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Predictions for SEO & Digital Marketing in 2016 and Beyond

The end of 2015 is in sight, so as is customary around this time of year the web is bombarded with articles predicting what will happen in 2016 in any given industry.

SEO and digital marketing are no different – after all, it’s always fun to speculate and imagine what the future will look like. And it gives us something else to write about and fill blogs with.

Rand Fishkin over at Moz has been doing predictions for a number of years, and he’s gotten pretty good at it – he seems to have a keen grasp of where the digital marketing industry is headed, so do keep an eye on his upcoming predictions for 2016 (update: here are Rand’s 2016 predictions).

I’ve been contributing my opinions to predictions posts for years – see my predictions for 2013, 2014, and 2015 –  with varying degrees of success. Some of my predictions could generously be interpreted as accurate, while others have perhaps fallen a bit short of the mark.

Despite my less than perfect track record, I’ve again been asked to contribute to a number of prediction posts this year. I’ve collected all my various foresights for 2016 in one article here.

Barry’s Predictions for 2016

Contribution for State of Digital:

Backlash against ad blockers

There will be a backlash against ad blockers, with some websites blocking visitors that have ad blockers enabled. The deeper root causes that make ad blocking so popular will be left almost entirely unacknowledged, with publishers and advertisers instead preferring to use crude measures to protect their ad revenue rather than face up to the fact that they’ve been behaving like total pricks for years.


Contribution for Momentology:

Narrowing Search Space

The search space will continue to narrow in focus in 2016, as mobile-first browsing habits will siphon traffic from search engines towards mobile apps – specifically YouTube, Facebook, and news apps. I suspect 2016 might be the first year to see a stagnation, if not decline, in search volumes on some of the major search engines.

As a result of this narrowing search space, a brand’s total share of voice will become even more important. I expect a proliferation of brand-owned content channels – such as Momentology – in a wide range of industries, from DIY to retail, manufacturing, and medical technology.

Brands will create and promote self-owned publication channels to build their own audiences, rather than rely on third-party platforms to deliver visitors to their commercial sites. Some of these brand-owned channels will be indistinguishable from independent channels. A few independent online publications will be bought by brands who can’t be bothered building their own audience from scratch.

Altogether, 2016 will be the year where the fight for audience attention will reach a new peak, as organic search evolves in to a zero-sum game and social media becomes exclusively pay-to-play for corporate accounts. The limitations of our industry will start to materialize as consumer behavior changes, and the fight for consumer attention will be fiercer than ever.

In order for SEO to survive and thrive in such an environment, SEO providers will need to focus more on highlighting their clients’ competitive edge and find increasingly provocative and attention-grabbing content angles.

The future of online success will not be dependent on organic search. Instead I see an online brand’s growth rely on how successful they’ll be able to integrate with existing dominant platforms. News hosted on Facebook (Instant Articles) and Google (AMP), ecommerce through Twitter and Instagram, those will be the trends that will pave the way for online success in the coming years.


Contribution for Search Engine People:

App Streaming & Branded Channels

We’re now firmly in the era of the mobile internet, so all your strategies need to start with mobile experiences and scale up from there.

App Streaming

New app streaming features will make creating your own app more attractive than ever – users won’t need to install your app to be able to enjoy the experience you’ve created, removing a large barrier for app adoption.

It’s now more attractive than ever before to build an app experience that helps your customers in tangible ways and makes optimal use of mobile’s built-in advantages. When you enable it for streaming experiences through Google Android, you’ll be tapping in to an entirely new growth market. Apple will not be lagging far behind so be prepared for similar possibilities on iOS in the near future.

Expect to see this take off in 2016, and it’ll pay to be an early adopter.

Branded Content Channels

As the fight for consumers’ attention becomes ever fiercer, you’ll need to be firing on multiple channels with a strong, unified brand message.

For brands in competitive and saturated spaces, a potentially powerful option is to partner with or create a content marketing outlet that is partially or wholly independent – for example a magazine like Red Bulletin, an authoritive blog like Linkdex’s Momentology, or an event series like Intel’s Creators Project.

By owning a separate content channel that you can develop in to a niche authority, you can build an engaged audience without having to overcome the usual resistance to corporate outlets, and create an audience community around shared ideas and interests.


What do you think? Are my predictions way off, or do you see some merit in them? What are your predictions for SEO and digital marketing in 2016? Feel free to sound off in the comments.

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