There are few more effective ways of growing a business online, particularly for an e-Commerce business, than by investing on the organic search marketing channel (commonly referred to as a discipline, as ‘SEO’). Everything from site traffic, to revenue and conversion rates routinely shoot up as a result of smart and strategic SEO, as a greater number of search users are directed to appropriate, targeted site pages, and are delivered with an optimised route through the site, from wherever they happen to enter.
SEO in 2016
Many of the key activities needed to succeed in SEO in 2016 are the same as they’ve always been. Good SEO is about ensuring a site is perfectly optimised to attract and convert customers, whilst giving clear and appropriate signals to search engines, this has never changed for quality SEO agencies.
Despite this, as Google and other major search engines become smarter, and the factors they consider in their ranking algorithms change, certain elements become more important to focus on from an SEO point of view, and other (often short-sighted) activities become less effective.
What Drives SEO Success in 2016?
In 2015, for the very first time, more searches on Google were carried out on mobile devices than on desktops. Along with this, Google’s April 2015 Mobile Update confirmed the fact that mobile-friendliness will increasingly be used as a ranking factor. With the increasing prevalence of mobile device use – and its recognition by search engines – it’s never been more important than it is today that an SEO optimises a site to caterfor users entering from a range of devices.
Faster pages not only give users a more enjoyable experience, but also increase the time that they are likely to spend on your site. What’s more, page speed is used in search engines’ ranking algorithms, so has an effect on how it performs through search. A slow page can frustrate users and encourage them to look elsewhere, whilst a smooth, seamless experience fosters confidence, making them more likely to carry out desirable actions on site. The job of an SEO in 2016 is very much focused around loweringboth full site and individual page speed, and carried out using a plethora of emerging and established tools.
A site must be designed in a way not only befitting of – and harbouring trust in – a brand, but also facilitating the smoothest possible journey for users, and offering what they need at their specific stage in the purchase cycle. Good user experience means putting as few barriers in the way of users making a conversion as you possibly can, and is informed through both established best practices, and the monitoring of how users are interacting with a site. The fact that most recent search engine algorithm updates have put UX at front and centre means that focusing on it is a guaranteed future-proof strategy for SEOs in 2016.
Technical Foundations and Site Architecture
Without a site having the right technical structures in place, any additional SEO activities will fail to make the impact they should. A site must present itself to both search engines and users in a structured and coherent way, in order for it to be indexed and understood properly. Major search engines place a strong emphasis in their algorithms on the passing of link data, meaning that ensuring the optimum distribution of this from the most linked-to pages to those lower down the site hierarchy is crucially important to SEO success. Sites must be built in some form of sensible hierarchy whereby the user journey is logical and that user-flow should be optimal for the transference of link equity, as it cascades down the site shape.
For the best possible search engine performance, it’s important that a site facilitates the most efficient possible crawl to search engines. Any barriers may stop URLs on site becoming indexed, or hinder their performance once they are. For this reason, a crucial activity of SEOs it so ensure that no pages on-site return 404 (not found) status codes or other errors, and that no unnecessary redirects are in place. As well as on the site itself, it’s crucial that these don’t occur in sitemaps.
Ensuring that all pages on a site are presented favourably to search users is – and has always been – a key task of the SEO. Out of date, unnecessary, or in the worst case security-sensitive URLs should not be indexed, and those which are appropriate must be pushed up rankings. In 2016, there are a range of tools – as well as advanced search techniques – which an SEO will use in order to ascertain which URLs are held in search indices (and how they’re performing), as well as to act upon this where necessary.
Backlinks are extremely important in SEO. As well as pointing users to specific pages, links act as signals to search engines that a URL is seen by another site as useful or valuable in some way. Low low-quality link-building has never been a sustainable activity, so has never been our focus at theMediaFlow, however, creating content of a good enough quality as to invite editorially given links is a key part of our core focus.
An SEO must always work with one eye to the future in order to keep up with constant changes in web and search capabilities, whilst ensuring a constant focus on the interests of the end user, and adherence to the guidelines of major search engines. This is no truer in 2016 than it has been since the inception of SEO, and will continue to be the key to making sites money online into the future.
Digital Marketing Summit Southampton 2016
If you would like to hear what’s in it for 2017, make sure you don’t miss the presentation on The Real State of SEO in 2016 and beyond by Robert Nagy, who will be introducing some concepts around the latest Penguin4 update, HTTPS and much more. Robert will also give some initial predictions on changes in search and optimisation for 2017.
We have also a fantastic hands-on SEO workshop ran by Dimitris Zotos, at Digital Marketing Summit 2016 taking place at Novotel, Southampton less than 11 days to go. Make sure you grab some tickets here, until they run out!
Credit for the Author – Nichola Stott is the founder and head of theMediaFlow, the SEO agency based in Hampshire. Dimitris Zotos is a featured workshop facilitator at Digital Marketing Summit Southampton 2016.