SEO is not a “set it and forget it” kind of thing. It’s a dynamic industry and 2015 was no exception. Whether it’s a mobile-friendly update or quality update or recent HTTPs update. If you don’t keep yourself current with the ever-changing algorithms (Google in particular), you risk losing your SEO visibility online.

So what’s expected to change the most in SEO 2016?

I’m working in this industry for last 4+ years and SEO industry in 2015 is 360-degree different than that of 2011 and earlier. This coming year we’ll see even more changes in best practices for the industry and how we execute SEO strategies. Following are my top 6 SEO predictions for 2016.  Please share what do you expect to change the most in the comments below!

  • Sites that aren’t optimized for mobile SEO will fail

Mobile has been a prime focus for Google and we have seen that in a recent mobile-friendly update and app indexing. Looking at the latest annual mobility report (gathered from around 100 carriers globally) published from Ericsson, there will be 6.1B smartphone users globally and 80 percent of mobile data traffic will be from smartphones by the end of 2020. Looking at this, mobile experience for users and giving them the relevant content in the best way possible will (unsurprisingly) continues to be cynosure for Google in 2016.

  • Fast-loading pages using the AMP format may get ranking boost

AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages, it’s a open source project and basically Google’s answer to Facebook’s Instant Articles, which is being supported by a number of other internet players including Yahoo, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, WordPress.com, ChartBeat, Parse.ly, and Adobe Analytics.

Google recently said it will begin sending search traffic to AMP pages beginning in late February. So that’s one major change you can expect in 2016. Wondering why Google focusing on AMP? Because AMP pages load four times faster and use eight times less data than traditional mobile-optimized pages. For more about AMP, see the AMP Project site

  • Google’s real time Penguin update

Another big SEO change coming in early 2016 is Google’s next Penguin update which is supposed to update in real time moving forward. It was likely to happen before the end of the year 2015, but Google admitted that this was not going to happen. Surprisingly John Mueller- Webmaster Trends Analyst  of Google said in a Google+ hangout video (18:44) that Penguin 4.0 will happen in January. Though, he said he doesn’t want to make any promises. So be prepared for it.

  • Progressive enhancement – Emphasize on crawling and accessibility, semantic HTML markup, external CSS style-sheet and Java script

The days are gone, when Googlebots were unable to render and understand pages using JavaScript and couldn’t see any content created dynamically. Google updated its technical guidelines about a year ago to allow Googlebot to crawl your site’s CSS and/or JavaScript files. Their objective is ensure Googlebots are crawling websites correctly and in the most effective manner possible.  This would continue and improve in 2016 significantly. It recommends following the principles of progressive enhancement, a web design strategy that emphasizes accessibility, semantic HTML markup, and external stylesheet and scripting.

  • High quality content is still king

John Muller in the same Google hangout video said, “We want to rank content that is useful for them (users) and if your content is really useful for them, then we want to rank it.”

Estimates say that  more than 2.73M blog posts are written and published daily. If you don’t have the right content creation and marketing strategy in place (which I would cover in detail in my next blog post), you will never be able to rank your content and drive qualified traffic to your website. Your 2016 content strategy should be identifying the content gap that exists in your industry and capitalizing on it.

  • App search is going to continue to grow 

With a dramatic growth in smartphone usage, it is expected that app search is going to increase. If your brand has already developed an app or is planning to develop an app ensure ASO (app store optimization) is on your 2016 marketing strategy list. If you want to know more about ASO, read this excellent beginners guide to App Store Optimization published on Forbes.

There’s a significant degree of uncertainty with these predictions, as historic trends and patterns of growth don’t necessarily dictate a consistent future, and timing, of course, is sensitive to hundreds of unseen variables. But these concepts will help you understand your main priorities. What would you like to see Google change or do for webmasters and SEOs in 2016? Share your thoughts in the comments.