2015 brought some of the biggest changes and updates in digital marketing. Be it the launch of mobile friendly algorithm, several Phantom Quality updates, 28th Panda Update in July, death of Google Plus, Google as a subsidiary of Alphabet or the RankBrain, 2015 was jaw dropping from every aspect.
As predicted, Mobile remained the focal area of Google in every facet. Not only has Google declared that a mobile optimized website is essential to rank higher, but it also launched AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) which took their mobile obsession one step further.
Overall we can say that 2016 is shaping up as a year of immense opportunity for website owners. But before we step into the future let’s have a look at what we got right & where we went wrong in 2015.
RECAP OF 2015
1. Google and HTTPS
Google continues to push site owners to get HTTPS. They are not only displaying “Unsecured Connection Warning” in Chrome but also sending “Google Console Warnings”. Those warnings cover several practice error issues with SSL/TLS. Ignoring this will result into zero HTTPS boost for you.
2. Facebook Modification
Facebook worked tirelessly & as predicted they made a direct play for search, unleashed Atlas targeting to a great extent, expanded into Mobile Payments and upgraded their messaging functionality. All these changes resulted into an enormous boost, both in their overall usage numbers & stock price. So far, Facebook played really well & it seems like they are going to shine in 2016 too.
3. Wearables Becoming Popular
Apple created a lot of Buzz when they launched Apple watch back in 2015. SEO & digital marketers' happiness was different from that of Apple enthusiasts. They were happy because now wearable gadgets are coming in fashion and it will unlock a whole new world of opportunities as they can provide us with real time data. However, the Apple watch wasn't a hit. But at-least they tried!
4. SEO Code of Ethics
Everyone thought that the SEO code of ethics will formalize in 2014. Then we thought that it will arise in 2015. But it never happened. And that’s good, because it would have done more harm than good. If you'd like to know why? Click here.
5. Mobile-Optimized Content
Site owners who were quick to react relished immense benefit by optimizing their website for mobiles. Google Mobile-Friendly Update also encouraged Mobile content, which was a win-win for everyone.
6. Google Algorithmic Updates
Google owned the stage by launching algorithmic updates back-to-back. They rolled out a brand new Panda update, Mobile-Friendly Update, Multiple Phantom quality updates and is about to launch a penguin update in upcoming days.
NOW LET'S LOOK AT WHAT DOES 2016 HAVE IN STORE
1. Structured Data will become a Ranking Factor
Structured data is going to play a big role in 2016. Google will also focus on Rich Snippets, Knowledge Panels & Featured Snippets. They are about to publish guidelines on “How to get Featured Snippets”. Basically, Google is trying to say that we haven’t made structured data a ranking signal yet, but we will do it eventually! So it's better that you get on-board already.
In case you are thinking what type of Structured Data will be good, you can go with JSON-LD, as Google is really fond of it.
2. 2016 will bring more updates to Local Search
Google revamped Local Search to a great extent. The removal of Google plus from the equation, enabling users to easily set the city location, shrinking the local pack from 7 to 3 results & increased number of ads totally changed the local SEO. But they are not done yet.
Google will continue to push home services ads & move SMBs to a pay-to-play model. Be ready to witness more of this kind of ads.
3. Increased focus on User Experience
Providing a great user experience is Google's paramount goal and they are just trying to serve their goal by pushing Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), mobile-friendly content, HTTPS, and page speed. If you want to rank higher in 2016, take a mobile-first design approach.
4. Improvement in the digital assistant space & wearables
2016 seems to be really good for digital assistant space. While Cortana & Siri are getting better & better, there's one player that will join the game and bring variety to it. And that is none other than Facebook's highly ambitious project “M”. Unlike Cortana & Siri it will be backed by both human/digital assistance making it unique among others.
Also, we can expect to see a lot of wearable gadgets in 2016. Thus, we recommend you should at-least be aware of wearable SEO, so when needed you can employ and reap the benefits of being aware and prepared.
Beacons will become more popular overtime and they will make it easy for you to connect with your existing customers. Also, you can expect new players such as Yext & their Xone beacons to enlarge nationally, as a medium to track offline customers online & then target them with re-marketing ads.
5. Virtual Reality Monetization
Samsung gear VR was one of the top Christmas items of 2015. It comes at a minimal price of $99, thus making it affordable to masses. Also since we all know that Facebook acquired Oculus Rift, we can expect to see more advancements in the VR space.
It is estimated that the VR revenues will go up to 1 billion dollars in the coming year and will escalate to 4.4 billion dollars by 2019. So the company which will provide the best VR gear will reign supreme and will get to have the biggest piece of the 1 billion dollar cake.
6. The downfall of Yahoo
Yahoo is still going through hard times and it seems like they will have to sell their search units to someone else. However, they have made deals with Google and Bing, but they are not getting fruitful results and the company is still struggling to survive on various aspects.
Many investors are now losing patience and blaming Marissa Mayer for not having a clear vision. Many experts are predicting that Yahoo may sell their assets to AT&T while some are claiming that Google will be the best bet.
7. Google will roll out major algorithms which will make site audit tougher
Google will roll out both Panda & Penguin updates in 2016. They can be rolled out at the same time and that will be a major issue for website owners who keep getting hit (negatively) by these algorithms.
Till 2015, it was a bit easy to identify the issues which got you penalized, but since Google's expectations from a website are growing, they are making more complex algorithms. So for SEOs it will be tough to identify the exact cause of penalty in 2016. If you are an SEO expert, it's better to understand how to correctly audit a site & surface all website issues.
Your actions, predictions, and preparations will decide whether this year will be great or worse for you. We recommend that you gather as much information as you can and closely monitor any updates thathave the potential to influence the digital marketing space. That way you can achieve your goals in 2016.