As 2014 draws to a close, it’s important to reflect back on the past year, and it’s also essential to look forward to the year ahead. However, looking into the SEO crystal ball is often clouded by all sorts of unknowns. Between the unpredictability of the moves that Google is making, to the volatility that exists in the growing competition, the challenges of Search Engine Optimization are continuously building as time moves on.
Even though the digital landscape continues to evolve at a rapid pace, it’s worthwhile to reflect on past experiences and make intelligent predictions for the New Year. With that in mind, here are my predictions for the upcoming year in SEO:
Prediction One: Getting back to the basics!
SEO folks are famous for always gravitating toward the newest and shiniest software packages. What I want to remind everyone is that there is still strength in nailing the basics. One of the early steps for any new client that I take on is to look at the “Non-Targeted” pages and improve the on-page optimization. This helps us get in front of solid long-tail keyword traffic, while also strengthening the overall image of our websites. For some reason, I still see countless websites with keyword-stuffed page titles, and meta descriptions that exceed 250 characters. What the SEO space needs overall is to take a step back, and focus on the basic things that are going to deliver the best performance.
Prediction Two: A focus on performance.
Everyone knows that the Search Marketing space (SEO specifically) is becoming increasingly competitive in most verticals. It is likely that Google is going to look toward factors like load time, presence of a mobile website, and other performance-centered metrics even more as the year moves along.
It is also important to highlight the importance of your mobile experience being optimized for your audience. We have been talking about mobile optimization for a long time now, and it is time we start delivering a great experience instead of just a mobile experience. Mobile Search traffic is continuing to growing at a rapid pace, and your website must answer the questions of mobile browsers.
Prediction Three: Be robot ready.
Google is constantly changing the way that answers are displaying in the SERP. It goes without saying that we should always be trying to figure out how we can get our websites working within these new functions as they release them.
From the introduction of an in-site search function right through Google:
To an even more extensive and informative knowledge graph:
These results are possible because the information is delivered to Google in a way that Google can understand easier.
We know already that this means of data delivery is done through structured data, so this is nothing new. What is new, however, is that it must be implemented strategically.
Prediction Four: Content alone is not enough.
What we need to focus on is the generation of great content, not just a certain amount of content.
With the release of Hummingbird over a year ago, a lot of folks were left scratching their heads. Now that the dust has settled, we know that Google’s intent was to deliver results for queries that are “Question Centered” to adapt to user search habits.
For example, take a look at how the use of the word “how” has increased in search queries over the years:
So what does this mean?
It means that our content has to be capable of answering questions! Your content must be thinking beyond keywords, and be informative for the end user.
It is also worth mentioning that the Hummingbird update was a signal to shift towards thinking about the mobile user. Every piece of content that we generate for our website must be thought of from the perspective of “How is this going to benefit someone looking at this on a mobile device?” Think about how different your intentions are when looking for answers on a mobile device vs a traditional desktop search? Your website must reflect this intent.
Prediction Five: A bigger push towards Social SEO.
Social Media and SEO have been intertwined for the past few years now. However, I predict that over the next year, we are going to see a drastic push further in that direction. The main reason being that social sites are more in line with the way the searchers are behaving.
For example, look at how Tumblr is performing from a “ranking” standpoint over the past couple of months:
While we can see there is a bit of a roller coaster, Tumblr’s appearance in Search Engines is at an all-time high. Why is this? Simply put: Google knows that content is what users are looking for, and that is exactly Tumblr’s purpose.
Prediction Six: How come you didn’t mention back links?
Back links were not specifically mentioned until now because the trends should remain the same over the next year. The focus should have always been toward creating value adding content and being a good business, which results in “back links.”
SEO in 2015 will be even more authentic. SEO will be less focused on “building links” and more focused on delivering great results. I personally believe the moves that Google has made have made the internet a better, more informative place. The devaluing of general web directories and other SEO shortcuts has led to an explosion of creativity and awesome content being generated. This better internet leads to better, more authentic SEO.
There are those that claim SEO is dead. I strongly disagree. SEO is as strong a practice as ever: it is cheating the system that is dead. What we have left is great authentic web content being delivered to the client in a manner that is as easy to use as possible.
Here’s to a prosperous New Year… Happy 2015 Everyone!