As an industry that is so predicated on technology, it should come as no surprise that SEO is constantly changing and in a state of ‘permaflux’. Many SEO best practices from only a few years ago would be marketing suicide for any website today. In the past decade we’ve heard SEO proclaimed ‘dead’ about a million times, we’ve seen tools come and go and we’ve survived countless algorithm updates. At this point it’s probably safe to say that SEO as an industry isn’t going anywhere but if history is any indication, we’re in for a wild ride.

So what can we expect for 2016? Here are some of the leading predictions on what we should expect over the next year or so. Take heed and prepare for the coming storm!

1. Mobile Will Continue to Dominate

Mobile has gradually been gaining dominance since Apple first unveiled the iPhone 1. It’s only more recently though that mobile devices have officially overtaken desktop computers as the most popular way to get online.

Speculators tell us that this is set to continue even more so, which is why it’s absolutely necessary to ensure your website or blog is perfectly optimized for smaller displays. Google has practically screamed at us regarding the importance of this factor, going as far as to develop their own ‘Mobile-Friendly Test’ to help us check our sites meet the criteria.

2. Voice Search and Structured Data

Tying in with the increasing prominence of mobile search, is the growing importance of ‘voice search’. People don’t like searching Google by typing when they’re on the move, which means they’re now much more likely to simply ask Siri, Google Now or Cortana to find what they’re looking for.

This has already brought about subtle-yet-profound changes in the way that search works. Structured data and ‘rich snippets’ are increasingly growing important as Google and other search engines attempt to directly answer questions by understanding the content they retrieve. Now approximately 19% of queries provide direct answers or rich snippets.

This has some serious implications for the industry as a whole but in the short term, this means you’d better start including that structured data in your site. You might not like the idea of Google using your information without referring visitors but it’s better than being left out of the loop entirely!

3. Local SEO Will be More Important Than Ever

Local SEO has always been important but in 2016 it will be more important than ever. As competition grows on the web, going local will offer one of the best ways to find your audience in a sea of other results. Local search has clear synergy with mobile search and voice search, and Google’s recent Pigeon update has demonstrated their commitment to this aspect. Make sure you’re ready by staying on top of your local SEO with smart keywords, up-to-date Google Maps information and even app integration (Google now uses data from mobile applications and shows that in search results).

4. SEO Will ‘Merge’ With Other Forms of Digital Marketing

Those who have been paying attention should recognize that the very way you describe SEO has changed in recent times. SEO is very often synonymous now with ‘content marketing’, which says a lot about the emphasis that Google is now putting on high quality content.
At the same time, a good SEO campaign needs to incorporate social media elements, to help build organic links and to benefit directly from the likes of Google+.

In other words, SEO doesn’t really stand on its own anymore. What’s more likely is that we’ll see companies offering ‘Digital Marketing Services’ that encompass all these elements, with the delineation become less and less of a factor.

5. Bing Will Offer Rising Competition

Microsoft’s Bing has been building momentum as a serious competitor to Google for some time now and a number of key moves on Microsoft’s part mean this is only likely to continue.

For starters, Bing is integrated with Cortana which in turn is now packaged with Windows on PC and mobile. Xbox will also be benefiting from voice search via Cortana and Bing, while recent successes in the hardware department have also helped Microsoft to gain more of a foothold. With Google making some unpopular moves, Bing may just offer a viable alternative for discerning users.

So there you have it: the near future as most pundits see it. Ready yourself!

Featured photo credit: Johny Blaze via flickr.com

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