Tick tock. The clock is ticking and the magical Christmas night and upcoming New Year is approaching faster than you think.
The SEO world doesn’t stand still either.
In 2015 Google has given the industry a few good shakes, and 2016 promises some new changes to enter the marketing landscape.
If you want to dominate in search results and double your traffic in 2016, here are the key strategies to focus on this year.
Pay Extra Attention To Your Link Profile
Great link portfolio is the backbone of your SEO. Link building still stands high on the marketing agenda in 2015 and onward, but as you already know – not all links were created equal.
Before pouring your budgets into another link building campaign next year, do your homework first and analyze your existing link profile.
How To Analyze Your Backlink Profile
First things first – you need to have the right tools. We suggest using one of the following:
Open Site Explorer
These tools allow you to analyze what type of links and in what manner lead to your (or your competitor’s website) and take respective actions. Here are the key metrics you should pay special attention to:
The total amount of links leading to the website
Number of unique referring domains
Referring domains vs. total links count
New links vs. lost links count
Link types and anchor text types
Overall page performance.
Now let’s briefly review each point.
The more links point to a certain website, the more competitive it becomes in terms of search marketing. However, quantity rarely beats quality. That’s why you should look into the number of unique domains linking to the website and compare the difference.
The truth is - 10 links coming from the same weak domain will be worth less than one backlink coming from a good website. If you notice thousands of links pointing from the same domain to your website, that’s a huge red flag called “spam”.
When it comes to analyzing anchor texts, the diversity is key here. Consistently using the same anchor text, especially exact match keywords, is a quick way to get a slap from Google. Branded anchor texts and long tail keywords became the go-to option after Penguin 2.0. and will stay the optimal solution in 2016.
When it comes to assessing the quality of a backlink, make sure you pay attention to the next factors:
Website Domain Authority and Page Authority
Amount of other external links on page
Number of social shares/comments
Long Tail Keywords Will Continue to Lead the Game
You already know that building links with exact match keywords is a sure-fire way to catch a Google penalty. Sure, you might notice a rise with your rankings....to watch an epic fall once Google throws in the next algorithm update.
So, what an SEO should do to dominate in search?
The right answer is extensive keyword research.
Think like your user. Learn to mimic and second-guess their searching patterns and craft snappy copies around those searches.
Here’s a few advanced strategies to help you discover new target keywords in 2016.
Hack Google Keyword Tool
Kudos to Brian Dean for this great tip!
Open Pinterest and paste your keyword in the search bar e.g. wedding décor
Copy the URL you get and paste it into Google Keyword Planner landing page tab
Voila, you’ve just milked GKP for new long-tail keyword suggestions. Scope the competitions and see how you can leverage your content.
Use Tools for Long Tail Keyword Research
To analyze your competitors’ rankings and borrow their keywords, use SemRush - the most comprehensive tool out there that gives you plenty of data when it comes to the initial keyword research - competition, current pages ranking in top-10 for the post, data on AdWords competition and CPC. On top, you can get a good list of long tail keyword suggestions based on a broad search term you’ve used.
To autotomize the process of scouting through Wikipedia, Amazon and Google Suggest for long tail keyword suggestions, use Soolve – a free keyword research tool that offers excellent suggestions for broad search terms.
Focus More on On-Page SEO
The two key points that should among your top on-page SEO priorities this year is - mobile optimization and website security.
If you somehow missed Google Mobile update earlier this year (the notorious Mobilegeddon), you shouldn’t give Google another chance to doubt your website’s mobile friendliness.
Mobile Optimization Tips
Apart from the obvious mobile responsive design, site speed and mobile UX, there are a few other important factors you shouldn’t ignore:
Ditch flash for HTML 5 to ensure smoother user experience and faster loading speed.
Keywords in content matter. While mobile content should be kept shorter compared to the desktop version (868 vs. 1285 words on average), keywords should be still used strategically in your copy (without overstuffing of course).
Proof terms also play a viable role in rankings and should be used naturally in your mobile texts.
Structured content performs better. As your mobile copy is shorter, use bulletin points and lists to make your data more scannable, while keeping the overall number of items relatively short.
Use less internal links compared to your desktop copy. Ensure you only leave those that carry the most meaning and are essential for smooth navigation.
Social signals add additional value and currently high-ranking pages on mobile also tend to have a higher number of social shares.
Inbound links matter less as most of the top pages in mobile search results have lesser links compared to their desktop versions. Obviously, when it comes to mobile social signals carry more value and look more natural rather than direct links for Google.
Website security has gotten more weight in 2015, especially after the notorious Ashley Madison hack and will continue to be a major user concern onwards.
In terms of SEO that means moving your website to http:// may be a smart move to make.
Google announced that HTTPS connections would be regarded as a strong ranking signal back in August 2014, however most companies still feel reluctant about making the switch.
However, there’s a number of major SEO benefits for choosing HTTPS.
Access to additional referral data. Here’s the problem – if your website is still on http all the traffic that comes to it from https website will be simply marked as “direct” in Google Analytics and you will never know what kind of referral traffic your website’s getting and where does it come from. As more website opt for https this factor gains importance.
Privacy and Security. HTTPS connection ads extra credibility to your website both from the users’ and the search engine’s perspective. Here’s why:
All the communication is kept encrypted including sensitive information like credit card data or login/pass details.
Secure connections stand as an additional proof that this website is the one the server it is supposed to refer to.
HTTPS adds an extra layer of protection against tampering by 3rd parties, the so-called Man-in-the-middle attacks.
Go Local Before Going Big
Mobile optimization comes hand in hand with local SEO. If you want to rank high on mobile, you need to master the local optimization game as well.
“80% of mobile searches trigger store visits that happen within 5 hours of the initial search.” – The Google Mobile Playbook.
“69% of mobile users expect businesses to be within 5 miles (or less) of their location. – Nielsen Mobile Path to Purchase Report.
When optimizing your website for the local search, mind the following factors:
NAP information consistency over different networks. That also includes timely updates if your venue moved or changed the phone number.
Optimize your Google Business profile by filling all the information tabs, using relevant keywords in titles and throughout the copy, plus get listed in a narrower category for better results. Google tends to rank complete listings higher in search results even for broad terms e.g. Chicago coffee shop.
Encourage your clients to leave reviews across different platforms. Google+ Facebook Business Page, YP, Yelp and reviews placed on other platforms are all equally powerful trust signals for Google.
Continue building citations as they still play a vital role for your local rankings.
So what are your predictions for 2016? How do you plan to lead your SEO game next year?
I'm Paul Gordon an SEO freelancer who has spent the last 16 years helping businesses expand and grow through effective SEO strategies.