Fame Foundry - A Charlotte Website Design and Marketing Firm

Wednesday, 1st June, 2016 | By Kimberly Barnes | Category: Traffic Building

The Good, The Bad and The Hit-Getting: Dos and Don’ts for SEO in 2016

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SEO is a game in which the rules are constantly changing. Google modifies its search algorithms (although they never reveal just exactly how various ranking factors ultimately determine SERP rank), and digital marketers scramble to interpret the new laws of the land and shift their tactics accordingly.
In 2015 alone, Google made five major changes to its search algorithm, the most notorious of which was the so-called “Mobilegeddon.”

In our extensive five-part series, “SEO Update: How to Rule the Rankings in 2015,” we took an in-depth look at best practices for SEO in the modern era, covering all aspects from keywords to content development to link-building to meta tags to commonly held myths.

For the most part, all of these guidelines still apply. You should incorporate keywords into your website’s content in a logical, natural manner, but you shouldn’t try to stuff them in where they don’t belong to boost density. The best way to engage in link-building is by providing quality content on your website that people naturally want to link back to, not by participating in sketchy link farms. Having well-formed meta tags and descriptions is useful in helping to attract new visitors to your site, but they won’t actually improve your search engine rankings, so stop over-thinking them.

Most importantly, today as always, there are no shortcuts to SEO success. Boosting your visibility in organic search must be a long-term objective that you are constantly investing in. Doing this requires persistence and concentrated effort, so you can’t rush into it and expect to see immediate results.
However, it’s also critical to keep pace with every new change in the SEO landscape in order to make sure that your efforts are focused on the practices that will yield the best outcomes, and that you’re not doing anything that will net a penalty from the search engines.

Here’s a look at the factors impacting SEO today and the dos and don’ts of climbing the ranks in 2016:

Do: Attack vertical search.

Vertical search has always been a part of Google through the News, Images and Videos search tabs. However, Google has recently updated its algorithm so that all types of content are now integrated into the results displayed on its primary search results pages. For example, Google “Red Sox,” and you’ll not only see links to websites containing more information about the team but also relevant news headlines, videos and tweets as well.

RedSox

What this means for you:

Previously, each SERP had a list of 10 websites with their associated URLs. However, with vertical search, we now see images, news, videos and local results displayed alongside traditional links. These various types of content are taking up real estate that was previously allocated exclusively to website links, which means web page listings are facing much stiffer competition for the attention of searchers.

As a marketer, these changes mean that you need to broaden your thinking when it comes to formulating your SEO strategy. It’s no longer enough to focus exclusively on helping your company’s website climb the ranks to achieve a top position on the SERPs. You also need to invest in producing other content types that will be pulled into the new Universal Search results from video to social media to local media coverage in order to ensure that your content will reach a more diverse audience.

Do: Give direct answers.

Direct answers often show up when you search for something specific on Google. From mathematic calculations to instructions on tying a Windsor knot, Google has made it easier for searchers to get their answer without having to delve beyond the SERP.

answers

What this means for you:

According to Google Chairman Eric Schmidt, Google will continue to focus more on providing direct answers. Users logically prefer this option, as it’s the most efficient way to get the answers they seek without having to click through to unfamiliar websites.

Getting your content in the direct answer box – even if it means the loss of a few clicks – is great for branding. Besides building trust for your company and your brand, showing up in direct answer results can also help send traffic your way.

Don’t try to provide short answers in the hope that they will get picked up for a direct answer. Instead, create content that clearly and succinctly answers the questions your visitors are likely to have and conveys straightforward factual information.

Do: Add an HTTPS wrapper to your site.

Last year Google announced that having an HTTPS secure site would be beneficial for rankings. HTTPS adds an SSL 2048-bit key certificate to your website, making it less vulnerable to security threats, as HTTPS protocol was developed to provide safer transactions and authorizations, allowing websites to collect confidential information without fear of unauthorized access.

What this means for you:

Google says that the benefit of HTTPS is a very small factor in its overall algorithm and has an impact on less than one percent of global search queries. However, they still encourage website owners to switch to HTTPS as a best practice, so it’s possible that the magnitude of this benefit may grow in the future.
The best thing you can do to stay on top of this trend is to work with your website developer to obtain an SSL certificate and install a secure HTTPS wrapper around your existing site.

Do: Make sure your site is mobile-friendly.

