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SEO Trends 2016 – Watch out for these 3 factors

It’s hard to believe – but 2016 is already well over 2 months old. Right at the outset, Google drew our attention to several changes and updates.

Meanwhile, Panda is now part of the core algorithm and a real-time Penguin is said to be published soon. What do these changes imply for SEO and which trends are important for a successful Search Engine Optimization in 2016?

Links, quality content and other important factors of course continue to play a central role in SEO. But for this year, watch out for the following 3 factors in particular:

Page Speed – fast isn’t fast enough!

One of the all-time important topics of recent times is the Page Speed of websites. Since the sharp increase of mobile internet usage, the page load speed of a website is even more crucial for a positive user experience. This trend will be continued in 2016.

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Figure 1: Optimize your Page Speed with OnPage.org

A slow page speed moreover compromises the crawling of search engine bots. Here it is especially important to focus on the crucial website elements and eliminate unnecessary parts. As always, you should concentrate on the user and the provided content.

In order to improve the performance on mobile and desktop devices, you need to assess your actual page speed and optimization potential first.

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Figure 2: Page Speed analysis with webpagetest.org

OnPage.org, the Pingdom Website Speed Test Tool or webpagetest.org are ideal tools for that matter, providing information to the exact loading times and optimization potentials.

1. Analyze the actual Page Speed of your website.

2. Outsource resources such as CSS and JavaScript for an improved performance.

3. Make use of ideal browser caching and data compression.

4. Apply CDNs for static elements (e.g. AWS CloudFront).

5. Deploy compressed images on your website.

Like that your website will be all set for 2016!

In order to have something to go on regarding the optimization of page load times, you can use the Google PageSpeed Insights Tool.

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Figure 3: Google PageSpeed Insights Tool

Prefetching, Preloading and Prerendering of contents has significant impact on an overall improved Page Speed. Another important novelty considering Page Speed concomitant with an increased usability is the AMP project.

AMP – Accelerated Mobile Pages

Since late 2015, Accelerated Mobile Pages – "AMP" – are on everyone’s lips. AMP is a new, lean HTML version of mobile websites said to considerably improve user experience and Page Speed.

AMP is a Google initiative aimed at increasing the speed of mobile websites or versions and therefore significantly improving the user experience. According to a study of thinkwithgoogle.com, 29% of all smartphone users quit a website or app immediately if it doesn’t satisfy their needs or its performance is too slow. The page load time in particular is one of the most crucial signals for an either positive or negative user experience. The threshold is even lower on mobile devices.

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Figure 4: Mobile User Experience (thinkwithgoogle.com)

With the AMP project, Google wishes to increasingly display lean, content-focused websites in the mobile search.

How does AMP work?

AMP is nothing else than a trimmed HTML version of the original website, augmented by new tags.

<!doctype html>
<html >
<meta charset="utf-8">
<link rel="canonical" href="hello-world.html" >
<meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width,minimum-scale=1,initial-scale=1">
<style>body {opacity: 0}</style><noscript><style>body {opacity: 1}</style></noscript>
<script async src="https://cdn.ampproject.org/v0.js"></script>
<body>Hello World!</body>

Go to redclayinteractive.com for an exemplary AMP page with additional code examples and beta WordPress plugin.

According to their own statements, Google wants to start delivering AMP in the mobile search results starting from February 2016. You can already view AMP pages and potential errors and problems in the Google Search Console – which means that it won’t be long until AMP plays an important role in the SERPs as well.

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Figure 5: AMP analysis in the Google Search Console

The actual impact of these new website versions can’t be estimated yet. However, they will surely have a significant influence on the user behavior of mobile users. The "Accelerated Mobile Pages" project is likely to become a standard in the foreseeable future.

Focus on Usability & User Experience

Positive user signals are indicators for good results for search engines, satisfying the needs of the search queries. Creating a website which users like and where they engage thoroughly with the content should be the aim of any Search Engine Optimization means. In order to create such usability, it is necessary to know and understand the behavior of your website visitors. This allows you to target a page to the needs of your target group and users.

