2015 Predictions: Google In The Year Of The Goat

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It’s that time of year when people seem almost instinctively compelled to simultaneously reflect back on and look ahead to multiple areas of life. As SEO professionals, we’re in no way an exception to the rule.

No one can dispute that 2014 has been a year of pretty big changes — almost upheavals at times — for SEO. And while the dust is still settling from those changes, we’re preparing for what is around the next corner.

While there is no crystal ball, we can learn a lot from those who have been watching and measuring important trends. At this point, 2015 looks to be a year most noted by an evolution of existing trends rather than by completely new directions.

Following are some thoughts as to what SEO will look like in the coming 12 months.

The Mobile Reality

How many times have you heard about mobile’s projected overthrow of desktop in terms of search? Whether this has happened already or is yet to happen, the importance of a mobile SEO strategy cannot be understated. Google has been putting ever greater emphasis on the mobile user experience, potentially even incorporating “mobile-friendliness” into its search ranking algorithm.

In October, mobile usability reports came to Google Webmaster Tools. Last month, Google officially launched a “mobile friendly” label in mobile search results, along with a tool for webmasters that evaluates a website’s mobile-friendliness. And Eric Enge notes that things like the elimination of author photos and reduced emphasis on video snippets point to Google’s emphasis on providing a mobile-friendly experience.

In short, if you haven’t put much effort into your mobile experience thus far, you’d better start now.

Content SEO Goes Independent

Content marketing, that buzz phrase that sounded so radical and new just a couple of years ago, is now a mainstream concept to any marketing professional. However, in some organizations, it has more or less lived under the overall umbrella heading of SEO.

As this part of our industry matures, look for content marketing — or content SEO, as it could be called — to stand out on its own, separate from the more technical elements of SEO.

Technical SEO Grows

The very tactical and technical elements of SEO are just as important as ever, but they may not be quite as cut-and-dried as in past eras, especially since some aspects of technical SEO may not be what businesses think matters to end customers.

Google Webmaster Trends Analyst Pierre Far uses the example of HTTPS to illustrate this point. A majority of Internet users do not even know what HTTPS is and how it is any different than HTTP, yet it could well benefit an SEO strategy.

Au Natural Keywords

There is no more exact match keyword research in AdWords. Why? Because Google wants us to think about search less in terms of matching keyword strings and more in terms of answering questions.

With the rise of voice search, customers can be expected to increasingly adopt a more conversational approach to search. As SEOs, we will be tasked with adapting to this new reality if we want our websites to be visible within Google.

Harsh Penalties Abound

This is perhaps the one thing that nobody wants to hear but that everybody needs to hear: “Bad SEO” may actually hurt businesses more than “good SEO” can help them.

Negative SEO is not a new term, but it is one that every SEO professional or marketer must familiarize himself or herself with.

Google’s John Mueller has noted that it can take as long as nine months for Google to fully process a disavow file submitted by webmasters trying to recover from a penalty. That’s a long time to have to deal with reduced organic search traffic! Thus, businesses must be vigilant about protecting themselves against negative SEO.

Similarly, the long timeframe involved in recovering from a penalty won’t leave any room for businesses to take foolish risks with their web presence by engaging in black hat SEO.

Embracing Of Facebook & Twitter

As Google slowly comes to terms with the less dominant than hoped venture known as Google+, the search giant can be expected to give more emphasis to activity on other social media platforms.

Certainly Google+ is alive and well, but despite incredibly strong efforts, it has not reached the same level of popularity shared by rival social networks like Facebook or Twitter.

Do The Right Thing

In some ways, the way to “win” at SEO in the coming year is to do the right things for the right reasons.

For example, don’t just publish a blog because you think you have to. Publish a blog because you have something to say and to offer your audience. It is equally important to spend time avoiding costly mistakes and penalties as bouncing back from these things may continue to get harder and harder over time.

What do you see happening in 2015? Sound off in the comments.

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