Search engines are constantly working at refining and updating their algorithms in order to make the search results more applicable to the search. But they are also very committed to making sure the search results can not be manipulated - well, easily anyway.
When it comes to SEO you obviously need to know what the important ranking factors are now in order to achieve success, but it's just as important to know what the search engines are going to do next. Because the search results can suddenly be very different with a single algorithm change.
So where should you be focusing your efforts in a bid to better navigate SEO changes in 2016? We spoke to some of the search industry's experts to get their predictions for what will become more important in the coming year. Here's their wisdom:
1. Give People What They Want
Focus on providing users with the best experience. Whether it is making an excellent product or writing the best content, in the long run search engines are going to rank what users want. As time has passed their algorithms have gotten more sophisticated and harder to manipulate. But the sites that continually rank well tend to be the ones that focus on user experience.
Neil Patel, Founder of Crazy Egg and KISSmetrics
2. Speed and Security Matter
Back in 2010, Google announced site speed as a slight ranking factor and did the same again in 2014 for HTTPS. Both were very slight ranking factors but the intent was clear, Google wants a faster and more secure web.
In 2015, HTTP/2 was formally approved and Google has been quietly working on its own custom version of the protocol called SPDY. Both HTTP/2 and SPDY allow browsers to make multiple requests to a web server through one single connection. This is big news for speed freaks!
In 2016, HTTP/2 will start to become the new standard of the web. It will make websites a LOT faster and will address loading lags that are often found with HTTPS. There will be no excuses for slow websites and Google will turn up the ranking dial for both site speed and HTTPS. Google may even reward HTTPS adoption by allowing more SEO referrer information in Google Analytics, meaning webmasters regain the lost "not provided" keywords and make SEO/PPC a fairer playing ground."
Joe Williams, SEO trainer for Zen Optimise
3. Build Brand Exposure
I guess that the best general advice for SEO for the coming year is to make an outgoing effort to increase branding throughout the web. Google is getting smarter - and with a peek of RankBrain, we could almost conclude that Google is now planning to use more and more signals that are user-driven. Meaning factors that are not manipulate-able by SEO specialists. I mean, it's hard enough to get good, clean, ethical links. Now it's even harder to rank because Google's algorithm understands the contextual meaning behind words.
"Things, not Strings" may just be the toughest factor to crack for a lot of SEO specialists out there. The game has changed yet again.
Sean Si, CEO and Founder of SEO Hacker and Qeryz
4. Focus on Quality
In case you haven't already, stop focusing on building links to your homepage and start focusing on building links to great content. And if you don't have great content on your own website, start there. It's better to create one awesome piece of content per week / month and promote it like crazy than to create so-so content that isn't link worthy.
Kristi Hines, Freelance Writer
5. Knowledge is Power
In 2016, it will become critical for business owners and web site managers to invest more time into learning more advanced SEO knowledge, and especially as it relates to mobile considerations, or do a better job of properly vetting the outside solution provider they intend to work with.
Over the years, too many businesses have previously left the work to others they hadn't properly vetted for expertise, assuming that agency or consultant was going to do a great job, yet where the site inevitably took a big hit for a range of reasons tied to myopic thinking or shortcut mentality.
That's not a scenario businesses can afford to gamble on anymore. The stakes are too high, and the complexity of advanced understanding is ever increasing.
Alan Bleiweiss, Forensic SEO Auditor, Consultant and Speaker
As the world of digital marketing becomes more complex and competitive, it is vital that business owners take the time to strengthen their understanding of key concepts in areas such as content marketing, SEO and conversion.
For more information on SEO check out this article: "The Fundamentals of a Successful SEO Strategy."