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How Google’s 2015 Changes Impact 2016 Search Marketing Strategies

Google ChangesIn many ways, 2015 was a banner year for marketers who follow best practices for SEO, web analytics, and social media marketing. Google either announced or implemented a variety of changes, all of which reward brands striving to provide the best possible experience to website users.

Let’s recap some of Google’s biggest changes in 2015. We’ll pay special attention to how those changes might influence your search marketing strategies throughout the new year.

1. Mobile-friendly sites rank higher.

This change was probably the most momentous update Google made to its search algorithm in 2015. Last spring, the company announced that content from mobile-friendly sites would occupy a higher position on the search engine results pages (SERPs).

Mobile device users now account for more than half of all searches performed worldwide, so it only makes sense that Google would take a website’s mobile-friendliness into account. Some observers referred to the update as “mobilegeddon,” signifying the end of an era for brands that once enjoyed high rankings without providing an ideal experience to mobile visitors.

For brands that had already embraced mobile-responsive design, the change was welcome.

How to take action in 2016: If you lost traffic from search engines in 2015 and your website still isn’t mobile-responsive, it’s time to change that. Besides helping your audience view and download your content, having a mobile-responsive website is critical for appearing in the SERPs.

2. Accelerated Mobile Pages will carry more weight.

By February of 2016, using Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs) will start improving your position in the SERPs. That’s according to an announcement Google made in December of 2015 regarding the AMP project, an open source effort that enables brands to increase page load speed for mobile users.

As we reported last year, AMPs are a fantastic solution for websites that contain lots of video or multimedia elements. They might also end up being a good idea for all of your content. Here’s why:

  • Google already gives mobile-friendly content a leg up in the SERPs.
  • AMPs provide a better experience for mobile users.
  • Page speed is already a ranking factor, and AMPs load faster on mobile devices than pages using typical HTML/CSS/Javascript markup.

How to take action in 2016: Check out Google’s tutorial for building AMPs. Since the AMP project is open source, all brands have the opportunity to start using it. WordPress users can use this plugin, which makes it easy to start delivering content as AMPs.

3. Smart Goals connect Adwords activity to conversions.

In another announcement Google made toward the end of 2015, marketers learned about Smart Goals, a new way for brands to monitor the performance of Adwords campaigns. While Smart Goals still aren’t the best way to measure Adwords success – Adwords Conversion Tracking holds that distinction – they’re a great alternative for brands lacking the time or technical know-how to track conversions.

Smart Goals uses machine learning to gather information about the quality of different website visits. Using the collected data, each visit is assigned a score. The “best” visits will be designated as Smart Goals. Basically, more Adwords users can start to understand which kinds of visits are more likely to result in a conversion.

How to take action in 2016: If you’re not already tracking Adwords conversions, give Smart Goals a try. Google’s tutorial will show you how to set them up and start measuring the success of future campaigns.

4. Google rethinks Google+.

Few brands ever used Google+ as a major content syndication channel, which was a big part of the problem. 2015 was the year the company stopped requiring people to sign into Google+ just to comment on videos. And remember how Google+ updates used to appear in Knowledge Graph cards within the SERPs? That ended in 2015, too.

Though it now occupies a less prominent place in Google’s suite of apps, services, and websites, using Google+ continues to help organizations improve their SEO.

How to take action in 2016: Sharing content on Google+ still has a positive impact on your search engine rankings, so don’t check out of the network completely. If you’re getting great results from your Google+ efforts, keep it up! But if you can’t seem to start or participate in productive conversations on Google+, shift your energies to different social networks. Focusing on the channels where your audience is most active is key achieving social media success.

When it comes to Google’s impact on B2B brands, we expect 2016 to be just as exciting as 2015. As a leading B2B marketing agency, all of KEO Marketing’s integrated marketing strategies incorporate updates to Google’s search algorithm and digital advertising tools. Understanding those changes is essential for helping your brand take advantage of every opportunity, no matter what the search giant throws at us next.

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    About Sheila Kloefkorn
With more than 20 years of hands on marketing strategy and operations experience, Sheila Kloefkorn is dedicated to developing marketing strategies and plans that help clients succeed. Some of the world's largest brands have depended on Sheila for marketing programs that delivered tangible and substantial results. Specialties: B2B marketing, lead generation, lead nurturing, sales strategy, marketing strategy, competitive marketing strategy, social media, search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), mobile marketing,, email marketing, website design, marketing plans.

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