2014 was a whirlwind year for SEO, with new developments and discoveries seemingly cropping up all the time. And with the rise of mobile commerce, many experts started to get a comprehensive idea of how today’s SEO functions and what companies can look forward to in 2015.
There’s been a lot of analysis and data collected and now is the time to go over that data to ensure your SEO is geared for success in the New Year.
SEO Trends to Follow
Based on research, there are some key ways to better your company’s SEO operations. Here are some trends that you should pay attention to:
1. Semantic Searches
There is a trend towards users favouring conversational keyword phrases and questions when using a search engine; these are called semantic searches. With this trend has come an increasing need for understanding the intent behind search queries in SEO, and Google Hummingbird has been adapting SEO algorithms to meet this need. Simply put, optimizing your SEO for semantic searches entails understanding how people search online. For example, as mentioned, the current trend is typing questions into search engines and not just keywords. The more you address these questions with long-tail keywords and terms that support latent semantic indexing, a means of recording similarities in words and documents, the more your SEO rankings will improve.
2. Mobile Search Optimization
In 2014, Google made some obvious changes to improve mobile usability. This is in reaction to the trend towards using mobile phones as a primary Internet search tool. In fact, according to the Mobile Marketing Association, in the U.S., 43% of e-commerce users conduct their searches and shopping through their mobile devices. Plus, with the prominence of mobile commerce, or m-commerce, in 2014, came the growth in the number of consumers wanting to be able to access information via their mobile devices, particularly local content. Since the information being quested in this situation is highly specific, as it can now be accessed everywhere the moment it’s needed, it’s important to make sure that you include specific information and search terms in your SEO material, properly optimizing it for this trend toward the mobile space.
3. Increased Importance of Earned Links/Brand Mentions and Citations
Brand citations are becoming as powerful as links, which have seen so much link abuse and misuse that Google has stepped up its efforts to police both. Therefore, it’s a good idea to develop your brand as a citation instead: this means placing your brand in review citations, online directories, trade blogs, and digital publications. This presence allows you to build your online SEO ranking while avoiding the spam-ridden link networks that Google works to suppress. With this trend, search rankings will become more about building relationships and less about technical strategies.
4. Social Media Integration
Google+ Authorship was developed for companies to market on. While Google terminated this social media site in mid-2014, the upshot of it is that Google began putting more value in signals from social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Google Algorithms are SEO-friendly to these sites, so if you’ve incorporated social media SEO, you’re at a ranking advantage and should continue plugging away at it. One tip to remember when it comes to this SEO trend: study your target market and always deliver content that will appeal to this audience.
5. Negative SEO
There might be no nastier online scheme than negative SEO. It’s when rival companies create links directed to your web site with the intent to kill your ranking. The best way to fight back against this trend is to ensure that you’re creating and using links according to Google’s standards. Doing so helps to defend your company’s link profile and only keeps you on good terms with Google, which means Google can focus on stopping those that might do harm to your business.
SEO Trends to Avoid
Search engine algorithms are constantly being updated—which means there are some trends that die out. Here is the list of trends your company may have employed in 2014, but should be avoided or adapted to meet new SEO guidelines in 2015:
1. Spammy Guest Blogging
There’s nothing wrong with guest blogging if you stick to the blog’s theme and you use your own name or company. In fact, it can still be a useful way to enhance brand awareness and boost SEO. But guest blogging just to acquire SEO traffic backlinks will hurt your standing on search engines quickly. One thing to remember when you are guest blogging: avoid optimized anchors entirely—which brings us to our next point.
2. Optimized Anchor Text
Optimized anchor text—content that uses keywords that you want to rank—is created when you design links with those same keywords. Unfortunately, it’s a trend that’s also a recipe for disaster. Your keywords and related phrases should appear in the content only; if they are links, Google Hummingbird will flag your content. Instead, anchor text with links in their URL form or create links with long phrases. You can also consider using branded URLs that anchor links using your company’s name.
3. Link Quantity Over Quality
Links and link building in SEO still have merit, but many negative reports have been posted regarding paid links being used to try to drive SEO traffic. Paid links that have matched keywords and/or text in your footers or sidebars are both costly and a red flag to Google. Make sure your links are carefully constructed and networked. One very important tip: when link building, avoid sites that have a low DA (domain authority, or the measure of how strong a domain’s name is in terms of SEO ranking).
4. Keyword Stuffing
If you’re considering adding keyword-heavy content to your online SEO material, don’t; doing so will wreck your ranking and reputation in no time. Quality content with only a select amount of long-tail keyword phrases is what you should limit yourself to. A useful tip may be to choose a primary keyword, then type it into a search engine, like Google, which will offer alternative search suggestions; you can scan these suggestions and use them in place of your primary keyword. The goal here is to use a variety of similar related terms that fit naturally into your content.
5. Content Without Purpose
Digital content is all about telling good stories. But does yours? Your content has to be informative, entertaining, and related to your industry. Not having a purpose to your content is what could ruin you in 2015. Before publishing your content, be sure that the answer to the following two questions is yes:
- Does your content serve a purpose for your company?
- Does your content serve a purpose for your target audience?
If your answer to either of these questions is no, you need to revise your text or avoid publishing it altogether.
If you’ve been keeping up with SEO news throughout 2014, you’ll note Google’s additional tools, like Hummingbird replacing Penguin and the mobility section in Webmaster. Coupled with the aforementioned m-commerce successes, 2014 was perhaps the most exciting online business year to date.
If there’s a final tip for 2015, it’s for online companies to stay informed about Google, but also experiment with new mobile practices using the information above. Doing so might make 2015 an even more exciting and profitable SEO year.