SEO in 2016 & Web Site Best Practices


I have come across very few topics that illustrate the rapidly evolving nature of the digital environment so well as SEO. As you prepare your plan for 2016, here is what you need to know for your site to rank well on search engines.


SEO for 2016

In 2015, there were five updates to Google’s search ranking algorithm, with game changing implications. My objective in this article is to provide an update of the status of SEO – search engine optimization in order to equip you to adapt for success as you develop your 2016 marketing plans.

People are, at all times, looking for solutions. You want every chance to be the solution  – to be in the running, you have got show up well on that list of options – you must take actions to naturally rank well.

Search engine optimization are the activities to improve the rank of your website in search engines. SEO is rapidly evolving because search engines – Google primarily, as well as Bing and Yahoo – are at all times improving the algorithm that provides results to searches to provide more accurate, higher quality results for happy searchers.

Search has changed to favor quality content and user experience. To provide context, tricks, keyword stuffing and spammy tips to rank number one at one time worked, but these activities will now penalize search rank.  

The methods to increase the prominence of a web page within search results still include keywords although the application of keywords has changed in several ways, including the evolution of keyword optimization into a greater context of content optimization. In addition, onsite optimization considerations involving the characteristics of the website as a whole have become extremely influential factors in search engine rank.

Keyword Optimization & Link Building Evolve Into Content Optimization

A keyword is a word, phrase and increasing a long tail phrase that describes the content of a web page. Keywords help search engines match a page with the corresponding search query.

Keywords in the past served as a direct role – search engines crawled a site and with accurate keywords, the site was offered in search results.

To combat abuse in keywords – to ensure search results of only valuable and relevant content – the algorithms producing search results have evolved extremely rapidly beyond keywords to incorporate context and semantics.

In fact, in October 2015 Google announced RankBrain it’s machine-learning artificial intelligence system that’s used to help process its search results.

As a result, the relationship between keywords and search ranking has become more complex.

Link building are the activities involved in increasing the number of quality inbound links to the website. For years, links were a strong influencer for search engine rankings. Taking actions to increase inbound links were viewed as an essential process.

In March of 2015, Google explained that although links are taken into consideration, directly building links isn’t the objective. Rather, the goal should be to ensure content stands on its own, and is easy to share. Spammy or low quality links are now dismissed in the algorithm, and many of these can result in a penalty.

What’s New

Content interpretation increasingly relies on a more sophisticated understanding of language, meaning and query intent than specific keyword choices. It is no longer enough to rank on a single keyword.

Proof and relevant terms are additional words in your content that support relevance to the key topic of your content. The presence of these words within your content indicate you are comprehensively covering a topic.

Synonyms of search terms account for a large portion of search results.

Increasingly the context of your keywords matter.

The solution is a focus on high quality and relevant content with semantically comprehensive wording to improve SEO.

Optimize and build your quality and relevant content for specific meaning rather than keyword, and naturally build your search engine authority in that area.

Another example of this is semantic search, a new functionality within Google that derives meaning rather than focusing on keywords only to help a user answer a specific question.

Rather than handling a search phrase as a collection of individual words, such as “web” “developer” and “Fredericksburg, VA” which can provide any number of results in varying degrees of irrelevance such as events, conferences or groups, semantic search interprets the meaning behind the search query to provide a higher quality search result of options of companies whose content indicate they provide web development services in the area of Fredericksburg VA even if the website does not have that exact phrase.

However keywords still play an important role and should still be well researched and incorporated into the content of your web pages.

Rather than frequency, the placement of keywords has increased in importance. Google breaks your site down into key areas, with meta information and headers taking top priority, body copy taking secondary priority, and sidebars and footers taking the last priority.

Focus on keywords in the title, header, sub headers, first and last paragraph is significant but be warned, over repetitiveness of one specific keyword phrase can earn a penalty.

Links are considered valuable in the ranking algorithm because they indicate trust, credibility, and authority, but will continue to lose relevance in the context of semantic search and meaning. The higher your content quality is, the more links it’ll naturally attract or earn.

Best Practices for Content Optimization

Keyword Research The importance of keyword research remains. What are words and phrases clients type into search engines when looking for the solution you provide?

