Google Updates – A Nightmare for SEOs? 5 Predictions & Tips for 2016

Written on 14 January, 2016 by John Rueth
Categories Search Engine Optimisation

So, it turns out it wasn’t one of the highly anticipated (at least in SEO-circles) Penguin or Panda updates that happened over the last weekend. Instead, it was a “core ranking algorithm update”, officially confirmed by Google, which happens rarely enough and is kind of a “media event” in itself. It seems that the recent activity was more Panda-related, thus examining the content of websites even more carefully.

Google Elephant update?

While others are speculating about the exact changes that have been implemented and trying to find a suitable name for the recent Google update, we want to be a bit more proactive in the beginning of this year. Most SEOs would agree that we will definitely see other big changes in 2016, be it in form of a Panda, Penguin or an Elephant that will stamp to the Google-ground websites following SEO techniques from yesteryear.

As a leading digital marketing and SEO company, we want to get ready for the big changes, dare to make some predictions and establish best practices so that the next Google update does not turn out to be a big SEO-nightmare. So, what’s in store?

Content is the super-XXL-king

With Panda now being part of Google’s Core Ranking Algorithm, content is even more important than ever before. Webmasters don’t have any excuses anymore to delay their content improvements until after the next big Panda update; they have to do it NOW. Avoid publishing thin 250-300 word articles that are half-hearted and (over-)optimized for some random SEO-keywords. Do an in-depth keyword research, brainstorm, write an awesome article that gives answers to real questions and update it regularly. An effective content marketing strategy does not only mean to write new content but also update older posts, enrich them with fresh information and make sure your content will be read by spreading it across all available channels.

  • We also predict that content in the form of good videos, images and infographics will have an even more important role in 2016. With the majority of internet users surfing new websites via mobile devices nowadays, the significance of visual content will increase.

Be social!

The connection between good rankings and various social signals is often times obvious, even though SEOs generally deny a direct relation. Tweet, share and market your aforementioned awesome content via newsletters and other avenues so that your message gets out there. Engage with your readers and (potential) customers, make sure to reply to their questions and find solutions to their problems. Using social-media-channels means to establish good communication, build virtual relationships and, lastly, create a modern and recognisable brand.

  • Tweets and shares via Google Plus and Facebook etc. are already an important part in a customer’s journey. Even though a lead or sale in many cases can’t be attributed to a “social activity”, it will often times show up when you have a closer look at the Google Analytics Model Comparison Tool. Find out more about it in David’s interesting post. By the way, there seems to be an even stronger correlation between good rankings and social signals on Facebook and Google Plus – so make sure to be active at least on one of these platforms.

Back to basics!

In our daily work as SEO technicians, we usually start with very basic, but also very important and effective, measurements. Making sure to have unique meta titles and only one unique h1 heading on every page of a website should be common knowledge nowadays, but has obviously not even reached seasoned webmasters, online marketers and SEOs. Also, more complex tasks like the implementation of hreflang tags across all domains of an international client are essential – finding the right set-up on an international client’s website is rather the exception to the rule, and that is where we have to jump in.

  • A clean onsite-architecture is more important than ever before since Google and other search engines put a lot of weight on onsite ranking factors. There are many free online SEO-tools available to assess your onsite-SEO – check out this – free SEO Wizard Tool.
  • Also make sure to avoid content duplications on your website, edit thin pages and set tag-pages etc. to noindex. We usually notice significant ranking improvements by just getting rid of noindexing pages that have no or little value.

Reviews as the new backlinks?

The importance of relevant backlinks in 2016 is also undeniable, but with all the Google Penguins waddling around, the life of a link builder gets harder and harder. A good substitute might be the acquisition of good reviews on Google Plus, Facebook, Trusted Shops etc. In the end, Google and other search engines also try to evaluate votes of real users (links are basically nothing else than a vote for a website found useful by an internet user).

There are many signs that Google & Co. try to include “real reviews” in order to rank websites. A quick look at the Search Quality Rater’s Guidelines clearly shows the importance of the “reputation” of a website and its webmaster.

  • Do a quick site-check and google:

-site:www.domain.xy “www.domain.xy” or -site:www.domain.xy “your brand”

That way you will find out more about your website and brand (filtering out pages on your own website) – many thanks to @joshbachynski for sharing this gemstone, watch his video, which should also give a lot of inspiration for SEO in 2016. The more results including good user reviews you have, the better. If not, make sure to get some. Satisfied customers are often happy to help out here – they just have to be asked.

Good users = good rankings

It is no secret anymore that user signals like the bounce rate, reviews, time spent on web-pages and CTR in SERPs are already an essential part of Google’s well-kept secret of how to rank websites. Google & Co. are striving to rank the best results on their first pages.

  • Apart from creating awesome content, make sure to regularly check Google Analytics for your current user signals and try to constantly improve them. Some design tweaks, adding a snippet for related posts and products, embedding eye-catching visual content and having clear call-to-actions on your website are only a few ways how to improve your usability, turn a user into a good user and get better rankings.

Short summary

Even though the latest Google update was not (only) a “Panda Update”, high-quality text and visual content is the super-xxl-king. A constant improvement of all pages on your website, combined with effective “social action” and a solid onsite-SEO, will do the trick and help you to face all Google Pandas, Penguins and Elephants this year.


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