SEO is always changing. Google updates, including Panda, Penguin, and recently Pigeon, were created to supply functional and relevant search results. A knowledgeable and productive SEO is familiar with these changes (and what could be coming in the near future).
Here are five things — discussed in the SEO blogosphere — that businesses (and SEOs) should be working on in 2015 to increase rankings.
A website not optimized for multiple devices and screens is not going to perform well anymore. Simply put, a website either needs a separate mobile version or responsive design to remain competitive. Something else to consider is a mobile-first strategy. Developing and launching a mobile-first content strategy involves short-form versus long-form content, understanding users and their mobile habits, attention-grabbing headlines, and mobile-friendly formatting.
Now, is mobile-friendly a ranking factor? Not yet. Will it be in the future? Very likely, especially with mobile visitors increasing annually (note: 46% of searches now use mobile exclusively for search). If a website has mobile usability issues, an SEO or webmaster could (or should) receive a Google Webmaster Tools alert, breaking down what needs to be fixed. That’s how important mobile-friendly sites are to Google. It actually warrants an alert!
Test a site with this handy tool from Google.
Optimizing a small business for local search is essential and is going to be even more crucial in 2015. Here’s a fact to consider: 50% of users who perform a local search visit a store in one day. Wow! That means if two people search for a random local niche and click a business, that business is guaranteed one customer who wants to buy, eat, or use that product or service. So with that in mind, here are a few things to consider when optimizing a site for local search:
- A Google My Business page needs to be optimized
- Clean up any citations (e.g. duplicates, inconsistencies)
- Acquire more positive reviews
- Interact with customers on social media
One beneficial tip as well. Include city and state (example: San Diego, CA) in a websites title tags, H1 tags, body content, alt text on images and URLs (remember: make sure to set up 301 redirects so that the old URLs point to the new ones).
A local SEO expert can help any small business (either full-time hire, consultant or agency). Here’s a great Local SEO knowledge test from Moz. If a new hire, consultant, or agency scores less than 70%, walk away!
Web engagement (or brand engagement) is about understanding users and their needs. Ultimately, when a site is engaging it converts better (and outperforms in the search engines). When a user is aware of a brand, they search for it in Google, or they type the URL in the browser. Also, time on site, browse rate, and content amplification all encompass how engaging a company’s site performs (even page load speed can be considered a form of engagement), and these elements are all crucial to the future of search optimization.
However, where’s the evidence that these are real factors in algorithms? There isn’t any. But influential SEOs are starting to discuss web engagement, so it’s something to study.
Google launched the Knowledge Graph in 2012 to help improve search relevance. It understands facts about people, places and things and how they are connected. Now that Google is shifting away from keywords and more towards entities, internal data quality is critical. Make sure the structured data is sending a strong signal (remember: do not treat entities like keywords). Follow these rules and a website might end up in the Knowledge Graph.
HTTPS is a ranking signal. Now it’s carrying less weight than high-quality content, but that doesn’t mean it could be strengthened in the near future. All e-commerce sites need to switch from HTTP to HTTPS as soon as possible. Google provides some tips — like using 2048-bit key certificates as an example — on its Webmaster blog. Google is very serious about a secure web, so web properties need to make the switch.