Things are moving fast. Factors such as the Google ticker GOOGL +0.69% algorithm updates, new technologies, new user behavior patterns, and new ways of searching are all working together to keep SEO professionals busy. The rate of change in the SEO world keeps us all on our toes, because despite some of the hallmark general best practices remaining the same, every year ushers in the demise of a slew of once-effective practices. The Panda and Penguin algorithms, in 2011 and 2012 respectively, put an end to two major strategies common in the SEO world—writing keyword-stuffed, manipulative on-page content and mass-acquiring spammy links from everywhere possible, regardless of quality. But even minor tactical shakeups can have a substantial impact on the community at large.
Though we’re still more than a year away from the actual end of 2016, I’ve compiled a list of effective practices today that I think will be completely gone by next year’s end:
1. Only Google. For the past 15 years or so, most people referring to “search engine optimization” secretly meant “Google optimization,” and for good reason. Google has been the undisputed leader in the realm of online search, offering the most sophisticated technology, hosting the largest user base, and introducing all the trends and features that make other search engines struggle to keep up. However, this trend is shifting. Google users are starting to decline in comparison to other platforms like Bing and Yahoo, and new forms of online search like personal digital assistants Siri and Cortana are starting to change the dynamics of user search behavior. To be successful in SEO, it will no longer be enough to focus exclusively on Google search results.
2. Keyword Orientated Optimization. Keyword-focused page optimization has been on its way out for a while. Including keywords specific to your business and industry in the title and body of the content is still important, but overall, keyword-centric strategies have declined in importance, while an overall focus on content marketing to build the brand has become king. Google’s Hummingbird update introduced semantic searching, which doesn’t consider keywords as much as user intent. Now, with Google RankBrain ramping up, the semantic context of queries will grow even further in importance, and keyword-focused strategies will decline further in importance. Even long-tail keyword phrases, which worked well for Hummingbird in the past, may start declining in relevance now that RankBrain is mapping ambiguous user queries in strange, unpredictable and ever-changing new ways.
3. Desktop Optimization. Desktop optimization was never an independent strategy, but even as mobile devices were introduced and started growing in popularity, “desktop” optimization remained the default way of thinking. Mobile optimization, the much more recognizable term, only came into existence as a comparison to “desktop” optimization, which was the standard and the norm. Now, with mobile traffic surpassing and outpacing desktop traffic in growth and Google far more concerned with a sufficient mobile experience, that standard way of thinking is becoming irrelevant. As long as your site is sufficiently optimized for mobile, soon it won’t matter much how it looks on a desktop.
4. Written-Only Content. Despite years of results indicating that multimedia content almost always performs better than written content, written-only content marketing strategies have remained effective to date. As we enter a new year, with new platforms, new features, and changing online demographics, written content may finally meet its match. Of course, written content will never go away—but if you’re going to stand out in the crowd, you’ll need to add a little extra spice in the form of images, video, and possibly more interactive elements. There will be too much competition to get away with just writing.
5. Bulk Link Building. When I say bulk link building, I’m referring to the process of taking the time to post links to your domain in blogs, forums, Web 2.0 sites, and other outlets that don’t have an editorial review process. In other words, anyone can post anything there at any time. Today, this practice isn’t considered especially effective, particularly since the release of Google’s Penguin algorithm, but it can still be used for a measurable SEO benefit. By the end of next year, new Penguin revisions and an overall decline in opportunities to do this type of link building (as websites realize the necessity of an editorial process or moderation to its content) will make its ROI negligible once and for all, forcing more business’s to pursue link building in the form of guest posting, relationship building, and quality content publication that attracts and earns links on its own merit.
6. Infographic Link Baiting. There was a time when infographics were an instant recipe for success—as long as you threw some graphics and data together in some discernable way, you could count on a few hundred links almost overnight. Now, thanks to their surge in popularity and resulting oversaturation, infographics can’t be counted on for this same level of success anymore. They’re still useful, of course, but they aren’t the guaranteed success they used to be. To be successful with an infographic, you need to stand out from the crowd—and that means producing work that’s truly exceptional.
7. Skating by on Average Content. There’s a critical gap in content quality, and that’s only going to grow by the end of next year. The vast majority of all content gets zero likes and zero shares, thanks in part to oversaturation in the content market. By the end of next year, using average or “typical” content as the bulk of your strategy will be wholly ineffective; the only way to succeed will be by concentrating your efforts on producing content that truly stands far above the fold.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to prove that these strategies will be totally ineffective by the end of next year, nor is “ineffective” a very specific term. In general, I do feel that these strategies will no longer be worth pursuing by the end of next year, for any business owner. Most of them are already on their way out, but can be leveraged to some benefit if used properly. By next year, even that threshold of use will go away. Start adjusting your strategy now to maximize your potential for next year and beyond.
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Social Incite Team