02 Jan 8 Ways SEO Changed in 2016
SEO is one of the most essential aspects of digital marketing. This time last year, we published a post about all the changes we thought would happen to SEO best practices, to prepare you for 2016. Now, we are revisiting our predictions to see which of our guesses came true.
1. Long-Form Content Will Reign Supreme
In 2015, short-form content was all the rage, due to evidence that users’ attention spans were shrinking. We predicted a reversal of this trend in 2016. Long-form content did increase somewhat in popularity, like we though it would. However, there are still 16 times as many short-form pieces (pieces less than 1,000 words) on the web.
Despite this, long-form content has many advantages. It gives marketers the chance to examine topics in greater depth, improves visibility, and enhances the credibility of brands. Plus, research from Moz and BuzzSumo found that long-form content receives more engagement. Another study, by Medium Data Lab, found the optimal length for content is 1,600 words — anything longer and it becomes difficult to retain the reader’s attention. All this suggests that an increase in the popularity of long-form content may be just around the corner.
2. SEO Professionals Will Shift to Long-Tail Keywords
Just as we predicted, more marketers have realized the benefits of long-tail keywords. Businesses, in most industries, will struggle to receive anything close to a high ranking with a short keyword, unless they are a large corporation with a sizable marketing budget. This is especially true as the amount of content on the Internet increases. There may be less searches for long-tail keywords, but the users who reach your website will be better targeted and more likely to convert.
3. Exact-Match Keywords Won’t Matter Anymore
This turned out to be not entirely true, at least in the case of Adwords.
Although Google no longer uses exact keywords to deliver organic search results, there is evidence that exact matches still matter for Adwords, based on the fact that marketers are often willing to pay much more for one keyword than another, very similar, keyword.
4. We’ll See an Increase in Automation
We were hoping that software programs would start to automate SEO more efficiently. We also hoped that a single piece of software would be able to automate every part of SEO, eliminating the need for several tools.
Unfortunately, in 2016, technology is still insufficient for us to rely on software alone. It can save you time and effort by generating keywords, offering backlink analysis, and monitoring website ranking, but by no means does it come close to automating the entire process for you. Plus, users still need to use several types of software — although that may begin to change in 2017.
5. The Focus Will Shift from Rankings to Conversions
Knowing marketers are paying less attention to metrics like page views, we predicted they would begin focusing more on conversions than on search result rankings. This is because, whereas high rankings bring more traffic, not all visitors make up a business’ target audience.
To measure the success of their marketing strategies, marketers have been finding new ways to judge conversion rates, such as assigning values to important actions. In addition to sales, conversions may include subscriptions to an email newsletter or downloads of premium content.
Marketers are also focusing more on elements that contribute to conversion rates, such as website load speed and usability, as well as the use of appropriate keywords at different stages of the sales funnel.
6. SEO Audits Will Expand
Website audits were already common before 2016, but it was difficult to audit SEO factors with software. We predicted that new tools would be released, enabling businesses to audit the SEO on every page of their websites without needing to do so manually.
This year, with more users seeking SEO audits than every before, software and tools have improved and gained new capabilities. Now, there are various options, to test different aspects of SEO (depending on the user’s objectives), to meet various budgets, and to work on sites from small to large.
7. Mobile Technology Will Become a Core Focus
Google started penalizing websites for a lack of responsive code in April 2015. We couldn’t see how it would be possible for any successful business to maintain a website not optimized for mobile devices in 2016.
Anyone who uses a mobile device regularly will have noticed that, this year, almost all sites are now responsive, and barely any use separate pages for mobile. It is still possible to come across the occasional site that is difficult to navigate on a small screen (such websites tend to belong to small businesses), but these are becoming increasingly rare.
8. SEOs Will Retreat from Raw Data
The most basic metrics are rankings, conversions, views, return visits, and several others. Until recently, most businesses relied exclusively on these metrics. However, even before 2016, we began seeing some forward-thinking marketers measuring more creative metrics to improve their SEO, and we predicted that others would follow their lead.
An explosion of SEO tools this year shows this has indeed been the case. Marketers are now able to measure a variety of factors to create content that best resonates with their audience. As more businesses learn how to use tools to measure additional metrics, expect to see more growth in this area in 2017.
As Google updates its algorithm and marketers find innovative new ways to improve their visibility and conversions, SEO best practices keep changing. Stay up to date with the latest changes by following us at Boostability next year.