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Google algorithms are always changing. In fact, the number of updates currently stands at about 500 a year! It’s easy to understand why “evolve or decay” is the reigning mantra within SEO circles. Therefore, site owners and SEO practitioners must be ready to do what it takes to ensure that their sites remain relevant over the long haul.
One of the best ways to do this is to understand trends that inform SEO presently and those which are lurking in the future. You can then use this information to improve your strategy for 2016 in order to ensure that you stay on top of the game for your target niche. Below are five such trends, why you should care about them and how they can be applied to your strategy.
The Dark Traffic theory
By now you already know that messaging apps and social media networks are the huge sources of traffic to websites, depending on individual sites’ online marketing strategies, of course. However, it is currently difficult to track traffic from such sources because Google Analytics has yet to devise a way to determine traffic from such sources.
Whenever Google Analytics is unable to determine an exact source for a site visitor, it simply records the event as a direct visit, even though it’s rather implausible that a user typed that URL onto his/her address bar to land on that page. Such visits are what are collectively referred to as ‘dark traffic’ and they account for a significant portion of any site’s overall traffic.
The result is that your online marketing tracking process becomes more complicated. While you have worked hard to improve your social media campaigns and other organic and mobile traffic sources, you cannot tell for certain which strategies bear fruit and which ones don’t.
Presently, the only way to get an idea about the nature of your dark traffic is to generate your site’s direct traffic report from Google Analytics. Using this report, you can filter out pages which are likely to attract direct visitors – like your homepage, high-traffic pages and those pages with easy-enough URLs.
This is not a complete method, but it will separate your genuine direct traffic and hence give you deeper insight into how much dark traffic you’re getting. You can then combine these findings with details from your social and other campaigns to get an idea about strategies that may be bearing fruit.
A rich answer is defined as those answers that are posted at the top of SERPs to directly answer certain search queries. A relatively new phenomenon, rich answers are becoming more frequent in search results, as this research has shown. According to its findings, there was a 38 percent increase in the incidence of rich answers for queries posted within the first half of 2015.
Rich answers are relevant especially for sites whose SEO strategy is found on non-exclusive content like currency exchange rates, weather and time zones among others. In addition, rich answers are a useful opportunity for site owners with high-quality, value-adding and original content that addresses commonly asked questions on Google.
75 percent of Google’s rich answers originates from external data sources (i.e. sources other than Google Knowledge Graph), according to studies by the same firm. Therefore, if you want to be counted as a source for rich answers, begin by researching on the most commonly asked questions within your niche using long-tail keyword research. Create content addressing those questions, beginning with a solid answer then following up with more relevant details.
To be ranked, your SEO expert from https://www.ignitur.com/should provide additional information that will provide value to a searcher who clicks through to your page. Do not give up all the information on your SERP rich answer in order to give them a reason to follow back to your site for more information.
The Double-algorithm theory
While Google remains silent on whether or not user behavior is applied as a ranking factor, experimental studies have shown this to be highly likely. It is no secret that Google is focused on providing a user-centered approach to search results in order to provide better user experience to searchers.
As a result, it is important that SEO approaches for 2016 be a combination of the long-standing Google-oriented SEO with the much newer user-oriented SEO. This is the double-algorithm theory, and it is founded on four main factors that depict search behavior and hence have an impact on rankings. These include:
- Click-through rates – high CTRs are an obvious indication that a result is deemed interesting to searches
- Engagement – longer page durations are indicators that content meets a searcher’s query
- Well-rounded content – Google has a new machine-learning ability through which it can determine whether or not a specific page has sufficient information to satisfy a user’s query
- Social signals – pages that have big social sharing numbers have been found to rank higher than pages with lower sharing, even if the latter have more backlinks.
Google is now the competition, sort of
In a bid to provide better user experience to searchers, Google has taken to including more elements on their SERP pages including sponsored ads, carrousel results, info-rich snippets, local packs and knowledge graphs. That is a lot of information on one page.
In a Mediative study which tracked searchers’ eye movements within SERPS and eventual clicks, it was found that searchers interact differently with SERPs depending on the query. However, the presence of new elements in the SERP certainly reduced the number of clicks on organic search results. Therefore, keyword search volume is no longer as predictable an indicator of site traffic, given that the new SERP elements may reduce traffic potential of specific keywords.
However, somewhere in the middle lies an opportunity to beef up your traffic: getting your content into one or more elements within the SERP. If you have a local-based business, ensure you can be found in the local pack. Make your pages eligible to be ranked for the rich snippets and answers by adding structured data like recipes, reviews, product info, events and software apps. Of course, ensure that these are correctly marked up to indicate presence of such content to the search engine.
With the constant changes on the SEO landscape, such trends are more than just empty hype by SEO experts looking to make a quick buck. How you perform in SERPs this year will depend on how you digest these trends and hence apply them to improve your SEO strategy and give your site an edge within your niche.
Feature image: Joe The Goat Farmer via Flickr