Google cares about quality…
In the past few years, the biggest search engine in the world has released numerous updates aimed to increase the overall quality of their search results. This has made it much harder for SEOs around the world to rank sites today in contrast to previous years.
As an SEO consultant, I try to spend some time analyzing and predicting Google’s trends so that I have a better idea of how to plan and strategize for upcoming SEO projects. And with 2016, I predict more changes primarily revolving around quality and user-experience.
Here are some of the biggest changes we are likely to expect this year.
1. Further emphasis on the mobile audience
Google started to put an increased emphasis on their mobile-audience when they rolled out the mobile algorithm update in April 2015. After the algorithm roll out, we’ve begun to see bigger variations between the mobile search results and desktop search results.
As mobile internet usage rises, we can expect to see Google increasing their efforts to better cater to their mobile users. So it’s more important now than ever before to make sure that your website is optimized for mobile.
2. Implementation of AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages)
In addition to an emphasis on the mobile audience, we can also expect that having AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) pages will be beneficial to gaining more organic traffic from Google. This is because they announced that they’ll begin to integrate AMP in February of 2016.
This means that AMP pages themselves could indeed get a boost in the mobile search results.
Greg Sterling from Search Engine Land actually predicts that AMP pages may even obtain a unique designation in the search results just like how mobile-optimized pages do.
3. More direct search answers
If you’re a frequent Google user, you’ve probably noticed that Google often provides you with the answer you need right there in the search results.
For example, let’s look up the Los Angeles Basketball Team, the LA Lakers.
And the results we find are…
I mean, everything I need to know about the team is right there in the search results. With a quick search, I got details on their most recent game, team roster, news updates and more.
This is known as the Google Knowledge Graph. This is a step forward by Google to increase their overall user-experience by providing their users with information faster and quicker.
If you’re interested in having your website show up in the Knowledge Graph, there are a few things you’ll want to do.
Some of the primary steps to help Google understand your sites content and place you in the Knowledge Graph are to:
- Get a Wikipedia page for your brand.
- Claim a Google+ page for your business.
- Make sure that you’ve properly implemented schema markups on your website.
- Link out to other relevant and related websites.
- Make sure that you use nouns and entities as opposed to pronouns to help Google better identify what exactly you’re talking about.
4. Weight given to trust and authority
Over the past decade, the internet has grown rapidly. Now, it’s much easier for Google to separate trusted sites from non-trusted sites based on the reputation built over many years.
Today, Google prefers aged website’s which have proven their trust over many years by obtaining many quality inbound links and providing tons of valuable content.
You can look at any search result and easily find that the top results are generally dominated by bigger and larger brands.
For example, we can do a quick search for laptop reviews in Google.
In the results, you find the following.
When we go ahead and look at the domain age for each of these domains, most of them are almost 2 decades old.
5. Importance of building thematic relevance
In addition to the example above, you may be wondering why Laptop Mag outranked all the other sites even though it’s younger than all of them and has a lower domain authority.
Well, Laptop Mag is the only site out of the top 5 that strictly focuses on Laptops specifically.
Why does this matter?
Back in 2015, Google released a 160 page document which included their Search Quality Guidelines. They stated that supplementary pages are a very important factor in helping them determine a website’s overall authority on a topic.
Although the other sites may rank for a wider range of keywords and get higher volumes of organic traffic, Google has learned that Laptop Mag is the number one authority to go to for topics related specifically to laptops, such as laptop reviews.
That’s because they’ve created a high level of thematically relevant topics related to laptops.
6. Crack downs on unnatural link practices
There’s no doubt Google is going to continue to make major crackdowns on spammy link practices. They even have a spam team dedicated specifically to doing just that.
And over the past few years, Google has made major leaps to cracking down on black hat link building practices. One of the most prominent updates was back in 2014 when Google de-indexed private blog networks. Shortly after that update, many people reported that their domains had been deindexed.
And we can expect to see even more of this in upcoming years as Google really tries to increase their overall user-experience.
7. Importance of website speed
There’s no doubt that site speed is an important ranking factor. If your site performs much quicker than your competition, you’ll have an edge over them.
Another thing is that Google has a crawl budget allotted for each website based on their site and authority. This means that your crawl budget will be wasted with long load times.
Site speed is also important because it increases the overall user-experience. A study by KissMetrics found that 47% of internet users expect a website to load in 2 seconds or less and 40% of people abandon a website if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load.
8. Further push for user experience
With increased competition and market share by Bing, it can only be expected that Google will have to provide their users with a better user-experience overall and the truth is, Google is only as good as the website’s it has in its index.
In 2016 and beyond, we can expect Google to be putting increased emphasis on sites which prove to provide better answers for their users.
So we can possibly see Google putting more weight on engagement metrics such as bounce rates, page visits, and visit durations.
In 2016, and upcoming years, building a quality site that provides value to users is going to be a more important factor in SEO. Creating high quality content and obtaining white hat links is going to be the way to go for long term results with Google.
One analogy I kind of like to use is a courtroom where Google is the judge, you’re the lawyer, and your website is the client. There’s going to be a lot of concrete evidence that Google will need to convict your site of being legitimate or fraudulent.
If your focus is on building a site with high value content that can easily obtain links from high value sites, there’s no doubt that you’ll be able to take your SEO to the next level in the years to come.