How will you dominate organic search results in 2015? Think like Google!
The market-leading search engine puts the user at the forefront of their search innovations. Each algorithm change is an attempt to improve the user’s search results, and correspondingly, the user experience.
In “thinking like Google,” we’ve created the following list of important SEO trends you need to be aware of to thrive in 2015.
Mobile, Mobile, Mobile
As of January 2014, 90% of American adults had a cell phone, 58% had a smartphone and 42% had a tablet. Mobile Internet usage actually surpassed desktop Internet usage this past year. Mobile has become engrained in our daily lives and a whopping 44% of cell owners have slept with their cell phones next to them in bed! According to the Mobile Marketing Association, 43% of Americans use their mobile devices as their primary search tool, too. With all of this in mind, it’s imperative to adapt your SEO strategy to be mobile friendly.
An important way to do this is to incorporate responsiveness into your web design. This ensures your site is visible, legible and easy-to-navigate for any user on any device. Pierre Far, Google Trends Analyst, announced Google’s mobile best practices, which explained that responsive design is the recommended design path to take. Furthermore, Google has also incorporated mobile usability factors into their algorithm, and have incorporated mobile usability information into Google Webmaster Tools. Google has even recently tested enhancements in the way mobile-friendly sites appear in the organic search results.
Google knows mobile is important to users, and you should too!
Social, Social, Social
There has been a lot of speculation regarding social signals. Google isn’t clear on how social signals impact rankings. In various talks, Matt Cutts has gone back and forth on the topic. Recently, Cutts explained that social signals have a correlation to rankings but are not the cause of rankings. For example, if you have good content, people will like it, tweet it, link to it or mention it. These links and mentions WILL improve rankings. This is how social signals have a correlational relationship to good rankings, but do not directly cause rankings themselves.
Although social plays only an indirect part in rankings, having an active social presence is increasingly important in general. Cutts even alludes to the fact that social marketing is a fantastic avenue to increase brand awareness, which in turn can help increase the rate at which your content is shared and linked to, ultimately improving your organic search results.
PR = Link Building
In Stratabeat’s “Hot Marketing Trends 2015” post earlier this year, we highlighted the mash-up of PR, SEO, Content Marketing and Social Media as one of the top trends for the coming year. Exploring the close relationship between PR and SEO on a more granular level, you’ll see that the power of link building is being achieved now through PR (without the links!). In May 2014 Stratabeat reported about Google’s patent to differentiate between “express links,” i.e., direct hyperlinks to your site, and “implied links.” Implied links, also called brand mentions, are mentions of your brand across the web such as in a blog post, a citation of your brand’s expertise, or a comment about your brand’s coverage of a topic, without an actual HTML link to your website or other web property.
Google results are shaped by what others think is quality content. Historically, Google used external links to understand this; however, Google has begun putting weight on “implied links,” as well. This means that hyperlink or no hyperlink, all that earned media you’ve acquired through your brand-building and PR efforts is in fact boosting your placement in the SERPs when someone searches for your brand.
Essentially, the more your brand is causing web content authors, editors and influencers to associate your brand with a specific topic, the more mentions you’ll organically earn, helping you to rank higher for relevant searches. An effective PR strategy not only helps your brand awareness, it now also improves your search visibility!
Topics Instead of Keywords
Moving forward, think “Topics” instead of “Keywords.” With the September 2013 release of Google Hummingbird, Google changed the organic search landscape. No longer should companies tightly target specific keywords at the expense of being an authority in a broader sense. With Hummingbird, SEO is more about demonstrating authority on a topic, which may include multiple keywords, synonyms and related concepts.
Hummingbird is more focused on the entire meaning underlying content instead of one specific keyword phrase in such content. The objective is that Google will return organic search results that match the true intention of the query, rather than just reflect the keywords entered into the search box.
Moving forward, expect Google to focus more on Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI), which goes well beyond simple keywords in a page and instead evaluates content holistically, including related pages and related language in such pages that should all be viewed in a single category or collection. It’s a broader approach to evaluating authority, but one that will more accurately reflect businesses with a broader base of knowledge, experience and expertise.
Infinite Scrolling & SEO
Following Pinterest’s, Twitter’s and Facebook’s lead, many websites have implemented infinite scrolling and you can expect many more to incorporate this functionality in their websites in 2015. This presents challenges for SEO. After all, how in the world is one supposed to optimize a page if the page never ends??
Expect more companies to become wise to SEO-friendly implementation of infinite scrolling this year, although you can expect to see many instances of SEO-unfriendly implementations along the way. If your competitors are doing it wrong, it may be an opportunity for you to have a competitive advantage until they get it right.
The Changing Search Landscape
Google’s search results seem to change daily. Google is always testing their search results to see what resonates with users. Drastic changes began with Universal Search many years ago. Universal Search described search results that incorporated various media types including images, videos and news. That was just the beginning.
In 2012, Google launched the Knowledge Graph, which was an aggregation of information from a variety of sources to help users find the information they were looking for without navigating to other sites. Google is now alluding to building a more comprehensive and complex knowledge base called the Knowledge Vault, which it claims extracts facts from large and structured text sets at 10x the volume of major academic systems. Good-bye Knowledge Graph and hello Knowledge Vault.
The important thing to know is that this is not the end. The search landscape will change many times in 2015. You need to be aware of the changes and take the necessary steps. The greater your ability to adapt to these changes, the better your future SEO performance.
The main takeaway is that to maximize your SEO results in 2015 you are going to want to THINK LIKE GOOGLE. Whether you’re focusing on mobile or social or PR, etc., capitalize on the SEO trends listed above to make 2015 a year to remember!