Bruce Clay’s 2015 Predictions for the SEO Industry
Since 2006, Bruce has posted annual predictions of what he expects will jostle the Digital marketing industry in the year to come. What follows are nine predictions by Bruce Clay on mobile, local, video, voice search, and shifts in the Internet’s dominant players.
In keeping with our annual tradition here at Bruce Clay, Inc., I’d like to share with you my forecast of the search climate in 2015. I predict:
- Mobile results satisfaction will be more important than any other technical issue.
As of yesterday Google issued warnings through Webmaster Tools to webmasters whose websites contain critical mobile usability errors. The signs point to a mobile ranking algorithm that is near launch. Voice search will rapidly expand, a consequence of increasing mobile use. Long-tail searches will increase as a result of these unstructured voice queries.
- The first page Google results will be entirely made up of pages that are mobile friendly, fast, and contain mission specific content (answers questions).
In order to serve long-tail conversational queries, Google will focus on serving results that have very specific answers to questions. We’ll see fewer results at the top of page 1 which cover a theme in a general way, and more sites that cover very specific topics in-depth. Among the ranking algorithm’s variables that correlate with characteristics of E-A-T, expertness will come to outweigh authority and trust. With trust and authority equal, expertness will be weighted the most important. This is how Google will be able to algorithmically give preference to results that answer questions.
- The search engines will continue to emphasize local results on all searches. Local results will include opportunities for paid enhancements.
I predict that more queries will include local results. Google reports slightly shrinking market share and they have growing pressure for increased revenue. With avenues for generating revenue in search limited to page 1, I expect local results will be the next SERP real estate to get paid results, sold as enhanced entries. These paid enhancements, a form of paid inclusion, could include coupons, phone numbers and images.
- Google will continue to fight spam via algorithmic changes, resulting in every site having some degree of penalty.
There is no variable in the algorithm that is not worth protecting. Any activity outside the bounds of natural for every variable is subject to penalty. Google is going to be looking across the board to improve the results in every algorithmic category. I don’t expect to see new named algorithmic penalties. We may see small algorithmic penalties, in effect, smaller tolerances across every algorithmic variable. If there are 200+ variables in the algorithm, someone will be responsible for improving all 200 of them.
- As Google’s paying PPC clients complain of an inability to compete with Amazon, Google will be forced to launch a program to support ecommerce and compete with Amazon result listings.
A large share of product purchases are going through Amazon. Amazon’s plan is to double that year over year. Amazon no longer needs Google searches because of the strength of its own brand and market penetration. Nobody needs to search in Google to find Amazon.
Consumers going straight to Amazon to search for products threatens Google. Amazon’s growing strength in providing products will cause a decay in the number of people searching for those products in Google and an increase in the number of people searching for them in Amazon. PPC revenue will drop because fewer people will search Google for those products.
I’ve also seen merchants of high revenue brands being squeezed by Amazon, as Amazon has set out to be the only distributor in high revenue product segments. Having fewer merchants leads to less PPC demand for those products. I see that Google will have to do something to strengthen the consumer use of Google for product searches.
- On-page video will be more heavily weighted as a ranking signal as bandwidth capacity today allows for video to be served for everyone.
I’ve predicted this for some time, but bandwidth, especially on mobile, has gotten to the point where it’s justified. Video can communicate many words’ worth of content in a small area of your website. Users don’t have to scroll in order to receive your message, explaining your benefits to people, concisely. As mobile bandwidth grows it will be easier for users to download videos.
Google has been working to add on-page video as a ranking signal for a long time. They own YouTube, so they have incentive to promote the importance of video, and they have a property with engagement and quality signals they trust. What we’ll find is that video is a signal of expertness, as well as an authority signal if the video is pulled in from YouTube. I expect Google to examine all of its properties, looking for what signals it can extract regarding expertness and authority.
- SEO will become more technical, but those doing SEO will become more than programmers. Marketing skills re-emerge as vital to doing the job.
If you’re a successful SEO, you have to do several things. You have to be a problem solver. You have to be really good at games because this is a business simulation where SEOs are competing against the business’s competition. The only thing that could make the job of an SEO more fun is if Google introduced a game controller. If there was a game controller to play the game of ranking in Google, SEO would be a lot more fun because we could shoot the enemy. Instead, working to win within the Google algorithm is something that’s increasingly technical.
And yet, in order to optimize for E-A-T, site maintenance, and usability (especially in the mobile world), the brands that will win in Google need to know marketing. To improve a site’s E-A-T and usability, you have to understanding marketing, reach, client psychology and how clients think, calls to action — and that’s influencing SEO more. The marketing and messaging component is not a little discipline out there called conversion rate optimization. Technically minded SEOs will have a harder time incorporating marketing strategy into their methodology than marketing professionals will who integrate technical SEO requirements into their discipline. So, I expect marketing to absorb SEO.
- User experience will be a significant discussion point, causing conversion methods to evolve into a gentler experience.
Consumers in many segments are maturing in regards to their ability to research topics and become familiar with any subject through self-directed learning. As a result, consumers are less receptive to a hard sell, seeing it as disrespectful to their tech savvy. Businesses will find themselves experimenting with a range of tones in messaging, with many finding more success with a familiar tone. Calls to action and conversion methods will soften.
- Bing will lead the search engines in market share expansion as the search engine’s marketing skills overtake Google’s programming skills. Google will maintain dominance of market share, but Bing will expand.
Bing has one massive and timely opportunity to gain ground in the search market and that’s the mobile experience. If they hit mobile search experience out of the park, then Google won’t be able to touch them. I’ve watched a succession of Internet companies become dominant: Netscape, followed by IE, then Mozilla then Chrome, and what that tells me is that no one company is safe from being edged out, and it’s all up to the public opinion of what’s best and what’s acceptable. If popular opinion swings against Google due to Google’s increasing emphasis on the bottom line and an influx of sponsored results in search, competitors have an opportunity to shake up the status quo with a next-generation technology, and the biggest opportunity for that is in mobile.