Can you believe 2014 is almost over already? We've seen a lot of big things happen in SEO, and it appears that 2015 will be no different. What changes are on the horizon? Webimax's Senior Content Writer, Chris Hardwick, sat down with Director of Project Management, Chris Surovick, to pick his brain for a few minutes about the future of digital marketing.
Hardwick: It's been an exciting year in SEO. What are some of the key highlights you found in 2014?
Surovick: That's a tough question because so much has happened. First and foremost, I cannot stress enough the importance of appealing to mobile searches. However, that's not all. We are definitely seeing content marketing in a "consumer-first" mentality growing in importance. Decisions made by Google are supporting the consumers first and need to be embraced. We are also seeing social media as a mainstay in any business's marketing campaign. It is not only an integral part of SEO growth, but adds layers of legitimacy to business. Finally, "Intent" is growing in importance and correlates to better onsite content married with offsite semantic connections.
Hardwick: Going off what you said about mobile importance, Matt Cutts mentioned that mobile searches may surpass desktop searches by the end of the year. How important is mobile optimization and what are some areas of it that companies should be focusing on?
Surovick: Yes, it is incredibly important and growing as more people use smart phones and tablets to access the web. Responsive design is no longer a nice-to-have, but a need to-have. In addition to the mobile experience itself, user experience on mobile is increasingly important and needs to be considered. We've already seen evidence of how Google has made changes to reflect how we access it more through mobile devices. It recently dropped Authorship, partly due to the visual experience, in order to have a more consistent view on mobile devices across platforms.
Hardwick: Do you see App Search Optimization as something that could be big in 2015 or more likely further down the road?
Surovick: I'm not sure how important App Search Optimization can be now or in the future. Apps have found their niche, but it isn't relevant for MOST companies. That being said, who knows what the future holds?
Hardwick: Over the years, we have seen many signals figure into rankings. Which signals do you believe matter for rankings success today and in the future?
Surovick: Page layout is one. Google updated its page layout algorithm this past February to penalize sites with too many ads. This was to improve user experience, as many consumers complained that they couldn't actually find the content they were looking for because they were being inundated with ads. Second, the Panda/Penguin updates. They are here to stay, and we should be cognizant of why these changes are important. You want quality links over quantity and onsite content that caters to consumers. Another thing to be aware of is the Pigeon update Google launched in July of 2014, which dramatically altered local search results, favoring those sites with stronger SEO signals. Finally, HTTPS is becoming a signal for more secure user experiences.
Hardwick: Negative SEO is a word I've encountered a lot lately in the media. What is it, what isn't it, and should Google and SEO companies be worried about it?
Surovick: I wouldn't exactly say that you should stay up late at night worrying about Negative SEO. However, it shouldn't be forgotten completely. Although rarely successful, it is something to be aware of. In a nutshell, it's Link "attacking" or sending a surge of low quality links to a site in an attempt to get Google to penalize it. Most SEOs are aware of this, which is why it is a common practice to review link quality to ensure this large flux or "attack" does not occur. Should it be found that it is, there is a disavow tool that was added to Google's WMT to counter this.
Hardwick: Finally, can you make a bold prediction for SEO in 2015?
Surovick: Like I said earlier, mobile SEO will dominate. You cannot ignore it any longer or your rankings will suffer. In addition to that, website security is and will continue to be a major issue. The number of breaches this year is indicative of the need for better security. Finally, you must build your SEO campaign around consumer experience. All signs point to the fact that Google's utmost concern is consumer experience. Yours should be as well.