sem & seo trends for 2016

2016’s Top Search Engine Marketing Trends

2016 will be a revolutionary year for the digital marketing industry.  After a historic 2015, a year in which we saw mobile searches overtake desktop searches, industry analysts are projecting that digital media spend will overtake traditional channels like TV for the first time.  Apart from these macro changes, there are more technical developments that will be also be affecting digital marketers in the new-year.  We share details on 5 critical trends that should be on your radar for 2016:


  • Google Penguin Update – Google Penguin is not a new name to search engine optimization professionals. For those less familiar, Google Penguin is a layer to Google’s organic algorithmic that specifically evaluates link quality.  Penguin is designed to discount or even penalize disreputable and manually engineered external followed links.  Penguin was originally released in April 2012 and since then it has been refreshed around a half dozen times.  This forthcoming release of Penguin, slated to launch in early 2016, marks a major change for the algorithmic layer.  Instead of releasing periodic updates, the new release of Penguin will be run in real-time.  This is both good and bad for advertisers.  For websites suffering from historically spam-rich linking profiles, the benefits of any link cleansing work and disavowals will be felt quicker.  In contrast, for websites who aggressively push the envelope on their link-building strategies, penalties and ranking drops will also be assessed and felt faster.  The updates coming to Penguin underscore the importance of what has already been a link acquisition best practice for several years.  Instead of building links, marketers should instead be focused on cultivating links—organically generating link backs by promoting unique, engaging content.


  • Real-Time Personalization – Real time personalization is a growing technology that allows content management systems and advertising platforms to dynamically serve customized content for different cohorts of users. The technology, which is offered through marketing automation solutions like Marketo and CMS platforms like Sitefinity, works by integrating with an organization’s CRM system.  A website visitor will get cookied and then the marketer can define different personas or user groups.  One persona, say a C-Level executive, can then be served a different website experience (different messaging, calls-to-action, etc.) than, say, a specialist-level user.  The same type of personalization can be embedded into paid pay-per-click ad copy and landing pages.  This is invaluable technology than can lead to significant improvements in conversion rate and online revenue.  If you’re a retailer, you can customize Branded paid search ads to be focused on the previous purchases on repeat customers.  If you’re a B2B organization, you can tailor your website experience to the role of your visitor.  A researcher may be prompted to download white papers and industry reports, while a decision- maker like an executive could be served deep-funnel calls to action like a demo request.


  • RLSA – In mid-2015 Google AdWords expanded their RLSA or “Remarketing Lists for Search Ads” technology so that campaigns can leverage Google Analytics remarketing lists. RLSA allows marketers to integrate retargeting lists with their Search Network pay-per-click ads.  Marketers can specifically target (or exclude) past website visitors, based on the pages they visited, or their on-site behavior.  Past website visitors are typically more qualified users, so marketers can take a broader approach with their keyword set, and a more aggressive approach with their bidding strategy.  As an example, if you’re an online retailer that sells luxury watches, a keyword like “gifts for my husband” would likely yield highly irrelevant/unconvertible traffic.  However, with an RLSA campaign, we can aggressively bid on a keyword like “gifts for my husband” because we know the user has already expressed interest in our website/product.  Similarly, RLSA can be used to improve traffic quality on traditional Search Network campaigns.  For example, B2B SaaS websites often field significant traffic from existing customers who log in to the product through the website.  As a marketer you might be running a Branded search campaign aimed at demand generation.  Unfortunately, major amounts of your ad spend are likely being wasted on these existing customers who are simply trying to login to their account.  With RLSA, we can create a remarketing list of all users who have reached a website’s login page.  We can then exclude that list from seeing our Branded ads in our AdWords campaign.


  • Mobile Conversion Optimization – Mobile users overtook desktop users for the first time in 2015. With mobile traffic becoming a bigger and bigger percentage of total traffic each year, it’s critical that marketers implement a mobile-specific conversion strategy on their website.  In addition to ensuring that your website is fully responsive, marketers can use device detection scripts to serve customized content.  For example, a marketer could setup a page to display consolidated messaging, shorter forms (less fields), or different navigation links when a user browses from a device with a smaller screen size like a smart phone or tablet.  These types of adjustments can be implemented at the page level and they can have a profound impact on your mobile conversion rates.


  • Dark Traffic – As mobile traffic continues to grow, so too does untrackable (not set) or “dark” traffic in our analytics platforms.  Dark traffic typically originates from mobile social media and messaging apps.  Many of these mobile apps trigger new windows when referral links are clicked.  From Google Analytics’ perspective, the user is direct navigating to your website; in reality, the user is arriving vis-à-vis a referral source.  For some B2C retail websites, dark traffic is becoming incredibly problematic, and in some extreme cases, it’s comprising over 50% of total website traffic.  Many firms are trying to get around this issue by running landing page reports and making educated guesses on the original traffic source of the user.  That approach is imprecise at best.  Our firm has developed a sleeker solution.  The apps engendering dark traffic kill the original traffic source of the user by opening up new browser windows.  The majority of these apps also prevent marketers from manually tagging website links with UTM parameters.  There is, however, a workaround that can be employed with an interstitial redirect.  For example, let’s say a company includes a link to their website in their Instagram profile. The marketer can link to a unique URL that has a delayed interstitial redirect on it that points to a URL (e.g. the homepage) tagged with UTM parameters that communicate the user’s original traffic source.  In this example the redirected URL could point to  This will tell Google analytics that the user came from the Referral medium, from the Instagram app/site, and from an Instagram profile link click.