10 Predictions for 2016 in SEO & Web Marketing

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#1: We’ll see the first major not-for-profit university in the US offer a degree in Internet Marketing, including classes on SEO.

+1 This is one where I should have done more research. Several universities already offered degrees in online marketing, and the only technicality may be what one considers “major.” That said, given that places like Penn StateVanderbilt, and Georgetown all either released or announced programs in online marketing in 2015, I’m giving myself partial credit.

#2: Google will continue the trend of providing instant answers in search results with more interactive tools.

+1 While it certainly couldn’t be argued that Google backed down from the trend of more instant answers in results, the number of new interactive tools in 2015 was somewhat limited. They tried out a new hotel finder interface, some new home services results, and some fun results for queries like “I’m feeling curious,” but the only ones I’d consider truly interactive and pervasive were their rollout of a mortgage calculator and their enhanced, re-launched flight finder, complete with affiliate program.

#3: 2015 will be the year Facebook begins including some form of web content (not on Facebook’s site) in their search functionality.

-1 In some ways, you could argue that Facebook’s hosting of instant articles (which began in March and now has substantive coverage across many publishers) matches this prediction, but since Facebook technically is putting these articles on their site, I’m marking it as “not completely wrong,” rather than “partially accurate.”

#4: Google’s indexation of Twitter will grow dramatically, and a significantly higher percentage of tweets, hashtags, and profiles will be indexed by the year’s end.

+1 It’s true that Google’s indexation of Twitter grew (as Stone Temple’s analysis shows), but the much more substantive gains came from the renewed partnership between Twitter & Google, which my prediction didn’t perfectly cover.

#5: The EU will take additional regulatory action against Google that will create new, substantive changes to the search results for European searchers.

+2 The EU filed formal antitrust accusations against Google in April. We may not see resolution for a while, but this certainly fits with what I thought might happen.

#6: Mobile search, mobile devices, SSL/HTTPS referrals, and apps will combine to make traffic source data increasingly hard to come by.

-1 Mostly thanks to Facebook correcting their lack of referral passing on mobile and in their app, this trend reversed in 2015, and we’re seeing less misreported “direct” traffic than in the two years prior. That said, as Marshall Simmonds showed at MozCon, a large portion of search traffic is still “dark,” and isn’t giving search marketers the credit they deserve. There’s more detail in his public SMX presentation on the topic.

#7: The content advertising/recommendation platforms will continue to consolidate, and either Taboola or Outbrain will be acquired or do some heavy acquiring themselves.

-2 As best I can tell, neither Taboola nor Outbrain made any big acquisitions in 2015, and there wasn’t much M&A activity in the space overall. The biggest transaction by far was Taboola’s $117mm financing round, which I assumed would lead to them making some purchases — but so far, no dice.

#8: Promoted pins will make Pinterest an emerging juggernaut in the social media and social advertising world, particularly for e-commerce.

+1 In December, Pinterest finally opened up promoted pins via self-service (and claimed one million active business accounts), but even before that, it appears the program’s been going gangbusters. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any specific numbers, so it’s hard to know how well the testing and ramp-up has gone, which is why I’m only giving myself a “partially accurate” score.

#9: Foursquare (and/or Swarm) will be bought, merge with someone, or shut down in 2015 (probably one of the first two).

-2 Despite a struggling business, Foursquare and Swarm both stayed alive and independent. The company is now raising a rough down-round (they were valued at half the valuation of prior funding rounds, which sucks for employee shareholders and founders), and pundits are saying a sale to Microsoft or another tech giant is likely, but it hasn’t happened yet, so my prediction loses out.

#10: Amazon will not take considerable search share from Google, nor will mobile search harm Google’s ad revenue substantively.

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