  • Use keyword research tools such as Google Trends to analyze and compare keywords over time, including a forecasting option in searches that can be set to be location specific and find related searches of both top and rising topics and queries. Search for and implement search terms that are not highly competitive.
  • Make use of your web site analytics reports to discover which keywords are generating the most traffic.
  • As natural language search increases, it benefits to make use of specific and long tail keywords.  

The application of keywords have evolved — take the relevant topics and themes from keyword research and use them to structure your content around rather than picking one or two words to write about explore keyword research findings to learn about the needs and interests of your audience and harness this knowledge to produce high quality, relevant content – and more of it.

Publish High Quality Content Rather than building links, work toward earning links through publishing high quality content. More than ever, content marketing is at the core of website ranking strategy. Publishing valuable, relevant and consistent content that meets the needs of users is the key to high-quality content.

There are a number of types of content that accumulate links –including those backed by research, journalism that is opinion forming, long form and comprehensive content, and ‘why’ articles.

Social Marketing Likes and shares built on social media platforms do impact search engine optimization especially in terms of links. High quality content liked and shared in social platforms is broadcast to a wide audience. Content hosted on your site is increasingly linked, ranking higher in search.


Onsite Optimization Factors for SEO Skyrocket

The second most significant shift in how SEO is done involves optimization of the entire website. Keyword and content optimization are no longer the only website factors that influence SEO. Increasingly, the user experience of the site as a whole is taken into consideration and influence rankings. Several significant factors include mobile friendliness, structure and navigation, and site speed and security. Several additional best practices are listed as well.


With the April 21, 2015 Google mobile friendly search engine algorithm update, sites that are not mobile friendly are demoted on mobile search. With over 60% of all searches conducted on mobile devices, a priority has been placed on ensuring the user experience. The content on mobile friendly websites changes to adjust to the screen size of a tablet or smartphone.

Commonly referred to as Mobilegeddon, this change results in mobile-friendliness as a significant ranking factor. Our team has been providing mobile responsive sites for nearly two years now in anticipation of this change. Still the reverberations of this change are massive, and have disproportionately affected small businesses. Ensure your site uses a responsive design, or have a dedicated mobile site or app in place.

Site Structure

The idea driving a quality user experience is make it easy for a user to find what they want. How your site is structured strongly influence your SEO.

First, navigation structure — if this is organized well, users will reach the desired information within one or two clicks and Google rewards websites for this. The best way to do this is ensure your site incorporates a header menu that is easy to navigate. Ensure pages are titled well and the structure of the menu is logical. And ensure there is a sitemap of the site as a whole for indexing.

Additionally interlinking internal content from one page to another decreases the path from one page to another, increasing your ranking.

On the page, a traditional layout will be rewarded — with header, body, sidebars and footer, with the content in each section reflecting the headers. This assists Google and other search engines in indexing the page and assessing its accurate meaning.

Site Speed

Sites that load quickly rank higher. This is important on all devices, but especially so on mobile devices. Google has provided PageSpeed Tools among their web performance tools to assess speed, and make recommendations on ways to make your site faster on both mobile and desktop.


SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) establishes an encrypted link between a server and a client—typically a website and a browser. In March 2015 Google announced sites with SSL encryption will receive a slight boost to their Google search ranking. Cyber attacks have been on the rise in a huge way through 2015.   

For example, WordPress, the platform on which a majority of our clients websites are built, has already doubled the number of security updates in 2015 from the two years prior – aggressively addressing platform vulnerabilities.

Additional Best Practices for Onsite Optimization

Word Count Google prefers longer, more comprehensive content. Top ranking content averages have increased in the past year. We are currently advising clients that across a website, fewer than 1,000 words will no longer serve to support search engine optimization, and in the future may penalize.

Update Content Frequently A website that is frequently updated requires search engines to index the site often. The more the occurs the higher a site ranks.

Use Header and Meta-tags Meta-descriptions serve to inform users more about the content in the search engine results. Header tags that are unique and accurate enhance your rank.


At the end of 2015, it becomes clear that user experience increasingly influences rank. The notions of keywords and link building are dated.

Rather working to make your users happy will be rewarded. As will high quality content that is relevant and consistent.


Irene Karedis Borys