“The more things change, the more they stay the same.

These words, originally spoken by French critic Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr back in 1894, could not be more true when it comes to witnessing the ever-evolving trends of digital marketing and search engine optimization (SEO).

As the industry approaches 2016, strategists and marketing directors across the country are surely combing through the blogosphere, in hopes of getting a jump on what Google and other search engines will require, demand, and favor with regard to:

-content marketing

-online brand visibility

-social engagement/optimization

For those who have followed along with emerging trends over the past few years, you have heard a wide variety of predictions for what concepts, tactics, and strategies will push a particular brand’s online presence to the extreme, in terms of rankings (that’s right, people still care about these), visibility, and online authority.

In 2014, we heard SEOs predict that search listings would be influenced by Google Authorship and PublisherRank.

Fast forward to 2015, and strategists across the country seemed to be betting big on exact keywords diminishing and how the Knowledge Graph would keep more users connected to Google.

While Google Authorship didn’t pan out the way it was expected to, online consumers are certainly pleased to find immediate answers to their individual queries through the Knowledge Graph.

With 2015 winding down, it’s natural to wonder what we can expect next year and, even more so, how new, emerging trends like mobile optimization and Social SEO will affect the way that businesses and brands connect with the most qualified consumer.

Reflections in a crystal ball. Captured on London's South Bank.

Prediction 1: It’s All About Meaningful Connections

After experiencing the launch of “Mobilegeddon” (an algorithm update that focused on penalizing websites that failed to comply with modern mobile optimization), it’s clear that the on-the-go consumer is at the forefront of Google’s future.

This one specific update is responsible for the significant overhaul we have seen to local search rankings, with the release of the local three-pack, a new quality algorithm for content, and more than a dozen other updates that ultimately support mobile consumers’ ability to:

-find what they want as soon as possible;

-engage with the most meaningful, relevant content;

-progress through their individual search as easily and fluidly as possible.

Because of the level of investment Google continues to make in creating a better online world for mobile consumers, strategists should be on the lookout for the following trends that are sure to change the way campaigns are approached, developed, and executed.

Prediction 2: Forget Desktop Optimization; Mobile Is King

The days of optimizing traditional forms of meta data (page titles, meta descriptions, headers) in order to successfully rank on page one of search listings has already diminished in value over the last few years. This trend will certainly continue as Google and other search engines will require strategists to align with the growing number of mobile users and how they interact with their immediate communities (geographical and social).

Mobile searches exceeded desktop queries for the first time this year, so you can expect to see this trend only get more pronounced, as access to mobile devices and associated technology becomes more available to emerging demographics and economic classes.

Google has already made it clear through a variety of events and statements that desktop-specific sites are not necessary, and their adjustments toward the local three-pack only confirms their continued investment toward an all-encompassing mobile experience that easily translates across each and every type of device.

Prediction 3 : Digital Assistants Will Dramatically Affect the Way Strategists Approach Search

Intelligent assistants like Siri and Cortana allow Windows and Apple phone users to speak directly to their devices in order to operate their applications and search online.

How consumers verbally communicate significantly varies from how individuals type out search queries.

Because of this variation in behavior, you will begin to see more long-tail keyword queries; this will allow you to create much more accurate and intelligent key phrase strategies, since more granular data will be available around consumer behavior.

Prediction 4: Social Content Will Be Easier to Locate in Search Results

Continuing with the value of social marketing, it is important to understand the type of professional relationships that are developing between Google and major social entities like Facebook and Twitter.

As the popularity and usage of social platforms and applications continues to grow, it makes perfect sense that Google will want to increase their bottom line and attract new users to their platforms by creating business relationships that leverage detailed consumer behavior information from these types of social networking sites.

Google has already established deals with Facebook and Twitter that sees their news articles populate in search listings. Because of this, you should expect to eventually see individual tweets indexed in 2016.

The division between the World Wide Web and social media will begin to merge, creating a more socially dynamic experience from an SEO perspective.

Prediction 5: Social SEO Will Continue to Influence Visibility

The concept of Social SEO essentially creates a world where content that is validated by human engagement is able to connect with more online consumers than content that is simply published on a particular website without any shares, comments, and other metrics associated with consumer engagement.

There are plenty of reputable strategists who debate the validity of how social links affect online visibility. However, studies illustrate a direct correlation between volume of shares and meaningful engagement with superior results dedicated to visibility, conversions, and even online revenue.

As the New Year approaches, you should continue to implement social strategies that encourage meaningful follower growth (‘meaningful’ refers to connecting with real people who are actually interested in who you are and what you offer) and user engagement. However, it’s just as important to understand that this singular concept should not be considered the be-all and end-all for SEO success.

The fact is, studies also show diminishing returns where articles that are supported with thousands of shares and hundreds of comments are not permanent in their original position within search listings.

Being able to leverage a robust social audience is helpful for maximizing immediate exposure and conversions, but you still need to do much more in order to achieve long-lasting success.

Prediction 6: You Better Get To Know Your Local Community

Algorithm updates like Pigeon and the way that search listings have evolved to provide users detailed information about desired services found within their local community are why strategists should expect local search to absolutely explode.

Wearable devices like the Apple Watch are becoming more popular, along with the increased level of sophistication of Google’s local indexes, you can see why specific types of local search queries will significantly increase.

In 2016, local rankings will populate based on an individual’s exact location, such as what street they are on within a specific neighborhood.

Prediction 7: The SEO Community Is Sure to Have a Blast in 2016

As the upcoming new year unfolds, it will certainly be interesting to see what type of trends ultimately emerge and how they affect the way that consumers search, locate, and engage with businesses and brands online.

What we can bet on is that the Internet will continue to become more social as traditional minority demographics will continue to gain access to technology that was previously out of reach. People will continue to join and share content through social media networks, and video content will play a more substantial role in conveying brand messaging.

How these trends affect the SEO landscape? Well, we will just have to wait and see!

1 Comment

  1. Casey November 27th, 2015

    Nice article Julian!
    There are several social networking sites that a business can use to reach customers for effective digital marketing. However, not every social networking site is right for every company. Research on various social networking sites will help the company identify each site’s unique benefits, audience profile, potential ROI, the traffic the site can deliver, retention rates, and more. This information will help the company narrow down the sites that seem best suited to their needs and goals for online marketing.

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Julian Connors
Julian is an experienced search marketing strategist who has developed complex, wide-scale search and social campaigns for brands that include: P&G, Dickies, Papa Johns, Under Armour, and more. A published author on the concept of "Social SEO", Connors contributes to a number of recognized publications and speaks at digital marketing conferences throughout the country.