Google “SEO for 2015” and what comes up? Top SEO voices fill page 1 of Google’s search results. There are commentaries from authoritative sources like searchengineland.com, forbes.com, Rand Fishkin, entrepreneur.com, searchenginejournal.com, and more. In this post, I’ve gleaned some of the most important SEO takeaways from many of these articles, and explain them in language you should be able to understand. If you are considering how best to optimize your web presence, heading into 2015, read on. And leave a comment at the end, if you have a new SEO strategy or SEO source, you’d like to share.
What’s New or Different in SEO for 2015?
Let’s focus here on 3 of the most discussed, specific strategic aspects of SEO. These include content marketing vs traditional SEO, mobile readiness, and keyword research for the new age!
Most SEO pundits dive in to the growing differentiation between traditional on-page technical SEO work and evolving content marketing strategies.
There is a lot of interesting discussion around keyword strategy, and in particular the importance of long tail keywords. Again, this is not new to SEO work in and of itself, but read on, to see how and why you need to give this serious and thoughtful consideration this year.
Lastly, everyone emphasizes the growing importance of mobile. I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but Google is taking this very seriously, and so should you.
Technical SEO vs Content Marketing
Forbes’ Jayson Demers, argues, “SEO will become focused on technical elements while content marketing will drive search rankings.” The truth is, SEO is going broad. By this I mean, that while at one time you might have focused entirely on technical elements of on-page optimization, and perhaps had someone doing various forms of link building as well, these efforts are merging.
Demers’s point about content marketing is important. SEO strategies need to address a wide range of web marketing angles. B2C/ecommerce sites need to stretch beyond providing product information. Both B2C and B2B sites need to answer questions for prospects at all stages of the buyers Journey, and in all types of media.
Using well-crafted PPC ads, it’s relatively easy to target prospective buyers, i.e., people who are nearly ready to purchase. You can usually send those who click to a high performance landing page, and maintain a strong conversion rate. For those a bit higher up the funnel, not quite ready to buy, you can stay top of mind as they make their decisions with email marketing and remarketing. But with SEO, you can engage with those who are ready to buy, as well as those still early in the search stage, high up in the purchase funnel. When they are especially high up, still entering very general search terms, SEO is best to grab their interest and increase brand recognition. To that end, Fishkin recommends you produce a list of searcher intents and create or map pages to match each intent. Don’t focus just on keywords, but think in terms of actual intent; what are they looking for? What problems are they attempting to solve? For that, you need a content strategy built for 2015.
Your site and your approach should focus on the problems you solve for your customers. Offer as much help, ideas, and advice as you can, wherever you can, through content, video, testimonials, FAQs, blog posts, interviews, etc… And engage in social media where your prospects engage. When you create or distribute content, understand who will help spread your content and why. Target potential amplifiers.
Long Tail Keywords are Even More Important Now
Rand Fishkin, Demers and others expound on the importance of a long tail keyword strategy. There are two basic reasons that long tail phrases seem even more essential now.
- Search queries have become more and more specific. Even more so, on mobile devices. People who are out and about input highly detailed questions, based on their physical location.
- Google provides answers to short simple queries on its own. For simple questions users may never have to leave the search results page to find their answers. If Google can answer directly, these phrases will not earn you any traffic! Ask about flights and travel, weather, NFL scores, demographics, business, and more — and complete answers (not just links) appear on page 1. That’s the nirvana of search. As Google says, “We can use the Knowledge Graph to answer questions you never thought to ask and help you discover more.” You need to be ready for follow-up searches. Optimize your site for longer, more complex concepts and queries. That’s where the opportunity lies.
Other changes to the keyword research world to account for are:
- Keyword referral data is now gone. Google no longer provides dates in Google Anlaytics on specific keyword performance. You can’t know specifically which searched led to which pages. But you can surmise, based on keyword rankings and popularity of individual pages.
- AdWords Exact Match is gone. So even in Google AdWords PPC you can no longer direct your spending to very specific word combinations, only to phrases and their “close variants.”
- A lot of organic search may be hidden as “Direct.” Here too, by making it easy to enter searches into the URL bar, and URLs into the search box, the SEO channel will not always get the credit it deserves for much of your traffic.
Instead, measure search performance by page rather than keyword. Understand and explore how all your channels interplay and lead a conversion, not just the last channel. By default, Google attributes conversions to the last click. But as you can see, sometimes that information is obscured. And almost all the time, it’s important to see how ALL your channels work together to drive conversions. Dive into the conversion flow reports and the assisted conversions. See what works best with what.
Mobile Usability is Important – Now!
Forbes’ Jayson Demers explains that many users have reported seeing icons in Google search results indicating whether or not a site is mobile-friendly. This suggests 2 critically important things you need to know:
- Google is testing new ways to measure and rank “mobile-friendliness”
- Google is testing ways to show this factor in the search results
The reality is that mobile usage is growing exponentially. More and more search and business in general are conducted on mobile platforms. For these reasons, mobile is critical to Google’s long term survival and growth, and therefore, to yours as well.
At the very least, you need to know today how many people visit your site on mobile devices. And then you need to prepare for more! Understand how mobile visitors use your site, which pages perform well, and which do not. Create a plan to grow and develop your mobile responsiveness. And if you are building a new site, as Demers recommends, design for mobile first.
What are the SEO basics for 2015?
There’s a host of technical SEO best practices that have not changed in years, and remain the same for 2015.
- Ensure you have unique, descriptive title tags with a solid keyword in each. These remain the most important signal on a page of HTML as to its content.
- Build SEO-friendly URLs
- Generate unique meta descriptions on each page, with the brand name, keywords, and a call to action.
- Forget about meta keywords. If you are still playing around with these, stop.
Connect to Social Media
- Google My Business (AKA Google Plus, AKA Google Places, AKA Google Local, …)
- LinkedIn for B2B
- FB for B2C, but often for B2B too!
- Bing Local
How to Stay on Top of SEO into the Future
Read all those sites mentioned above.
Read Yoast’s blog and lots of others.
Go to search and web marketing conferences.
The two most important things you can do to stay on top of organic search today are:
- Watch what your competitors are doing and do it better.
- Get help from the pros.
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