The SEO landscape has shifted and developed continuously within the course of 2016. From artificial intelligence to Google Penguin’s much-awaited final update, technology is doing more and more to change how SEO functions and operates.
Just last year, Google had multiple updates for its features, especially with its algorithm continually receiving updates. Many businesses vanished due to updates on Panda, Penguin, and other algorithms. SERPs also saw several different updates, with some ups and downs throughout the year. Updates that were considered as the most popular ones were Google Possum, Penguin 4.0, Mobile Friendly Update 2, and AdWords Shakeup.
User experience was an important topic throughout 2016, as was mobile-friendliness of websites. Many of SEO’s updates centered around how audiences can have a better experience browsing through websites, especially on mobile devices, and that includes optimizing layouts and appearances, eliminating pop-ups, speeding up websites, among others.
Mobile search has brought more traffic to websites than desktop, and this has also influenced SEO changes for recent years. Out of 24 industry niches, 20 of them see mobile as their first source of traffic, and SEO had to adapt to make the most out if this development.
According to Web Savvy Marketing, SEO saw these following activities in 2016:
- Crack down on obnoxious pop-ups in mobile
- Move to mobile first indexing
- Greater use of schema options within search
- Increased presence of rich answers within the knowledge graph – aka position zero in Google
- Introduction of rich cards
- Push for SSL and HTTPS-based websites
- Push for greater AMP usage and adoption
- Progressive web apps education
- Smarter search results brought on by longer search phrases
- Greater crack down on malware-infested websites
- Greater integration of Google Search Console and Google Analytics
- Removal of volume data in Google AdWords Keyword Planner for non-advertisers
Apart from these, Google even added options for website rankings, such as the image and video bar, knowledge graphics, rich cards, and social media carousels. Keywords have also started to become less and less of a focus for Google, as they moved to evaluating based for the overall topical relevance and authority on the entire website, not just a single page.
Intent signals also were integrated through advanced technology, which helps brands better understand the reason people are searching for certain keywords, which is useful for them to evaluate how they could give them the right content.
Search Engine People also determined that some key SEO developments in 2016 also involved penalties for publishing links in exchange for free products. Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller confirmed the penalty was related to NoFollowing links, stating that:
“There’s absolutely no need to nofollow every link on your site! However, those that are there because of an exchange (such as a product or service for a review) should have a rel=nofollow on links to the product, to their sales pages, and to any social media profiles that are linked because of the review. Also, it’s always a good idea to clearly label these kinds of posts for your readers too.”
Google also revealed its top 3 ranking signals: RankBrain, links and content. Google Ireland’s Search Quality Senior Strategist Andrey Lipattsev even revealed at Google Q&A that there was no order with the importance of the three ranking signals.
Right-hand PPC Ads were also removed from Search results, paid ads have blended more with the organic results by changing to green, Google Panda became part of the core algorithm, search console pagespeed notifications have been implemented, toolbar pagerank have been switched off, and warnings for non-mobile-friendly site owners were sent out.
All in all, these changes have completely overhauled the SEO landscape, and they now have set the parameters for this year. Changes in certain areas are more than likely to happen, especially with schema markup, SERPs, Google AMP, content, personal branding, optimization, voice search, and artificial intelligence. These anticipated trends are still expected to be centered around user experience, as well as improving the mobile optimization.