SEO rules are never set in stone. In fact, what worked well in the past, or was a recommended best practice, may now be counterproductive, and even get penalized.
The historic approach towards boosting SEO has been to pack content with the right proportion of keywords. Such days are however passé. Search engines are getting smarter, and content creators have got less control than before with regards to how their pages show up in search engine rankings, and what search words or phrases they show up for.
However, content developers and curators can remain on the right side of the SEO practice by keeping abreast with the broad trends in SEO, and making the necessary changes on a proactive basis. Here are the top seven SEO norms for 2016, which could help you optimize your investment in content.
Optimize for Mobile
An August 2015 study by Moz Inc. estimates mobile-friendliness to have the maximum impact on SEO in 2016. A mobile friendly website will increase in impact by 88%, a much higher impact than the analysis of a page’s perceived value, which is up in impact by 81%. The study reveals the other key influencers being usage data such as dwell time, up in influence by 67%; and readability and design of the website, up in influence by 67%. The same study also reveals that the effectiveness of paid links, would decrease in impact to 55%, and the influence of anchor text would be down to 49%.
Mobile is growing leaps and bounds, and has in fact more people now accessing the internet from their mobile devices than desktops. Google is up to these trends, and anticipates a world where apps overtake traditional websites in popularity and functionality. Apart from creating apps for starters, search engine marketers would do well to match Google’s predictions, and work likewise. They would, for instance, do well to offer “deep links” to apps, which are links pointing toward a specific page or section of a specific app, rather than pack the page with links pointing to other pages of the website, or other websites.
Offer Relevant and Compelling Content
As trends indicate, packing webpages with keywords are no longer necessary. With Google Algorithm updates emphasizing on listing more right and relevant content, search engines no longer just scan the websites to match the words users are searching, with the content in the webpage. Search engines rather ascertain how users are interacting with the webpage. Do they go back and click on results, or do they linger on and read, having found answers to what they are looking for? Mere clicks onto a website are worthless. Only when the user who clicks onto a webpage spends substantial time on the website or webpage, does the site rise in search engine value.
The key to retaining site visitors on the webpage is compelling content that offers value to the visitor. The content has to offer something of interest that forces visitors to stay. This requires understanding the target customers, and providing high quality content that is likely to appeal to them.
The most important thing is to create original content, and target it to the intended customer.
While keywords are out of favor, Google is now good at interpreting meaning. For instance, when reviewing restaurants in a city, it is no longer necessary to stuff in the phrase “best restaurants” three or four times, as was the norm a couple of years ago. But it is still a good idea to mention “best restaurants” anyway, and rather than repeating this phrase, focus on providing good description, such as a great dining experience, that substantiates the phrase. In fact, it is now desirable to include other words that corroborate the old keyword. For instance, the words, “good value for money,” “great taste,” “courteous waiters” could all support “best restaurants” review, and push the page up in search engine rankings.
Long articles are the flavor of the season. Articles between 1,200 and 1,500 words in length are performing relatively better in search, provided the content is still original, of high quality, and provides value. This is a marked departure from a couple of years ago, when 300 words were more or less optimal. In fact, page breaks were in favor then, to break up larger texts into smaller pages. This best practice has witnessed a change now, with larger pages becoming more desirable. However, it is still a good idea to break up long-form content with title, subtitles, bullet points, and even images. When users can scan and digest it quickly, the content improves in terms of quality, and high quality and lengthy content is the way to go towards search engine success.
The logic behind lengthier articles performing better in search results is because of the availability of words and images to rank on the page. Brevity is no longer the soul of wit, when it comes to search engine listings.
Use More Images and Videos
Images are evergreen when it comes to search engine popularity. Having unique images on the website is invaluable, for all the obvious reasons of better representation in image search. With improved broadband speeds, computing power, and the spread of 3G and 4G networks, videos also join the party in a big way. In fact, video content, is always known for communicating the message across in a much effective way compared to written text, and will overtake written content in popularity at some point of time in future.
Search engines have always penalized slow loading websites, and with the focus now on user experience more than anything else, speed will continue to have an important role in determining search engine rankings. Google’s PageSpeed Insights offer insights on how any particular URL is performing in mobile and desktop space, and gives developers pointers on how to improve user experience.
The speed or load time is determined by several considerations, but as a rule of thumb, avoid large or bloated image files, and use a light WordPress theme or other template, and enable compression, to speed up the load time.
Integrate Social in a Big Way
Social content will now be more readily indexed, compared to previous years. Google already has deals in place with Facebook and Twitter, to show tweets or Facebook posts when a user searches for a new item. Such indexing will catch on in an even bigger way in the coming days, with high quality social posts carrying value and thoughtfulness similar to any independent web page. From a SEO perspective, the separation of “web” and “social media” will blur, and marketers would have to integrate the two streams closely to derive maximum ROI.
Google makes around 500 algorithm changes a year now, and trying to catch up and change content to suit the system is an exercise in futility. The aim of these algorithm changes is to improve user experience, and ensure that users who use ‘search’ get the most relevant results on top. There is no longer any short cut, but to provide high quality original content on the topic.
Hitherto, marketers focused on providing what they wanted their audience to see, and pushing such content to the top. Search engines have wizened these tactics. Time has come to place the customer or the audience first. Focus the effort on providing value to the targeted audience, and the rest would fall in place.
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