In 2014, the SEO world was changed by numerous algorithmic alterations to Google’s search. We’ve been introduced to a few animals, Panda and Hummingbird. They both have fundamentally changed the way we do SEO.
As we approach the beginning of the new year, we are seeing a flurry of 'end of year lists'. We're taking a different approach, giving you what you should expect for SEO in 2015. The SEO practices of the past are no longer going to carry your website up the ranks in 2015. The world of search engine marketing is continuing to grow in the new year and can often seem confusing, but with the right strategy doesn't have to be.
Unfortunately, you will see that there will still be entrepreneurs selling snake oil in 2015, promising stellar results in lightening fast time. The following are 10 things to keep your eye on in 2015.
1. Rich Content will drive search rankings
Some people think rich content is as easy as creating a page, throwing up a smattering of text aimed at keywords and hoping that the Google Spiders will pick it up.
In 2015, it will not be about writing for the bots. Instead, it will be about writing for people- your users and potential buyers! Next time you consider adding a page to your website, consider your intentions for creating it. Are you using the new page to enhance the user experience or are you looking for a quick keyword win? Creating content that meets a pain-point for your user will go much further in terms of SEO. Does this mean that you can’t optimize the content? Absolutely not.
All content can be optimized, but there's a fine line between optimized and overdone. Make sure that the content is organic and informative and avoid using too much jargon. Rich content will always be an important factor as Google crawls webpages when trying to analyze what your website is about.
2. Technical SEO and On Page SEO will still be vital
Technical SEO is often overlooked due to the level of complexity that's associated. Some of the first steps an SEO specialist takes when looking at a site is peeking at the structure. When I start reviewing a site, I will take the time and crawl it myself. I want to make sure that the URL structure makes sense and I want to see if the markup is up to par. I scan the website for broken links or server errors that may prevent Google from crawling a site. I also want to make sure that I have a front-facing sitemap and an XML sitemap that I can submit to Google.
On page SEO should be very clean, organized and seem natural. All titles should be very descriptive but not spammy. Meta descriptions should be enticing and related to the page it's tagged on. Also, the on page efforts should include making sure that all of images are optimized and aren't contributing to bogging down my load speed. Additionally, one needs to make sure they are properly using alt attributes and long descriptions for any images.
Another important factor is to ensure the Google Analytics script is working correctly and is installed in the correct location in my HTML.
3. Topic Consideration, One page per Keyword
Back in the day, people used to just throw as many keywords as possible in as many titles, alt attributes, long descriptions, URLs and content place holders. It was actually very normal to “over-optimize” your website and take a shot in the dark to see if it worked in the search results. However, Google has gotten pretty smart (brilliant, actually) at deciphering the purpose of a page.
For example, if you were a company that sold blue tennis shoes, research would probably show you that you might want to target keywords like: “blue tennis shoes”,”tennis shoe company”, “buy tennis shoes online”, etc. (you know the deal) In 2015, however, it doesn’t really make sense to have one single page rank for 2-3 different keywords.
You have to create and cultivate pages for one topic at a time. If you are trying to rank a page for “blue tennis shoes” you must separate that content from a page that you have your company information on. The same goes for a page you might be trying to rank for “tennis shoe company”. You do not want to get in the mindset of making new pages every single chance you can, but if you are doing your research and noticing untapped opportunities, go for it!
If adding additional pages, filled with informative and useful content, helps your user find what he/she is looking for, then that is what I call success. If you are adding pages just to add pages, well… I’d urge you to reconsider.
4. It’s time to start using Schema as much as possible
What is schema you may ask? Check out http://schema.org then come right back!
“This site provides a collection of schemas that webmasters can use to markup HTML pages in ways recognized by major search providers, and that can also be used for structured data interoperability (e.g. in JSON). Search engines including Bing, Google, Yahoo! and Yandex rely on this markup to improve the display of search results, making it easier for people to find the right Web pages…” -schema.org
I believe that Schema is going to play a huge role in a site’s success in the new year. Granted, using Schema doesn’t specifically give you a ranking boost, but it’s a huge asset for the search results pages. Since the Hummingbird update, folks all over the web are seeing increased user experience by implanting versions of Schema.
Schema can not only help Google understand what your page is or what your content is, it actually gives you access to the Google Knowledge Panel (which is another big thing I see growing in 2015). So, get to marking up your content! A very cool tool I recommend is the Data Highlighter Tool provided by Google if you are using Google Webmaster Tools.
5. SERP CTR: When a user clicks on your page in Google, let’s hope it’s what they're looking for
SERP - Search engine results page
CTR - Click through rate
Also known as organic click through rate, SERP CTR is already a big deal for SEO. In 2015, it’s going to be an even bigger deal. Basically, if people click on your page from the search engine results pages, what do they do next? If they navigate through your website and take action, then you are good!
If a user is clicking on your website because they searched “blue tennis shoes” and your website was one of the top three, you better hope that they find what they are looking for. If they don't and bounce back to the search results pages, it will signal to Google that your website wasn’t actually that helpful.
We call this "rubber banding" and you do not want anything to do with it. The best way to avoid it is to have great, easy-to-read, easy-to-use content on the sites that you are ranking. To prevent this, make sure that you understand the keyword query and make sure that you have designed your landing page to easily address the user’s query.
