This ultimate guide for search engine optimization skims the surface on many of the top things to look for in 2015. It was written for the masses, so much of the technical jargon has been phase out.
These are all great tips from many of the industry’s top experts. A true ultimate guide would need to focus on all aspects of Search Engine Optimization, and that can’t be done in an article or e-book. The subject is so broad that it can literally take a lifetime to learn and several hours a day to keep up on. Outside of the below information (which truly will help you KILL it) there are more of the aforementioned technical aspects and subtle secrets of Search Engine Optimization in 2015 that help to make a difference – but trust us, this will get you exactly where you need to be in a high percentage of businesses. Phoenix Online Media believes small things help and that when you score big on bringing all the small things together, you win.
Tips from Industry SEO Experts
When it comes to creating business and generating new leads, search engine optimization can truly be an organization’s trump card. In simple terms, SEO is the relationship between search engines and a website. If your site or blog doesn’t have a healthy relationship with search engine algorithms, it will not show up on search engine results effectively. That said, links also play an important part in effectively ranking any website…good links anyway.
This invisibility could significantly frustrate your company’s efforts at generating new customers. As 75 percent of online users never click past the first page of Google, optimizing your website to show up high in search engine rankings is essential to your survival as an online business.
In this comprehensive guide, we provide you with all the SEO tips you need to become successful in 2015. If you are already planning to implement many of these SEO strategies and innovations, then you are in a great position, and even if you discover something is missing in your SEO marketing campaign plans, it isn’t too late to make what could be crucial changes.
Google made it apparent that mobile usability would play an important role in its ranking system since 2011, and this emphasis is only likely to increase in 2015. The search engine giant has been testing a new feature in its mobile search results; in fact, some users have reported seeing an icon next to these results that states the website is “not mobile friendly.” While this feature is only in a test phase, it is a clear indication that Google is planning to make mobile its focus over the next few years. By the time you read this, this Google test may be over. Our team has already seen evidence that the test may be all but over and it goes both ways e.g. This site is mobile friendly and This site is not mobile friendly.
For approximately a year, Google has actively penalized websites that generate errors for mobile users. The point of this is to make sites containing videos that cannot be accessed via mobile devices less important in search engine rankings.
None of this should come as a major surprise, as Internet usage on mobile devices has surpassed access via desktops. This landmark moment came in early 2014 and has changed the digital landscape forever. Decision-makers, such as executives, rely on their mobile devices to access websites; according to an IDG Global Mobile Survey in 2014, 92 percent of executives own a smartphone that they use for business.
When it comes to embracing mobile SEO, you need to invest in responsive design. This refers to the practice of creating a website that displays the same HTML and URLs to all devices and uses CSS (cascading style sheets) to alter how a webpage appears on screen – any screen – tablet, mobile phone or desktop. Google has highlighted the importance of responsive design because it believes the end result is a better user experience.
In November 2014, Google announced the aforementioned mobile-friendly designation in mobile search results, which means having a website designed for mobile users is going to be a huge SEO ranking factor in 2015. Here are three quick ways to make your website mobile friendly:
- Implement responsive css to make your site render correctly on all devices.
- Use minimal scripts and plug-ins ensuring your page loads quickly.
- Ensure some one visiting your website has a different experience than someone who visits your mobile, maintaining a seamless experience.
Keyword Placement and Meaning Matters More Than Frequency
Don’t listen to those who suggest keyword usage is a waste of time; after all, search engines still need text in order to determine what your company does. However, keywords are now more useful for information purposes than they are for ranking, which means placement is more important than frequency.
For example, posting your main keyword in the tag of your site and header will prove more effective than using it six times within the body of the text. You should know that Google breaks your website down into different areas:
- Headers and Meta information
- The body text
- Footers and sidebars: the least important places.
When Google searches for your information, it doesn’t look for keyword phrases any longer; instead, it interprets your website’s data and comes to a conclusion about what your site and business is all about.
The search engine’s own research shows that deriving a meaning from a keyword’s synonyms accounts for 70 percent of searches. This means variations of your main keyword could be “counted” the same by Google. As a result, businesses need to optimize their websites for a certain meaning and not a specific phrase. Do this and you could be seen as an authority in your niche.
There are two ways to look at structure, and both will have a major impact on whether or not your website is perceived as an authority.
- Surface-level structure: This relates to how all the pages on your site are laid out. If you haven’t done so already, make sure your website adheres to the preferred Google structure of header, body, footer, and sidebars. Google finds it easier to scan your pages when your website is designed in this manner, and if you place the relevant content in each section, the search engine will be able to understand the meaning and purpose of your website.
