The Future of SEO: What to Expect in 2015

It’s 2015 already and nearly everybody I know is on that New Year’s resolution craze. I have a few resolutions too, like smoking lesser this year than I did last year. I also want to stay on top of my deadlines a little better than I did last year but enough about me.

Point is, it is okay and commendable to have goals and expectations. Who wouldn’t want to change for the better this year? That’s right, I see absolutely no hands up.

In this spirit of change, what can you expect to be different this year in terms of search engine optimization? What’s in store for SEO experts and digital marketers? What’s the future of SEO like in 2015 and beyond?

These and other questions we will answer in today’s post. Enjoy and bring your SEO expectations to the comment section at the end!

Mobile SEO Expected to Grow

As we saw in the latest SEO techniques and trends post we published in the final stretch of last year, mobile optimization is a huge ranking factor at Google. If you didn’t know, mobile search is expected to surpass desktop traffic in leaps and bounds this year onward.  And guess what, the only way to capture this traffic is to have a website that’s fully optimized for mobile devices of all shapes and sizes.

Otherwise, you will be primed to miss out on a lot of business, especially now that Google is introducing mobile-friendly labels in SERPs. Go responsive, go mobile and get an edge over competitors who are yet to embrace this reality.

Mobile Friendly Labels in SERPs

Local SEO will Flourish

Localization is an SEO trend that has been garnering momentum for a while now, and you should expect it to grow in 2015. Over the past three years, Google has made an effort of actively serving users results depending on their geographical location.

If people in your neighborhood (read city or state) make up the bulk of your target audience, you stand to benefit a lot from local search this year.

User-focused SEO Campaigns Take Center Stage

Before I brandish the “content is king” mantra, I would like to express that it’s quite a relief that we will see less of keyword stuffing and more of relevant content in 2015. Google search spiders are getting smarter by the day, and unless you start creating informative and engaging content that is relevant to your audience, all your other SEO efforts will be futile.

This is the time to embrace high-quality and user-focused content marketing. As search algorithms become better at understanding user context and intent, keyword-focused content will crash and burn. In this time and era, your content should be all about providing real value; crawlers don’t want keywords, they’re after the specific meaning of the content you create.

Google will reward influential publishers who provide valuable content based on quality and social signals. If you’re not already doing it, start creating valuable and user-focused content that will fuel your SEO campaigns now and in the future. Always remember that quality over quantity matters a lot in the SEO landscape of today and the days to come.

Still on content, you will be delighted to know that Google is developing new methods of indexing multimedia content and products such as apps. The direct benefit here, of course, is you will have more SEO channels to push your content hence business closer to your target customers.

Don’t hold back but play around with different types of content to achieve maximal exposure for your content. For instance, you should start tapping into YouTube’s huge SEO potential using video SEO. On top of that, create multimedia content such as inforgraphics among others.

Social Media and SEO

Although social signals might not be a huge ranking factor in the foreseeable future, you can expect Google to reward content and websites that receive positive response on social and bookmarking sites such as Reddit, LinkedIn and Twitter to mention a few.

Social Media and SEO
Image Credit: KevinKing

But what do you mean by social signals might not be a huge ranking factor in the foreseeable future? 

Well, to begin with, once Facebook – the most popular of social sites – rolls out their own search engine completely, Google will not be so eager to rely on social signals from a competitor. This holds true, especially when you consider the social media giant severed the relationship they had with Bing just the other day. Secondly, there is a rumor or rather a prediction going around SEO circles, that Google execs will ultimately kill Google+ in 2015.

All the same, 2015 is the year you want to build dynamic digital assets that you – and only you – truly own. As opposed to days of our fathers when marketers had to rent audiences e.g. in print media, you have the one-in-a-million golden chance to build your own audience around an idea, brand or product.

This has completely revolutionalized how you generate leads (the true purpose of SEO) since the conversion process has been diversified and placed on various platforms, social media included. Your website is no longer the only tool you can use to drive sales; people are buying products solely on recommendations they got from friends and family on social media. When you look at it from a branding point of view, it is in your best interests to own a few social media assets.

Moreover, having a strong social media presence can provide valuable insight around the demographics, geographies and personas of your prospects, allowing you to utilize this information in planning your SEO strategies.

Google SEO Algorithm Updates

According to Dave Davies, the CEO at Beanstalk Internet Marketing, we should expect Google to broaden the scope of algorithm updates in a bid to tackle poor content, link manipulation and spam in general.

I expect to see further [algorithm] updates and manual actions targeting spam aggressively and likely surpassing anything we’ve seen thus far. Google’s focus is likely to be on a continuation of the Panda and Penguin flavors – Dave Davies.

