs that let them display perfectly across all devices.
Just like in the early days of SEO, incoming links, or backlinks, continue to be viewed as votes in favor of a website by the major search engines. However, link exchanges and the like have gone the way of the dodo. In fact, such antics can get a site penalized by Google. Incredibly, “implied links,” or non-linked mentions, are rapidly gaining favor. One could argue, then, that raising brand awareness is now the best way to go about generating incoming links. The best way to raise brand awareness online is through effective content marketing, which is not only dependent on well-written, useful, informative content but in presenting it and marketing it properly. The most effective types of content for generating buzz–and links–include listicles, research-based articles and comprehensive, in-depth, long-form pieces.
Do SEO Right in 2016
To be effective, SEO must be performed continually. There is no finish line. That’s largely because the search engine algorithms change so rapidly that website owners must constantly monitor the success of their campaigns and adjust them as needed based on algorithm updates and the like. If it’s been awhile since you’ve updated your SEO strategy, the dawning of a new year is the perfect time to do it. While doing so, keep the points in this post in mind to give your site the best odds of rising to the top of the rankings in 2016.