2014 – the year content was, and still is king! Yawn…

Great content is useful, enjoyable and often inspired – but “great content” is one of the basic requirements. It’s not a tactic or strategy, it’s just plain old good marketing.

So, if you’re not already writing good content then you’re way behind the curve. In fact, it’s time for a rethink. There aren’t any logical excuses to avoid good content in 2015, unless of course you’re attempting to merely game the system. Undertaking SEO with the sole intention of improving keyword rankings has been irrelevant for a while and “just creating good content” is following that trend.

So can we stop hyping “Content is King” now?

seo in 2015
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Thankfully, with Google’s aggressive and more frequent algorithm roll-outs, blackhat SEO tactics will become ever more difficult and hopefully a thing of the past.

Traditionalists rely on keyword researched titles, keyword rich on-page elements, placement of external links, biased internal linking structures and optimised images.

The New Breed of Search Engine Optimisers work on producing good content that has a relevant title, is written naturally and avoids being over-optimised.

The future – Well, are we eventually going to see Google rank pages that are not optimised at all (let alone perfectly) if they answer the user’s query?

Sam Hurley from Midas suggests that we should “Stop focusing on keywords. Create a contextual content harmony. Provide value to your visitors when they hit your site”.

Technical SEO is mandatory

A sound SEO strategy in 2014 is one that starts with your website. That means squeaky clean on-page optimisation, solid architecture with the appropriate redirects in place, a lack of dead links and of course the appropriate schema mark-up.

Furthermore, eradicating thin content and duplicate content should be high up on your 2015 “to-do list”. “Panda algorithmic update reinforces the fact that Google is not a fan of thin content and that it crawls efficiently along with serving clear and direct data messages to Google are becoming more important than ever”. Every page should serve a purpose for your audience.

quality is the key ingredient of search engine optimization
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Indeed, technical SEO is still incredibly important but it’s not enough on it’s own – again, as with quality content, sound on-page SEO should be expected.

Work on Your Indexed Pages

One topic that often flies under the radar is website indexing in the SERPs… stay awake at the back!

Okay it’s the not the most exciting of subjects, but there’s always room to improve and finesse what you already have.

If you’re struggling to rank, consider reducing your Google index bloat by condensing or redirecting like for like (similar content) to maximise your crawl budget and avoid competing with yourself. Don’t neglect older posts, optimising your existing content based on visitor data works to your advantage too.

Indexing becomes more important by the day as Google “steals” more traffic from you as it shows more of your content directly on SERPs (e.g. the knowledge graph).

Logic needs to precede the whole backlink argument. There’s constant talk of links becoming less important with every algorithm change. Contrary to popular belief, I feel backlinks will only become more important with time.

I must stress I’m a quality over quantity kinda’ guy, or both if you can get it.

Let’s put that in to context. Would you agree a backlink that is relevant, providing traffic and exhibiting solid user signals and shares, adds value and authority to a website?

Logically then, it stands to good reason that Google is continuously looking for an edge to filter out all the noise. Understanding the context of a backlink in line with user actions and expectations is arguably an unwritten rule of the latest algorithms.

I’m not sitting on the fence with this one – I think this is happening already.

The Key Takeaways for SEO in 2015

  • It should go without saying (because it’s been drilled in to us so much), that high quality content should be the foundation to any website. That means original, user friendly content that is worthy of people’s time.
  • Your on-page technical SEO should also be flawless. Black hat techniques need not to be applied and thin content needs to get the sack. Tidy up your sitemap, site structure and redirects.
  • Alternative Search Engines are flavour of the month. With Firefox’s default adoption of Yahoo, whose search results are delivered by Bing, there’s more room at Google’s table. Consider Bing’s own Webmaster Guidelines as your new play book for extending your search reach in to 2015. If Bing isn’t part of your strategy, perhaps it’s time to reconsider?
  • Backlinks are still key to ranking but if Google is measuring user experience then it stands to reason they’re doing so from referral traffic too.

