Top Google Search Trends & Predictions for 2016

Crystal BallAs we approach the end of 2015, we can look back upon a year that was relatively quiet in terms of rank fluctuations and algorithmic changes on Google searches. In fact, it was eerily quiet for some periods, until recently.

Back in April, the impending “mobilegeddon” was supposed to spell disaster for those without a mobile friendly website and mark the beginning of the end, when in actual fact, all it caused was a bit of a trickle but not the tidal wave of carnage that some had implied.

On reflection, most of the noise was coming from opportunistic web development agencies trying to scare the living daylights out of business owners into hastily getting a new responsive website built in time for the looming deadline. No surprises there then! However, once the update hit, it soon became apparent that all that was required was sound planning for the future, good house keeping and the aim of improving site content accordingly.

Last month, we had the first of what many feel might be some shaky periods to come. Still yet unconfirmed, Google certainly made some form of algorithmic changes on or around November 19 as there was a huge level of organic ranking flux that really changed to search results in a big way.

Was this a simple test prior to a major algo release to come or what this an unconfirmed update? Whatever it was, it’s got some folks spooked!

For most SEO’s, the clock has been ticking for quite some time, waiting for the inevitable Penguin update that never came. It’s now been well over a year since the last 3.0 update was released which by and large, corrected a lot of the problems some SEO’s had with bad links and disavow requests but for those who didn’t do their clean up job in time, the wait goes on and on.

The promise of (the soon-to-be real-time) Penguin 4.0 before the end of 2015 is now off the table and Google recently announced it won’t be released this year after all. Typically, this got a mixed reception amongst the SEO community.

For those waiting to get their bad links processed, it’s agonising and painful having to sit tight, hoping that when the release finally comes, they’ll get out of jail.

Those of us flying high, with happy clients, are sitting a little nervously staring into the abyss of the unknown, wondering what Google has up its sleeve and why it’s taking so long to get this latest algorithmic update out there. Clearly, it’s going to be big and hit hard!

So on that note, what can we expect in the world of SEO going into 2016? Here’s our take on what to expect and how things will shape up:

1. Algorithm changes in real-time

Whether we like it or not, Penguin 4.0 is coming and very soon. Once it hits, it will mean goodbye to incremental algo changes and hello to real-time link processing. Is this good news or bad?

On the surface of it, surely as an SEO, seeing the instant net benefit (or drawback) as a result of your work has to be a good thing right? But of course, with any Google algo update comes a few surprises so no one really knows what to expect, so can we reliably count on what we’ve been told?

Possibly not. Probably best to strap yourself in and get ready for a potentially bumpy ride!

2. Mobile is going to get bigger

Mobile devices have now officially overtaken desktops as the most common way for people to get online, so is it any surprise that this trend is expected to continue?

If your website is still stuck in the dark ages then it’s time to act. Google’s even gone out of their way to create a mobile friendly test so if your site is failing, its about time you got onto this and got it fixed.

Mobile search results are bound to gain strength and influence so don’t get left behind.

3. Voice search will keep growing

Every conceivable device is starting to promote the use of voice prompts and search is one of the first to do that. Whether you use Siri, Google Now or Cortana, people will try to find what they’re looking for using longer, voice-based commands which is changing the face of search.

Google’s use of structured data and rich snippets is growing increasingly as it attempts to answer questions directly by understanding the content it retrieves. Approximately 19% of all queries provide direct answers or rich snippets.

So if you’re still focusing on short-tail keywords and ranking position #1 for outdated, old-fashioned search queries, it might be time for a rethink and to ensure your site utilises structured data.

4. Local ranks still matter

Finding customers local to you will be more important than ever next year and with recent Google Pigeon changes, search results on mobiles and desktops will greatly focus on what is closest to you geographically.

So if you haven’t got your businesses local citations and maps in order, make that one of your top priorities for 2016.

5. Stop ignoring social media

So many businesses refuse to embrace the social age but the fact is, social signals are now integral to SEO and have practically merged as part of the wider picture.

If social media doesn’t form a part of your strategy then your plans will inevitably fail. Signals, mentions and reputation through social platforms has grown and can mean the difference between success and failure, especially if your business operates primarily online.

If you’ve ignored social influence up until now, it’s going to be pretty hard for you to continue to do so going into 2016 and to expect your business to grow. That you can count on!

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