- Deep structure: This refers to your website’s navigation and overall structure. The easier it is to navigate your site, the more likely it is that users will find the information they came looking for, and this will be rewarded by Google. Use a header bar for easier navigation, place appropriate titles on pages, and create a crawlable sitemap. You should also connect the internal pages of your website to one another in order to gain more authority when these pages add value and relevancy.
Create Longer, Better, and More Detailed Content
The short and snappy 300- to 400-word blog post is not quite dead yet, but it is most certainly on life support! Content curation and lengthy detailed posts continue to be an important SEO factor. A few years back, Google started to showcase detailed pieces in its In-Depth Articles section. Typically, only pieces of 1,500 words or more would be included in these search results; it was a method of getting content marketers to provide more detailed and informative articles to readers.
This was a welcome departure from websites laden with “fluff” pieces, where the goal was to create as many posts as possible irrespective of quality. Google responded with algorithm changes like Panda, which was part of its mission to eradicate low-quality content from its search results. Websites filled with useless content are being partially or fully de-indexed and/or punished, and detailed articles are taking over.
To keep up to speed, it is important to only write about topics for which a lot of information is available. Adding in footnotes, links to high-ranking websites, and a list of your sources are all useful when it comes to improving your SEO ranking in 2015. Let users and search engines know you didn’t just make information up, cite sources and give credit when credit is due.
Focus on Improving User Experience
Ensuring your website is filled with high-quality, relevant, and useful content is obviously one way to improve user experience, but there are other factors to consider. We have already mentioned the impact site structure has on Google’s spiders, but you also enjoy an SEO boost from making it easy for people to use your site.
Interactivity Helps a Great Deal
Keep users on your site by adding great videos, informative tips, did you know facts, quizzes, interactive games, or anything else you can think of to increase time on-site and make users enjoy their experience on your site.
The Need for Speed
A relatively simple way to improve user experience is to ensure your website loads quickly. Page speed is going to be a huge SEO factor in 2015 because at present, even a 1-second delay leads to an 11 percent reduction in page views and a 7 percent reduction in conversions. In monetary terms, an e-commerce site earning around $36 million a year would lose almost $2.5 million in revenue annually by allowing a 1-second delay in loading time to persist.
Link Earning Will Replace Link Building
Links have been a crucial part of SEO since the whole concept of search engines came into existence, and things are not suddenly going to change in 2015. Links will still be important, but your new strategy must be link “earning” rather than traditional link building. A single, high-quality earned link to your website is worth far more than 10 spam links using old-fashioned link building strategies. The positive results will include increased traffic, a better conversion rate, and extra natural links.
- Make sure your external link building efforts are focused on acquiring links that need the approval and intervention of humans.
- Only build relevant links; this means adding links on pages where visitors have a real interest in your website.
- In 2015, remember that quality far outweighs quantity. A handful of links from trusted websites count for more than 100 links from guest-posting blogs. On top of that 100 links from 100 quality domains means more than 1,000 links from 1 quality domain.
Beware the Heightened Danger of Negative SEO
The term “negative SEO” refers to occasions when your website is flooded with low-quality links. It is common for a company to do this to sabotage a rival as a means to ensure the competitor’s website is pulled down in search engine rankings. Negative SEO became an even bigger issue once Google introduced its Penguin algorithm, which was designed to penalize websites laden with low-quality inbound links.
If you have been the victim of a spamming attempt or willingly allowed your website to carry low-quality links, you can use the Disavow Tool in Google Webmaster Tools. In it, you send Google a list of links or entire domains that should be ignored in a website’s link profile. The trouble is that the Disavow Tool can take up to nine months to work, leaving a real possibility that a negative SEO attack could ruin your business.
If you run a small business, negative SEO is not likely to be a problem, but larger websites are prime targets. At present, Google has no plans to combat negative SEO attacks, so your only recourse is the slow-acting Disavow process. During 2015, pay close attention to your Google Webmaster Tools and use them to monitor your inbound links.
Full Disclosure: Many experts don’t believe negative SEO can hurt a website.
Include Video Marketing in Your SEO Strategy
As we mentioned earlier videos can help increase user-interaction. Video marketing became relevant on the day Google introduced universal search. This was May 16, 2007, but almost eight years beyond that date, video marketing is still not used by every company. According to eMarketer, more than 75 percent of tablet users will watch video programming on their device at least once a month, and KISSmetrics reports that consumers are up to 85 percent more likely to make a purchase after watching a video on your website.