As such, if SEO malpractices left you in hot soup the last time Google rolled out an algorithm update, you ought to be very careful in 2015. As a matter of fact, I recommend you start fixing all the SEO problems that might be riddling your website as it stands. Don’t wait for Google to call you out on your not-so-legitimate SEO tricks with their next SEO update, fix your site today. Do it already!

Expansion of Knowledge Graph

Knowledge Graph, machine learning, direct answers are all just fancy words Google uses to cover what they are doing behind closed doors; stealing your content and showing it to your searchers without ever sharing the traffic with you.

I think one big trend in 2015 will be the expansion of direct answers and the Knowledge Graph by Google. I expect that a lot will happen in this area, and there is some chance that it will be quite dramatic. Certainly, we will see more direct answers, and more step by step instructions and other ways of getting answers from 3rd party web sites [stealing your content without you asking questions] – Eric Enge, CEO at Stone Temple Consulting.

While this is great news for users, it puts you head-to-head in competition with Google. And even though some direct answers tag along an attribution link, you need all the luck you can get to compete for traffic with the giant of search.

Link Earning VS Link Building for SEO

For years, link building has been an important component of SEO. In fact, as SEO specialists were being suckered into accepting new (or no) titles within PR and marketing teams, an offshoot of professionals calling themselves “link builders” broke out and quickly formed a lucrative niche.

While inbound links and your linking profile in general is still a huge ranking factor, old methods of link building that made “link builders” millions of dollars are slowly dying out. Instead of buying, exchanging or “sowing” links as you would have it, Google wants you to create content so good it earns links naturally on auto-pilot.

Sounds like a tough time ahead, doesn’t it? Well, if you dedicate your resources to creating amazing content on a regular basis while fostering relationships within your network, you shouldn’t have a difficult time earning links. Of course, you can continue using tired methods and other black-hat techniques at your own risk.

Secure (HTTPS) Websites as an SEO Ranking Signal

Did you know as of August, 2014, Google started using HTTPS as a ranking signal, albeit a lightweight one? While this signal affects lesser than 1% of global queries, Google might consider strengthening it in 2015 going forward “…because [they] would like to encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe on the web.”

Sounds like a really great idea at first, but let’s consider this:

SSL encryption for e-commerce sites and the likes has been around for a while, but getting a SSL certificate for a blog is something few SEOs and website owners are looking forward to. After all, nothing is to stop a really committed hacker from breaking into your site. Many people don’t even know what HTTPS or SSL is, or they don’t care at all.

HTTPS as a Ranking Signal
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

If you ask me, Google should work on algorithm updates and leave SSL as is instead of trying to push it down our throats as a ranking factor. And don’t you think it’s quite ironical that Google made this announcement on Blogger, a service that doesn’t support HTTPS? Meh.

Well, we should expect more site owners to buy SSL certificates (more power to hosting companies) seeing webmasters all around are already adopting HTTPS. If Google decides, “Well, let’s add more weight to HTTPS as a ranking signal”, we can only expect to see people adopting HTTPS left, right and center throughout the year.

UX-focused SEO

Also known as User Experience (UX) Marketing, UX-focused SEO is the way of the future now that Google places a lot of emphasis on onsite experience when ranking your website. Factors such as PageRank, domain authority, site age etc will become less important forcing you to invest more in interaction design, product design, copywriting, interface design, creation of user tests, usability, crawlability, information architecture and accessibility among others.

Other Notable SEO Predictions for 2015

As the year grows older, you should expect voice search to grow significantly, what with big-fish companies entering the market with PA products such as Cortana and Siri. As an SEO practitioner, you need to start investing time in researching the type of queries being made via voice search.

That aside, we should expect to see more negative SEO (as it were) and less SERP data from Google (oh yes, they will continue hiding keywords from you). This means more research on your part, but if you play by the rules and do your due diligence, you should better your rankings and provide a great experience on all your online properties.

Main SEO Takeaway for 2015:

  • Optimize your website for mobile devices; go beyond responsive design
  • Build digital assets you truly own since branding pays off big time in the SEO landscape of today and tomorrow
  • Take advantage of local SEO
  • Create user-focused SEO campaigns
  • Expect Google search algorithms to grow smarter
  • Google will continue taking content from third party sites
  • Endeavor to earn links naturally by creating smart and effective content
  • Prepare for voice search and HTTPS
  • Provide 100/100 user experience on your site for all devices

Resources on SEO 2015 Predictions

If you would like to learn more about what SEO changes to expect in 2015, we have put together the following resources for your pleasure:

Final Word on the Future of SEO…

To be the best digital marketer, you must be well-informed of all future SEO changes. In addition, you must stay ahead of the curve by using only the SEO techniques recommended by Google. Play around with your rankings trying to game the system, and Google will de-rank you like it’s a joke. And we all know that recovering from a Google penalty is no joke.

Now to you, what do you expect will change in 2015 in terms of SEO? Please share your thoughts and predictions with us in the comments. Have a great year ahead!