SEO changes and predictions for 2015

Anybody who has worked with search engine optimisation since 2011 will appreciate how much it has changed. With Google’s algorithm updates – and especially Panda and Penguin – SEO’s have had to raise their game and become more attuned to what the search engines are doing, and more importantly, how they operate within their guidelines.

Depending on your websites dealings with Google, Matt Cutts became an evil overlord or a one-man SEO news channel, giving updates on what webmasters should and should not be doing, and what crimes were going to go punished by Google.

The difference between 2011 and 2014 is that the Google algorithm updates were new and more devastating when they first came around, whereas by the time 2014 came around, there were recovery procedures in place, and the communication from Google on how to recover has become more transparent.

Now that 2014 has come to an end, let’s take a look at an overview of what we can expect to see in the SEO world throughout 2015.

Mobile SEO will become more important than ever

Benjamin Franklin once said: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail” and although it is doubtful he was thinking about mobile SEO, the old adage can definitely be used to explain how important mobile SEO will become to website owners in 2015.

Google have been testing mobile-friendly icons next to search results, and the adding of a mobile usability section to Webmaster Tools is a clear indication that mobile usability is becoming more important to Google when it comes to ranking sites. With this in mind, it pays for website managers to ensure that their sites operate cleanly and effectively on mobile devices. If not, you could see your rankings fall as a result in 2015.

Link building will be reborn and evolve

Google went all out to destroy link building in its original form in 2014. Manual spam actions were sent out like Christmas cards by Google, and Matt Cutts made it abundantly clear that spammy link building techniques were going to get hit hard.  This tough stance will continue to hit the spammers where it hurts in 2015.

The fact that Google went after My Blog Guest so aggressively, and made such as example of them, was viewed with mixed feelings, but it did the job: SEO’s that had previously got away with low quality, push button tactics had to change their link building strategies, or carefully reconsider them at the very least.

In 2015, good quality backlinks are going to be even harder to come by. Guest blogging has become increasingly challenging, and even the legit side of it is a risky strategy if used on its own as a link building method. This year is likely to see a rise in brand mentioning, which is a way of building links without URLs even being used. Getting high profile figures to mention you will become a popular way of sending traffic your way and increasing your search rankings.  The need for both good quality, high authority backlinks and niche related backlinks wont go away but webmasters especially with large backlink profiles will spend more time analysing links than ever before.

SEO should become even more integrated into business marketing plans. Any company not already mixing SEO into their marketing mix will be slowly left behind as digital and search takes an even stronger grip of the marketing industry and digital budgets look to increase.
Both quality content and author rank will continue to enhance placement opportunities in top search results.

Google tools

Don’t be surprised to see Google further refine their analytics tools, not to improve our experience but in fact to make it harder to measure organic results.  The less data Google makes available to SEOs, the less that SEOs can do to create and test quick-win black/grey hat gimmicks to game higher rankings.

There has been lots of talk about Google+ disappearing but I don’t see that happening in 2015.  In fact I think Google will continue to try and get people involved in using their clumpy social network.  There are to many products integrated to make it easy to drop.

Social signals will continue to assist search rankings

When Google+ – and more specifically, Google Authorship – turned up, SEOs and businesses sprinted to the network in the belief that their rankings would see a significant increase based on their loyalty to Google. It was never quite as easy as that, authorship (in its old format) took a step back in 2014, but despite Google’s own social networking experiment not quite taking off, many industry experts believe that social signals from it and the likes of Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms will play a significant part in Google’s algorithm in 2015 (and some believe that it already is, despite Google’s claims to the contrary).

It is unlikely but 2015 might be the year that Google finally says ‘Hey, you know what, social signals do make a difference’, and if that happens, expect SEO’s and businesses to invest a great deal more in their social media strategies.

Google Knowledge Graph

Google did a lot of algorithm testing in 2014 and rolled out updates in countries at different times.  The Google Knowledge Graph was developed by Google and launched in May 2012.  The system interprets facts and information about people, places and things and how these entities are all connected.  We can expect to see a growth in ‘instant answers’ in search results including textual, events, maps and images.

If you feel you have content that should be “getting into the Knowledge Graph,” placing structured data markup from Schema.org on your web pages is going to be very important.  The schema.org structured data markup helps Google and other search engines read and understand data in html documents. The schema data helps Google provide more informative search results for searchers.

Matt Cutts

Matt Cutts will never return to Google (well not as we know it).  I’d be amazed after his ‘extended holiday’ if he ever returned to Google, at least not in the same capacity heading up the spam team.  There is a lot of pressure in a role where everyone is making website decisions based on your every word.  Matt came under a lot of fire in the previous 12 months when companies struggled to get to grips with algorithm updates.  It was obviously not his fault but those of webmasters that had generally not followed Google’s guidelines in the first place.

It’s going to be an exciting 12 months in the SEO world, and we’ll be watching closely to see what changes will be coming in and what strategies are working throughout the year. If you have any questions, or any predictions of your own, let us know in the comments below.

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