With the close of 2015, we saw many significant changes to the search landscape. From Google revealing their search guidelines and Rank Brain to Panda being integrated into their search algorithm. With another Penguin rollout imminent in the beginning of 2016, SEOs should be prepared to weather the aftershocks of the changes from the end of 2015 along with the current tumultuous search landscape. In short, expect the unexpected with search in 2016 and make sure you and your clients are prepared by avoiding these common pitfalls.
#1 – Scraping Content
While pulling from content by your competitors and other businesses in your space can be useful to come up with ideas or expand on what they talk about. Scraping their site and copying it verbatim is the worst thing that you could do for your site, and can prevent you from even being indexed.
#2 – Content for Search Engines
As you know, content is king. That being said, if what you’re writing about doesn’t match up with your site’s content and audience, don’t even bother posting it. With Panda now part of Google’s search algorithm it’s working overtime making sure that only the most useful content is presented to searchers.
#3 – Not Mobile Friendly
Last April, Google announced that mobile-friendly web design is now included in its list of ranking factors and with 80% of all search traffic now coming from mobile devices, having a responsive design is no longer a convenience it’s a necessity. To make sure you get that nice “mobile-friendly” tag and the search ranking boost that comes with it, make sure that your mobile UX is up to snuff.
#4 – Poor UX
Though UX isn’t a ranking factor according to Google, it has an intrinsic effect on your website’s performance. Google considers your visitors’ experience when grading your website, if your site has a high bounce rate, that’s going to be a red flag to Google that your site’s UX is not optimized and could negatively affect your website’s search performance.
#5 – Lacking Fresh Content
Fresh and original content are two factors that are important to maintaining your search rankings in 2016. The days of uploading content once or twice a month are long gone, searchers are constantly looking for fresh and original content within the niche that they’re searching. Show your visitors what you’re capable of by presenting a wide variety of content that is in your niche.
Steady, high quality content is highly valued in SEO and therefore, highly valued by Google. If your visitors are getting consistent high quality content when they come to your site they’ll keep coming back. This is compounded with the effect that fresh content has on your user engagement.
#6 – Poor User Engagement
As an SEO, one of the biggest challenges in the field is optimizing your user engagement. However, it is one of the most important ranking factors that determines the success of your website and cannot be ignored in 2016. Use A/B testing to optimize your site for better user engagement. This will help you determine the best layout for your site and what content will help entice users to stay on your site and help you to convert them into prospects, and then hopefully customers.
#7 – Thin Content
While the freshness of your content is an important factor, the quality of the content is just as, if not more important. Avoiding thin, low quality content will help your website’s UX and will help you achieve higher rankings. Additionally, Panda is now always watching, and if your website has thin content it will suffer. I know its been said a million times, but unique content built for your users and not for search engines is what Google wants. If you scrape content, have gateway pages, or just poorly written content, be prepared for Panda to come pay your site a visit.
#8 – Interstitial Ads
As part of its mobile-friendly ranking factor, Google announced back in November that they will downgrade mobile rankings for sites that use interstitial ads. Google views these ads in the same light that they view gateway pages. These ads block the content that users are looking for and frustrates users to either search for a way to close the pop-up, sign-up for a service they don’t necessarily want, or leave. Additionally, if your site uses these style of ads, you’ll lose your “mobile-friendly” tag and all of the search ranking benefits that come with it.
#9 – Exact Match Anchor Text
Only a few short years ago, exact match anchor text was one of the best ways to rank for keywords that you were targeting. With the shift from keywords to user intent pretty much complete, this is no longer the case. Having too much exact match anchor text could in fact be seen by Google as trying to manipulate search rankings and could get you penalized in the process. However, used sparingly and organically, branded and limited use of exact match anchor text can be beneficial if used in ways that are highly relevant to the content.