In a year that saw seismic changes in the search engine landscape thanks to Google’s mobile first indexing, marketers learned a great deal about the way users search for what they need. Some search trends continued to be relevant, while a few bombshell revelations shook up the way digital marketing professionals approach search engine optimization. One thing is for sure: despite a mountain of doom-and-gloom predictions, SEO is alive and well. Here are the top takeaways from the year in search engine marketing.
Machine learning is streamlining the user experience.
Google announced last year that RankBrain, its machine learning system that helps to categorize results, has become the third most important ranking factor in SERP’s. What does that mean for SEO? Well, it means that Google displays results based not only on optimization, but also on user interaction. That also means that users who see your website at the top of their results page are more predisposed to click on it. Focusing on buyer personas will help marketers navigate this new development as they focus not just on what their website says, but on who is reading it.
Voice search is on the rise.
With Google Home and Amazon Echo taking up real estate in an increasing number of homes, it’s no surprise that Google voice searches are skyrocketing. According to Google, 41% of U.S. adults use voice search on a daily basis, and as many as one-fifth of searches are now conducted through voice. From an SEO perspective, this means that long-tail keywords are more useful than ever as marketers strive to adapt to spoken search queries.
Results are improving in quality.
This year, Google implemented updates aimed at busting low-quality sites that offer little value to users. Sites that employed link and keyword stuffing and obnoxious, irrelevant ads found themselves experiencing a 50-90% drop in organic rankings. This is great news for users and marketers using SEO best practices—it means the playing field is less crowded with spammy websites competing for attention. Placing original, insightful content front and center while incorporating common sense SEO practices should help digital marketers make the most of these changes.
Links are growing in importance.
Link building is a cornerstone of any good SEO strategy, but the quality of the links you include will come under increased scrutiny going forward. Quality over quantity is a good maxim to remember; the links on your site don’t necessarily have to be the most popular, but they should absolutely be relevant to your industry and helpful to users. Google has also warned bloggers that rely heavily on guest posting to build links that they will be looking into guest posting in an effort to curtail questionable links.
A lot has changed this year, but placing user experience at the center of your online marketing efforts is a surefire way to weather any changes to SEO. Placing search engine marketing hand-in-hand with stellar content will keep visitors engaged no matter what the coming year brings.