In 2013, The iMarketing Café team did an SEO survey that literally grabbed the attention of the SEO community. The objective was to take the pulse of the SEO community at a time when drastic changes were happening in the SEO world.

This year, we are back with another survey that we conducted on Twitter recently. We contacted more than 300 SEO experts around the world and requested them to tell us what they thought were the top 3 changes that can possibly happen in the SEO landscape in 2015. Same as last year, we didn’t publicize the survey but we could still collect opinions of some of the leading industry experts.

Our objective was to bring our readers some expert opinions on how the possible developments in the SEO landscape can change the way we approach SEO in 2015.

The iMarketing Café team heartily thanks all the contributors/experts for taking time out to respond to our tweets. Here we go…

Bill Slawski, Founder of SEO by the Sea Inc and Director at Go Fish Digital, says:

Debra Mastaler, Founder of Alliance Link, says:

Michael Martinez, Founder of SEO Theory BlogMichael Martinez, President of Reflective Dynamics and Founder of SEO Theory, says:

  • Search engine optimization will have to crack the mobile app market.
    Mobile search is different from Web search and as app developers move
    further away from Google the traditional “PlayStore/AppStore” listing
    mentality will start to degrade. Alternative app stores will become more
    appealing to marketers.

  • SEO providers will have to deal with more clients needlessly switching over to HTTPS (it doesn’t actually protect anything vital for either visitors or Websites). The HTTPS world will divide big money wasters with unrealistic expectations from people who are just interested in creating good Websites. Research shows that people on the Web don’t really care about HTTPS. They don’t even know what it is. SEOs who support HTTPS will have to explain why no miraculous increases in traffic occur.

  • Off-site SEO may turn back to an old form of parasitical marketing similar to Native Advertising. Think of a negotiated content placement (essentially a guest post) that is promoted by the host site in search results; the placed content will use “search safe” links to drive traffic toward the destination site. Maybe this will be called “Search-friendly Guest Posting” or something like that. I am sure someone will eventually figure out how to run it into the ground but for now the search engines have no provisions against this kind of marketing. The placed content will live or die on its own merits, so I doubt people will put $5 “thin content” articles out there for very long.

    FYI: Email response.

    Gillian Muessig, Co-founder of Moz, says:

    Brian Carter, Founder of The Carter Group, says:

    Dan Petrovic, director of DejanSEODan Petrovic, Director at DejanSEO, says:

  • Smarter search quality algorithms will make link and content gaming ROI negative. For example to run a perfect link network today would cost as much as employing activities which lead to earning links naturally. This will result in more search professionals focus on branding, content and link earning instead of spending time thinking about shortcuts.

  • More SEO companies will re-brand away from “SEO” to “Digital Agency”. We’ll also start seeing more specialist companies, much like we had “link builders” specialise and branch out of “SEO” some years ago. I can think of two reasons for this. One is the decline of desktop-centric and old school view of SEO performance including absolute ranking position and link numbers. The other is the growth in complexity of the field which comes with various content consumption platforms and modes of search and results including Google Now, Play, Google+, Google Plus My Business, Currents/Newsstand and more.

  • Further fall of information websites as Google gives more answers. If you’re in the business of providing answers to your audience you’re about to have a bad time as you’re in direct competition with Google. It all started with simple queries such as “my ip” and “time in Sydney” but today we’re seeing complex queries being answered before all search results with the source of the answer being credited with an attribution link, whose click through cannot match the standard result with no direct answers.

    FYI: Email response

    AJ Ghergich, Founder of Ghergich & Co, says:

    Andrew Shotland, Founder of LocalSEOGuide, says:

    Adam Connell, founder of bloggingwizardAdam Connell, Founder of Bloggingwizard, says:

    I don’t see too many major changes happening in 2015, it will likely be more of the same with a few curve balls thrown in along the way. But I can see the following happening:

    • Mobile will be the big thing in 2015, making responsive design and page loading times even more important than they are now.