YouTube is the second-largest search engine in the world, behind only Google, which means you need to create a video outlining your company’s products and services, and post it on the video-sharing network. Be sure to embed the video directly in your website; your best course of action is to embed it on a landing page, complete with a clear call to action. You should also add video-rich snippets that should offer an exciting preview of what’s in store to entice visitors to click. On the landing page – make it hard for users to find other information not related to the video and your conversion.
The key metrics for video SEO are as follows:
- SERP rankings: Google’s Hummingbird update loves video, so add video-rich snippets to get ranked on search engine results pages.
- Click-through rate: Increase your CTR by creating a sitemap to display your video. This should maximize clicks since people are falling in love with video.
- Bounce rate: Keep your bounce rate low by including accurate headlines and ensuring your video content is clear and concise.
- Backlinks: You can build high-quality backlinks by blending text with video.
By 2017, an estimated 90 percent of Internet traffic will be video, and search engines know this. As a result, you need to budget for video marketing and enjoy the SEO and subsequent revenue increases.
Don’t Forget Local SEO
The mobile Internet revolution is causing consumers to look for local goods and services, which means local SEO should be one of your main concerns in 2015. An estimated 97 percent of consumers use the Internet to research local businesses, and there were an estimated 140 billion local searches in 2014. Add in the fact that 77 percent of smartphone users contact a local business after reading about it online, and this should be enough to convince you of the importance of local SEO.
Here is a list of things to do to improve local SEO results in 2015:
- Correct on-page optimization: When it comes to local-based optimization, you need to include contact information like your business address and phone numbers, region-specific keywords, schema and more. Look for forums that list local businesses and register, as these sites should allow you to list your business address and contact information, which is great for local SEO.
- Create local places pages: A surprising number of businesses network and advertise on social media but completely forget to register with search engines like Bing and Yahoo. When you complete the registration process, you automatically increase your company’s presence on organic search.
- Ask for reviews: As almost 90 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, the importance of having reviews about your business are obvious. Good reviews not only place your company in a good light, they are also excellent for local SEO. Don’t be afraid to ask for these reviews!
- Claim and/or correct NAP listings and citations: NAP stands for name, address, and phone number, and this is crucial information if you wish to make an impact on your local SEO rankings. All you need to do is look up your business on the requisite websites and either claim your listings or correct them if there has been an error. Google MapMaker and other tools can help you locate this information.
Improving your local SEO ranking not only helps you gain a better reputation locally, it also ensures you are easy to find.
Create an Organic Search Strategy
While things like localization, structured authoring, and natural language processing were big in 2014, it appears as if SEO is likely to return to its organic roots in 2015. One of the great things about organic search is that big brands can’t buy their way to the top; this ensures a level playing field for the most part. This year, your organic search strategy must focus on ways to serve your customer base better.
There are no shortcuts; you need to develop a sustainable organic search strategy that is customer-focused and entertains, informs, and assists consumers through each stage of the purchasing cycle. You must understand the needs and preferences of your customers, as keyword rankings are no longer that important; it is all about having a complete online brand presence.
Here is how to rank better on organic search:
- Mobile marketing: More consumers than ever before are connecting with your business via their mobile device. This means your business must be capable of closing the deal entirely on mobile devices, and it should also move seamlessly from smartphone to tablet to laptop.
- Focus on user engagement: Forget about the volume of traffic you are getting and concentrate on improving visitor satisfaction. Look at social media networks as alternative search engines where you need to be recognized as an authority in your industry.
- Helpful content: All content must be useful to consumers, and your site’s internal search engine should be an authoritative discovery tool for your company’s areas of influence and strength.
- Embrace social networks: Content on social channels should be used to open communication with consumers. These should be two-way exchanges, as you want to talk to your customers rather than at them. This may result in consumers passing your company’s name along, and more mentions of your brand name are good for SEO.
Remember That Google Is Not the Only Game in Town
The vast majority of businesses rely entirely on Google when it comes to creating their SEO strategies. Google is unquestionably the Number 1 search engine, but its market share in the United States was around 68 percent at the start of 2015. This means by ignoring the others, you are ignoring 32 percent of searchers, which is not something to be tossed aside lightly.
This is the year to pay more attention to Bing, DuckDuckGo, Yahoo!, and others (like YouTube). In addition to the fact that less data is available to marketers on Google AdWords and Analytics, there are a few other reasons to look beyond Google.
For instance, Firefox chose Yahoo! to be its new default search engine and dumped Google in the process. This probably has a lot to do with the fact that Google Chrome is a big rival, but it is nonetheless big news. Additionally, the Safari-Google deal is set to end this year, and it is widely believed that Apple will choose Bing as its new partner.
