Every year, Hubspot assembles the “State of Inbound”, a comprehensive report that examines the challenges, priorities, and strategies of more than 3,500 marketers and sales professionals from around the world. The report covers just about every topic in the inbound marketing world, but some of the more interesting statistics revolved around SEO and SEO strategy.

59% of marketers claimed “growing traffic to website” was the top marketing priority for the next year. How are marketers planning on doing this? Well, at least 69% of them are prioritizing growth of their SEO and organic presence online to try to reach this goal. That’s an 11% increase from 2015, when only 58% planned on growing their SEO strategies. SEO has been growing in importance to marketers over the past few years – in 2014, it was the second ranking priority, beat out by content creation. In 2015 and 2016, SEO jumped up to the top spot of prioritization.

These numbers aren’t surprising. With so many websites out there competing for attention and search engine rankings, getting a leg up on the competition by improving the back end of the website is a no brainer. The trouble with SEO is that it is constantly changing. Many marketers are yelling “SEO is dead!” from the rooftops, but the truth is – SEO is not dead. SEO is changing, and has become unrecognizable to untrained marketers. Search engine algorithms are getting smarter, quicker, and pickier every day, and it is up to marketers to keep up with the times and evolve with the ever-changing strategies. Even some of the next generation search strategies like voice and video will ultimately depend on keywords, just like traditional text based content.

So what should a company prioritize for SEO purposes in 2016?

Keywords: Keywords are the connectors between you and your audience. By understanding what your audience is searching for, you can understand what kind of content you should be creating and what long-tail keywords or categories  to focus on. Why write about something that your audience isn’t even searching for? Make sure to do your research before diving in to write content. Understanding how and where you rank for keywords or categories will help you realize what subjects you need to focus on to create more authoritative and quality content. Consider optimizing for voice search, which is most likely going to be a SEO priority in the near future.

Mobile: One of the newer developments in SEO, Google has long encouraged web developers to optimize websites for mobile and has officially added it into their ranking algorithm as of April 2016. Creating a search strategy that revolves around mobile is one of the best ways to reach your customers wherever they are, whenever they are looking for something. The website itself should be optimized for mobile as well – if you need to pinch and pull to read a website, it’s time to look into a responsive website design, which ensures website visitors can easily navigate on any device. Check out more tips on how to develop a mobile-centric search strategy.

Content: Search engines are intent on improving the user-experience, and because of this they are getting smarter, and are getting pretty good at realizing the quality of the content on a website and blog. Redundant and duplicate content, 404 errors, and pages with very little content will negatively affect search engine rankings, so it’s in the best interest of web developers to create the best possible user experience. Blogging is a great place to start building quality content on your site, but long-form content that’s over 1000 words written around long-tail keywords are especially algorithm friendly.

A/B Testing: Make your content even more effective by doing some A/B testing and seeing how people react. Pages that have high bounce rates or low session duration could mean that content needs to be reworked. There is software available that can test a couple of different versions of your content to see how people engage with different versions of each piece. This is helpful in testing headers, calls to action, and format.

Link Building: Your SEO value is quickly increased when other credible sources link to your content, so it’s in your best interest to amplify your content over various channels and encourage sharing. Adding social sharing buttons on your site is a good place to start, but actually reaching out to people and asking them to guest blog, or vice-versa, is a very effective way to gain visibility and authority as well.

Speed: The speed of your website has a significant impact on your search engine rankings, so it’s in your best interest. Minimizing HTTP is one way to start. You can do this by combining multiple sheets into one, streamlining page elements, and reducing scripts. Optimize your images so they are not taking too long to load by cropping them to the correct size for your website and use JPEG or PNG whenever possible. Reduce the number of plugins and redirects on your site, and, worst case scenario – prioritize above-the-fold content so the top of the page loads the fastest and people aren’t as likely to jump off even if the rest of the page takes a second to load.

Stay up to date on all the SEO best practices on Advance Ohio’s SEO resource page.

For more insight into what the inbound marketing world looks like in 2016, check out Hubspot’s State of Inbound

State of Inbound 2016