    • Google will continue to tighten the net on tactics that are aimed at manipulating their rankings. This isn’t new but I see Google stepping up their game and they are already doing just that with the action taken on thousands of Private Blog Networks.

    • More and more businesses (especially small businesses) will shift to using SEO as part of a cohesive marketing strategy rather than an isolated channel. And the metrics businesses care about will move in the right direction towards ROI and away from worrying too much about individual keyword rankings.

    Our focus needs to be on the audience, improving user experience and ensuring our marketing strategy involves a diverse set of channels that doesn’t rely on a single channel to the point where it adds risk.

    FYI: Email response

    Brent Carnduff, Founder of Echelon SEO, says:

    Grant Simmons, VP of search strategies at Homes & ForRent, says:

    Kai Spriestersbach, owner of Search OneKai Spriestersbach, Owner of Search One, says:

    Google love brands, so SEO will more and more become digital brand building.
    Brands rank faster, rank easier and are more durable to updates.

    I think current SEO job descriptions will split up into three different jobs:

  • First of all: Technical SEO. Crawling and indexation, internal linking, preventing duplicate content and new structured data and markup for next generations of entity search.

  • Second: Strategic SEO with personas, keyword research, targeting, budgets, tracking, controlling and stuff like that.

  • Third: Branding SEO: Content promotion, seeding, linkbuilding, brand building, press, social media & earned media. Probably won’t be called SEO anymore ;o)

    FYI: Email response

    Pratik Dholakiya, Co-founder of E2M Solutions and OnlyDesignORG, says:

    Garth O’Brien, SEO Director at Catalyst, says:

    Peter Attia, Head of marketing at pingboard. Peter Attia, Head of marketing at Pingboard, says:

  • More focus on user experience.

  • Better returns from high quality PR.

  • A lot of restructured content. For example, finding topics that do well and elaborating on them, or crunching lots of reviews into one gigantic review.

    FYI: Email response

    Jeremy Dearringer, CEO at Newpro and Cofounder of Relevance, says:

    Patrick Hathaway, director and editor-in-chief at URL profilerPatrick Hathaway, Director – marketing and Editor-in-chief for URL Profiler, says:

  • Google will continue to aggressively push organic results down in favour of PPC and Knowledge Graph results

  • Mobile search will become an increasingly important channel, so we can expect Google to reward sites with a positive mobile experience

  • An increased focus on content, as Google seeks to reward engagement and punish poor user experiences

    FYI: Email response

    Ian Lurie, CEO of Portent, says:

    Andy Beal, CEO of Trackur and Journalate, says:

    Takeshi Young, Founder of KeshKesh, says:

    Simon Penson, Founder of Zazzle Media, says:

    Dan Thies, Founder and CEO of MarketersBrainTrust and Head of BrainTrust Labs, says:

    Erwan Derlyn, SEO & SMM Manager at Zettle, says:

    David Waterman, Director of SEO at The Search Agency, says:

    Bob Jones, Director at Visible, says:

    Themelis Cuiper, Director at AdSocialMedia, says:

    Harris Schachter, Content Marketing Product Manager at Capital One and Owner of OptimizePrime LLC, says:

    Barry Adams, Founder of PolemicDigital, says:

    Eric Lander, Associate Director of Digital Marketing at D50Media, says:

    David Iwanow, SEO Product Manager with Marktplaats, says:

    Derek Edmond, Managing Partner of Komarketing, says:

    Ryan Jones, Manager – search strategy & analytics at SapientNitro, says:

    Marshall Simmonds, Founder of Define Media Group Inc, says:

    Kevin Gibbons, Managing Director of Blue Glass, says:

    Jamie Knop, founder of SEO Weather, says:

    Tad Chef, founder of onreactTad Chef, Founder of Onreact and SEO2.us, says:

    What are the top 3 changes do you expect to happen in the SEO landscape in 2015? Very good question. I had to think about that for a while. It’s not even three months from now so anticipating those changes shouldn’t be that hard it seems. Especially as I have been pretty good at “predicting” or rather identifying trends over the years. This year it’s more difficult. Google seems to be pivoting a lot lately so that you can’t just extrapolate what they have done this year anymore in most cases.

