In last week’s blog, we looked at the big SEO news stories of 2014. Now the time has come to look to the future instead of the past. What will be the big SEO issues for 2015 and what will you need to do to ensure that you’re found in the search engines by your potential customers?
We may not have a crystal ball but we do have some pretty clear predictions.
2015 SEO prediction one: It’s time to get mobile friendly
There’s no doubt about it, mobile-friendly websites are going to be on everyone’s agenda in 2015. A recent article by Clickz, which analysed data from SimilarWeb, showed that from June through to November 2014, 48% of traffic came to Google via mobile phones. In November 2014, as long predicted, the tables turned to mobile dominance over desktops.
With so many of us owning smartphones and managing our lives from handheld devices, it’s inevitable that mobile traffic will continue to grow. People want to be able to view any website via their phones and have a good experience in doing so. Your priority in 2015 should therefore be to assess the usability of your website for mobile visitors.
Google already penalises sites that provide a bad experience for mobile users and has recently been experimenting with using mobile-friendly criteria as a ranking signal. In November 2014, Google announced that it was exploring how to give sites a mobile-friendly label, saying:
“We see these labels as a first step in helping mobile users to have a better mobile web experience. We are also experimenting with using the mobile-friendly criteria as a ranking signal.”
How can you check whether your website is mobile-friendly?
The first step is to ensure that you either have a responsive design that adapts to any device or that you have a mobile version of your website. If you don’t, then people will probably have to do lots of scrolling, horizontally and vertically, to view the content on your site. The font may also be difficult to read and buttons too small to touch.
Google released a tool that highlights whether specific pages on websites are deemed mobile friendly. This tool is called the Mobile-Friendly Test: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/
With this resource, you’re able to identify pages that are optimised for mobile users, along with being able to highlight those that need development, with information being provided on how to do so.
2015 SEO prediction two: The need for speed…
In their predictions for technical SEO in 2015, Koozai highlighted that we should all be trying to improve our site speed because it’s “a fundamental element of a good user experience”. The article highlighted that in a case study from Radware, 51% of online shoppers in the US claimed they will not make a purchase if a website is too slow. Another study by Radware also found that pages taking six or more seconds to load lose 50% of their conversions.
Other stats suggest that 47% of us expect a web page to load in two seconds or less, and 75% of consumers would rather buy from a competitor than wait for a slow website to load.
The message is that website visitors are busy, have short attention spans and simply won’t hang around for your content.
Google’s Page Speed Insights tool is helpful. Visit http://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/ and enter your web address. You will then be given a report about technical issues that could do with fixing or enhancing to improve the mobile and desktop experience, as well as a User Experience score out of 100.
2015 SEO prediction three: Social media engagement
Although Searchmetrics’ 2014 ranking factors showed a slight decrease in the relevance of social signals, social media engagement will still be important in 2015. Creating an active community of customers and fans on the best social media platforms for your business can help you enhance your visibility and gain a committed following, which, in turn, leads to greater brand awareness and credibility. You should also notice your content being shared more regularly and widely – the domino effect being that this will increase your reach, links back to your site and your web traffic.
2015 SEO prediction four: Penguin 3.0, brand mentions and citations
We all know that backlinks are important to SEO. A backlink from one website to another is viewed as a vote of confidence or endorsement of the quality of the linked-to content. However, backlinks have been widely abused in the past with people paying from links from spam sites, links in blog comments, low quality directory sites and over-optimised anchor text.
In 2015, we will all need to concentrate on building a good link profile. But what does this look like?
- A good link profile is more than just backlinks
- It has links from high authority, respected websites rather than spammy, low quality sites
- A good link profile has branded anchor links – for example, in this article, we have included links to articles on Clickz, Koozai and SimilarWeb and we have named the brands within these links – a good link profile may contain a relatively large percentage of these anchors (up to 20%) without harming a site’s link profile
- It’s also OK to feature semantically relevant anchor text on your website – for example, an orthodontist may link to ‘tooth straightening options’ or ‘braces and aligners’ instead of purely focusing on ‘orthodontic treatments’
- Google looks kindly on diluted anchor links, even when the brand name and keywords aren’t mentioned. For example, a link such as, “Want to wear a brace without your friends knowing you’re having your teeth straightened? Some companies are making it possible’, with the whole of the second sentence linking to your website, would contribute to a good link profile
Back in April 2014, the SEO world was abuzz with discussions about brand mentions and citations being viewed by Google as ‘implied links’. It would certainly seem this is the direction Google is taking. In other words, if someone mentions your company in their blog or you’re quoted in a news article or review, Google will count it as an implied link or endorsement of your website, even without a live hyperlink connecting to your site.
There is much more information about brand mentions, citations and building a good link profile in a recent article by QuickSprout. The stand-out advice is that if you focus on creating high quality content that will appeal to your customers, you should be able to build a good link profile because people will want to read and share what you’re saying.
2015 SEO prediction five: Voice search, semantics and context
When Google rolled out its Hummingbird search algorithm in autumn 2013, it took a clear step away from keywords in their traditional sense towards natural language and semantic searches. This is primarily tied into mobile traffic and the fact that more and more of us are using voice search to find the information we need online. People tend to ask questions when they use voice search, so what was once ‘indian takeaway Newton Abott’ has become ‘Where can I find the nearest Indian takeaway?’
Knowing this, context and semantics will become even more important in 2015. In the search example above, Google would have to look at what they know about the searcher’s location and then look for websites representing relevant companies in the near vicinity.
Google will also look for language related to the search and the context of the whole question rather than exclusively matching search terms. A good example is if someone were to search for “Where is the nearest Apple store?”, as Google would know that ‘where’ and ‘nearest’ are location-focused words and that the searcher would not be happy with a list of greengrocers in the search results!
2015 SEO prediction six: Structured markup
Structured markup is information in your website’s code that helps search engines recognise the significance of your content and display it accordingly in search results. According to a recent article by SimilarWeb, adopting a structured markup for your website could increase your organic traffic by up to 30%. Schema.org is the most widely used structured markup site.
In September 2014, Google rolled out the sitelinks search box. This is essentially when you run a search in Google and then get presented with the opportunity to search a specific website while you’re still on the SERP. However, the only way this search facility will work for your website is if you use Schema’s SearchAction markup in your website code.
Experts agree that Schema/structured markup will be a big part of future-proofing websites and that it is a tool you should adopt sooner rather than later. Not sure where to start with structured markup? You can find a Structured Data Markup Helper tool in Google Webmaster Tools, as well as more information about how to use it.
In summary, it would appear that SEO in 2015 will become more focused on technical elements, while content marketing – of which SEO is a valuable subset – will impact more on search engine rankings. Expert consensus is that we all need to thinking about user intent, what our customers need and how we can provide a high quality experience.
What are you big SEO predictions for 2015? Is there anything we’ve missed? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the Comments below.
Hazel Jarrett, director of SEO at SEO+, is well-known in the SEO space, has won many awards during her 20-year career and has been published on various well-known sites. Through her services and training programs, her SEO strategies have generated 10s of millions of sales for her clients, earning her a big reputation for delivering the results that matter.
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