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It's Time to Rethink Your SEO Approach for 2016 Things have to change for enterprise companies in their search engine optimization strategies.

By Aaron Agius

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Recently, Google has made some big changes in how it ranks websites, leaving enterprise companies with the difficult task of reworking their search engine optimization (SEO) strategy across teams and departments.

Here is a new SEO approach for enterprise companies, based on my experience working with brands like Coca Cola, Target and IBM, and focusing on the key factors that matter most for search engine results.

Results: 17 Ways To Immediately Improve Your Website Traffic

1. Rethinking keyword research

Some might argue that keyword research is a dying art, but it's only become a more sophisticated one. According to Google's research, roughly 70 percent of the engine's searches are for synonyms of keywords -- not exact keywords -- that Google must identify and understand to direct the user to the right place.

As a result, Google is now focusing more on intent of the user versus the specific keywords used, turning search into more of a conversation than ever before. For enterprise companies, this means that your SEO experts need to work more closely with the editorial board to develop important topics and themes that are relevant to your audience's interests, while also looking for ways to create content that's inclusive of all the different things they might be searching for.

2. Adopting new rules for content

Developing content for SEO may feel like old hat for your content team, which is why it's important to bring them up to date on Google's changing expectations for optimal content. Searchmetrics has identified a number of content factors that affect rank in 2015, including word count, how keywords are distributed, internal links and the use of header and meta-tags.

Take a look at Searchmetric's infographic about the factors (or put someone in charge of reading the full report and presenting the key elements to your content team).

3. Embracing the user experience (UX) imperative

User experience (UX) is another major area that's influencing search. Cross platform compatibility and site speed have both been shown to affect search rank, but your enterprise teams will also have to pay attention to more nuanced UX variables, like proper content structure and useful internal linking.

In the past, optimizing for the search engines and optimizing for website users were sometimes conflicting goals, but Google has moved more toward bridging that gap. Encouraging your teams to evaluate all factors that influence how easily users interact with your website and content will be valuable for both.

Related: 5 Must-Use Google Analytics Strategies to Measure SEO Success

4. Getting proactive about public relations

Link building strategies -- such as listing your site on web directories, posting links on low quality Web 2.0 sites, and leaving links in forum comments -- no longer help rank, and can actually cause penalties in Google search. That said, the value of legitimate, high quality citations and mentions is higher than ever before. That's why it's important to have at least a few people on your team who are regularly reaching out to publishers and influencers in your industry, building relationships and earning high-quality links through valuable mentions and citations on their platforms.

According to data from Moz and BuzzSumo, well-researched content, opinion-informing journalism, long form content, list posts and "Why" posts are all likely to garner a large number of natural citations, as well as social shares.

5. Going local

Even if your business operates at the national or international level, the biggest mistake an enterprise company can make is to ignore the importance of local search optimization. According to seoClarity's research, local search results rank number one 93 percent of the time, compared to 25 percent of the time in older analyzes. So if your business has no local presence, it's increasingly likely it won't rank high in search results.

Having someone in charge of developing and maintaining a local search presence gives enterprise companies a valuable edge. Specifically, assign someone -- internally or externally -- to update and maintain local listings on your website and on third party platforms such as social media or review sites.

6. Building a social media empire

Building a social presence has been considered an essential marketing strategy for a while now, but new research from Searchmetrics has shown that Google is now taking social signals (shares, tweets, +1s, etc.) into consideration for search ranks as well. In fact, they found that the number of social signals on Facebook, Google+, Twitter and Pinterest all correlated with higher rank position in Google.

For enterprise businesses, this means that building a social media empire across relevant platforms and assigning a team to promote and engage is more important than ever before -- not only for building brand awareness, but for remaining competitive in search.

As 2016 looms nearer, new data will continue to shed light on which SEO factors your business should focus on. The most important thing you can do is to keep up with this research and actively disseminate new knowledge to important team members throughout your company.

How else are you preparing your enterprise-level SEO strategy for 2016? Share your suggestions by leaving a comment below.

Related: 6 Essential SEO Strategies to Incorporate in 2016

Aaron Agius

Search, Content and Social Marketer

Aaron Agius is an experienced search, content and social marketer. He has worked with IBM, Ford, LG, Unilever and many more of the world's largest and most recognized brands, to grow their revenue. See more from Agius at Louder Online.

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