Forbes recently shared an close look at 7 new SEO trends that are crucial for a small business to know.
Staying on top of emerging SEO trends is critical if you want to achieve and maintain high search rankings. While the fundamentals of SEO tend to remain relatively consistent, it’s important to be aware of any factors that can give you a competitive edge.
This post will look at 7 SEO trends that all marketers should consider in 2016. I’ll also identify any key gaps between what we hear firsthand from Google, what marketers say is working, and any untapped disconnects that could give you a competitive advantage.
1. Longer content tends to rank higher
According to research conducted by BuzzSumo and Moz, the vast majority of content published online is less than 1,000 words long. However, we also know that content that’s at least 1,100-1,200 words tends to rank highest in the SERPs.
According to this report, the 10 highest-ranking pages have an average word count of 1,285 words, and the top 30 pages an average of 1,140 pages.
Keep in mind that word count alone won’t guarantee you top rankings. Content that’s poorly written or that doesn’t match user intent (see #7 below) is unlikely to rank, regardless of length.
This disconnect is great news for anyone looking for a competitive advantage when it comes to SEO. Focus on creating comprehensive, in-depth content that’s 1,100 words+ to give yourself the best chance at ranking.
I know this personally has worked for me with my company. I produced both a freelancer and e-cash guide. 4 months after writing them, they are both driving around 20-30 customer signups a day to my site. Longer form content works. I personally love the longer guides.
2. User signals seem to impact both desktop and mobile rankings
The most common user signals include click-through rates (CTRs), bounce rates and time on site. Strong user signals indicate that a page matches the expectations of users when they click on it from the SERPs.
User signals are among the most important ranking factors in 2016. Surprisingly, Google has stated that user signals are not currently considered ranking factors on desktop, although some experiments seem to suggest otherwise. Google has confirmed, however, that user signals are important for mobile search as they are a key aspect of the mobile friendly update.
While click-through rates from the SERPs can be difficult to track, metrics like bounce rate, time on site and pages per visit can all be easily monitored in Google Analytics. Just be sure to look at these metrics specifically in relation to traffic from the search engines.
3. Domain and page-level links are more important than ever
Link building has changed significantly over the years, but it remains a critical strategy for achieving high rankings. According toMoz’s 2015 Ranking Factors study, domain and page-level link features are the most influential factors when it comes to search rankings.
According to the study, the most important link feature is page authority, followed by number of unique IPs linking to the page and number of C blocks linking to the URL. Other important elements include overall quantity of links, PageRank, trust, anchor text distribution and quality of linking sources.
4. Enabling deep links is key to high app rankings
If you have a mobile app, this is a trend you need to know about. Deep links are links to the internal content of your app, as opposed to just your app’s home page. If you want Google to be indexing and returning these internal links to your content, you must have deep linking (or app indexing) enabled.
According to Google, the average person engages with only 26% of their apps each day. Having app indexing enabled will give you the chance to potentially re-engage your users by showing up for relevant search queries. Your app will also feature more prominently in the SERPS even if users no longer have your app installed.
It will also allow your app to be featured in Now on Tap, as well as show up in Google autocomplete when users start to ask a question your app answers.
5. Optimizing for voice search is no longer optional
As of 2014, 41% of adults and 55% of teens used voice search more than once a day. While I can’t find more recent research, it’s safe to assume these numbers have grown significantly in the past two years.
We know that mobile search queries tend to have a strong local component. Many people utilize voice search throughout the course of their daily activities: this could mean anything from movie listings, to restaurant reviews, to weather forecasts, to directions to a local business.
Some ways you can optimize for voice search include:
- Focusing on highly-specific, long-tail keywords.
- Writing in a conversational style. Users are unlikely to use formal language when searching by voice.
- Using the appropriate markup so Google knows what type of content you’re providing.
- Directly answering popular questions being asked in your industry.
- Ensuring your site is optimized for mobile (this is an obvious one, but too important not to mention).
Incidentally, these are some of the same strategies you would use to get your content featured in Google’s Rich Answers, so your efforts are certainly worthwhile!
6. User intent trumps word count
User intent is a critical component of keyword research and content creation in 2016. I’ve already mentioned the trend towards longer, more in-depth content. However, if this content doesn’t match user intent, your content is unlikely to gain traction.
Each time someone performs a search, they have a specific intent in mind. Google’s recently release Quality Rater’s Handbook defines four different types of search queries:
- Know queries: These are often referred to as informational queries, and are used when people want access to specific information on a topic.
- Do queries: These are when users want to complete a specific action, like buying a product, installing an app or even setting a timer.
- Website queries: These are often called navigational queries. These are when user wants to locate a specific website or page.
- Visit-in-person queries: These are queries with a local focus, for instance, “How do I get to the nearest coffee shop?”
Fortunately, Google has gotten pretty good at determining user intent. When deciding which keywords and topics you’re going to target, be sure to visit the SERPs for your keywords to get insights into what most users are looking for.
7. Having a top-ranking page no longer guarantees clicks
Achieving one of the top three spots in the SERPs has always been the holy grail of SEO. If you could secure one of these top spots, you were guaranteed a steady flow of search traffic (assuming it was a relatively popular search term).
According to 2014 research done by Advanced Web Ranking, a #1 ranking would net you a 31% share of all desktop clicks for a particular query. While this seems like a sweep when it comes to clicks, keep in mind this data does not take into account other elements found on the search engine results page.
For many searches, the SERPs will include a number of other elements that will be competing for clicks. These can include Google ads, Rich Answers, shopping results, carousels, local listings, etc.
This makes investigating the SERPS a critical part of selecting keywords and topics. Instead of simply relying on search volume, be sure to identify which elements are being featured in your keyword search results besides just organic listings.
When creating and optimizing your content in the coming months, keep the 7 factors above top-of-mind. The latest research seems to indicate that these are the keys to differentiating yourself from your competitors and attaining top rankings in the SERPs.