The upheavals in SEO over the last few years have been dramatic and, in some instances, devastating. The status quo has been altered forever. No more does the “same old, same old” work. Everything is different — and the evolution continues.
So what’s a business owner like you to do? How can you plan your SEO strategy for 2015 and beyond? What foundations should you lay (or firm up) to enjoy great results in the future – starting with your 2015 budget?
To help guide you, I asked 16 trusted SEO industry experts to discuss their thoughts on the future of SEO. Over the course of this 3-part series, you will hear insights from:
Today’s question focuses on the near future: 2015.
A few big themes stand out to me:
The only thing that will be constant is change. Here are nine trends I see happening:
One of the areas that we see a lot of benefit for clients in 2015 is with Google adding Knowledge Panels, OneBoxes, Rich Snippets, and other semantic elements into search results. We’ve been creating Entity Audits for clients to make their site content richer, as well as more likely to rank well and be represented well in these new presentations at Google and Bing, based upon a lot of new papers and patents from the search engines.
We expect more companies will be developing in-house SEO departments and be in need of training for the creation of content in-house, especially as rumors of Author Rank grow with the presence of in-depth articles and some patents/papers on making author content rank better based upon authority and expertise. We’ve been working with clients on building strategies for getting more out of Google+ both now, and as we see more changes to it.
The rapid expansion of mobile and voice search will lead to more nontraditional SEO. The small keyboard on mobile devices will continue the shift away from the traditional typing of an exact query into a search engine web interface. Search will become more embedded within apps and shift in a significant way to natural language voice search.
Apple and Google have already made significant strides in moving to voice search and Microsoft has entered with the fray with Cortana. The Linguistic User Interface (LUI) is going to revolutionize computing overall, as much as the Graphical User Interface (GUI) revolutionized things with the advent of the Mac OS and Windows. SEO practitioners are going to need a whole new set of skills when this happens.
Search is becoming more personalized and user influenced. Search will move farther away from getting the exact details of on-page SEO right and more towards ensuring that your pages, products, and content actually meet your users’ needs.
This is all part of increasing the focus on the user and trying to determine their intent at the time of the search. Becoming an authoritative source for information which meets users’ needs more than search engines’ needs will become critically important. Winning in the SERPs will require deep insights into user intent.
Sad thing is, I don’t see SEO changing much in 2015. There are still a large number of SEOs who are buying links and doing things that can get themselves in trouble.
I do see Penguin being more streamlined into the algorithm in 2015. I see Google announcing that the mobile ranking signal and HTTPS ranking signal have become more important. I also see Google saying that Author Rank has become more dominant in 2015.
It would be cool if Google didn’t update PageRank in 2014, which might help novice SEOs not ask about PageRank in 2015. I would love that.
Negative SEO will become more and more of an issue for webmasters, SEO and Google in 2015.
But you can expect more of the same: Google penalizing sites both algorithmically and manually to preserve its search quality and becoming stricter and stricter with the rules.
Here are a few trends I see, both within Google and our broader work. Most of these are “works in progress” – less about upheaval than evolution:
I believe that SEO is becoming a strategic element in companies.
In the past, SEO was tactical and didn’t have a strong reputation. But search has evolved a lot and become so dominant in our lives that the people who understand how to become relevant and successful in search will be more powerful in companies. The trends and developments that I see are:
Great SEO is really no different than it was a few years ago. Terrible SEO is what’s changed drastically. Google is shooting down all the easy link building tactics, but if you’re focused on your audience, their needs and building compelling content to support those things, then most small nuances of SEO don’t make that big of a difference to you.
For example, no one that is focused on SEO as a marketing activity among many marketing activities cares that the author photos vanished from the SERPs. That is not to say that technical SEO doesn’t matter, but if you’ve built your site to be accessible and then prioritize further technical iterations as required, you’ll be fine.
The future of SEO, though, is still aligning with audience, embracing structured data and melding SEO more closely with marketing automation.
I think we’re already in a place where “SEO” requires a really diverse skillset. I feel like we’re always preparing for the future; at the same time, we can’t quite be sure where exactly we’re heading.
My take is this: there’s a set of core skills you (or your wider team) need to have to be prepared for whatever 2015 looks like. A “future proof” marketer should have his or her core competencies covered, and we broadly categorise those into research, technical, creative and outreach/PR.
A strong technical background remains absolutely critical. Just recently, some in the industry started advising that switching to SSL is the way to go for better rankings. That’s a very non-trivial thing to implement even for small business – let alone enterprise-level sites. I think you need to understand things like this as fully and completely as possible before your draw any conclusions.
You’re also going to need to understand a lot more about web development to continue building engaging content. Having an understanding of the latest trends in web development and a firm understanding of good hosting practices is going to be pretty handy if you’re to have any credibility with a serious web development team.
The scope of “research” is finally starting to accelerate, too. For a long, long time, all we had was “keyword research.” I think it’s fair to say that we’re now in the time of “people research” – where can we find a target audience, what device are they using, what their interests are, what publications they read, etc.
Fortunately, sources like Twitter’s API can help us get started there – take a look at a glimpse of the future of this type of research in this piece by Mike King.
The biggest trends I think marketers need to know about are:
Where do you think SEO is headed in 2015? Stay tuned for Part 2, which will deal with SEO in 2020!