In the world of SEO, things are constantly changing. It’s our job as online marketers to adapt and adjust to these changes.
That’s why it’s so important to stay on top of all the latest SEO news and updates, because it’s vital to help us do our jobs correctly.
I wanted to take the time to write an article that showcased my thoughts for what we can do as online marketers to implement the best possible SEO strategy as we begin to look ahead to 2016.
I hope that after reading this you’re more informed about what’s going on in SEO and how you can better plan for the coming year for your brand.
Here are my top 7 items for SEO planning in 2016.
#1: Develop a Content Marketing Strategy that Aligns with Your Top Terms
SEO isn’t just about writing content with keywords anymore. You’ll have to create a content marketing strategy that incorporates not just a few of your common terms, but all your top terms as well.
Here are a few key ways you can accomplish this:
Write on Subtopics of Top Terms
Let’s say that you owned a site that sold coffee mugs. Your top term might be something as simple as “coffee mugs.” Given that there would be a ton of competition on a term like that, it’s best to expand on this as your top term in order to grab more potential traffic to your site.
For instance, while you may be going after anyone searching for “coffee mugs,” there are many different subtopics that exist under that term. You could write an article titled “The 7 Best Types of Travel Coffee Mugs,” or “The Funniest Cartoon Coffee Mugs” that would still be relevant to your target audience, but zeroes in on a subtopic of your top keyword phrase.
You’ll only be able to write so many articles using the term “coffee mugs” before you start to run out of ideas for more posts. That’s why it’s important to include subtopics in your content marketing strategy.
In our coffee example, those could be terms like “travel coffee mugs” or “cartoon coffee mugs.” Both of these terms are still relevant to coffee mugs, but they’re both subtopics off the top term of “coffee mugs.”
Add Links to Articles You’ve Written on Your Service Pages
Before I get too much into this one, I want to preface it with the idea that this is the least you can do. The concept here is that website page and category templates which offer more information on the topic rank better in Google. This strategy is simply the easiest way to do this, while the options we give clients are much more advanced.
Whenever you write an article that gets posted somewhere else, whether it be from a guest post or something else, it’s a good idea to add links to those on your service pages. This will help build the length of content, authority and value of that page to a user and search engine.
Since you’ve already done the hard work of getting the link posted elsewhere, all you really need to do is build out a portion of your site to account for this. It’s a no-brainer, and it’s easy to do.
Take a lookat our SEO page found under “Services” on our menu bar.
If you scroll to the bottom of that page, you’ll notice that I’ve added many of the articles I’ve written that are specifically about the service of SEO that this page is about. This is an example of a hub of content I’ve created by linking posts I’ve created in the past.
It helps people find similar articles, it helps your internal linking, and it helps Google see what pages and articles are related to each other, which hopefully helps increase your search rankings.
Write Longer Content
It’s important to continue writing content that’s on the longer side in regards to word count. I recently wrote a post on Search Engine Land that I believe proves the value of long-form content.
As more and more brands embrace the role of publisher, it’s important to provide more in-depth content. Usually, this means increasing your word count by providing a higher value with the content you’re producing.
I don’t mean that you should write content for the sake of writing content; but rather, write long-form content that goes into detail about a particular topic. The more in-depth and long form your content is, the more it will help to establish you as the ultimate resource in your industry. Longer content that is valuable generates more links, more social media shares and converts better. It is true.
Build Hubs of Content
Content hubs are another excellent way to help bolster your SEO.
Using our coffee example from above, let’s assume that you sold all kinds of coffee and coffee products. Content hubs would be offshoots from your main page where you group pages that are all centered around a common theme; in this case—coffee.
This might look like several hubs featuring things like “travel coffee mugs,” “Guatemalan coffee,” and “recipes for coffee dishes.” All of these have their own separate pages and separate pieces of content, but they’re all centered around the main theme of “coffee.”
It’s going to be much easier for you to rank well when you have several hubs centered around a common theme. Since Google is using not just the main page, but the pages around and linking to it, you’ll establish the relevancy of your given main topic, which should lead to better rankings. This is also why it’s important to link to pages internally.