That means any link that cites you should not only be relevant but deliver traffic that engages with your content. Higher quality traffic beats bulk/gamed low attention traffic every time.

  • Social signals will continue to form a solid basis on which to understand the quality of content, regardless of how often Google may wish to deny it. Outreach, curation and relationship building across your chosen social channels should be key to your ongoing SEO strategy.
  • User signals and visitor quality is the new black. Consider the anatomy of the perfect page. Ensure you website is optimised for mobile and fast page speed across all platforms. Expectations should be that your visitors don’t exhibit a high bounce rate and stick around long enough to digest your information.
design the perfect website
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Give yourself a fighting chance to be better than the average by joining the dots for users i.e. a SERP title and META description that’s cohesive to the landing page, delivering content worthy of their time.

It stands to reason that a technically sound page with great content and social signals to back it up, are only beneficial for your website.

Remember, getting leverage by merely posting articles is difficult. Outreach is the key to success. The lines between SEO and PR are merging ever-closer!

So, It’s Business As Usual Then?

You’ve heard this all before, right? Sure, 2015 is looking decidedly like 2014 for the most part – albeit for Google [highly likely] considering usability way more than they tell us. What is becoming more apparent with time is that SEO is no longer a standalone, backlink acquiring discipline. SEO requires a combined strategy, one that is content driven, socially amplified and that delivers a high value user experience.

The biggest single takeaway from this should be, find the average – be better – keep improving until you’re way better. In other words, do all the good stuff but go beyond with skyscraper content, get your SERP click-through rates up, bring your bounce rates down and be faster to load than everyone else around you.

Note: The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author, and not necessarily the views of Caphyon, its staff, or its partners.

    1. Good question Winston, admittedly there’s a little conjecture here. However there are many things we already know such as mobile internet browsing outgrowing desktop and Google reacting to this by biasing mobile SERPs to optimised sites and pages.

      In order to do this we need not only speed but easier to use websites, primarily navigation sure, but we see in Google PageSpeed tests clickable assets and the sizing of such are interrogated for ‘usability’ purposes.

      Google is a business. Logic would suggest they would do what’s best for them.

      It would be naive of us to think that Google can’t and doesn’t measure the human element of their search. After all these signals make or break the quality of the results served and that ‘SERP quality’ or relevance is what drives Google’s revenue. Without that, Google is dead.

      If we align all the dots we start to see a picture that is very different to the backlink ruled world of yesteryear.

  1. I can see this happening on all the sites I manage in WMTools. When I update content and do a ‘Fetch as Google’ now, I see an instant jump in ranking. I am hired more now to do on-site SEO than anything else – and it works. I am in agreement with Ed’s prediction for SEO – we already saw a lot in 2014 that backs up a continuation of this process. Ignoring errors, warnings and the lack of a well-formed sitemap/robots in WMTools is a sure way to invite problems. I know of a few large clients with site that enjoy 500 unique and highly qualified buyers each day, sites with up to a thousand pages who keep ignoring these signs and wonder why they cannot get past position 7-10 on page one when they used to be 1 to 3 where the real money is and probably 3000 qualified buyers each day.
    Their sites are old, badly onsite-SEO’d, slow to load and have a ton of errors and warnings in WMTools and also all too often, no content at all on major pages such as download pages or product information pages. As Google provides this suite of tools and also decides on a website’s rank, it makes massive sense to fix those errors and warnings and structure sites the way that Google wants you to. Or just ignore all that and go with advertising or hope that Bing will bring in the punters. It won’t.

    I tried optimizing for Bing and its like pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey most of the time. There seems to be little rhyme or reason to their tools either. I note Facebook just dumped Bing too after less than a year which I see as a foreboding for that search engine….I’ll betcha facebook go with a Google search solution soner or later.

