In the world of SEO 2014 has been a busy year, with a number of algorithm updates improving local search, Google’s focus on improving their mobile algorithm as the inexorable increase in internet access through mobile devices continues, and businesses begin to embrace the need for creating quality content that answers their customers’ needs. Gazing into my crystal ball, here are my five predictions on how I think SEO will continue to evolve in 2015.
Site speed is one of the only areas of technical SEO that you can’t use a crawler or a tool to get some recommendations. Being able to write good page speed recommendations with context is difficult and I think this is an opportunity for experienced SEOs to add a lot of value to clients. SearchMetrics data has shown that this is the number one on-page technical signal and I can see why. Content relevance to a search and a good user experience have always been the cornerstones behind what Google is trying to deliver to us all and I foresee that Google will continue to communicate to Webmasters that site speed is a key area to focus on. Working with an SEO agency with site build and robust technical SEO skills as well as the softer content creation abilities will become more important as site speed and delivering a greater user experience are recognised as a crucial part of a successful SEO strategy.
Mobile search volumes are set to overtake desktop searches soon and as a result Google will do more work to sharpen-up their algorithm for mobile and local searches. Just as we saw when page speed was announced as a ranking signal, we will see the importance of a mobile-friendly site grow so investment in mobile suitable or responsive sites should be a priority for any business in 2015. The announcement of the new mobile usability report in Webmaster tools adds further credence to how sophisticated Google’s mobile algorithms currently are and advances in this area of their service will continue.
A great mobile experience is also crucial for local search success. As a minimum, any SME is going to need a website that is visible for relevant searches, is usable on a mobile device and which is capable of providing the information someone on the move will be expecting to access. This investment is one that smaller companies with an important local market can no longer avoid.
I made a big deal about this in last year’s post but ever since the release of hummingbird the ability of Google to understand search intent has been growing and I anticipate hearing more about further improvement in 2015. I’ve said for a long time that SEO is the art of helping users find what they want and presenting it in a way that they expect, and understanding search intent is the cornerstone of building a good search engine and providing a great user experience. In 2015 I’m expecting to see sites that focus on providing a good user experience by intuitive, logical navigation, easy access to content, and the creation of quality, user centric-content rewarded with increased site traffic. The focus on generating content valuable to your customers that answers their needs, and not just about the things you want to talk about, is a crucial step change many businesses are still to make.
Devising a content strategy to boost SEO and organic traffic should be based on a robust understanding of who your customers are, what they are interested in and want from you, and should be constantly validated and improved by interrogating data and listening to customers. Google Analytics is a great free tool that all businesses should use (as a minimum) to understand how to improve their current content. If set up properly it can validate content created and tell you what is generating interest or answering a need effectively.
As more companies embrace a thorough approach to creating and constantly improving an effective SEO-boosting content strategy through customer analysis, listening to the feedback willingly offered by customers through every channel, and data analytics of results, they will be able to capitalise on improving search algorithms and their SEO success will grow. Of course, great technical optimisation of all new content, keyword research to guide copywriting and an effective content broadcast strategy using social media, paid for social activity and traditional PR outreach is also crucial for SEO success but I’m optimistic that with these changes in attitude we should see the demise of news feed style blog content and the rise of more informative and entertaining content published by all types of businesses.
Vlogging is already here and well established in some sectors but I expect more and more mainstream brands to embrace vlogging, using it to attract a younger audience and communicate their values more effectively to all their customers. The prevalence of smart TVs may also be a factor in speeding up adoption of this content technique. I’m not saying you have to go out and emulate Zoella, but I think there is an opportunity for brands to engage with their user base in a very different way. I can also see vloggers penetrating mainstream television. The recent paid promotion ploy used by Oreos shows that brands are already pushing the boundaries with relationships and I expect to see this trend continue.
There’s no doubt that backlinks are still important and will continue to be a major algorithm signal. The thing is that due to Google’s crusade on link spam it’s highly likely that in the future the only links that pass link equity are from active URLs that a human is likely to visit. As a result, I think there is an opportunity for social media and PR savvy brands to lay great foundations and take advantage of the trend, outmanoeuvring competitors that continue to use old link building techniques or be hampered by historically created, dirty link profiles.
All of this calls for further integration in client companies of IT, marketing, SEO specialists, UX experts, social media and PR departments and the need for experienced agency partners who can help with the integration of all of these traditional silos, but that is a whole other blog!