5 SEO trends to watch in 2016

Jan 6th, 2016

As Google gets smarter in 2016, businesses will need to follow suit, so here are our predictions for this year’s biggest SEO trends.

Mobile search

Desktop is no longer the default for customers and marketers need to take this shift seriously in 2016, if they haven’t already.

While last year’s mobile friendly algorithm was a bit of a damp squib in terms of its impact, the fact that searches queries on devices outstripped those on desktop meant 2015 was still a milestone year for mobile. This is a trend that’s set to grow, as industry research suggests that the volume of mobile search will increase to about 60% in the UK and mobile conversion rate will also increase considerably, and our view is that Google will deal with mobile usability in more depth this year.

Responsive website design can be an effective solution to mobile SEO. This involves creating a template for your website which utilises CSS3 media queries in order to vary how the page will appear to customers depending on the device they’re using. This ensures that all equity is built to just one URL, but it likely to require a complete site redesign if not already in place.

But it’s important to remember that your website needs to be mobile-optimised, not just mobile-compatible. This means getting a clearer understanding of customers’ mobile search behaviour (for example, quickly looking up a business’ phone number on the go, or researching prices while in a physical store or venue), and its role in the purchasing path, so that you can focus on maximising your business’ mobile experience.

Rich answers

We’ll see a continued increase in search results that use Google’s rich answers in 2016 – the direct answers to search queries and show up at the top of search engine results pages (SERPs).


knowledge graph screenshot


A study by Stone Temple Consulting found a 38% increase in rich answers in the first six months of 2015 and identified that Google uses external data (ie, not its own) for 75% of them.

It’s debatable whether appearing in a rich answer could take over from position 1 as the new holy grail in terms of maximum SERPs exposure and SEO kudos, but to increase your chances of being featured in rich text answers:

  • Long tail research into what your target audience searches for is even more crucial. Identify the questions they’re asking and ensure your content not only provides clear, substantial answers, but also includes the questions themselves.
  • Give users a reason to click through to your site, for example, mentioning additional resources they would find valuable.

Spoken language search

A much higher proportion of searches will be made by voice activation this year, and this trend towards conversational search is something else content creators need to take into account.

In practice, this will mean more searches posed as full questions, which is yet another indicator of the importance long tail keyword searches. Businesses will need to tailor their content to their audience’s needs more than ever before and shift away from generic content towards specific, relevant information that anticipates and satisfies detailed user searches.

Links from apps starting to become important

In a further demonstration of how its attentions are shifting to mobile users, Google has started to read apps as well as web pages. As this trend continues to grow, so will the significance of app-based deep linking (ie, pointing to specific internal content pages within an app).

The message is that a new goal is emerging: getting people to download your app, rather than just to visit your website

According to Search Engine Land’s Jason DeMers: “If the end goal is getting people to download an app, the rules of SEO will need to be rewritten. You’ll need to take actions and implement strategies that get your app to be more noticeable in search results.” While this is far from an exact science, he suggests optimised in-app content and increasing popularity ratings through superior functionality as ways to compete for app visibility on the SERPs.

Google to re-approach social

After the relative failure of Google+, Google limited the effect of social media within its core algorithm so, while social has an impact on SEO, most of the current benefits are secondary factors such as brand building. However, rumours suggest that Google has new ideas to implement next year and we think that the search giant is likely to want to incorporate social metrics into its core algorithm as quickly as possible. This is particularly likely as social networks, particularly Facebook and Twitter, are gaining market share as news and content publishers, search mechanisms, and even redefining themselves as ecommerce platforms, with the emergence of the click-to-buy button.

This means a change of mindset is due for those who still think of social media as a ‘fluffy nice-to-have’, who need to begin incorporating social fully into their search marketing strategies.

Check our this year’s biggest trends in SEO, PPC, social and more with our dedicated resources.

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