A common question people pose to those in Search Engine Optimization is "Are there any new and big changes coming to the way that we should be on the lookout for?"
In the Search Engine Optimization industry, we know there are some very common principles that will make for a more visibile site like technical markup, content marketing and link building, according to experts – but what is shaking things up this year?
Well in 2016, Accellerated Mobile Pages from Google and Facebook instant articles are allowing publishers to create simplified versions of their content to serve up to people quickly, Google's RankBrain is claiming to consider much more context within a give search, and voice search and being the default search engine for new devices is making the target move – just maybe not at the pace that we should all should scramble to shake up our websites entirely.
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1. AMP and Other Accelerated Content Platforms
Facebook, Google, and Apple News are all doing there best to make content extremely easy and fast to access by equipping publishers and bloggers alike to integrate with their systems and take advantage of these much lower download times. AMP is the one that's getting the most interest from the search visibility minded marketers because by making your site friendly for the 'Accelerated Mobile Platform' you are likely to receive preferential treatment from Google's new mobile content feature carousel.
Beyond the carousel - no-one knows how much preferential treatment Google is giving AMP friendly content, but with over 70% of search traffic coming through Google they could push more and more people to use it. It is said to 'not yet be a direct ranking signal' according to Backlinko.com, the current technologies for getting AMP-friendly quick on platforms like popular website and blogging CMS WordPress are not exactly user friendly - or at least they leave a website looking a little dry.
What does AMP mean for your business?
It means your content can get into the hands of your customers more quickly, but it means you need to integrate the story of your business into the content and not rely on flashy animation or other multi-media production to get help visitors understand. Implement AMP support in the next 3 to 6 months if you want preferential treatment from Google on mobile devices.
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2. Google's RankBrain
Google's RankBrain simply put is another piece of technology, or another phase in the development of Google's algorithm that is purported to make search results more relevant for searchers. Google says it's up there with links and content as a top 3 search ranking factor, but the 200 components that go into composing what and how RankBrain get's it's better results are largely unknown.
The general consensus about what RankBrain does is that it determines contextual clues to serve up results that may not have included exact terms from the searcher. The technology is iterative and is said to 'be given batches of past searches' according to SEO Services and is supposed to match search results - the team then improves the technology based on the real data and updates RankBrain. So indeed, RankBrain is algorithm that is tested iteratively to get better results and then launched again. Some may call it 'machine learning,' but don't worry the robots aren't about to start taking over just yet.
What does RankBrain mean for your business?
It means that it's more important than ever, and becomes increasingly important to focus on topics people are interested in and provide relevant content rather than getting too focused on keywords or over-optimizing your content in some out-dated effort to 'optimize content for search engines.' Create content based on social media buzz and previous interest and successes from search engine traffic, and always put interesting topics before old-school keyword targeting.
3. Voice Search and Bing Being the Default Search Engine for Many Devices
I heard someone say recently that "using voice responsive products is poised to be the next thing to be a daily habit' since the smart phone. Wearables hit hard, tablets, phablets and Apple watches flashed in the pan, but if you've had the opportunity to mess with an Amazon Alexa enabled product you likely understand how asking it for the news, sports scores, or to play your favorite music could be bigger than all of these combined.
Those into Search Engine Optimization should be aware – even though this trend is not fully mature, that the sale of these products is steadily rising and daily use is up. Voice Searches are at 20% of all searches according to Search Engine Land.
What does that mean for Search Engine Optimization professionals and those just needing to make sure they stay as visible as possible in search (i.e. most businesses)? It means focusing your content on commonly asked questions, and catering to opportunities like schema markup to make it very clear the questions you're answering - being succinct in your answers, and doing everything in your power to optimize for local search.
Even though Alexa is becoming a powerhouse, Google has a competitor on the way; Google Home. Google Home will likely be highly superior to Amazon's Alexa in certain obvious ways because of the focus on search, but the question is whether it can launch it's product quick enough to get the market share so that people are aware of it's upside. If 70-80% of the people that are in the market for this kind of device are already highly comfortable with their Alexa device they may not want to make the switch.
What does voice search mean for your business?
It means creating content that answers direct queries with succint information dense answers could get your content featured more often, and being optimized for local searches is more important than ever. Consider creating authoritative short question and answer posts that service those in your prime demographic and ensure your businesses key information is updated and matching all over in online directories to make sure search engines can 'confidently' share info through voice search.
2015 was the year mobile became the expected, and 2016 is shaping up to be the year speed, ease of access, and connectivity finally start to become expected as well - and those who don't stay current with these developments are indeed seeing a slump in their search rankings, but it's a gradual process as to what degree that's happening.