#2: Switch your Website to HTTPS
If you haven’t already, it’s a good idea to switch your website to HTTPS. The reason for this is that Google is on record saying that you will experience a (slight) increase in rankings. Although it’s a lightweight signal, any improvement whatsoever in the SERPs helps. In addition, Mozilla and Chrome will be showing warnings for sites that are not secure.
There are a few things you should make sure you do when you’re switching your site to HTTPS:
- Update all internal linking to point to HTTPS
- Update all external links to point at HTTPS version of your site
- Make sure images and fonts are secure
- Put in 301 redirects and set up a new Google search console
- Read our guide linked to above for more information.
An HTTPS site is preferable because it means you’ve taken your steps to ensure your visitors are secure. Any data that’s transferred to or from the server by you is encrypted, making you less likely to be the victim of identity theft.
#3: Build Out Location Specific Pages
If it makes sense for your business or brand, building out location-specific pages makes sense because it allows you to strengthen your SEO reach while providing relevant, targeted content to your audience.
Instead of just hoping that anyone in the United States will arrive at your page, a location-specific page helps you target people in a specific geographical area.
You can even build out pages at the country level, the state level, and the city level, to further increase your reach geographically. We made multiple clients millions of dollars with this strategy in 2015.
Make Sure Pages Contain High-Quality Content
This doesn’t mean that you should just throw up content on these pages for the sake of putting up content. You’ll still want to create content for these new pages that offers valuable, relevant content to your targeted audience.
Not doing your due diligence by creating the right forms of high-quality content could result in pages on your site with thin or duplicate content, and that’s certainly not what Google wants. Thin or duplicate content could put your site at risk for Google penalties, which obviously will have a negative effect on your site’s SEO.
#4: Translate Your Site into Different Languages
Translating your site into different languages is another way to reach a wider audience with your site. Instead of getting traffic focused mainly on English readers, by translating your site you can reach much more people.
Don’t just limit yourself to one part of the world. Even if you don’t speak another language, you can still use Google to translate your site for different languages. Recently, we pushed an international client into 27 different languages and countries. The result, 114% increase in traffic.
Use Hreflang Tags
The Hreflang tag tells Google what language you’re using on a specific page so that the search engine knows to send people using a specific language to that page.
You can use hreflang tags either in your sitemap or in the on-page header. The implementation can get a little confusing for this. You can learn more about it here and here.
Make Sure You Have a Keyword Strategy in That Language
Don’t just assume that your keywords will translate perfectly into another language. With a bit of research, you can figure out in a given language what keywords will work best for your strategy.
Make sure you do the research, though, otherwise you could end up with a keyword that translates into something else entirely, making your page not relevant to your target audience.
#5: Have an Ongoing External Strategy
Ensuring you have an ongoing external strategy is one of the key things you should be implementing in 2016 to continue improving your site’s SEO.
Without one, you’re relying on luck and chance to bring you traffic and rankings. An external strategy that you’re continually improving can yield big results for your site in the long run.
Get Mentions in Top Publications
We all know the importance of getting links from trusted sources, especially in terms of SEO.
When you target the top publications in your industry, you’re bolstering your brand in the eyes of the entire industry.
In 2016, I think we’ll continue to see an increase in brands acting as publishers. This means that more and more brands will be doing outreach towards the top publications in their industry. This kind of outreach will help your brand awareness, which is an indirect signal, but helps position your brand as an industry influencer.
Run Quarterly Interactive Campaigns
Running quarterly interactive campaigns gives you the ability to target a huge influx of traffic on a regular basis. Whether this means running a special promotion, sharing an interactive piece of content, or something else, this works to build audience anticipation for your content.
This means that people are more and more inclined to not only visit your site, but they come to see you as an industry leader because they’re regularly awaiting your next piece of content.
It’s important in SEO not to rest on your laurels and having interactive campaigns that you can provide to your audience will help build your relevancy and value as an established brand. This can lead to more and more of your audience trusting you, and hopefully—buying products or services from you.
Guest Blog Monthly on Sites Where Your Customers are
Guest writing will continue to be a huge part of online marketing in 2016 and beyond.
