How Google Overhauled Organic Search in 2016

The past 12 months has seen search change dramatically once again. We all knew it was coming, but Google has put a focus on paid, local, knowledge graph and its mobile index. A year ago, many predictions for SEO were doom and gloom, but rather than sink completely, SEO has changed, adapted to its environment, and continues to be an essential element to every digital marketing strategy.

Google’s been playing around with Local all year, and the results so far are pretty interesting. Ads are infiltrating the local pack, appearing above local results, something that’s sure to sting local businesses lacking paid budget. Local ranking factors have changed over time, local citations lose their effectiveness in competitive markets and organic factors are looking like they’re playing a part in local results. That said, some things have remained the same. Links continue to be essential, and Google My Business verification, reviews and photos were always going to help and still do.

Organic Search

The Continuous Rise of MobileMobile Search

We’ve seen Google warn us that websites need to be responsive and mobile friendly, and really, they’ve given us plenty of time to act on this (the first announcement was back in April 2015).

Launching a non-responsive, non-mobile friendly is unheard of in this day and age. Take a look at almost every website’s usage stats in Analytics and see if the proportion of mobile/tablet visits can be ignored – in almost every case, they can’t. We’re living in a mobile-first world and every website should fall in line with that.

Google have announced they will be changing to a mobile first index. Now is the time to look at our websites and decide whether mobile variations are ready to perform as well as desktop versions organically as well as from a usability point of view.

Clues have been dropped throughout the year, including a warning of penalisation for ‘intrusive interstitials’ on mobile pages, dropping of the ‘mobile friendly’ tag due to so many sites now been mobile friendly, and back in March, confirming another ‘mobile friendly update would be rolling out.

Most notably, Google is now indexing millions of AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) to improve mobile web experiences. We’re going to see a lot more use of AMP going forward, so it’s going to worth getting up to speed with its structure.

Pandas, Penguins and Real Time UpdatesPenguin in 2016

The two most notorious updates live on in the SEO world, but gone are the days of bracing yourself for the latest algorithm update roll out. Panda is now part of Google’s main core ranking algorithm, so no more Panda announcements. Going forward it’ll be a bit trickier to see if Panda is impacting your site, with core updates taking months to rollout rather than the one swift hit that we’re used to.

As for Penguin, the roll-out of 4.0 is now complete. It’s the last of it’s kind because it’s now real time and Google suggests that it now devalues links rather than demoting sites. Businesses are finally being released from the shackles of historic spammy link building, as long as they’ve cleaned up their link profile.

2016 In Review
The SEO team have been looking back at their predictions for 2016 and how they panned out. It’s fair to say that overall, they did pretty well and a surprising amount of their predictions came true! We’ll be following up in January on what we expect 2017 to bring in the world of organic search, so watch this space for our next set of predictions.

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