Google is constantly updating and trying new things to and improve its services. Whether good or bad, we always notice. So I decided to ask some SEO experts for their predictions on how Google will change and affect you for the next year. Here’s what they had to say.
How do you expect Google to change in 2015 and why?
In 2015, Google will undergo a series of changes to accommodate spoken search queries; the kind of queries that people speak into their phones using Google’s app, or Apple’s Siri. Spoken search queries are quite different from typed search queries, so Google’s algorithm will need to understand the difference and display relevant results accordingly.
With more and more people conducting searches from their phones, Google knows that it must move quick on the mobile trend and accommodate its users.
I love this question because just a few short years ago, we were all prophesizing about the future of Google in 2015, as though the future was so far away. And in fact, in online terms, we have come tremendously far in a relatively short period of time. The SEO world has been turned upside down at least a couple of times since then.
Looking ahead to the coming year, I think we’ll continue to see a lot more personalization. Results will become more and more tailored to the user and device. As well, I think factors like social sharing, commenting and page interactions will really become the most important SEO signals, if they haven’t already. Google is looking at quality interactions, time spent on page, and, generally, how much the users like the content and want to use it and share it. Content marketing has become the new link building.
Google is also placing increased emphasis on clean link profiles. Any spammy links that have been added in the past will end up penalizing you (i.e. directories, non-editorial links, and even negative SEO or content scrapers linking back to your site, etc.). What you need to do is review your link profile every month, getting links removed or submitting disavow files for links that aren’t bringing in any traffic or adding anything to the site. Going forward, earned links are the most important thing to focus on if you want to rank well.
In short, Google will continue trying to deliver better search results and user experience, and they’ll keep looking at new ways to achieve those outcomes.
Given the current trends, I’m expecting to see Google refine the existing Panda and Penguin algorithms to crack down further on low quality link building practices and poor quality on-site content.
For on-site, the focus has always been on high quality, original and rich content. I’m getting the feeling that click through rates for organic listings are having a higher impact on rankings than they have in the past. Craft your listing to make it as appealing as possible in the SERPs. Figure out which of your pages are ranking for your target phrases and consider making changes to the page titles and descriptions to work on boosting CTR. Be careful about changing the keywords too much in the page title though.
For off-site, I think that many of the Private Blog Networks (PBNs) that some SEOs have been using will need to use higher quality content that actually provides a benefit to visitors of those sites. It’s their job to make sure that sites that are designed purely to pass page rank shouldn’t be able to affect the rankings of the site being linked to. Their algorithms aren’t that good yet but I figure that any ‘link building’ should still be helpful to human visitors. I figure that when the algorithms are tweaked to be tougher on those sites, better quality content will still be effective.
As always, Google are trying to squeeze every last dollar out of their SERPs and there are always developments in Adwords. I would expect to see an increase in the percentage of above-fold space taken up by ads. My recommendation is that every business has a solid strategy for their Adwords and PPC as well as organic rankings. With all of these changes going on with ranking factors an the layout of the SERPs, it’s wise to diversify incoming traffic sources as much as possible.
I believe Google will put more focus on the age of domains in 2015, the past couple of years it has been easy for a black hat to churn and burn domains, so just like vintage wine, I think domains with age are going to be much more valuable for SEO in 2015.
One of the major changes coming to Google in 2015 is improvement in voice search and other search methods that work well with wearable technology. Google began moving in this direction with Google Voice Search for Android and their launch of Glass last year, but their hand will be forced in 2015 by Apple with their release of the Apple Watch. I believe that the Apple Watch will be another breakthrough product for Apple, and that many people will conduct searches on a form factor that is even smaller than a mobile phone. Google’s interface will have to adapt to this and other wearable technologies if they wish to remain relevant in the coming years.
The second greatest advancement coming for Google in 2015 is Knowledge Vault. Google has been aggressive in expanding the use of Knowledge Graph this year, and pulls heavily from human curated databases of information such as Wikipedia and Freebase. However, as is typical with Google, the rate of human knowledge curation is not fast enough to keep up with its powerful algorithm and the vast expanses of the web. Knowledge Vault will be able to gather and merge information from around the web, furthering Google’s semantic understanding of the web and leading to new enhancements in Knowledge Graph and Hummingbird algorithm.