By guest blogging on a monthly basis on sites your customers visit, you’ll increase your reach and brand awareness. This goes a long way towards establishing your brand as a trusted authority in your given industry.
We know the SEO benefits of guest-blogging, especially in terms of links. But when your customers read your blog on sites they’re already visiting, it increases the likelihood that they’ll recognize you and begin to associate your site as a company they’d probably do business with. If you want to learn how to find opportunities, read this post.
Harness Social Media and Social Media Advertising
In today’s online marketing world, social media has become a business imperative. I don’t expect that to change in 2016. Even if you’re not using social media, it’s quite clear that your customers (and potential customers) are using social media.
Social media should be a large part of your site’s marketing strategy. Without it, you’re losing out on so much traffic and potential customers that it no longer makes sense to not have a social media presence of some kind.
Plus, social media advertising is a great way to continue to get not only traffic but likes and shares, as well as potential customers.
For the same reason that people continue to use Google AdWords (because it brings them traffic and customers), it’s important that social media advertising becomes a necessary part of your strategy in 2016.
Social media advertising will be used to build email lists, run interactive campaigns, grow communities, for lead generation and e-commerce. Ads on websites like Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter are so inexpensive right now and almost no one knows how to use them. If you take the time to define your goal, create a clear funnel and run targeted social media ads there is a lot to gain. We have one campaign with a $3 cost per acquisition for Facebook ads, which is pretty amazing.
#6: Go Mobile
Having a mobile site is not just a suggestion anymore, it’s a natural law of doing business nowadays, especially with Google.
If you don’t have a mobile site for your business, I expect that in 2016 you may begin to see a decrease in search rankings even more. But not just improve based on current standards. Next year there will be an entirely new set of standards. Mobile is in its infancy. Those who can innovate for SEO, UX and CRO outside of the knowledge that is on the table now will enjoy greater gains.
Here are a few things to consider.
Continue to Improve your Mobile Experience
There are now more searches done on mobile devices than on desktop devices. In 2016, that trend is expected to continue even further.
Creating a mobile site shouldn’t just be a “set it and forget it” type of endeavor. You should continue to improve your experience for mobile visitors, and make it easy for them to interact with your site from a mobile device.
Make it Easy for Mobile Users to Get What They Want
In 2016, strive to make sure that your mobile site gives users exactly what they need and are looking for, without having to search around your site. User experience is a big deal on a mobile site. You don’t want to create a site that makes people frustrated.
If you do, they’ll leave your site to find what they’re looking for somewhere else. And if what you want people to do is spend money on your site, people leaving your site is never good.
Try visiting your site on a mobile device and put yourself in the mind of your target customer. Is it easy to find what you’re looking for? Are the term you searched and the landing page similar in meaning?
Improve Page Speed and Mobile SEO
Improving your site’s page speed is another big part of the mobile experience in 2016 and beyond.
Just as people may exit your site if they don’t find what they’re looking for easily, having a page that takes a long time to load could also induce people to leave your site.
In 2016, I also expect we’ll start to see more and more instances of mobile SEO as that becomes a necessary part of having a website. Instead of just having a mobile site, you’ll now have to do SEO on a mobile basis.
Check out my mobile SEO checklist graphic here to make sure you have all the information you need.
This one has been on search engine optimization experts minds for a long time, but in 2016, it will be the year that Schema.org reaches it’s full potential. Currently, 80% of websites do not have Schema.org markup. But this is becoming more and more important to Google. Currently, it helps with click-through rates, helps get listed in knowledge graph and gives Google a better understanding of the content on your page. But in 2016, this will become more important for rankings. In a recent Google + hangout, John Mueller mentioned this.
Keep These Tips in Mind for SEO Success in 2016
There are hundreds of Google ranking factors and strategies. I could have listed them all here, but instead I wanted to give you a list of my top items. If there was something I missed, please comment below. But generally, these are 7 of the top items on my mind for SEO planning in 2016. If I had to list items 8 and 9, they would be app indexing and Google now.
Have a question or comment? Let’s talk below or on Twitter @johnelincoln