The Algorithm is Dead: SEO in 2016 and Beyond
In late September, Google rolled out Penguin 4.0, an update to how Google treats links in relation to your search results. This change joins a list of algorithmic changes that have displaced many early SEO methods at ‘hacking’ the algorithm.
The Penguin 4.0 update causes all links pointing to your site affect your search engine ranking in real time. This is great news for anyone who had a number of spammy links to their site before the last update. Since Penguin is now real time, many SEO experts are now making use of the link disavowal tool and spending even more time on link building.
This change is another attempt to make the best content offered on the web rise to the top. Google’s commitment to this is commendable, although it does make understanding SEO harder, even for professed experts.
In the early days of the internet, getting your site to the top of users’ Google results was a simple task. Hit a certain percentage use of your keyword; optimize your images; get a few inbound links. Nowadays, search engine optimization is a much more holistic process.
On Page SEO in 2016 and Beyond
So, the old algorithm is dead. But what replaces it?
There are still a number of ways to make quantifiable SEO improvements. However, the most important thing to remember is that search engines want to promote the best answers for their users. The way to rise to the top is to be the best content, shop or idea for a specific consumer.
Loosey Goosey Keywords
A few years ago, you could choose one keyword to focus your SEO on, pump it to the extreme and feel confident about your page showing up for that keyword.
This is partially why the idea of long tail keywords became so popular. It was much easier to rank for a specific, less frequently searched keyword than a general one.
Now, the basic theory and value of a long tail keyword is still true — but focusing on just one keyword at a time isn’t going to be enough. Google and other search engines are increasingly relying on the presence of related keywords to prove that your content will be valuable to searchers.
You should be doing research into related keywords while you’re doing your general keyword research. One of the best methods for this is actually Googling whatever your chosen keyword is.
If you scroll to the bottom of the Google results, you’ll see a section of “Searches related to” your term. Don’t feel that these are the related keywords you absolutely have to use, but they can be a great jumping off point for your brainstorm!
Take advantage of Google Keyword Planner, Moz’s Keyword Explorer or other similar SEO tools to find more related keywords. These keywords will signal to search engines that you are taking users’ needs into account.
Old wisdom? Each post or page must contain at least 300 words. New wisdom? Everything must be 600-1000 words to catch Google’s eye.
In our experience, neither of these dictums are true. Really, your content needs to be exactly as long as it needs to be.
If you’re creating a resource page, for example, of a list of cheats for a video game, all your page needs is those cheats. Maybe an introductory sentence or two, but artificially inflating your page’s length won’t make you number one.
However, if you’re writing a definitive guide to how to do NaNoWriMo, you’re probably going to want to write more than 300 or even 1000 words.
Write however much feels right. Then go back and edit. If you’re the kind of person who needs a goal to hit, set yourself one and hit it for the first draft. Then be sure to stay open to cutting or adding once you’re editing.
Hopefully, none of you were ever relying on pasting your links into comments to build up your site’s profile. If you were, don’t worry too much — you can start fresh now.
Link building can feel like a wholly unnatural thing sometimes. After all, it boils down to “Hi, I made this thing, look at it, share it, PLEASE!”. Or maybe that’s just how I feel about it?
Anyway… link building in 2016 should really be about creating a sense of community. If your business depends on its online presence (and nowadays, what business doesn’t?), you’ll need to find your people.
You should be reading blogs and websites from other people in your area, commenting on their posts, and sharing their insights. Ask experts and other writers to share their thoughts on a post you’re working on.
If you can do this authentically, people will respond to your work in kind.
Site Speed and Responsiveness
With the expansion of the mobile web, site speed and responsiveness have become a huge factor in search engine results. A huge amount of search traffic is coming in on smartphones and tablets.
If your site is not mobile responsive, you’ll be dinged by search engines in all results, not just mobile searches. The good news? For WordPress and other CMS users, the fix is as easy as purchasing a responsive theme.
Most themes created now are already mobile responsive, but if your site is older, you may need to revamp. You can use Google Analytics or right click on your site then “Inspect” to view your site as a mobile user.
You can also find your site speed in Google Analytics, along with speed suggestions to help you fix any speed issues. These two fixes will boost your SEO immensely.
What Hasn’t Changed For SEO?
Technical SEO, for the most part, has not changed in the last few years. Search engines value fast and cleanly built sites.
You should be organizing all content on your site with clear categories and tags, creating an XML sitemap (automatic with the Yoast SEO plugin), avoiding or removing and duplicate content, and making your navigation easy to find and use.
As always, regularly updating your site and keeping it well organized will boost your search engine standings. Other than that, write great content. It really is that simple, or that hard.