The search and content marketing world has undergone some major changes during 2015. The stage has been set for a shift away from producing content for its own sake. Instead, there is a trend towards the use of search and social data to guide content creation. This development will be a critical part of boosting engagement for brands and helping their content attract the desired audience.Although the content itself has a central role to play in the conversion of customers, the importance of the more technical side of search optimization should not be overlooked. The industry maturation has also impacted where brands need to focus their efforts on the behind-the-scenes tasks that help to drive content forward and into the limelight.Here are five SEO trends brands should pay close attention to as they move into the New Year.1. Mobile Apps Will Need To Be OptimizedMobile apps are likely to become an increasingly significant factor for search and brand exposure in 2016. The year 2015 already saw mobile searches overtake desktop searches, and the use of mobile apps has been growing. These apps are going to become essential for the mobile user experience.Any doubt about the importance of apps can quickly be put to rest by noting that 52 percent of all time spent on digital media is consumed by mobile apps. Also, 42 percent of all mobile sales generated by the top 500 merchants came through mobile apps.To keep customers engaged with the brand, these apps need to be optimized. Well-designed mobile apps should align with the organization and the brand message that you are promoting.Remember that when people are searching for apps in the app store, they are just going to be seeing the icons with minimal information. All images used with the apps, particularly the icon, need to be visually engaging and encourage people to click to learn more.As the app begins to find users, make sure to keep an eye on the ratings and reviews. If customers start to complain about any particular errors or usage struggles, then correct the problem right away and let people know that the issue has been addressed.2. Structured Data Will Become Even More SignificantIn 2015, Google announced the usage of their new machine-learning system, known as RankBrain. This A.I. technology has been designed to better understand the intent of searches. Google says that it has been particularly helpful when the search engine faces a query it has not seen before. This ranking factor has quickly become prominent, as the search engine giant claims that it is the third most important ranking signal in their algorithm.These developments indicate that A.I. is likely to become an even more significant factor in 2016 and beyond. As Google and the other search engines are able to better incorporate machine learning into their algorithms, they can potentially develop an intelligent algorithm that can learn what customers are looking for and maximize their user experience by showing the best possible sites.On a technical side, to anticipate this development, brands will need to focus on structured data. Structured data markup, such as that found on schema.org, helps websites communicate with search engines by precisely describing what is on the page rather than leaving it up to the spiders to interpret. This helps search engines display the website more accurately.In the past, missing or inaccurate structured data markup could usually pass by unnoticed or with a minimal impact on brand performance. As the search engines become more intelligent, however, they are likely to also become more dependent upon this extra data — failure to do it correctly will have a greater impact on site success.When using the schema.org markup, brands should always use Google Webmaster Tools to make sure the markup has been used correctly. The Structured Data Testing Tool will make it easy for brands to ensure that they have added everything accurately.Brands should ensure that their markup has been used throughout the site consistently — particularly for rich content, such as videos on the website. Structured data markup will help ensure that rich snippets appear whenever possible, such as in video search results. This can increase the click-through rate for the site by making it look more appealing on the search engine results pages.