Every year at Search Laboratory we get together across the company to compare notes on the previous year and make our predictions for the year ahead.
Unsurprisingly, considering the ever changing digital marketing landscape, the predictions were varied. Each team was full of suggestions that ranged from increased search volume for mobile, to the resignation of Matt Cutts.
This year, rather than filter these into the top five recommendations we thought we’d bring you ALL the recommendations as predicted by our talented staff to ensure you don’t miss a thing:
- The high street and online marketplaces will combine. As users walk down the high street they will be bombarded by local deals and offers, channelled direct to relevant devices. This will use new peer to peer and Bluetooth technologies.
- SoLoMo (Social, Local, Mobile) to become a major consideration for SEO strategies. People are increasingly turning to Social Media to get their information as it’s populated by other users. The information becomes increasingly relevant as Google makes great strides in identifying fake followers and interactions.
- Mobile will play an increasingly dominant role in the SERPs, with Google potentially penalising sites which are not responsive and provide poor mobile user experience. This may not only be reflected in Mobile SERPs.
- Unsecure (non-HTTPS) sites will be penalised more significantly, or those sites that have adopted HTTPS will see a ranking boost.
- HTTP/2, described by MOZ as a ‘fast, secure bedrock for the future of SEO’, will start to be rolled out to improve speed and security. HTTP is now 25 years old and any brand using HTTPS can now upgrade to HTTP2.
- Google will continue to reduce the amount of traditional blue links in the SERPs, especially from an organic perspective.
- There will be a lot of discussion into how SEO can still be a viable channel by exploiting Google’s new enhanced content options, e.g. in-SERP internal search, hotel booking, flights.
- Personalised search across devices will become more intuitive, while Google will continue to make its service better than the rest, so “rankings” will become less and less reliable and indicative.
- Local Search is increasingly becoming a part of the mix, with more clients requesting this as a major part of SEO strategies. Google is likely to continue to experiment with local search rankings appearing in places you wouldn’t expect.
- As search and online use will become more about the individual and less about the top level, there will be much more micro and tailored content, especially around ecommerce.
- Wearable tech will begin to influence search. Products like Google Glass will lead to virtual reality advertising. Advertisers will be able to superimpose digital banners and billboards on the roadside and outside small businesses.
- Brands will start focusing on ensuring apps rank in relevant app stores.
- Google will continue to move from being a search engine into a knowledge engine or information repository. Click-through rate on organic results has seriously taken a hit since Google started to bring in snippets from websites and display them in the SERPs to answer user queries directly. As a result people have less use for Wikipedia because Google provides them with the answer already. This will likely roll out to other niches and could potentially have a big impact on the traffic of informational websites.
- Now that Google has added Everflux updates to its Penguin algorithm, there is a school of thought that a new update will replace Penguin that will favour brands that conduct great PR campaigns. Imagine how many businesses would conduct PR driven SEO campaigns if Matt Cutts announced, ‘An update will be released in May, and it will positively impact websites that are doing great PR’. Search would become cleaner and that could signal the end of spammy, black hat SEO for good. All Google needs to do is create an algorithm which gives more weight to citations and social signals.
- New schema mark-up like JSON-LD is going to play an important role in optimisation as well as existing mark-up like Open Graph.
- Integrated plans incorporating all elements of digital marketing (PR, branding, social etc.) will become more prevalent.
- Conversational search volumes will increase and this will need to be built into SEO strategies.
- Citations and links relevant to your market and audience will have more weight than a really high authority link that isn’t relevant to your niche. As a result increased importance will be placed on understanding where a brand sits in the market.
- Search volume on mobile will continue to grow, leading to increased reliance on multichannel marketing. Mobile usage for product and service buying has seen a steady rise in the past three years and it would be a safe bet that mobile will increase once more in all areas of search.
- The search market will become more congested with Apple developing its own search engine and Yahoo becoming stronger following its partnership with Firefox.
- Google Maps will be developed to incorporate small businesses into searches in a stronger, more reliable way.
- There will be an increase in personalised messages created via big data collection which will lead to a stronger emphasis on search intent rather than keywords.
- Audience demographics will play a bigger role in developing campaigns.
- Multichannel engagement and how to track/report will be regularly debated over the year.
- Building relationships with key influencers on social media will become more important than ever when helping brands increase reach and social influence in relevant niches.
- One of the topics of the year will be how the ‘now generation’s’ buying process (how people buy, why and what motivates them) will affect SEO and user experiences.
- With the audience profile becoming more important, RTB will really take off this year and this could have a big impact on SEO.
- There will be more cross-platform marketing like the Robbie Williams / Volkswagen campaign in Germany.
- SEO will become more about marketing a brand as a whole, not just looking at PR and the technical aspects of a website – e.g. building relationships with niche publications, whether that’s from advertising or an editorial standpoint.
- Content is becoming saturated, so content providers will have to do more to make a splash. Brands will react to this by being more controversial in a bid to stand out. Paddy Power and BrewDog have already been doing this very well.
- Brand mentions and citations (without a link) will become just as important as links, making it harder for coverage to be manipulated. Google is already differentiating between ‘express links’ and ‘implied links’ (see this Forbes article more details). Experimentation will be important to discovering the impact non-linking coverage will bring for clients.
- Brands which have spammy or toxic sites in their backlinks might end up dropping out of the SERPs quicker due to the Everflux Penguin update.
- Smaller blogs will become more important to us, as they are less saturated with advertising, sponsored posts, affiliate schemes, etc.
- Social signals will play a greater role – The higher the number of likes, follows, retweets and shares a social channel has the more priority its connecting digital assets will be given by Google.
- More clients will request full service digital marketing, as SEO, PR and social melt together resulting in some exceptional campaigns.
- Brands will expect SEO agencies to do more PR.
- Paid seeding will be used more regularly to help amplify content effectively.
- Brands’ use of video and imagery will once again increase in popularity due to Facebook’s automatically playing videos. The trend of content dissemination for niche audiences will also continue to develop.
- Lots of brands will try to emulate big social campaigns (ice bucket challenge, etc.) and do it really badly!
- Guest posting will decrease significantly.
- The term ‘sponsored post’ in an article will become a negative indicator.
- Matt Cutts, Rand Fishkin or both will resign!
In a constantly changing, ever evolving industry like digital marketing, it’s hardly a surprise that our 190 staff managed to pull together such a comprehensive list of potential changes. If we’re on the mark with the majority of these predictions then we’ll certainly have to be on our toes this year.
Speculation aside, it’ll be interesting to see which of these potential developments becomes reality and which are simply relegated to the ‘nice idea’ pile, like Google Authorship was in 2014. Either way, we’re looking forward to the rest of the year, whatever it brings…