Is SEO Still Relevant in 2016?
If you’ve been involved in Internet marketing for a while, you’ve no doubt heard the doomsayer’s claims of the last few years that search engine optimization is dead. As the fast-moving world of digital marketing continues to evolve, marketers everywhere will be asking the same question every year as they find themselves under increasing pressure to diversify their marketing strategies.
Contrary to increasingly popular belief among amateurs and jaded marketing veterans alike, the search engines remain central to any online marketing campaign. Nonetheless, recent years have also seen a shift in importance to other areas of online marketing, such as social media and mobile marketing. Email marketing also remains an important area but, while there are more ways to reach out to your potential customers than ever before using nothing but the Internet, SEO remains a highly relevant topic. Nonetheless, if you are still clinging onto the same tactics as you’ve been using for the last couple of years, it’s likely time to reconsider your strategy, taking into account the various trends and best practices that will make your business boom in the years ahead. Following are some of the key concerns for marketers in 2016 and beyond:
- Is keyword research still necessary?
- Is keyword optimization still necessary?
- Is link-building still relevant?
- How can you rank in mobile search results?
In the following sections, we’ll be taking a look at the above questions to help you determine whether or not it is time to reevaluate your SEO strategy.
1. Keyword Research
Most professionals still agree that keyword research forms the foundation of any SEO strategy, but this is an extremely simple way of putting it. After all, Google and other search engines increasingly deliver results based on user intent rather than matching the keywords entered in search queries directly to those in the results. As search engines become smarter, simply determining what your potential visitors are most likely to search for and running those keywords through the Google Keyword Planner or any other keyword-research platform is not likely to deliver substantial results.
For many years, marketers jumped on the opportunity to capitalize on supposedly high-value keywords that received a large number of monthly queries. However, as the online marketplace becomes more competitive, focusing on a niche market has become more important. As such, longer and more complex keywords consisting of phrases of around five words lead to higher conversion rates and more relevant results for consumers. By contrast, keywords that consist of one or two words, such as ‘online marketing’ are so competitive that they’re highly unlikely to lead to conversions or even any traffic. Long-tail keywords remain far more valuable, since they take into account user intent and are designed to target very specific audiences. Rather than prioritizing keyword research, you should be seeking out themes and topics that are relevant to your target audience instead of formulating these around a few supposedly high-value keywords.
2. On-Page Keyword Optimization
If you’re still prioritizing keyword optimization over content structure and quality, then it is undoubtedly time to change your strategy. Content written for the primary purpose of SEO offers little of value to target audiences, and it’s likely to end up being an expensive waste of time at best. For the most part, the same rules apply in the foreseeable future as they have done for a couple of years now. You should be focussing on areas such as the structure and relevancy of your content by prioritizing factors like the following:
- A. The search engines continue to show an increasing preference for more in-depth content rather than short blog posts and other rather valueless snippets of information. By providing a fuller level of coverage on a topic in upwards of 1,200 words, your content is much more likely to gain visibility in the results.
- B. Content relevancy continues to be one of the most important factors, hence the necessity to target more specific topics by using longer key phrases. After all, you’ll achieve nothing by building traffic to your website that largely consists of consumers who are not interested in what you have to offer.
- C. Using key words and phrases in your content can still be useful, particularly in important on-page elements, such as meta tags and headings. Nonetheless, it is crucial that you don’t prioritize keyword usage over the quality, relevancy and readability of your content.
- D. Focusing on user intent is far more important than trying to get clicks on the search engine results. The search engines are becoming increasingly apt at analyzing the way people interact with your website, so you should be primarily focused on what happens after they arrive at your website.
- E. Mobile optimization continues to be a key priority for any successful digital marketer, since the majority of consumers now surf the Web using their smartphones or other small, touchscreen devices. As such, providing an impeccable user experience on the small screen is crucial.
In conclusion, a good website is one that offers a smooth user experience across all devices, fast loading times, unique content and, above all, relevant and quality content targeted towards a niche audience. These factors have been essential for some years now, and if you aren’t prioritizing them already, you had better start now.
3. Link Building
The death of link building as a core element of SEO has been predicted for some years. However, while a website’s link profile remains an essential part of Google’s algorithm, the link-building methods of old belong to a spam-dominated pre-Penguin past. Although getting useful backlinks to your website still requires a manual effort on occasion, you should be primarily focused on earning links by way of an excellent content marketing strategy. Nonetheless, link building is not as simple as hoping to earn links through social engagement with great content.
Securing great links is not just about SEO any longer. A good link on a relevant website that is likely to send you the right sort of traffic will help you reach out to new audiences, build up the number of access points to your website and forge new relationships with potential customers. Even if such a link doesn’t help you to rank in Google, it can still come in useful for the aforementioned reasons. In fact, you can usually safely add the no-follow value to the links in question, since their impact on the search results is likely to be minimal if anything at all.
If you’re still automating your link-building strategy, then you’ll likely succeed only in damaging your website’s standing in the search engine results. You cannot build valuable links without a manual effort, since a great link is dependent on several crucial factors such as strategic promotion, creativity, relevance and audience research. After all, links should exist for humans, and not for the search engines. Fortunately, other areas of your digital marketing strategy, such as social media, will help to increase your opportunities for generating links. In other words, there are no shortcuts when it comes to effective link building, and people (rather than search engines) will continue to use links when navigating the Web in the years to come.
4. Ranking in Mobile Search Results
With mobile searches already surpassing desktop searches, 2016 will no doubt see the majority of online spending and organic traffic come from the small screen. However, having a mobile-friendly website is only the very beginning. These days, it is important to prioritize the mobile experience across all areas of your digital marketing strategy. There is little doubt that 2016 and beyond will continue to see the evolution of mobile marketing and SEO.
If you’ve been keeping in touch with the various tends around mobile marketing and Internet use, you no doubt remember 2015’s much-hyped ‘mobilegeddon’. However, it is also important to realize that mobile marketing, while important in every industry, is less important for some than it is for others. For example, if your company is selling software for desktop computers, then the majority of your traffic will continue to come from desktop searches. After all, not every Internet user wants or needs access using a mobile device. In other words, the desktop is very much here to stay, particularly in the case of certain niche markets. Nonetheless, even if less than a fifth of queries which are relevant to your business come from mobile devices, it is still worth investing in mobile SEO for the sake of your overall search engine exposure.
As Internet-enabled devices become more and more diverse, absolutely all websites should offer a mobile-friendly experience at the very least. How far you go with mobile marketing and optimization, however, depends largely on your consumer audience. Particularly in industries where location-based marketing, mobile payments and mobile app engagement are important, mobile clearly wins every time. Google’s 2015 algorithm update favors mobile-friendly websites in searches carried out from mobile browsers, so you’ll need one if your company needs to attract a mobile audience.
If you’ve been keeping up with the various trends in the world of SEO and online marketing over the past year and adapting your strategy accordingly, then you probably don’t need to make any changes for the time being. It does not seem likely that any major game-changing factors will come into account in the following year. Provided you’ve already adopted sustainable SEO and other digital marketing strategies, you should have little problem continuing to grow your target audience and increasing your exposure in the search engines.