Search Engine Optimisation has recently been discussed as ‘dead’. However, just like Dracula and many long-running Soap characters, SEO has a habit of returning from the grave with a surprising spring in its step. It is always evolving and when used in the right way with many different techniques all applied at once it is still invaluable. Just because something takes work doesn’t mean it is obsolete. SEO development is ongoing and will return once again with a vengeance in 2015.
Content Remains King
No news here really – content remains King. Starting with this eternal “trend” makes sense as it remains a lesson that some marketing experts refuse to learn. From stone-age cave paintings to 16th century pamphlet printing and right through to web content in 2015 (and beyond) poor content has poor results. Of course, back in the old days, computers weren’t involved in the search for content. Quality content counts today (tomorrow too) just as much as it did ten thousand years ago.
From the big search engine’s perspective it really, really counts, as they frequently mention. Returning lots of results that lead to poor quality sites turns real people off, however much pleasure it gives an algorithm. Content and SEO have been strongly linked in the past. Content needs to remain your underlying strength but one trend in 2015 is likely to be a split between content production and SEO, with the latter becoming focused more on technical aspects. In effect, this means that SEO will become a sub-sector of content marketing; focussing more on keyword research, indexing issues and recovering from penalties.
For a strong post on organising your content strategy, which happens to feature my good self, check out: https://buzzsumo.com/blog/18-content-marketers-tell-us-plan-content
SEO on the Go in 2015
Optimising sites for mobile use should have been a priority in 2013, if you wanted to get ahead of the game. However, 2015 is the big year in which SEO will have to shift focus to this issue. Google is already testing mobile-friendly icons in its search results and there’s a handy “mobile usability” section lurking amongst Google’s Webmaster tools (look under Search Traffic and Mobile Usability). While it’s unclear if Google are using mobile friendly factors as a ranking metric, they’ve already started penalising sites which are not mobile friendly. All of the evidence suggests that if it’s not a ranking factor yet it will certainly be rolled out in a cute-animal-focused update near you (and the rest of us) sometime soon and almost certainly in 2015.
While marketing and SEO professionals may feel that mobile searches are related to “local intent” – and therefore irrelevant to online sales – figures from Google/IPSOS suggest that this trend is changing. Currently 50% of mobile search is related to finding a store in which to shop. However, 77 per cent is conducted at home and 66% of time spent on online retail sites was via mobile devices. Consumers are rapidly replacing desktops and laptops for smart phones thanks to their convenience. Consumer behaviour is ultimately what drives Google and the behaviours of other search engines too and if consumers have gone mobile, the search engines will be looking to rank sites which are fully mobile optimised. As Google put it in a recent comment made to Search Engine Land:
“At Google we are aiming to provide a great user experience on any device, we’re making a big push to ensure the search results we deliver reflect this principle” (Source)
In 2015, make sure that big push doesn’t leave you hurtling down the search ranks.
Semantics and What Users Want
Hummingbird, released in late 2013, was an overhaul of Google’s algorithms that proved to be something of a departure from the previous ones. It focused far more closely on semantics, in a clear attempt to produce results that were even more relevant to what users were actually searching for. Semantics is the study of specific word meanings and in SEO terms it translates as “intent”. Google is working hard to work out ways in which to offer up the best results for its users and semantics is a big step towards this goal.
Focus on semantics is likely to be a big issue for SEO in 2015; this means moving away from a focus on individual keywords. Since the dawn of search engine time; Google and the other big search engines (Bing, Yahoo) have been attempting to train users on using single words, or incoherent strings of them, to search. Then they discovered a few thousand years of evolution have led to this thing called “language” and a sub-metric called “conversation”. This is where semantics comes in especially when it comes to talking to Google with your smart device. Google has learned that users tend to ask questions, expecting answers. In terms of SEO it places the emphasis again on making content for humans that is written by humans.
This aspect of SEO is being brought forward rapidly thanks to the advent of voice search (rapidly taking over the world). Today, “Google Now” and “Siri” understand words like “where” in the sense that it means a location and “nearest” in terms of a specific location. Rather than coming up with useful sites that also feature words like “where” and “nearest” they target results that are truly relevant based on the use of semantics. OK, semantics may be not be so new to many SEO professionals but the “conversational” approach to search queries will become an increasingly significant factor in the next year, as users begin to rely more and more on voice search.
Using long-tail keywords and LSI (latent semantic indexing) keywords are two approaches that will feature large in the SEO landscape in the coming year to address this issue. This is something that SEO Traffic Lab have been implementing for years. Long tail keywords help to generate perhaps less traffic – but much more relevant traffic. This type of keyword, or search, is used by consumers closer to the point of purchasing and this makes them increasingly invaluable. LSI simply translates as “plurals” or “synonyms” and “related” phrases. Google uses LSI in order to put searches into context, a good example being “apple” and “iPhone” which to an ignorant search engine would be two unconnected words – one a smartphone and one a fruit!
The Death of Social…Never!
Social signals have long been held to be hugely significant in SEO. While Google have said in the past that social mentions (tweets, shares etc.) play a role in ranking (at least according to Matt Cutts back in 2010) they’ve more recently argued that any ranking effect is likely to be a coincidence rather than a cause. Social presence matters, but it may not be a crucial part of SEO as it seems more likely that the link between the two is coincidence rather than being related to the mysterious workings of an algorithm. From a marketing perspective it may be better to view social mentions as part of an overall content marketing strategy, rather than an SEO only function in 2015.
While Facebook, Twitter and other social networks are naturally ranking high, keeping your profile alive and well on these networks makes sense. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how people find your site, as long as they convert when they do. Again, this has as much to do with providing quality content on both your site and within any social settings you use as it does with ranking. If anything, in a social context content is more important. Likes or retweets on social networks are generated by humans, not algorithms, and for that reason focusing your content marketing team on your social strategy makes the most sense.
Social is still a big profile enhancer and a valuable part of your marketing strategy. You connect with different and varied audiences and the advertisement resources of Facebook in particular have serious reach. Social is not something that can be dabbled at. To do it properly you need to be engaging with others, refreshing content throughout the day and standing out from the crowd. It is hard to know for sure how much coincidental SEO benefit you may trigger, but anything is better than nothing.
Citation, Citation, Citation
Brand mentions and citations are rapidly becoming the new link building. Google now differentiates between “implied” and “express” links. The latter are those which provide a direct link back to a web page while the implied links are those which don’t actually link back to a site. This may sound like heresy to many people but there’s a valuable psychological aspect when it comes to interacting with real people.
Users may find it convenient to click on text and find their way to a page or they may feel they’re being duped by some cheap sales trick. One minute they thought the content they were reading was really valuable to them – but the next minute it turns out to have been nothing more than an old fashioned smoke-and-mirrors trick to get them to buy something. Citations and references leave users feeling empowered – giving them a choice to take action, albeit a fairly simple action of searching for and then visiting, a site. There may seem to be little difference between a live link and the latent, implied variety, but giving users control leaves them feeling in charge. It’s an old trick in any marketing book and used to be called “soft-selling”. In 2015 it looks like it’ll be making one of those Dracula-like comebacks.
Here’s is Rand Fishkin’s (from Moz) insights on SEO for 2015 just to cement what we have talked about above:
So now you know a little more about what to expect in 2015. If you have any burning questions then feel free to drop us a line or send us an email and we will get back to you. All that is left for us to say is:
We Wish you a Very Happy New Year!
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