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The start of each year is always a time when predictions abound. Fashion trends, social media trends, marketing trends—name it, and there’ll probably be predictions about it. It goes without saying, then, that you’ll be bombarded with predictions about an ever-changing process such as Search Engine Optimization. The world of SEO is dynamic enough as it is, with changes occurring year in and year out. It is only logical that marketers would want to reassess their SEO strategies as they welcome a new year, and looking forward into the possible changes for that year is indeed a good way of setting yourself up for success.
For 2015, perhaps the most important change you need to keep in mind is that SEO should no longer be treated as an individual component of online marketing. Rather, you need to incorporate it into every single aspect of your online marketing efforts for the simple reason that it affects all components of digital marketing. At the same time, many (if not all) of the other digital marketing factors can also affect your performance in search results. Where before you only needed people who are knowledgeable in how search engines work in your SEO team, you now need excellent content creators and social media managers as well.
Now that we’ve tackled one of the most important things you need to bear in mind for SEO in 2015, it’s time for the rest of our predictions. Here are some of the trends you’d do well to pay close attention to this year:
1. Mobile SEO
It was back in 2012 when the prediction was made that there will be more web traffic from mobile than desktop by 2014. That prediction was indeed spot-on. For this reason, you cannot hope to succeed in SEO in 2015 unless you can provide excellent mobile experience. Both Google and Bing now prefer websites that are responsive because they are easily accessible by anyone from whatever device they use. Note as well that when users have poor mobile experience on your site, your bounce rates are likely to increase, and that will definitely have a negative impact on your SEO results.
2. URL Structure Check
This has been said many times before, but a lot of online marketers still somehow manage to take the reminder for granted: Your URLs should tell people what a web page is about. If your URLs are too long, it will not be very easy for users to determine what a particular web page is about and your click-through rates are likely to suffer. Therefore, you should take the time to review and streamline your website’s URL structure.
Note as well that 404 errors and broken links are very harmful to SEO results. Be sure to check your links to make sure you don’t have these problems on your site. You should also make sure your site doesn’t have too many outbound links. There is no harm in linking to high-quality pages and authority sites, but try to keep a healthy balance between your inbound and outbound links.
3. Inbound Links
Links are among the most talked about topics when it comes to SEO. It has been repeatedly said in recent years that link-building is dead, but it cannot be denied that inbound links can still have a positive impact on your SEO results. In 2015, earned links are expected to still be useful in helping you build authority, among other things. You just need to make sure that every single link going to your site is relevant and from a credible site. It’s quality over quantity now where inbound links are concerned.
Google has just announced that they will start considering HTTPS as a ranking factor. This could mean your site will get a boost in search rankings if it is secure. This does require you to pay for an SSL certificate, but the investment just might be worth it, as the certificate is expected to become important in the near future. But even as Google intends to strengthen HTTPS as a ranking factor, don’t expect users to care about it as much. Most people don’t even know what it is. What’s important is for you, as an online marketer, to pay attention to it.
The value of keywords is also among the most talked about topics in the world of SEO. There are many who say keyword research is no longer relevant, but the truth is that keywords do still matter; it’s just that, they now hold a different value. As a result of the Hummingbird update, Google no longer matches specific query keywords to web pages; rather, it now takes the intent of the query into account. Keywords, therefore, should no longer be stuffed into your content in hopes of getting indexed for all queries containing those words. Rather, they should be used to help Google understand what the web page is all about so it can be indexed for relevant queries.
It will also help for you to use more specific keywords and longer key terms. One of the benefits of long-tail keywords is that there is usually less competition for these terms. They also allow you to attract more relevant traffic, since they are likely to get your web pages indexed for more relevant queries. More and more people are now using the verbal features of smartphones, which makes long-tail, conversational keywords even more important.
6. Beyond Google
Whenever people talk about SEO, the discussion almost always focuses on Google – what has Google done, what is Google planning to do, etc. This year, you would do well to take a closer look at Yahoo and Bing as well. These search engines may not be as big as Google, but they have become more popular recently. Note that Firefox has made Yahoo their new default browser, and Safari’s agreement with Google is nearing its expiration date (an announcement is yet to be made as to whether the agreement will be renewed or not). It definitely wouldn’t hurt for you to work on attracting more traffic from search engines other than Google.
7. User Focus
Google has once again taken the lead in placing more value on user experience. Websites that load quickly, are easy to navigate, and make it easy for visitors to find what they need are more likely to be given higher rankings. In the past, user experience was often sacrificed just so SEO strategies can be tailored to Google’s algorithms. Fortunately for users, Google’s algorithms now take their needs into account.
Many of these predictions may be a bit repetitive—be mobile-friendly, get quality links, improve user experience, et cetera—but they do bear repeating, if only to remind you of what still works and what no longer does in the world of SEO. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have any out-of-the-ordinary predictions up our sleeves. Here are three:
1. Google will continue cutting back on analytics.
Traffic source data and other analytics data are expected to become more and more difficult to get. It is actually easy to understand why Google would want to make data less available. The less data there is for SEO practitioners to work on, the less opportunity they get to come up with black hat SEO gimmicks. Google can then spend less time dealing with such gimmicks and focus instead on increasing their revenue. Smart, right? Fortunately for you, you can still verify some data with help from entities like Define Media Group.
2. Content-based sites are bound to lose.
Sure, quality content is an important component of successful SEO, but if your website is created solely to provide answers to online users, then you’re actually making yourself a direct competition of Google. You may not have noticed, but Google has been increasingly providing instant answers. They have even created their own versions of such tools as online calculators, timers, and converters. If you’re operating a content-driven site, therefore, it may be time to think about branching out.
3. Promoted Pins will push Pinterest to the top.
The start of 2015 saw Pinterest moving their ad platform forward, beyond the beta group. Considering that Pinterest has earned a healthy amount of traffic, has high engagement, and has a consumer base loved by most B2C marketers, we can definitely expect their ad platform to be a hit. It pays for you to take Pinterest into serious consideration if you haven’t started using it for SEO purposes just yet.
These are, of course, just predictions and some of them (particularly the last three) may be completely off the mark, but it wouldn’t hurt to give them due consideration. They are, after all, educated guesses and a good number of them will probably land at least near the truth, if not completely accurate.
Whether these predictions do come to pass or not, what is more important is for you to make sure you always cover the fundamentals of SEO. Amid all the changes that have happened and are expected to happen, the basics have remained constant. So keep your web design simple, your content quality high, and your focus on satisfying your target audience’s needs; you’re sure to be on the right track.