2015 is here and SEO is barely recognizable from SEO in 2005 (the year I began doing this professionally), when carpet bombing link and article directories, adding some keyword-stuffed”rich” landing pages, and making sure you weren’t doing anything stupid (like blocking your site via robots.txt) was enough to dominate the SERPs. Today, good (even decent) SEO requires addressing so many non-traditionally-considered-be-a-part-of-SEO-things that some no longer call it SEO (hence, the increase usage of titles like content marketers, growth hackers, digital marketers, etc).
The SEO news industry has been busy keeping tabs on Google’s algorithmic updates, and dissecting every statement to come from people like Matt Cutts. It can often get overwhelming trying to keep up with the latest news. But in general, these trends appear to continue along the same path. Below is where I see SEO today and a few predictions for 2015 in general.
On-Site (technical) SEO will continue to become more important
The rise and ease of use of CMS platforms like wordpress has made accessible directly to site owners what once required web developers. However, it has also opened up a world of errors. One wrong selection on a plugin, or an untimely update on a wordpress version (containing plugins not compatible with the new WP version) and the entire site can go down–or at the very least do something not exactly search engine-friendly. One wrong selection with that site security tool that block rogue crawlers and a site owner may find themselves also blocking Googlebot.
The more cooks in the kitchen and more sites you’re handling, the more likely such mistakes are likely to go unnoticed. Hence, the importance of continual on-site SEO analysis and maintenance. The ability to make changes on sites will only become more and more available to otherwise non-developers, and we are likely to see more site/business owners inadvertently hurt their rankings and traffic.
Couple this with Google’s insistence on faster (or at least not slow) load times, movement ‘towards’ https (which I’m betting they’ll get more serious about in 2015 and 2016), and recent hints that it will no longer crawl certain “read more” sections that aren’t readily visible to a user, and you have a greater need for quality on-site, and technical SEO.
Authoritative Content will continue to become priority
Long gone are the days of creating “keyword dense” landing pages, pointing a few links to them and watching them rank. Aside from the obsolescence of metrics like “keyword density,” Google has gotten much better (and will continue to do so) at recognizing content that is relevant and authoritative. Their venture with “Google Authorship” is a testament to the lengths to which they will go in trying to recognize authoritative content.
Expect to hear more and more about LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing). Long story short, LSI refers to the ability to systematically categorize content based on common word/phrase usage. This is in part why you’ll see pages ranking for phrases not even on the page (yes, a ton of inbound links with word/phrase as the anchor text or at least on the page can make this happen as well). The point is, Google can now recognize related content that should be on the page.
In other words, the old “keyword density” method of making sure your article had the word “lower back pain” in it 100 times in order to rank for the phrase “lower back pain” is gone. Now you need to actually have an article that at least sounds authoritative (meaning it likely needs phrases like “see your doctor,” “straight leg raise test” and “cauda equina syndrome”).
As Google continues to improve their ability to distinguish between legitimate content vs “SEO articles” it will become more and more important to make sure your articles are providing the sort of content searchers are looking for. One rule I like to follow before writing anything is: would I link to or at least ‘like’ this article if I stumbled on it as a result of my search?
Link Building will continue to become “Content Marketing”
Largely considered to be a dirty word (to be supplanted with “content marketing”), link building isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Links are to Google, what citations are to academia. The good news (or bad news depending on your point of reference) is that Google has gotten better at separating the wheat from the chaff. It has simply gotten much better at recognizing the difference between a citation from ScienceMag.org and Natural News.
Tactical link building continues to be a great way to get links. Build great content (better than that of your competitors) and let others know about it. Tools like ahrefs and Moz continue to be useful for cutting down your research time when researching link prospects. Yes, it may be called “content marketing” (code word for “white hat link building”) in many circles, but link building has not gone away, and won’t in the foreseeable future.
On that note, expect more PBN’s (private backlink networks) to get axed and no doubt, a few more big name websites to be made an example of through outright penalties. No doubt, the SEO news world will be filled with news up Penguin/Panda updates, and debates over whether they were updates or refreshes, or something else altogether.
Branding/Trust will be an even bigger Must
SEO in a vacuum has been pretty much been laid to rest (as a longterm strategy). Your SEO efforts need to be aided by marketing efforts that give the appearance of a strongly-branded website that will still be around in 5 years (not gaming the rankings 6-12 months). Don’t skimp on the social media marketing, PPC (for some industries at least), and email marketing.
Here’s to 2015 and the improved economy
Regardless of where you stand on SEO (whether you’re annoyed or excited that it’s getting harder to “game rankings”), the improving economy means increased buying power which means a bigger pie for all of us. So regardless of what Google does or doesn’t do (or penalize) we can look forward to bigger marketing budgets and looser wallets in 2015!