Jan 2015



As we come to the end of another wonderful year, it seems like a perfect moment to start looking ahead to see what’s in store for the digital industry.

As you know that it takes two to tango, SEO alone cannot stand tall as building content strategies is equally crucial. Both entities are so closely tangled up that you cannot ignore one and still benefit from the other.

Here’s presenting to you 15 awesome predictions related to SEO and Content Marketing. You can learn more at our SEO workshop in Singapore.

1. 100s Of “SEO Is Dead” Articles
Don’t blame me for starting with the easiest of predictions!

Over the last few years, the volume and velocity of articles proclaiming the “Death of SEO” have gone through the roof. Of course, it helps that there are then counter articles pushing the “SEO is Alive” philosophy.

It’s all just an opportunity to create clickbait content – people can’t help themselves, but click that headline. And unfortunately I don’t see this trend getting any better. Many more SEO experts will continue to write these articles every time Google announces and update to its algorithm.

My advice, ignore most of them. Only once in a while does a real expert actually believes it, you’ll know to read that article because the title isn’t obvious clickbait. Oh, and do check out SEObook’s infographic on why SEO will never die.

2. Keyword-Focused SEO On Its Way Out
Now, on to more interesting shifts in the world of SEO. In small, subtle changes that the larger world of SEO hasn’t quite noticed, Google has indicated a shift away from “keywords”. There are a number of reasons contributing to this trend:

What does that mean? That means that monitoring ranks on individual keywords is now passe. We have to move to smarter metrics including weighted average ranks for a much larger set of keywords, and the conversion performance of all the SEO traffic.

Google’s even started pushing the concept in paid search by forcing “Close Variants” in campaigns instead of “Exact Matches”.

3. Catering To Hummingbird Intent With Co-Occurence
Thanks to the slow death of keywords, Google also can’t trust anchor phrase links, and keyword density to determine if a page is a match for a certain keyword. They’ve been getting much smarter, and for those SEOs doing On Site Optimization work, one word will become more important in 2015 – “Co Occurence”

Co-Occurrence is based on the fact that Google likes to link to sites that are authority in a certain topic. Which means it’s not just important you mention the core keyword, but also related keywords on the same topic. This is the kind of thing that’s almost impossible to engineer if you’re a SEO spammer, but almost impossible to screw up if you’re focused on rich, topic-focused content. So the trick to getting this right is to ensure that in the competitive set of other sites that show up on the SERPs, yours is the most authoritative content piece.

4. Brand Building & Mentions Becomes More ImportantRachits-blog-brand
It’s becoming harder and harder to get good links. Google has (thankfully) figured out how to repel the effects of low-quality blog comments and spammy links. But as Google cuts off direct anchor text & links, due to SEO manipulation, it needs new ways to determine authority.

One obvious way they would do this would be to measure social links in a better way. However, thanks to the terrible chemistry between Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google – that might not happen in 2015. In the meantime, Google has been paying more attention to a simpler kind of link – the Branded Link and Mention. In 2015, more than ever, getting Brand Mentions (even without links), would go a long way in helping SEOs.

5. Reaching Influencers Becomes Easier As More Influencer Networks Pop UpRachits-blog-influencers
If you’ve been living under a rock, you might have missed the fact that Xiaxue made some pretty serious allegations at the blogger network GushCloud, Gushcloud responded in detail and so did some of their top bloggers. Noise and mudslinging ensued and spilled over to the real newspapers.

Finding and managing influencers is a messsy job. But rather than clamp down on this business, I think this will force networks to suddenly take their offerings to a new level of professionalism, the government will introduce new regulations to clearly identify advertorials and finding influencers will be a much better experience by late 2015. And when this smoke clears out, brush up on your basics on finding influential bloggers and do your thing for links and brand mentions!

6. Mobile Dwarfs Desktop, SEOs Take Notice
Thanks to differences in the way mobile search works, we’ve already looked at how the keyword landscape is changing. What you might not have known is Google is working extra hard to cater the experience to mobile users. Including having special icons to indicate which sites are mobile-friendly, and which are not.

Which means that mobile-friendly sites will start seeing some real advantages in natural search results, including special indicators if a site is mobile friendly, and boost in rankings.

7. Google Continues To Steal Answers & Create Tools
For a while now, Google has been using the knowledge graph to pull out answers from websites, or make tools on their own. Currency converters, interest calculators, simple to find facts, Wikipedia like information are now showing up directly on the search results page.

This means that if you’re creating content, it’s got to be comprehensive and evergreen. Any content that could have a short answer will likely be pulled out and “stolen” by Google itself. One of my favourite content pieces that I know will never go out of style is the “Web 2.0 Design Guide” by Not only is it a great article, it’s original and will never be replicated by Google.

