Google in its bid to make searches more relevant to users, and to boost advertising has and will continue to undertake a number of steps via updates which could really change the way SEO is done. Our look into the crystal ball to predict the future is tricky and many predictions may not come to pass, but one thing is for sure, it's time to start preparing for these changes right now.
We predict that SEO for mobile computers will become more important than for desktops
It is almost certain that mobile searches will overtake desktop and laptop searches. Though it hasn't already it will soon in 2016. This means that there will be more voice searches and searches via Siri (iOS). Many experts believe that Google is trying to build a computer similar to the one you see in Star Trek, which allows for people to instruct and converse with the computer as you would with another human being. Though it will not happen in 2016, but bits and pieces will start surfacing in the coming year.
In a future where search is handled through 'search assistants', SEO content campaigns will need to take advantage of paid advertising to aid in boosting relevancy to certain types of searches. For instance, you may want to ensure that fresh content on your blog comes recommended by Google Now by paying for it.
The rise of integrated SEO
As we see the sphere of SEO influence grow to include a number of platforms and technologies, businesses, and especially SEO businesses will need to look at making sure that a campaign is not limited to an isolated silo. Though SEO is not going to be replaced by content marketing, storytelling or some new fad, but it's good to have search engine objectives. This may mean having experts in biddable media, paid search, affiliate, social marketing, and outreach programs.
The experts will need to understand that while SEO takes advantage of hefty data sets, good SEO is partly instinctive similar to writing a great headline.
The role of AI will become more evident in 2016
Right now Google acts as a sort of doorway between the question you ask (your query) and the answer given in the form of SERPs. However, we have already started seeing an increasing occurrence of Google acting as a sort of knowledge vault where every question is answered with a short snippet usually taken from a series of similar sites which were indexed.
In 2016, we will see Google expanding its knowledge vault in a bid to become more knowledgeable and answer almost any question without working as a doorway at least on the first page. The second and third page will usually contain links most of which may be sponsored.
A number of subsequent updates through 2016 will change the way Google crawls and indexes sites in order for the built-in AI to answer questions. So, Google will quite literally become an expert itself instead of pointing in the direction of an expert website or article. The only time you will be sent to a website is when Google's knowledge is exhausted.
Better machine learning will diversify search
We should expect to see natural learning along with search driven by machine learning grow exponentially. So, marketers will have to use split testing a lot more for SEO purposes in order to find what Google finds the most useful. SEO specialists will have to spend a lot more time on analyzing search patterns, creating a diverse network of pages and using language variations to entice Google into ranking a website.
Penguin will possibly become real time in 2016
There is a good chance that Google's Penguin algorithm will create a fair bit of chatter during the first half of 2016. The forthcoming update was originally expected during the second or third half of 2015, but since that didn't come through it is expected for the first half of 2016.
The original Penguin algorithm update was first introduced back in 2012, to kill black hat SEO tactics. But it received a fair bit of criticism owing to a very large gap in between updates, which meant that sites that were originally penalized could clean up their SEO, but waited months prior to seeing any positive results. The reason why the upcoming Penguin update is so awaited is because it will it become a real-time update.
Improved multimedia recognition
We expect natural language processing and recognition to become increasingly better. There is also hope that other aspects of multimedia will also improve like advanced video and image recognition. The pace of technology development is very promising and exciting because there are big implications of how people will search as well as the results they end up seeing.
Once the improvements are in place SEO experts should be able to grow relevancy using a series of optimized pictures, animations and videos. All three of which will be game changers since the reliance of the typed word will be reduced.
Google can and will mix things up
Google at the end of the day crunches numbers and marks trends over a long period of time. So, what has worked for SEO professionals and businesses in the past may seize to work in the future if that is what all the number crunching that Google does concludes is the best way forward.
So, for instance, if Google or even Bing's algorithm concludes that the vast majority of political bloggers publish way too much advertorial content, and with little disclosure then getting any links from those blogs will result in negative quality as opposed to positive as you'd expect. That's why 2016, is going to be very interesting despite being slightly scary.
Google is going to continue working on moving forward and improving the quality of the SERPs served through a number of updates. So, for businesses it means that your website and SEO efforts need to satisfy the ever changing list of demands that Google and Bing hand down in terms of quality, type of content and how you build links.