We’ve written posts in the past about SEO trends on the horizon in the coming year. Now we’re ready to set our sights on 2016, so buckle up!

Here are our SEO predictions for 2016:

1. Audio Search Queries Will Change Search Results

We’ve already seen a shift in preferences from desktop search to mobile. Because of this, marketers, business owners, and tech agents have had to rethink elements of mobile design and structure. Now, we’re seeing another shift in the form of “digital assistants.” Instead of typing (or tapping) a phrase or question into a search engine, we’re starting to rely more heavily on features like Siri and Google Now, which recognize audio commands.

Spoken searches are typically phrased differently than written ones, so this will implicate both long-tail keywords and which sites rank first for them. Forbes agrees – “This trend could reward pages that contain colloquial, conversational content” over more formal language. Think about what people want to know and how they go about asking for information.

 seo predictions mobile search queries

2. Local Search Will Be More Targeted

We’ve already started to see a shift towards favoring local search results, but the trend is really going to take off in 2016. There’s a definite cultural fixation on “buying local” and supporting local businesses today. This is exemplified through newer traditions like Small Business Saturday and National Small Business Week, and now through changes to Google’s algorithm.

In 2016, local search results will likely be even more targeted, in part because of the rise of wearables like smart watches. We also expect more updates in the months ahead that give preference to local establishments within just a few blocks of user locations.

seo predictions local search

3. Mobile-Friendly Sites Will Continue to Be Rewarded

While this shouldn’t be a surprise, it’s still worth mentioning because of its importance. In 2015 Google released a game changing mobile-friendly update to their search algorithm. Ever since this “mobilegeddon,” mobile-friendly websites have had the advantage over other sites when it comes to mobile search engine rankings.

Every year we see an even bigger behavioral shift towards our mobile devices than the previous year. These changes are highlighted by the previous two SEO trend predictions: Voice commands are going to be important because of how we use our smartphones, and local search was born from people doing quick scans for nearby shops on their phones while on the go. The benefits of having a mobile-friendly site will only get better, and the consequences for not having one will cost you more and more.

seo predictions mobile

4. Google Will Continue to Develop Knowledge Graph Boxes

The Knowledge Graph was designed by Google to give essential information alongside normal search results. For example, when you search for movie theater show times or restaurant hours, you’ll sometimes get a box at the top of the search results with exactly what you’re looking for. No need to click on any links to get the information. This represents a big jump in improving user experiences on Google, but could become very problematic for websites that rely heavily on link clicks and user visits.

There is some speculation that the next step for these boxes will be the addition of action items or CTAs. What if, when you Googled a tourist attraction, there was a link option that allowed you to book tickets? That would both solve a problem for the user and encourage people to actually click through to a landing page. For websites looking to anticipate these changes, good landing pages are a must.

seo predictions google knowledge graph boxes

5. Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) Will Become More Important

Within the past two years, Google made significant changes to its algorithm concerning online security. In the past, only websites that included elements of ecommerce or other areas where secure information was transferred bothered with SSL (or secure sockets layer) protection. SSL is technology that keeps web pages and the information on them secure. Secure sites display the “HTTPS” at the beginning of the URL as opposed to “HTTP.”

As of 2014, the presence of “HTTPS” became an official ranking factor for the search engine. This means that sites containing SSL security will be favored slightly over other sites that don’t. For websites that don’t contain any sensitive information, this might seem like an unnecessary and inconvenient add-on. But the push by Google is all about working to make sure their search results offer the best and safest sites for users. Right now there aren’t any dramatic penalizations for sites without HTTPS, but it’s a pretty safe guess to say that it’s coming soon. In 2015 Google announced another update that favors the “HTTPS” version of matching URLs over the standard “HTTP.” This demonstrates their commitment to this issue of security and makes the possibility of future updates highly likely. If you’re curious about SSL and want to know how to put it on your website, check out this resource.

seo predictions web security ssl

6. Google’s Penguin Will Update in Real-Time

Google’s Penguin Update was first launched back in 2012 to help combat the practice of buying or using bad links solely to promote search engine ranking. Websites using these “black hat” SEO tactics to artificially boost their rankings were penalized. There were many websites that immediately fixed their links, but a big problem with Penguin was the length of time between updates. Those sites that cleaned up their links right away had to wait until the next update for Google to process those changes, meaning that the automatic punishment for the bad links lingered until then. In some cases, the wait was as long as one year.

2016 will see another revamp to Penguin, and this time Google will include real-time updates. This means that sites that clean up their links won’t have to wait months for Google to recognize the fixes. This is a huge win for websites that aren’t maliciously or intentionally trying to spam the search engine. Those that quickly resolve their issues will not continue to be penalized for something they have already addressed.

seo predictions google penguin update

There’s a lot to be mindful of with all of these upcoming changes. Have you predicted any other big changes to SEO in 2016? Let us know in the comments!