8. Apple & Google Watches  Take Off, But Don’t Affect SEO
There are commentators and sites who’re pretty enthusiastic predicting the success of the Apple and Google watches in 2015. I don’t disagree, the wearable world is waiting for a high quality product to be dominant. And a number of smart people have already started collecting tips on how Local SEO will be affected by wearable tech.

However, I think the overall impact of this will be extremely small. Most users don’t even use the extremely advanced search and mapping functionality on their smartphones to the fullest. It will be years before wearable technology reaches the critical mass required for marketers to pay attention to it. And by then wearables will likely look nothing like they do today.

9. But The First IoT Devices Show Up In Your Search Results
But just because wearables won’t take off with speed, doesn’t mean they won’t start making interesting news. And the larger universe of “The Internet of Things” extends beyond wearables, and into smart devices like your fridge and microwave. Heck, there are already cooking pans that are plugged into the Internet and can guide your recipe based on temperature control and timing.

This prediction is a little out there, but I predict Google will introduce the first customization based on non traditional devices. When you search on Google Now on your mobile device, I predict you start seeing results from not just the web and the app store, but also your wearable devices and possibly a home appliance or security product like Nest.

10. Negative SEO Becomes A Thing, And Fighting It Part Of Enterprise SEO Scopes
With Web companies so heavily dependent on high quality search traffic, SEO declines can actually impact stock performance and real revenue. And with Google taking a much stricter view of low-quality link-building, it is perfectly reasonable to fear a competitor building a series of links in order to make you look bad.

Negative SEO is real, and the real hard work involves monitoring the links for your site, and your competitors. And if suspicious links ever pop up, there needs to be a crisis management plan of disavowing the links and trying to get them removed. But in case you’ve ever hit yourself, you need a recipe of how to tackle it, and Moz has got you covered with this Guide to Negative SEO.

11. Google+ Returns In A New Avatar
Google+ has had quite a journey. From its heady days as the fastest growing social network, to the news just a year later that it became a ghost town, to the controversial exit of Google+’s godfather and the carving up of the team behind it – it’s safe to say now that apart from it being the login to Gmail/YouTube, and a few handy fatures (Hangouts), there isn’t much going on with Google+ for most people.

But Google isn’t one to give up easily. Google+ came out of the ashes of Google Buzz before it, and even after the demise of Google+, this may not be the end of Social Networking with Google. Perhaps this time, the network will be revamped version of a mobile messaging app they buy over (LINE anyone?), or it will be a Social layer for all the wearable data we are collecting, Google will launch a larger vision of making us more “Social”.

12. Predictive Search (Google Now) Comes To Regular Search
For almost 8 months now, Google Now’s predictive search has been available on Chrome browser. It’s been here but been pretty lacklustre, and most users don’t even know how to activate the results.

In 2015, I predict that the cues for voice search, “OK Google”, predictive cards will become more obvious and larger. And just like the mobile where Google is fairly aggressive, these will start rolling out to everyone who uses Google Search within Chrome.

13. Google Finally Indexes Twitter & Facebook Actions As Social Signs
Now that Google+ is gone, perhaps Google will take a good hard look at what it can do and realize that trying to replicate the effect of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram may not be the best strategy the second time around. I’m hoping that the name may die, but Google finally sucks it up and starts counting social data into its results with rich listings and carried through link effect from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and YouTube.

This might be more wishful thinking, but with Twitter and LinkedIn not being as aggressive as Facebook in terms of growth and acquisitions, they may be compelled to shake hands again with Google and allow access to the data hose.

14. Google MyBusiness/Local Keeps Getting Messier
Google Maps … err Local … err MyBusiness … or whatever it’s called this coming year has always been an elegant product from the outside, to a huge mess on the inside. From duplicate listings, to no technical support, to a very painful verification process, this product is a thorn in the side of anyone who has a physical office/store.

This, unfortunately, is not getting better. Google hasn’t unveiled any plans to monetize Maps Listings very well, and so they’re unlikely to put in real support personnel behind this product. And since it seems like nobody at Google has actually used the product like a business owner, it will be destined to suck some more in 2015. In the meantime, use this Survival Guide to live through your Maps listings.

15. Demotion Of Natural Search Appearance Continues
Each year, Google inches a little bit closer to blending ads into natural search results. And making it harder for webmasters and SEOs to get data about the post-click performance of natural search users.

This will continue, and in 2015 I expect a major hit to the appearance of ads on mobile. As Google pushes hard for ads to become more and more relevant, there will soon be mobile search results where Google Now, Maps, Knowledge Graph and ad results will take up the entire phone, and push web results to the 2nd or 3rd scroll of the page.

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