“I am going to go out on a limb here and say that we will actually see a slight decrease in algorithm changes in 2015 compared to 2014, which had more than ever. There were a number of functionality and ranking changes that occurred this year and many of those changes have yet to be completely smoothed out (I am of course speaking mainly to Pigeon). While I expect that algorithm changes will be required to improve the negative SERP’s that Pigeon introduced, and other changes will be introduced to improve other aspects of the SERP, I believe the focus next year will be mainly around creating an improved local search experience from a functionality standpoint.
There are many features that are being re-worked and have a ways to go. The local carousel, knowledge graph and local pack have seen a great amount of A/B testing over the past few months just to name a few. I expect this to continue into 2015 and that these items find their new form early in the year, making room for a bevy on new functionality to be introduced and current features to be reinvented.”
On a general, more holistic level, I see Google driving their home-automation and connected-devices segments. Their autonomous car just passed it’s driving test and with the acquisition of companies like Lift Labs and Dropcam they definitely seem to be peering intently at how else they can integrate their products into our daily lives.
In terms of search I see the knowledge graph becoming far more pervasive – the latest Android OS, ‘Android L’ is a big testament to this. One of the features it’ll bring are question-specific answers directly from the omnibox. This means people can get information, like the weather for instance, directly on their phone’s homepage without actually searching the web.
For certain queries, Google is effectively removing SERPs from the equation, and I think this highly reflects the position Google is taking on search – making answers readily available to it’s users at the expense of webmasters’ traffic.
I see mobile becoming a far more pronounced focus for Google. Part of this means segmenting user search experiences – one possibility might be something like coupon discoverability from directly within apps like Google Maps, or video discovery from internet-enabled TV’s.
At the end of the day, Google’s mantra is to enable easy access to the world’s information and so I believe they will be looking at how users engage with the web, and how they can make Google a part of that process. For 2015 I see a bulk of that focus geared towards mobile, and web-connected devices.
“Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. They’ve held true to that mission statement over the last few years and I would expect Google to continue rolling out features to deliver answers faster. We’ve seen this with the expansion of the Knowledge Graph over the last 2 years. I would expect Google to continue down that path ultimately to allow users to save time and have more accessible answers faster.
The first time I saw the knowledge graph was the “the number of horns on a unicorn” search. This has expanded into Google bringing an answers box result for searches ranging from “top auto manufacturers” to “how long is the movie ‘Frozen'” to “Eagles Score.” This significantly impacts traffic to sites like IMDB, Forbes, or NFL.com, but provides answers with at least one less click. To check the Eagles score, we used to Google Eagles, then go to their NFL page to see the site post the score. How absurd is that process now? If I Google “Eagles score”, I expect to see the score.
No one knows for sure what the Knowledge Graph could pull in next, but I would have to think 1800notes type of sites (who called me from 866-568-8850). Without having to dig into comments, Google could show the source (DirecTV in this case) or let you know it’s a scammer. Other new Knowledge Graph additions could hit the financial vertical with answering queries like “savings account interest rates” or “mortgage rates.”
Aside from Knowledge Graph expansion, Google is likely to continue rewarding the big content investments. In-Depth Articles have their own spot in SERPs and are showing more often. I would expect this to continue to roll out, pushing jobs like SEO Consultant to become more PR focused.”
In 2015 I expect Google to continue to ramp up data collection from new sources. Now that Hummingbird is up and running, they have a very powerful engine to process intent and semantic meaning; and so far we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg. Honestly I don’t think we’ve even seen the real Hummingbird yet, since in large part it was fed by the data collection methods of old. Google keeps finding new and innovative ways to index more information, even outside of the digital space (think Nest, Google Cars, Chromecast?). Hopefully this data combined with the Hummingbird engine result in a better user experience of their products, including search. In this light, the marketers who will reap the benefits are those who focus on building authoritative brands (entity creation). The knowledge graph is only going to grow, placing more importance on doing real marketing. Where natural search ranking is concerned, I think we will continue to see the importance of technical prowess and brand recognition.
How will Google change in 2015 and why? Well, in a nutshell, it will be more of the same and we will see a slow and steady refinement of elements that are already in place. If I had to look into my SEO crystal ball I would go with the following.