Marketers should place increasing importance on Google’s competitors and look to benchmark and track key performance indicators, such as keyword rankings, for their websites. Another good idea is to sign up for Bing Webmaster Tools, as it contains features not available on the Google version. In many cases, you will find data missing from Google Webmaster Tools on the Bing version and should be able to combine this information effectively.
Pay Attention to Social Signals
Social media and SEO experts spent the last couple years telling businesses to have a major presence on Google+. Google authorship was given particular attention since it was believed to be crucial in the quest for high search engine rankings and to help improve click-through rates of content in SERPs. Yet in August 2014, Google announced the end of its authorship program because of low adoption rates. Additionally, a major player in Google, John Mueller, admitted that the program simply wasn’t as useful as the search engine giant had hoped.
Now that it has become apparent that Google+ is not as effective as G hoped for SEO, it is likely Google will switch its attention to social media. You can expect Google to place more emphasis on social signals from Twitter and Facebook in a move that will go against its previous beliefs.
Although Google continues to deny that social signals are part of its ranking algorithm, a variety of correlation studies suggest otherwise. Since the Google authorship program is a failure, expect to see social signals count for quite a lot in SEO rankings in 2015.
Citations and Brand Mentions Will Become Powerful
Google is now drawing a distinction between express and implied links:
- Express links are URLs that lead back to a webpage. In other words, they are traditional links.
- Implied links refer to a mention of a website or brand without a link.
Link building has been subject to a lot of misuse, which is why link earning is now more important (and has already been covered above). Google appears to be placing greater emphasis on citations and brand mentions, as they are less likely to be abused for SEO purposes.
An increasing number of businesses will begin tracking and measuring brand mentions, and “nofollow links” will become as important as do-follow links in the eyes of Google. This means you need to include both express and implied links in your strategy. Since there is no known ratio deemed to be ideal when it comes to building authority, here are a few things to consider as you look to use both forms of links:
- Avoid having a high link-to-mention ratio, as this may imply your website is guilty of spamming, which of course reduces your authority.
- You can create a more natural ratio through the use of viral content, such as infographics. Natural will always be better according to Google.
- Another great opportunity to build mentions is through guest blogging.
- Focus on building a diverse portfolio of links. 1,000 links from an article directory doesn’t do much in terms of building authority.
The Long Tail Keyword Will Rise Again
Long-tail keywords are less popular search terms because they have a lower search volume and lower level of competition. However, as users become better at using search engines, their queries become more specific, so instead of looking for “chocolate,” they are searching for “gluten-free chocolate in Phoenix,” for example. Because search engines are used constantly by people on mobile devices and desktops, long-tail keywords are now great for overall optimization and better personalization of content.
Long-tail keywords can provide you with an endless stream of ideas for content, but their success for SEO purposes isn’t easy to measure. You need to identify a specific set of long-tail keywords and track them in ranking software. In order to measure the real value of long-tail keywords, however, you must track customer funnels or paths taken to conversion and measure customer click-through rates, feedback on content, and blog post traffic.
In 2015, marketers will come to terms with the fact that one- and two-word phrases don’t always rank well despite being exceedingly expensive. Long-tail queries are more relevant, and because of the greater level of specificity, they rank better and are also a sign of greater purchasing intent.
Back in 2012, a study showed that up to 20 percent of daily keyword queries had never been seen before, and this figure is actually likely to increase as search engines get better at understanding user intent.
CTR, CTA, Dwell Time, and Bounce Rate Will All Become Relevant SEO Factors
If you don’t know what any of the above terms mean, you better get acquainted with them, because they will be important SEO ranking factors in 2015. Here is a quick explanation of each:
- CTR stands for click-through rate. This is the ratio of clicks to impressions; the higher your CTR, the more authoritative and trustworthy you become, since it indicates successful and relevant online content.
- CTA stands for call to action. This is another term for telling a customer what to do next. A great CTA can turn a hesitant visitor into a customer.
- Dwell time relates to the amount of time spent on each page and the website overall. A good CTA will increase dwell time, and this increases your website’s authority.
- Bounce rate refers to the percentage of visitors who leave your website after visiting one page. A high bounce rate indicates a website that is not proving useful to customers, and this will damage your SEO ranking.
Having an excellent understanding of SEO fundamentals is crucial to any online business. A recent study by the Online Marketing Institute showed that more than 90 percent of executives admitted they need help when it comes to driving more content to their websites.
As Google and other search engines become more sophisticated and more intent on improving user experience, your SEO strategy needs to be detailed and advanced. You can help your online business thrive in 2015 by using some of the above tips, but if you insist on doing things the old-fashioned way, it’s likely your business will plummet down the search engine rankings, and the final result will be significantly reduced traffic and profit.