Mobile friendliness is definitely factor for Google and Bing, as evidenced by “Mobilegeddon.” Both have updated their algorithms to ensure that their mobile search results (whether on a phone or tablet) focus on elevating content that is mobile-friendly. It’s important to note that desktop search results are not impacted by this update.

What this means for you:

The Mobilegeddon revolution makes it easier for people to search effectively on their mobile devices by allowing them to find websites that can be viewed easily on their phones and tablets.

To take advantage of this, make sure your website is mobile-friendly. This is especially critical if you run an e-commerce website, as 30 percent of all online sales in the U.S. now come from users on mobile devices.

If you’re building a new site, make sure to incorporate responsive design from the start. If you’re looking to adapt your existing site, work with your web design team to implement a two-tier framework structure that includes a version of the site that is designed for optimal performance on mobile browsers.

Do: Implement structured data.

Structured data allows search engines to better interpret the content of your website. Using HTML markup, structured data can be added to your site, providing search engines with rich snippets they can display in SERPs. This is the extra information you find alongside standard links and listings, such as hours of operation and customer reviews for restaurants.

What this means for you:

Think about the type of information on your site that would be valuable for display on a SERP, such as your logo, prices, hours, videos and images (you can use Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper to get started). In fact, the more content you can mark up, the better for your rankings. And since this is something a lot of website owners haven’t done yet, it’s an easy way to get a leg up on the competition.

Do: Maintain a clean domain history.

How trustworthy and authoritative a site appears has always been important for SEO, and domain history seems to be an increasingly important element in determining a site’s trust factor. When deciding how highly to rank your website, search engines take into account your traffic data, content history, link-building practices and length of ownership. If you have been penalized in the past, you can be sure that your domain history reflects that.

What this means for you:

Ideally, you should adopt best practices from the start and keep your site’s reputation clear of any penalties or red flags. The cleaner your domain history, the better it is for your ranking.

As with all things in SEO, there is no shortcut to building a good history. You can’t, for example, buy an established domain and use its age to help you rank. A website that has had change in ownership may have its history reset and any links pointing to it negated.

Don’t: Engage in keyword stuffing.

In the earliest days of SEO, website content was judged not on how well it was written but on how many times the writer managed to squeeze the relevant keywords into it. While this was always considered a black-hat practice, in recent years keyword stuffing has become irrelevant due to the resurgence of long-tail keywords.

With the relationship between keywords and your search visibility dwindling, it’s best to stop thinking in terms of keywords – at least in the most traditional sense. Publish original content that is useful and valuable, address specific questions and issues that are relevant to your audience, and you’ll find your rankings will improve steadily over time.

Don’t: Participate in link spam.

Spam – specifically link spam – has been on the rise ever since inbound links became an important factor in SERP rankings. Link spam is any link that exists for the sole purpose of improving search engine rankings by linking to or from a higher-ranking website. This can take many forms. Some bloggers will try to build links to their website by spamming forums and comment sections with their website links. Others will try to buy guest post spots on well-known websites.

Regardless of the way it is achieved, giving or receiving a link just to boost rankings is considered unethical. More importantly, this practice can earn you a serious penalty from Google, so it’s best to link to third-party sites only when doing so truly adds value to the content on your own site.

Don’t: Allow your site to be overrun with ads.

Back in 2012 Google started penalizing web pages that were ad-heavy above the fold. The “page layout algorithm” took direct aim at websites that buried their content under a lot of ads. This was done as a safeguard to promote good user experience by ensuring that readers wouldn’t be forced to scroll through a page full of ads to reach the content they actually wanted to see.

Going forward, it’s best to keep the top half of your website ad-free if possible. This may not be entirely possible if you rely on advertising revenue, but even in that case it is best to avoid littering your web pages with ads. Instead, opt for tastefully placed ads that don’t take away from the reading experience.

What are your predictions for SEO trends in 2016? Which of these trends do you think will become increasingly important next year, and what are your thoughts on any new changes that may be in store for search engine algorithms in the year ahead?

Kimberly Barnes
Kimberly Barnes is a digital marketing specialist turned freelance writer born back when Apple was called “Apple Macintosh,” floppy disks were actually floppy, and #2 pencils were the best way to rewind unraveled cassette tapes. Most days you'll find her summoning her muse while drinking a non-coffee beverage in Starbucks.