2015 – A Year in SEO
Major SEO trends, tips and predictions for 2015
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is having a very busy year. With daily global searches standing at almost 4.5 billion (yes that’s per day!), the pressure is on search engines to deliver the best quality content instantly.
In order to do this, they need to update their algorithms all the time – the way that people are using the web is changing but users still expect to see the most relevant results regardless of the device or location that they are searching from. Search engines also need to make sure that no-one is breaking the rules and interfering with the quality of their results.
So what have been the major changes in SEO so far in 2015, and what does the rest of the year have in store?
February saw an update for the Google algorithm that was unrelated to either Panda (related to websites which have poor quality content, for example duplicate content) or Penguin (which is related to websites which have a high number of spam links in their link-building), but was just a “tweak”. Some believe that this was the first step towards Google’s mobile device update.
The update in April was the most significant update of the year so far. Nicknamed ‘Mobilegeddon’ (the hashtag even trended on Twitter!), it was all about providing good quality mobile search experiences for users. Currently around 30% of all web traffic is from mobile devices, but often the mobile experience on a website is very different from the desktop experience: buttons are too close to each other to press; some key features are missing from the mobile site; the site may not even be responsive and have a completely different look and feel to the desktop website. All of these add up to a bad experience. So Google provided a simple page where you could type your URL and see whether it is ‘mobile friendly’. It also provides a handy to-do list for your mobile site. The impact of this update is still being felt globally, and is thought to have affected hundreds of thousands of websites. Ouch.
In the history of named algorithm changes, Phantom has to win the award for the most sinister sounding. But don’t be alarmed, this was an update to further address the issue of poor quality sites and clickbait content. If you have ever seen the title of a link that reads something like ‘7 shocking things you didn’t know about Kim Kardashian – you won’t believe number 4!’, then you have experienced clickbait. It is a way of teasing people into clicking, but the click often leads to a disappointing article or the need for yet more clicks to get to the content. In the eyes of search engines, a naughty way of driving the clicks and time on a website.
A busy start to the year then, but what does the rest of 2015 have in store?
Penguin and Panda continue:
Penguin and Panda are already 3 and 4 years old respectively, so you can expect them to continue for the rest of 2015. There may be some changes to link criteria, as even legitimate link-building is starting to be frowned upon in the SEO community (see below), and almost certainly some changes to sites with poor quality content, even if it is just search engines expanding the search for these offensive sites: more sites will be adversely affected by these algorithms.
Mobile will (still) be huge:
2015 has already seen the largest algorithm change for Google in the shape of Mobilegeddon, but there are additional but smaller tweaks expected over the course of the year. A lot of website owners have spent time and money improving their mobile experience after this algorithm change, so an update is expected to re-assess these sites and deliver more accurate search results.
Don’t worry be app-y:
With the growth in mobile use has come the use of apps. If you are using an app to access your social network or to check the news or your sports results, then effectively you are not being tracked on a website, but a stand-alone application. As smartphone use grows, this becomes a bigger issue for search engines – there is a lot of activity happening which is very difficult for them to track. So before the end of the year, you can expect app data to start playing a role in search results.
The Google Pigeon has landed:
Google’s menagerie continues to grow with the addition of Google Pigeon! Pigeon arrived in the US back in July 2014, and is expected to continue its roll-out to the rest of the world in 2015. Pigeon is all about local search, and ensuring that when the search engine collects your location data, you are provided with the best local results for your search. For example, Google is gathering data on businesses through Google Places and Google My Business which it can use to hone localised search results. This is a development that is likely to have an impact on a lot of small businesses, and will require some further tweaking from Google before it works perfectly.
Link building turns bad:
Having a link-building strategy is part of most company’s SEO plan, but the direction from search engines will become clearer. At the moment, sourcing natural links is legitimate, but the line between a natural link and an unnatural link is not clear, and this is leading to businesses unwittingly doing the wrong thing. The best advice is to rely on the advice from SEO professionals only, and not to second guess the search engines.
Content is king?
Content marketing has been around since the dawn on marketing, but it has never been more important. The internet provides a mind-boggling amount of content, and search engines use this content to understand how much authority a website has and where it should appear in their search results. With content playing a role in SEO, the emphasis will be on the quality and creativity of that content, and what format it appears in: video, audio, graphic, etc. Regardless of the format, if content is not readable to search engines, it is not optimised.
The rise and rise of social media:
Social media as a means of engaging with audiences is well known. But it is playing an increasingly important role in SEO. Let’s look at SEO from a search engines perspective to understand why. If an article is written and is shared 100 times, then 100 people have put their name to that article to say that it is good enough to be shared with their audience (unless they are sharing an article because it is particularly terrible!). From a search engine’s perspective, sharing is a good endorsement of that content, and should surely be taken into account in search results. So having sharable content is not just good for engagement, it’s good for SEO.
This time it’s personal:
Personalised search engine results is the utopia that search engines dream about. Being able to deliver local search results is one way of doing this, but it also takes into account personal search history: if you have clicked on a link multiple times or shared it on social media, then it makes sense for search engines to prioritise that link. Google and Bing are already doing this, but it will become even more important as the year progresses.
The future is on your wrist:
The way that people spend their time online is changing, and the devices that they use are changing too. Devices are becoming smaller and smarter, and more interactive with the user as we move from desktop to laptop to smartphone to tablet to wearable. The role of voice recognition in search is already significant with Siri and Cortana and the introduction of the Apple Watch will accelerate its impact on the way that people search in the future.
SEO will continue to change in 2015. The way that people are using their devices and consuming content is changing, and search engines will need to continually change their algorithms to make sure that they are delivering the most relevant results to their users. The impact of this is that SEO will become more complex: the number of ranking factors which search engines use will grow, and this will make websites and other media tougher and tougher to optimise against.
Has your website been impacted by any of Google’s latest changes and what are your SEO predictions for 2015?