By now, you have seen many prediction posts about SEO, search, and technology in 2015. I will summarize common trends and outline what an SEO practitioner can do in 2015 to advance online visibility and bring in revenue. Local or global, your business can benefit from new trends and technologies as well as from SEO basics this year.
SEO Prediction Trends 2015
- Organic Search will continue to be the top traffic acquisition channel.
According to BrightEdge study, organic search was the largest driver of traffic and revenue in 2014 .
Continuing with last year's trend, keyword data will become even less reliable and give way to topic relevance. The gap between mobile and desktop search results will continue to grow.
- Mobile website optimization, good mobile usability and engagement will separate winners from losers.
Long-tail searches help gauge intent and mobile habits. Sites that neglect mobile SEO, multi-device optimization, and user intent will fade away from mobile search results . They will suffer noticeable drop in mobile search rankings and conversion rates.
- In fact, user intent is becoming increasingly more important as Google develops predictive search answers, that are delivered even before the question is asked.
As Rand Fishkin put it, Google built "invisible mind-reading drones that know your every thought." Big data will be a huge help in figuring out intent and behavior patterns.
- Branding will drive business messaging, authority, and expertise.
It will help associate brand with relevant search topics. People's personal brands will become more relevant to the topics and will play an important role in content promotion.
- Engagement will become a powerful quality signal.
Social signals will affect ranking. Calls will become one of the most important measures of engagement. Social media will continue to expand.
- Google will experiment with Knowledge Graph.
Rand Fishkin predicts that in 2015 there will be sightings of search results without organic links as Google continues to provide instant answers, visual ads, and Knowledge Graph information.
Local businesses will be able to optimize Local Knowledge Panel and retain prominence on search results pages. Experiments with local SERPs will continue as well.
- Content has been gaining importance and will become the primary influencer of online visibility.
However, Google has put a slight twist on the benefits for publishers. Many companies focused on informational posts, trying to answer their visitors' questions. Content-driven businesses might see diminishing returns on their efforts in 2015 since Google's Knowledge Graph is aimed at providing instant answers and keeping searchers on Google.com. A better approach would be to write long and informative posts based on interests of your clients.
- Content promotion will be difficult without paid visibility.
Brands will increase spend on media buying, especially on mobile. Real time media buys will become more popular. Marketers will have to invest in paid advertising on Facebook and Twitter.
The good news is that both platforms significantly improved their targeting options allowing marketers to hone in on user interests and behaviors. Analysis of social data, location, search, and website activity allows marketers to better understand consumer behavior and incorporate the insights into retargeting and retention campaigns.
- Video consumption is going strong and changing with technology.
It is becoming more integrated. Social sharing sites like Instagram and Yelp added video to their sharing options. eMarketer predicts 77% of tablet users will watch video programming on their devices at least monthly. Based on video consumer behavior, advertisers will have efficient access to these growing audiences.
- Technical SEO will remain an invaluable foundation for content marketing.
Schema remains industry-specific and will expand with new types, added overtime. Website architecture, usability, lack of errors, security are increasingly important in website rankings. Protecting personal privacy will be one of the main priorities of online businesses.
- Experts disagree on the value of switching the company website to https.
Some state that quick implementation of secure site is a smart thing to do. Others, claim it is a waste of time because it will not give significant advantage in rankings and traffic. If you are an e-commerce website, it will be beneficial to switch to a secure https website. For the rest, it is not yet clear if the effort involved is worth the boost in ranking (if any). Regardless of your decision, be aware, that there are tracking implications. Https websites will not pass "referrer" information to http websites. If you stick with an http site, you might not be able to tell where much of your traffic is coming from.
- Your visitors will access your content through multiple channels.
Marketers are hopefull that in 2015 it will be easier to track your visitors through the on-line and off-line channels.
Multi-channel and cross-device attribution, universal analytics, call-tracking will be improving and relying less on click-centered data or cookie tracking.
Improvements in mobile app analytics and mobile app indexing will provide better insights on visitor behavior to the marketers.
Those who incorporate what they learn into visitor segmentation and funnel optimization will be successful.
- Earning links will be harder.
The good news is that search engines are getting smarter and will find references to your business even if there is no link to your website ("implied links"). They will also take into consideration "no-follow" links to form a comprehensive link profile.
