Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) was once a field where only a select few were privy to the technical tricks required to succeed. Google closely guarded what it considered spam, and many considered an SEO consultant’s work black magic. In 2016, those days are truly over. The search engine giant is more transparent and has demystified SEO for marketers. But this doesn’t mean it’s easy. Below, we revisit the basics as well as give our top tips and predictions for SEO in 2016.

1. Back to Basics

Marketers generally know what makes a site rank well; title tags, descriptions, a strong focus on quality content and an SEO link building campaign. Forget commercial anchor texts. Who wants to run the risk of arousing Google’s suspicions about the high number of “buy <insert your product> online” anchors in your backlink profile? Focus on mentions and links from related, high authority websites. Co-citation, not anchor text, along with authenticity is key. If you feel you could use a reminder on the basics, use the following, comprehensive guide on Kissmetrics.

But this is so 2015. What can we expect in the coming 12 months?

2. All Hail Content

If 2015 was the year of mobile with Google rolling out its mobile-friendly algorithm, 2016 is likely to be the year of User Experience (UX). Google will continue to look at critical user signals as ranking factors, and user friendliness to measure your site’s performance. Rankbrain analyses user behaviour on your site and recognises poor user experience. We wouldn’t be surprised if Google soon had enough data to predict how certain user groups will behave before they land on your site, increasingly personalising your Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs).

To play in to this, consider the following. If you rely on content as a pillar in your SEO strategy (which you should already be doing), try to write content that solves a problem, answers a particular question or helps out your site visitors.

You cannot afford to neglect stats like your bounce rate. How many people land on your website, and decide after a few second decide that your content doesn’t match what they are looking for? Be ruthlessly critical of your content. Does it serve a genuine purpose, or is it simply there for the sake of being there?

So, our best tip? Find your knowledge niche and give it away for free! Your users and Google will love you for doing so! For marketers,  giving away a tip of the iceberg of your company’s expertise plants a perfect seed for a sale later on, particularly in the services sector.

Equally important, invest time to understand why your users found you. Use tools like SEMrush to monitor competitor keywords and create a content-gap list around those keywords. Fill this gap with an original blog post, or videos, or any engaging content your users would find beneficial. Remember, attracting visitors is one thing. But making sure it’s the right visitor is another. Once people have found your content, be sure to remarket to them using banners, AdWords and Facebook. You might be surprised to see how this can positively affect your Cost Per Click (CPC) stats.

Take time in designing your website, which in turn enhances UX and increases your conversion rate. Google notices when your users can easily navigate your site, don’t land on dead end pages and find what they were looking for. In short, stop putting off investing in that Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) and UX project!

3. Get local and App-Y

If your market can benefit from an app related to your product or service, spend time creating one, or engaging a developer.

Personalised search results will become more common in 2016. Google now shows different results depending on who performs the search. As a marketer or business owner, you need to optimise your local presence, and minimally ensure that you have a strong presence in your area. Be local. There is no excuse not to list your business on Google maps. It requires little time, but can significantly impact your presence. For more guidance on how to do good local SEO, have a look at the MOZ guide.

Note that consumers are increasingly well-informed and research your brand before deciding to engage with you, reading reviews and opinions online. So, make sure they have something to see! Use external review sites like Trustpilot or Innovareviews to let your existing customers rate your products or services. Take care not to go overboard – recent studies have shown that the optimal rating is 4.2/5. Consumers see higher scores as suspicious, and too good to be true.

4. SEO is a Pizza Slice, Not the Whole Pie

Above all, stop thinking about SEO as a stand-alone marketing exercise. It’s not just about organic ranking anymore. The effects of an SEO campaign combines with a well-managed Pay-Per-Click (PPC) campaign and content marketing strategy.

Google is burying organic results further and further beneath a layer of ads, local listings, user reviews and even it’s own e-commerce channels. Everything you then do for your brand online will positively affect your rankings. Approaching SEO in this way doesn’t see organic rankings as the only end goal.

Users interact with Google and other search engines several times a day on multiple devices in various locations. Rest assured that Google, as well as your users, regard all these contact points as quality signals and draw their conclusions from this usage.

SEO in 2016 is a critical piece of the larger digital marketing puzzle and one which will certainly look incomplete and strange if one piece is missing. Happy marketing!

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