Regarding the usability optimization of your website, OnPage factors such as internal link structure, engagement metrics (Bounce Back, dwell time) and relevant content play an important role.

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Figure 6: Internal link structure

Ideal internal linking within a website also implies simplified access to the contents for users. The internal navigation is a crucial optimization factor for cutting back the "Bounce Back Rate", which indicates the number of users that get to your website via search results but then return to the search results again. By means of an ideal internal user guidance the "Long Click" can be significantly increased, reducing negative signals such as a high Bounce Back Rate.

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Figure 7: Analyzing click paths with OnPage.org

Watch out for the following when optimizing your internal links:

  • Improve the navigation through simplified click paths.

  • Create a clear and unambiguous link hierarchy and structure for users and search engines.

  • Avoid misleading link texts and links to less relevant pages.

  • Eliminate internal links to 404 pages and avoid redirection chains.

  • Cut the links in continuous text down to a reasonable number in order to improve readability.

The internal website and link structure moreover play an important role when evaluating the relevance of content. Content – meaning texts – should be structured in a meaningful way and tailored to the needs of your target group. Readability and coherence are crucial for a positive user experience.

A useful method for the measurement of user behavior is for example Scroll Tracking or analyzing the "True Reader Bounce Rate". Such data provides information about visitor movements and the level of engagement with content and website.

In order to improve the mobile user experience, Google provides the Google Mobile Friendly Testing Tool. The tool determines the depiction of respective elements on mobile devices and signalizes if texts, images or links are not displayed in the appropriate size.

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Figure 8: Mobile Friendly Testing Tool

Personalization and differentiation

There is no text-book approach to Search Engine Optimization. Due to diverse needs and intentions of internet users, Google results become more and more personalized. A standardized optimization of websites is no longer rewarding. Some SEOs have been discussing the claim of fellow Austrian SEO Thomas Rafelsberger for some time now, which shows why Search Engine Optimization should also consider different user types:


"A statistical evaluation of ranking factors across different types of search queries is not significant."


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In his article, Rafelsberger describes how ranking signals should vary based on the respective user and search query type with the help of several examples. He assumes that a search query with a clear e-Commerce intention implies different evaluation criteria for the compilation of the search results than e.g. a research intention. In other words – different criteria is needed for users intending to buy the product they are searching than for users looking for a cooking recipe. You need to make precise distinctions between different user types and their intentions.

Regarding the ever growing personalization of search results, this thesis does not seem to be far-fetched. SERPs are more and more augmented with personal information. History, click behavior and other individual data has significant impact on search engines. This data allows conclusions about search intention and needs of the users. The already mentioned differentiation is therefore also part of the personalization of search results.

It is no longer news that Google passes on information from Gmail to Google Now and thus reminds users of upcoming journeys. As of recently, such data is also included into search results – if it matches the search query.

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Figure 9: Personalized Google search results | searchenginewatch.com

If you thus look for "capsule" after having bought Nespresso coffee capsules online, this information will be integrated into the organic search results. This makes it a lot easier for the user to repeat his purchase.

Today, personalized search is already old hat for SEOs. But watching Google & Co. testing, launching and discarding ideas in that area, it becomes clear that it will continue to be highly relevant. Soon, search results will be almost as unique as the user’s DNA.


In 2016 and beyond, factors and features of Search Engine Optimization focusing on the user will occupy center stage – such as ideal usability, fast-loading content and personalization. If you know your target group and measure and analyze user behavior on your website, you will be able to understand how to satisfy their needs. The all-new AMP project is surely trend-setting regarding mobility and page speed.

Based on the original article by Daniel Herndler, published 01/02/2016. English translation by Johanna Wollenweber.

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Published on Mar 10, 2016 by Editorial Team