A good signal to me is bounce rate (though it’s not always the best). If your site has a bounce rate of 60%+ you should really reconsider the layout, ease-of-use and page speed of a site.
6. Speaking of Page Speed, your site needs to be fast
Page speed is and will continue to be a tremendous part of SEO and the overall user experience of any given website.
Remember, Google is all about making a user journey as seamless as possible. You enter a search query, results appear, you select one and are shown your results. However, does this always happen? No way. Think about the last time you looked up something. You were probably sitting at your computer or on your phone and you wanted to know something… fast. Right then, not in 30 seconds.
How many times do you search for something thinking that you have all the time in the world to get the results back? Never. As users, we have the need for speed. We want things quickly and we do not have time to sit around and wait for something to load. We tend to move on.
For example, if I do a search for “blue tennis shoes”, statistics show that I will more than likely click on one of the top 3 results. What happens then? Let’s say I click on the top one first, but the site is loading slowly and I really need the information I am searching for. I can’t handle the wait and I bounce back to the Google search results pages (rubber banding) to click on another option. Maybe the site would have loaded in the time it took me to bounce back and select another result, but we'll never know for sure. Meanwhile, Google takes notice.
This principle is something that Google is very, very aware of nowadays. Google knows that page speed is one of the most important factors to enhance the user experience. They’ve even built a tool for you to use to test your site speed on desktop and mobile.
If your site is running slow and Google realizes that user's are bouncing (not satisfied), it's safe to say you will get penalized in 2015.
7. Social Signals will be even more important
I fundamentally think that Google will continue to find ways to use social media as a ranking signal. The direction this may take is up in the air. Google has the ability to crawl social media sites and know when your content has been liked or shared. They also know your ratings on social media. We call all of this “social signals”.
If you have started any SEO strategy before, you've heard how important your verified business Google+ page is to local SEO. Outside of G+, there's been a bunch of guesswork and a ton of referral traffic. In 2015, I think that ends. I think that Google will learn to understand social signals as a ranking factor. This will be especially true if you have content on a page with visible social media icons, particularly ones that visibly represent how many times the content has been liked, shared, etc.
Not to mention, if you are not using social media to enhance your SEO efforts - you are really, really missing out. Social media will continue to be a driving force in referral traffic in 2015. The more engagement your brand has on social media, the better it will be for your associated website.
8. Links aren’t dead; but bad ones are frowned upon
Links will always play a crucial part of any SEO strategy. Links are basically votes that Google sees for your website. However, Google really values links from high quality/authoritative websites over just your average site. You’ve really got to keep an eye on who is linking to your website, especially if it’s a bad site that is causing harm to your rankings. Google has a tool that will let you actually disavow bad links to your website.
Link building isn’t dead, either. It’s just (in simple terms) frowned upon by Google (if it’s not organic). Google wants you to earn links that make sense. They monitor the usage of anchor text as a signal, too. It’s way more organic and natural for someone to link to your “blue tennis shoes” website by saying “Check out these really cool shoes” rather than “I just bought the best blue tennis shoes ever, click here to see them”.
Anchor text penalties will heighten in 2015. Natural stock words will be so much more beneficial to your linking structure, both on and off page. Broad match keywords will be just as important as your direct keywords usage in anchor text. Here's your warning: DO NOT buy into anyone who tries to sell you links. I guarantee you that it won’t be worth the price, and there are much better methods to take.
9. Ratings, Reviews and Citations are like people casting votes for your website
In 2015, ratings, reviews and citations for your brand or website will play a crucial role in the success of your rankings and the majority of this is not on your website. Ratings and reviews are how users decide whether or not your service is of quality. A site with high ratings will most likely continue to get more clicks than a site who's reviews are very poor. Think about the last time you purchased something on Amazon; did you look at the product ratings?
My guess is you did. You wanted to know what other people thought about the product. You wanted to see how other people thought about the experience. This is the same thing for your brand online. Google will continue to be interested in what other people are saying about your website or brand online. This doesn’t necessarily mean that anyone is specifically linked, but that another website is actually talking about your site on their website.
You want to get as many positive ratings as possible and you want to minimize or compensate for the overtly negative ones. Negative reviews can impact your rankings. If there are issues you can address, feel free to do so in a way that potential customers can see and believe in the authenticity and transparency of your brand. This will often lead to new reviews disputing the original claims. If you aren't monitoring your online reputation, Google Reviews is a great place to start. Having a great customer service image online is just as important as it is offline.
A good tip, Google now allows you to not only read reviews, but you can also reply to the users who gave them.
10. Mobile SEO shall reign victorious
So we’re down to number 10, but don't worry, this list isn't numbered by importance. In fact, I would go as far as saying that mobile SEO will be single-handedly the most important change heading into 2015. Mobile-friendly websites will be have a massive impact on your websites ranking in 2015. Google has already started to show “mobile friendly” tags in search results.
They’ve also created a tool for you to test your website on mobile. Mobile traffic continues to increase and Google is taking notice. If your website isn’t optimized for mobile, you are really missing out on huge opportunity. People are using their mobile devices more and more. Thinking that you can get away with a ‘desktop only’ version of a website is a thing of the past.
Your website should be just as nice on mobile as it is on the web. We recommend responsive design, which allows your website to be mobile friendly for all of the screen sizes out there.
Is there something not included on this list that you think belongs? Connect with us on Twitter, or leave a comment below to share your thoughts!