1. Results will become more and more personalised
Personalisation of results is becoming much more prevalent in our experience with clients at Bowler Hat. Whilst I think this needs some refinement as there could a situation where we end up with our own walled garden almost due to our browsing habits personalisation does help you find things that you view more often and generally improves the usability of the search engine results for day-to-day folks.
2. Results will become more and more localised
As with the personalisation we see more and more localisation. Localisation in the organic listings, local 7 packs. With the prevalence of smart phones and the statistics showing how mobiles are used to drive purchases in store (or even locate a store selling X when you are in a city) these local results with reputation signals will be further thrust upon us.
3. Results will become more heavily personalised for mobile
This is an extension of the above point but it’s important to make the distinction that what we see on mobile is often a little different. Packs of local results will be higher up the page, there will be fewer paid adverts etc.
4. Sponsored listings will creep into localised results (7 pack etc.)
Again, continuing to build on the local / mobile angle I have been predicting that local results will have a pay-to-play angle for some time now. I believe these have been spotted in the wild (testing?) by Mike Blumenthal and a few other search folks but this will build on sponsored maps listings by adding sponsored local listings into the traditional SERPS. If you consider the local search for a restaurant with a single PPC ad then some local listings it does not take a massive leap of faith to see that the top spots will be up for auction via Adwords soon enough.
5. Penguin will become a rolling part of the algorithm
Where oh where oh where is Penguin? Nearly a year now, no updates? Again we have heard from John Mueller that Penguin 3.0 is coming and with regular updates so my thinking is that this will just become a more standard part of the algorithm that can refresh more often. Looking at some of the niches we work in and competitor sites link spam primarily from what looks like small private link networks is still rife so this could not come soon enough for small businesses (well, the ones playing fair). I think with the time between updates people have been getting brave (stupid?) and there will be a lot of upset folks shortly.
6. Knowledge Graph and direct answers will be further integrated into results
We see more and more of Google answering questions directly in the search results now which is great for the user but not always so great for site owners seeing their content pulled directly onto a search results page.
7. Video will become more important
The barrier to entry with video gets lower and lower and with every increasing bandwidth and mobile device sometimes video is just the best way to answer a given question (and requires less from the user) so we will see more of that. The recent shift with full size youtube.com videos embedded into search results for very specific (non music) queries means video is more of an opportunity for marketers than ever.
8. Google+ Will Morph
I suspect some kind of change with Google+. The current combination of Google+ as a (failed?) social platform / social extension to local business pages just feels kind of wonky. Sharing directly from search and a unified Google account that allows sharing is good but sharing with who if everyone is on Facebook. Not so sure on what will happen here but I suspect more integration with digital business entities maybe coupled with the dialling back of the platform for use as a general purpose social network.
Why these changes?
These changes are a move to improve things. A move to make sure Google is still the number one destination when you need to find something. Google is with you everywhere right on your computer, tablet, phone, glasses and even watch. Some of the changes work with that philosophy on a smaller (local) scale and some are just shifts due to the landscape but overall this is a move to add further dynamism to the results we see. With the Penguin updates we clearly want to cut down on link manipulation – stop it working and punish (shock and awe) and folks will stop doing it (I will believe that when I see it) but the real trick to cutting down on search manipulation is all the personalisation and screen real estate given to sponsored listings.
Ultimately, the opportunities in search and digital are still there but they are more multi-factorial than ever before. You likely need to look at paid elements, local search, organic search around more informational topics relevant to your business, social media etc. The days when just pure SEO was your marketing strategy are soon to be a distant memory and a shift towards a more holistic inbound marketing approach is inevitable (and right).
Well, that’s my tuppence (20 cents for the US folks) – I just see more of the same really and I don’t expect we will see huge shifts in 2015 – rather a continuation down the current path with some refinements and tweaks along the way.
In 2015 Google+ will die a slow death. Integrations with existing Google products will be removed or made optional. The most popular components of Google+ like photo sharing and hangouts will be de-bundled and made available separately. G+ engagement will fade over time. Why? because outside of various niches like Internet marketing and photography, G+ never took off and engagement is much lower than Facebook, Linkedin or Twitter and Google would rather focus on ensuring that their product stack works well on mobile rather than fight an unwinnable war with Facebook, etc.
