Now, all eyes are on 2016. This upcoming year should prove to offer a few landmark shifts in search—notably, I’m looking at these seven new trends:
1. Video Content Will Overtake Written Content in ROI for B2C Industries and Brands. Today, written content is considered the “standard,” even by the vast majority of us who continuously insist that including many different formats of content is a good idea. Still, written content is a kind of baseline for most brands, with infographics, images, videos, and other mediums serving as peripheral additions. In 2016, a handful of new technologies and the continuation of years-long trends will shift, and video will outpace written content in terms of reach, engagement, effectiveness, and overall ROI. Vine, Periscope, Snapchat, and other video apps are partially responsible for this, setting users’ expectations toward more visual content, but the real herald may come from Google, which is now experimenting with video ads in search results. B2C brands without regular feeds of video will soon be considered behind the times. B2B brands will follow suit, but it won’t happen in 2016 (I’m betting it’ll be closer to 2019).
2. Mobile-Optimization Will Become More Important than Desktop Optimization. For the past few years, desktop has been a standard form of search, with mobile users growing in numbers. Earlier this year, mobile searches surpassed desktop searches for the first time, and along with Mobilegeddon, Google announced to the world that mobile and desktop traffic were on relatively equal footing. Starting now, and continuing into 2016, this shift will continue, eventually making mobile traffic by far the more important, with desktop fading into obscurity over the next 5 years. Already, Google is claiming that a desktop-specific site isn’t necessary, and their change to a local three-pack reflects their commitment to a “mobile” experience across all types of devices.
3. Digital Assistants Will Change the Way We Think About Search Queries. Modern search engines are receiving more and more queries from digital assistants, which are adding a new layer to the complexity of search (think of Siri, Cortana, and Google Now). Spoken language queries tend to be much different than typed queries, meaning a whole new type of long-tail keyword queries – particularly those that mimic spoken dialogue – will emerge. This trend could reward pages that contain colloquial, conversational content.
4. Aggregated Content Will Diminish the Power of News and Event Coverage. Twitter is experimenting with a new feature called Moments, which will aggregate posts, images, and videos from live events and unfolding news stories into a single channel for people to see. In a sense, users become the content creators, and other users can see events unfolding firsthand. Of course, Twitter isn’t the only platform to be experimenting with such a live feed, and advanced algorithms are already able to compile news stories from various pieces of pre-existing information. As a result, in 2016, the power of a news article that isn’t automatically sourced will begin to diminish, narrowing the field of content marketing for everyone. Evergreen, opinion-editorial, and tutorial content, as a result, will rise in importance for search visibility.
5. Social Content Will be More Readily Indexed. Google has deals in place with Facebook and Twitter already—search for a news item, and you’ll probably see a tweet or two appear in your mobile search results. In 2016, more platforms will become more heavily indexed in the vaults available to Google and other search engines. Social posts will carry a value and a consideration similar to any independent web page, and the separation of “web” and “social media” will begin to blur even further from an SEO perspective.
6. Deep Links in Apps Will Become More Important. Google has been indexing apps for a long time now. As part of the shift toward focusing on mobile users, Google is anticipating a future where apps may overtake traditional websites in popularity and functionality. Search marketers can benefit from anticipating this change as well. Starting in 2016, “deep links” to apps (meaning links that point toward a specific page or section of a specific app) will start to carry more meaning, akin to deep links on the web. App optimization in general, for that matter, will also grow in importance. If your medium-sized or larger business doesn’t yet have an app, now’s the time to create one. If you still don’t think it makes sense for your business, at least get your business listed on as many other apps as possible.