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SEO in 2015: what the future holds

In this never ending game of cat and mouse that is SEO, following trends and forecasting change is the only way to survive.

The last year has seen some huge (and unexpected) changes that SEOs have had to adapt to. The unstoppable force of social media is changing the way users utilize search and the mobile internet is starting to take over, bringing with it new challenges.

Here at Ad-Rank we have sifted through the expert predictions and speculation that is out there to document the key changes that are likely to hit SEO in 2015.

Rand Fishkin of Moz predicts that 2015 will see an increase of interest in content-based strategy reach critical mass as marketers’ content will struggle to stand out. SEOs must turn to other strategies, or as Fishkin puts it “get creative”. He suspects that, as well as seeking paid and non-paid forms of amplification, there is likely to be a shift towards non-content-focused methods of attaining links.
Zwane Schwarzlose of Fahrenheit Marketing has a much blunter prediction for the future of content. “Google is done with spammy backlinks and spun content” he states in an article for SEOscribe.com. Schwarzlose sees the Google algorithm becoming so refined that blackhat ranking tactics will become increasingly difficult. His solution: better content writers.

Content by influential authors with a recognised authority- based on social, comments and writing quality- are likely to improve your rankings.

Negative SEO
An industry in itself, with the intention of damaging a site’s organic search rankings through poor quality links, creating duplicate sites or embedding HTML links within the target site through Malware. This type of behaviour is on the rise and is perhaps one of the biggest threats to Google in the near future, affecting search quality and reliability.
Currently Google have no specific system in place for dealing with ‘negative’ SEO, low quality and damaging links intended to negatively affect a site’s ranking. Instead they treat it as a form of webspam and leave it to SEOs and site managers to deal with themselves. Presently they do offer a Google Disavow Tool allowing site owners to request that certain low-quality links be ignored or not taken into account in Google’s assessment of the site.

2015 will see conventional web traffic taken over by mobile traffic, meaning mobile searches will likely overtake desktop searches. At SMX advanced, Matt Cutts predicted that this shift will likely happen before the end of this year and assures us that Google are “acting accordingly”. Mobile tends to be pretty much neglected by most businesses, but this presents a smart opportunity for anyone wanting to capitalise on the changes ahead. Developing your mobile SEO and revamping your mobile site can mean you’re one step ahead of competitors who have otherwise neglected their mobile strategy.

A study by Nielson on behalf of Google showed that 74% of mobile users used a search engine during their everyday purchasing processes, with 83% wanting to make a purchase that day, and 55% within the hour. So speed and usability are going to be key for mobile conversions. Last year Google issued mobile speed guidelines, proposing that all mobile sites should take only one second to load, however at the current rate the average time is around 7 seconds.

It’s not just mobile speed that Google are likely to focus on in 2015; websites with more efficient navigation and swifter load time are going to be favoured as they become more adept at picking up on such things.

Earlier this year, Google’s updated search algorithms for Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird placed the onus on content and social sharing. Content quality, originality and relevance were now the focus of higher search rankings. The changes gradually saw a shift towards social media data, as social figures, such as sharing and linking, tend to be a good way to gauge content quality and relevance.
Social media will become more important than ever for online strategy in 2015. Social media has swiftly been adopted as a vital marketing channel on its own, but 2015 will see it utilised for search engine rankings.

Semantics and Context
Context is set to take over by 2015. If SEOs don’t incorporate context into your online strategies, their page ranking is going to be seriously affected. Keywords just aren’t enough anymore, Google’s algorithms are going to be better versed at picking up on semantics and context, leaving keyword-focused strategies far behind.

As more mobile users implement voice search and ask more specific questions, keywords will have to work second to context. For example “where is the nearest Chinese takeaway?” instead of “Chinese takeaway Brixton”. SEO strategy must focus on conversational search items in order to get ahead of competitors.

Everyone’s at it
There is one certainty, however. Next year will see a boom in interest and demand for SEO as businesses realise the importance of search rankings and as marketing and digital become synonymous.

For companies who aren’t prioritising SEO yet, start now or lose out. A vast majority of competitors will be turning to improving the quality aspect of their SEO (if they haven’t started already) in order to future-proof their businesses for the coming year.