Still, keep up your link earning efforts and build relationships the old and proven way to boost your website authority.
Beware of negative SEO. It is expected to be a bigger threat this year.
- Unconventional content distribution channels, like Netflix over TV or podcasts over radio, for example, will become more prominent.
Content marketers will have to become more creative as conventional channels, like guest blogging, become less effective.
Also, traditional channels are more crowded and increasingly expensive. Marketers will explore new opportunities using creative approaches.
- Consumer-centric marketing will become necessary to succeed.
Days when companies talked at their visitors are gone. Only the ones who invest in personalized marketing will see the returns on their efforts.
Smart automation will be extremely helpful.
Listen to the customer, understand their needs, learn their habits, and offer a customized experience that is relevant to your specific audience. Allow them to share this experience with their friends.
Lee Odden talks about brands practicing participation marketing when, together with the target audiences and influencers, brands create content that appeals to their customers.
- Hyper-targeted marketing will take off.
Proximity messages and location tracking, mobile payments will become more and more common. Google might lose marketshare in local search competing with sites like Facebook and mobile apps that do not rely on Google data. Google's floor mapping program paved way to virtual reality tours of businesses. Companies like aisle411 practice predictive marketing and will push reviews of products to your phone.
- Social shopping will continue to evolve.
Mobile payments and social wallets technologies are in early stages and will continue to evolve.
- Real time capabilities will be more visible this year.
Real time inventory implementation already proved very useful for retailers. Google now offers real time review alerts on the Google My Business app for smartphones and tablets. Real Time analytics is not very useful yet, but it is here.
- Several companies and technologies will end up on the chopping block: QR codes, texting campaigns, and spam.
Google Plus will eventually die, according to Larry Kim and many others. We might see a demise of Foursquare and Groupon this year.
- Smart tech will change the landscape of search marketing.
According to Laurie Sullivan, Internet of Things (IoT) brings automatic identification through beacons, sensors, GPS systems, motion sensors, and other technology that push information rather than pull.
Marriott is testing "smart" tables in their lobbies.
Wearables and in-car tech will continue to evolve and change the way we shop, drive, and live.
- Access to Google will be more limited then ever.
Many agree that it is unlikely that Matt Cutts comes back to continue being the Google ambassador for the SEO community.
Debra Mastaler predicts that Google will continue to limit analytics and remove tools. It is likely that other companies will step in and create tools and apps to fill the gap.
SEO Action Plan For 2015
- What are your SEO goals?
Revise your goals and articulate how your SEO efforts are going to help business generate revenue.
Clarify your business purpose - who you are, what you do, what kind of topics are relevant to your business.
Develop your brand, solidify industry expertise, establish your company as a publisher.
Check your website for any information gaps.
- Revise your audience profile and ensure that you are still addressing their needs and meeting expectations.
Follow visitor journey, provide them with excellent experience, encourage engagement and you will see increase in conversions and customer loyalty.
Check your automation scripts to make sure you are sending out helpful, timely, "human-written" correspondence.
- Get comfortable with the fact that you are not going to be able to measure ROI of every SEO effort.
Try different strategies, expand your reach, look for unconventional opportunities to get in front of your potential customers.
Focus on conversion optimization and revenue, not just traffic.
- Make SEO a company effort.
It takes a village to perfect online visibility. Lines between IT and SEO are getting more blurred. It is necessary to be knowledgeable about technical SEO to be successful this year.
It is imperative that sales and business development efforts are coordinated with SEO plans.
Be more than SEO ambassador for your company. Learn, what other teams are investing most of their resources in and give them website reports showing how their efforts are paying off in traffic and revenue. Work with them to achieve the same goals and it will take you less effort to achieve impressive results.
Automate what you can. Create checklists, processes and alerts to spend less time on reoccurring SEO tasks. Learn and use APIs. Automate analytics reports and dashboards.
- Measure what matters.
Make your reports meaningful and actionable. Track just a few metrics that are tied to the success of your efforts that, in turn, connected to the revenue or engagement.
Retire last click attribution and make your tracking more complex and accurate. Test your assumptions. Ask your visitors why they do what they do. Focus on an important few metrics to be able to check on progress and adjust quickly.
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- Hyperlocal Execs 2015 Predictions: Part 1 and Part 2
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