I’d suggest that a lot of aspects of SEO will remain the same, although mainly from a technical perspective.
I think Google will continue to target websites that are over-using a single link building tactic or aggressively using anchor text – in the same way as they are now.
I’d like to see more regular panda refreshes, as it’s currently really hard to deal with penalties because of the lack of refreshes – but I’m not sure that this will happen.
I’ve seen a lot of change in the direct impact of links over the last 12 months – with far less correlation between links and direct impact on page-level rankings – I suspect this trend will continue as Google try to reduce their reliance on links.
I think Google’s gotten extremely good at finding black hat techniques over the years and at an accelerating pace. I wouldn’t be surprised if 2015 saw a couple new major changes in regards to addressing other black hat tactics.
They’ve also been doing a lot with replacing the regular “ten blue links” with smarter results. I noticed recently that translation based terms started showing a Google Translate widget (which I love, but I’m sure related web sites hate). One of our major top of funnel keyword categories in enterprise is encyclopedia type terms, e.g. everything Investopedia ranks for. Imagine not being able to pull in that traffic and show them your own calls to action!
We’re going to have to figure out a way to proactively deal with this on more fronts, but right now the solution is, “replace that traffic with paid search for those keywords.” Kind of scary!
One thing I don’t expect is for Google to get any more transparent to webmasters. Maybe in 2016 we’ll see specific link warnings instead of, “No more traffic for you,” penalties on sites that haven’t built a single unnatural link since 2010.
I don’t think too much will change in 2015 in the SEO space. We’ll see more of what’s happening now continue to progress.
Google will get more aggressive in its attempts to deal with webspam. This will probably involve looking to additional ranking signals. We could see the implementation of Author Rank.
The continuing rise in the cost of SEO will force more businesses to diversify their digital strategy, put more focus on user experience, design and conversion optimization as well as the use of paid promotion such as Outbrain and Taboola.
My hope is that Google will address the Negative SEO topic because this is a clear admission that they can’t police their own search engine. Fair enough for site owners engaging in dodgy tactics but the impact to business can be huge.
Ultimately, only time will tell.
I’m going to focus on Google’s local results because… well, that’s what I do. There will probably be one big ol’ shakeup in the last 3 months of 2014 or in 2015, but who knows what it will be. Nobody has come along to “disrupt” the local space, so I don’t see any reason for Google to do anything radical (except for when the engineers get bored and want to twist the dials).
My guess is we’ll see Google go even farther in the direction they’ve been headed. They’ll continue to de-clutter the SERPs. Not because it’s good feng shui, but mostly because it places more emphasis on the paid section.
I wouldn’t rule out a Google Places crackdown on virtual-office and similar addresses. Has Google been lax about them for years? Yeah, but keep in mind that for most of the past two-and-a-half years the “local” team at Google has been tied up with transitioning over to Google Plus and then rebranding to “Google My Business.” That took forever, but they got it done, and now I would assume that’s freed up some smart people at Mountain View who can tackle other longstanding problems. Or maybe they’ll just focus on trying to pick a colour for Google Plus review stars.
Businesses with a good strategy for earning reviews on Google Plus – and to some extent on other sites – will continue to reap rewards, more and bigger.
We’ll probably see some pay-to-play action in the local results. Given recent tests and the new rule in AdWords that you can only enable location extensions when you’ve got Google Places and AdWords set up in the same account, I’d guess that Google is looking for a way to reward local businesses that also advertise.
Google is constantly evolving. Check the knowledge graph and how it tries to extract entities and relate them to one another. I believe a merging between the knowledge graph and the organic results will start happening soon.
This is very powerful. Google is moving in a way where it starts to “understand” things and not read “strings” as they say. Their buying spree, in the last few years, on companies related to Artificial Intelligence and Deep Learning would strengthen this too.
This is happening I believe because Google hit a wall that they try now to break. The wall is represented by the actual SEO’s that are continuously trying to manipulate their results. They do not want this and they strongly fight agaist active blathering their results. The model is becoming harder and harder to manipulate and I think this is the way Google wants it, as a search engine.
Google is always changing itself in order to improve the user experience, and it could do this in many ways as explained in the responses above. What do you think? How will Google change in 2015? Let us know in the comments below.