    For a long time Google’s strategy when it comes to online identity and Google+ has been very clear. Now it’s completely muddy again.

  • One: Google becomes unpredictable again or more than ever. Will they “sunset” Google+? Possible. Now that they discontinued Orkut and Google Authorship. The first and most important change is thus that it’s impossible to adapt your strategy to Google anymore. You can’t prepare and plan for the long term when you are trying to please your Google overlords. SEO becomes hit and run again even in case your completely white hat.

  • Two: The second change is still easy to predict as the writing has been in the wall for a long time. Google will increasingly take third party content and display it onpage without sending traffic to website owners. I know I have predicted that for years already but it has been implemented step by step so that there never was that one moment of realization. Google is testing how far it can go without the people going to the barricades.

    I think we will witness the point in 2015 when Google will cross the line to large scale content theft.

    When Google starts stealing your content to put it into their “knowldege vault” that gets displayed whenever someone searches for a query you will compete directly with the search traffic monopolist. Without traffic “trickling through” anymore to your site there will be no incentive to give your great content to Google to monetize. I expect more some sites to opt out of Google like Apple, Facebook or News Corp had done in the past to some extent to protect their assets.

  • Three: I think right now the SEO industry has a choice. SEO can either drop the cryptic acronym and magic aura and instead become mainstream or it will be just a slowly shrinking niche in so called digital marketing. Forcing SEO under the umbrella of marketing and thus advertising and sales is not a solution but leaving it alone without mass appeal isn’t a solution either.

    We already see some agencies dropping the moniker altogether and just offering services like outreach without naming it SEO,marketing, PR or whatever. Optimization has always been bigger than just marketing. You can optimize without selling and advertising. SEO has to become bigger to survive not just a tiny part of a larger but still small marketing discipline. Otherwise SEO will become just a synonym for SPAM.

    FYI: Email response

    Stoney deGeyter, President of PolePositionMarketing, says:

    Tony Verre, Associate Director of Search Strategy at RockFishDigital, says:

    Nicole Beckett, President of Premier Content Source, says:

    Salman Ahsan, an Independent Internet Marketing Consultant, says:

    Summing up:

    • Treat mobile and wearables at par with desktop. In fact, go the extra mile when it comes to mobile optimization.

    • Basics remain the same and are still important.

    • Audio/voice search will increase.

    • App SEO will gain prominence

    • Local SEO gets bigger

    • Crackdown on Spammers will continue and more effective Google updates are expected to be rolled out.

    • Increase in engagement metrics in Google’s algo and continued devaluation of backlinks.

    • Brands are loved by Google. Branding efforts can really pay off.

    • More sites are expected to switch to Https. Https effect on SERP rankings is almost insignificant as of now. But, Https as a ranking factor may gain more weight over time. Google says “But over time, we may decide to strengthen it, because we’d like to encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe on the web” Read more.

    • Expect knowledge graph and semantic search to become more advanced and more answer boxes are likely to dominate search results. Here is a great article on Knowledge Graph Optimization written by AJ Kohn

    • Greater emphasis and focus on UX, user intent, social signals, contextual content marketing, Author Rank/Trust, co-occurrence and co-citations and customization/personalization.

    • Schema will play a more significant role

    • Barnacle SEO is probably making a big comeback

    • Smart people will make efforts to earn links rather than looking for safe ways to build links.

    • SEO is not an isolated channel anymore, a significantly holistic approach of integrating core SEO with other channels is the way to go.

    • Last but not the least, as Kevin Gibbons puts it “Expect the unexpected”

    Presented by: TheiMarketingCafe Team

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