    WMTools also offers page insights to check page speed, mobile device suitability and even a damn simple markup system to get your search results to take up halef the page. This can be a chore for large sites but its still easy to get some pages done. Ignoring these and the ability to perform a “Fetch” every time a page updates ( they get indexed in minutes usually) all adds up to a view of SEO that is well outdated. Writing good metas is much more powerful than a hundred forum/social network links, placed by people of dubious IP location and intent.

    So I spend my time updating sites much more than creating offsite content; apart from keeping the social media up to date with developments for that client and their products/services. I used to write articles all the time and publish them but I do little of that now.
    I use few other tools these days – encrypted search killed all those. I aim for quality and well-engineered pages which have good metas, frequent updates, a good amount of unique content, images with tags, content with a variety of well placed keywords. I perform a ‘Fetch’ every time I make an update on a page and every time I see a keyword dropping in WMTools I go and spice pages up to fortify them. It works and I manage sites with tens of thousands of impressions and others with only tens. They all respond the same positive way in SERPs when this approach is taken. Good article I think Ed – seems to match up with my experience in 2014..

    1. Thanks Tim, you raise an interesting point with Bing. Let’s not forget that Google has been trying to get this right for what, 15 years now? Compared to today things were quite rudimentary even 5 or so years ago when SERPs were being bombarded with backlink laden low-quality, spammy websites.
      It’s taken them a long time to really deliver clean, highly relevant and therefore high quality useful SERPs – this is no simple task!
      Google knows what you type in their search, they know what you click on and even without on-site user data they know when you click back and try another result from their page. Crucially they also know what you don’t click on, a signal highly important to extracting the most from their SERPs…
      Evolution is good and I believe Google, for all the haters out there, is slowly but surely getting better and for the most part getting it right. We need to ensure we’re on the right side of their ‘right’!

  2. Ed I completely agree with almost everything you said in this post. I believe you are spot on and have noticed the same trends – funnily not just in SEO but in Web Development and Conversions. All these skill sets are converging more and more and help boost each other in my opinion. SEO is no longer just about building links and trying to throw traffic at a site that’s poorly built and poorly optimized for SEO and Conversions. A well designed and well built site checks all these boxes. I have seen too many sites where these are all done in isolation and often SEO is left to last in the process. Proper planning is required before “pulling the trigger”. SEO and Marketing are also becoming one, so to speak, and the sooner one realizes that and stops focusing on all the technical details and quick spammy techniques for quick wins the more traffic and CONVERSIONS will be seen.

    In my mind pleasing your visitors and Google are very much the same. What makes a good experience for a user does the same for Googlebot

    1. Thanks for the comment Brian – “SEO is no longer just about building links and trying to throw traffic
      at a site that’s poorly built and poorly optimized for SEO and
      Conversions”, exactly. Skills are converging as are the requirements to please Google and visitor alike. It should be an interesting year for those of us that do it right!

  3. Stick to the fundamentals (they never change)
    Ignore the shiny objects and latest “techniques”
    Focus on Quality – Design, Structure, Content and UX
    Focus on Brand Identity and Message
    Understand your visitor – GIVE THEM WHAT THEY WANT
    Continually work to improve


  4. Interesting predictions. I totally agree with your views on the importance of content. Your “backlinks are dead” title troubles me a little – this is still (and will continue to be) one of the key drivers of SERP ranking. Great article overall – very well-written.

    1. Hi Michael – I was using that as an attention grab, I read a lot about backlinks being dead but you’ll see my comments actually counter argue that. 🙂

  5. Great article and I couldn’t agree more with your points here! I’m really happy to see someone writing without the dramatics and blanket statements about specific tactics. Your callouts that as long as the tactics, like backlinks, are used to only offer relevant content and value to our customers, then you’re using the internet and digital marketing as it was meant to be.

    I also like the “Your Website Should be the Perfect Date” concept. Really puts the best practices in a simple form so no one can misunderstand. Fantastic work!

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