We have talked a lot about the future of SEO and ways to optimise your site, your landing pages, and navigate the sometimes-confusing waters of Google SERPs. Today I want to take a step back and look at the bigger picture: how to handle going into the new year, what your SEO focus should be, and what you can expect.

SEO is expanding, and your knowledge surrounding those basics needs to expand as well – which is why I suggest that 2016 is the year you challenge yourself, and tackle a new SEO skill. Push yourself to see what you can learn and incorporate in interesting ways; do not be afraid to ask for help, or to struggle at the outset. As you push through and advance your skill set, focus on the ways you can innovate; someone will always come up with an easier way to do things, but innovation will set you apart from the crowd.

Three topics I am particularly interested in following in 2016:


Personalization has always been a part of Google search, but will be more important then ever this year. When a user logs into Google, previous activity – such as IP addresses, previous searches, and geographic location – is taken into consideration when Google displays their SERPs. The change in their search results is termed personalization.

This means the results can vary between logging in and being logged, out, from different countries, even from browser to browser. SEOs need to take this data into account when analyzing search and rank. On the plus side, if you rank well for one query you will usually rank well for others. When Google believes your site is preferable to the other options in the results, they will display you more prominently throughout.

When doing your research, remember that loyalty is an important factor in successful personalization: engaging with users and creating campaigns that help them remember your brand will increase your rank even within personalized results.

Link Building in 2016

Link building is the red-haired stepchild of the SEO world: everyone does it, but no one wants to talk about it. The entire world of link building changed drastically after Google released the Penguin algorithm in 2012, which was instrumental in identifying sites that purchased links. Many SEO claim that link building is dead, but even in 2016 it is very much alive. It has simply evolved, and so must your link building tactics.

Instead of automating your process with directory links and article submissions, you need to build organically. Look for opportunities within your network, content research, social signals, and brand recognition content. When building your campaign, it is important to find links that drive traffic, not just attract search engines. Identify hot topics to build guest posts, and run marketing campaigns to highlight them. Work within social media to build a brand that inspires customer loyalty and mentions – especially from other brands.

Content Marketing

While Penguin had the first impact on content marketing, the latest algorithm from Google has effectively changed it completely. RankBrain is an AI that attempts to “understand” the context of the content on any given website, eliminating the use of keyword density in favor of figuring out the intrinsic value of a site for searchers.

There are two types of content marketing: on-site and off-site. Content onsite should engage users, be relevant and well-written, and drive social media shares across various platforms. Beware of using too many ads above the fold, or poorly placed ads – these can be penalized by Google. Offsite content should be well researched guest posts that target your direct market. Be picky which blogs you contribute to; if it looks like a blog is selling links, they will fail under Penguin.

Always curate your content into categories, and keep related content available to users for better engagement on social media. Nurture your relationships with other blogs and bloggers in your or a related industry, and build links through them, as well as trading guest posts. Use competitor analysis and Google Trends to consistently learn the new keywords and phrases for emerging market trends. Try expanding to sites such as YouTube or SlideShare, and uploading branded content.

A few other potential topics to look into:

  • keyword research and grouping related topics and intent
  • coding
  • competitive research
  • reputation management
  • local SEO
  • international SEO
  • video SEO
  • how pages on a site interact

The point is, start learning and keep learning – because there is a lot to know in the world of SEO. Keep improving, and if you find something amazing, share it with me. As much as SEO changes or does not change, if you can learn and adapt, then your SEO has a successful future ahead of it. Challenge yourself in 2016!