As ever, it is crucial for businesses to keep up with online changes and promotion techniques to ensure the website is doing its job, whether it’s to gain leads or traffic. User preferences are constantly changing, so it’s important for marketers to adapt quickly or risk missing out on their share.

Here are some trends and topics to look out for in the New Year. Could these changes affect you and your business?

1. Voice Search and SEO

Voice Search and SEO

The increased use of mobile and tablet devices have emphasised the importance of considering Siri and other speech interface systems into SEO strategies.

Voice search is a system that allows users to search online by speaking on a mobile phone or computer PC. This action can be seen as a substitute method for typing out what you would search, and instead speaking directly to your device.

Huffington Post Australia reports that up to 55% of teenagers are using voice search on a daily basis, whilst 56% of adults use it because it helps them feel more ‘tech-savvy’. With up to 87% of the world population owning a smart phone, the upcoming year in 2016 will further highlight the trend of smart phones and tablets being used more regularly than PC desktops.

The impact of voice-search means that users no longer think of short queries to gain the results to their question. Voice search is almost conversational, asking questions in natural discourse which differs from typed search results. For instance, users are extremely likely to say to Siri, “Where is the closest local Dentist?” as opposed to typing “local dentist suburb”. This type of query ties directly back to the Google Hummingbird updated in 2013. Google had seen the change in search behaviour and saw that this would be a much greater need for sites in search results and associated search queries.

What can you do to act now and get ready? Sites can focus on long-tail keywords (3 or more keywords), which will meet the needs of longer queries originating from voice searchers. This will impact the content of your site, as writing in a natural voice will match the tone and language used by potential customers in voice search. It will also allow Google to better match your websites’ pages with a user’s search query.

2. Core Algorithm Update

Core Google Algorithm Update

The Penguin update was a popular topic of discussion last year, where an update was expected to happen before the end of 2015, but as of yet has not occurred. Recently, there has been major changes in rankings which many felt it suggested that the Penguin 4.0 went live from the 12th of January, however, Google has confirmed that this is NOT the case, and these changes are a part of a core search algorithm update. Google makes many changes to the core ranking algorithm, and some have a more noticeable impact in results than others. This particular update has combined the Panda algorithm with the core ranking algorithm. Panda measures the quality of a site and fights spammy material. It allows Google to measure quality and adjust rankings accordingly. With this significant change, Google will never confirm another Panda update on its own as it is now part of their main algorithm.

The significance of the next Penguin update is down to its real-time results, allowing search results to continuously update without the need to wait for a refresh to recover visibility. The Penguin update is expected in the near future, with some industry leaders speculating it being released around February next month.

The official message from Google’s Gary Illyes shows that Google is still in the testing phase with Penguin 4.0, and will not proceed with the update until it has been extensively experimented. Once it goes live, websites will be a more accurate reflection based on the quality of their links and will be penalised or rewarded accordingly from the real-time update.

3. Accelerated Mobile Pages

Accelerated Mobile Pages

Google will introduce a new program called Accelerated Mobile Pages in February 2016. The purpose of this feature is to increase the speed of delivering documents and files and reduce the loading time of scripts which slows up the user experience on mobile devices. To put it simply, a lot of pages viewed on mobile devices can take a long time to load, and AMP will allow publishers to develop articles and pages that load quicker in the mobile web.

This program is very similar to Facebook’s Instant Articles, where web pages with rich content (videos, animations, graphics) load instantaneously.

AMP provides a benefit to mobile websites. While it won’t directly impact SEO, having pages with faster load times is shown to be favoured by Google, and the whole point of AMPs is to ensure a better mobile experience which could ultimately lead to more conversions. These factors will benefit the mobile ranking signal for Google, thus, may provide a noticeable benefit in rankings.

4. SEO Boost for HTTPS Websites

A website with HTTPS encryption provides a beneficial impact to a site’s SEO score, which Google announced back in August 2014. This concept has been reinforced over the last month as a way to improve user-experience by promoting security, privacy and consistency for all search users.

As of 17th December 2015, sites that contain HTTPS pages will now receive a boost in rankings as Google focuses on secure web pages surfacing in its search engines. This rule means that if Google finds two pages that seem to have the same content but are differentiated by their HTTP and HTTPS status, the HTTPS version will be automatically favoured and ranked higher on search results.

If you want to convert your website from HTTP to HTTPS encryption, contact the team at Quantum and see how we can help you.