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Six Big SEO What-Ifs for 2015

Published: December 29, 2014

Author: Colin Guidi

As each year wraps up, predictions for the following year seem to be presented in opinionated waves highly mirroring each other. (“THIS IS THE YEAR FOR MOBILE!”)
These can get pretty bland and boring. Rather than comprising a post based off of other posts (duh, that’s how all these duplicated opinion posts happen), why not just start a conversation? We’re all smart here, and you’ve reached this post for a reason. You’re here because you know what SEO is, and you’re wondering how it might change. Some changes can be drastic, while others will go rather unnoticed. However, having a game plan for that rainy day will set you up for success when you need to put it into play.
Now let’s throw some “what ifs” around. The idea is to get you thinking about what you might do if the tea leaves turn out to be right. Some are longer shots than others, but none of them are coming out of left field. So let’s dive in.

What if:

1. Some queries in 2015 hosted ZERO organic listings?

Google is showing more and more how it wants to be an engine that can deliver direct answers, not just results. Add features like ad extensions, Google shopping, and other real estate-chewing developments, and it’s not hard to envision a future SERP without traditional organic listings.
So…to continue the “what if” question, what would your next move be if Google begins answering ALL of the questions from your user base without the help of your website? How would you reach those users?

2. Google Analytics’ effectiveness as a top-tier analytics platform goes down?

Currently, Google Analytics offers one of the best, if not the best, free analytics tools around. But the nature of Google search is changing. Will Google’s analytics keep up?
For instance, how will Google track queries spoken into devices? (Think smartwatches, “Okay Google,” etc.) Yes, spoken queries are turned into written ones for analytics packages to pull in. But will these queries be denoted as anything different within analytics from their purely typed-in counterparts? And if not, how do we have to qualify those metrics?
You can bet that if Google Analytics doesn’t keep up with the evolving nature of search and corner the new market out of the gate, third-party or proprietary analytics tools for those devices will begin to grow.

3. Google stops valuing links altogether?

“Oh no! Not my links!” Stop clutching your chest for a second and think about it.
First, Yandex – Russia’s main search engine – already runs its ranking algorithm(s) without the valuation of links. And in my opinion, Google’s not far behind. As Google refines its signals more and more, they typically go from valuing quantity over to valuing quality. Right now, we’re in the quality phase for links with Penguin and manual reviews
And couldn’t you argue that this will be a welcome change? You could then put your effort into areas outside of link building and earning – because honestly, you’re not getting your money’s worth with large amounts of time spent on linking, especially since nobody can say when today’s good links are going to be devalued (think: Matt Cutts, guest blogging, etc.).

4. There are no more announced / confirmed algorithm updates?

Speaking of Matt Cutts, Google’s mouthpiece has left the company indefinitely (or at least has extended his leave without a return date). Does this simply mean Google will find a new talking head to trot out the animal-themed updates, or does his departure symbolize something bigger: that the company will follow the footsteps of other search engines and stop being so transparent to the SEO community?
Google’s transparency has been one of its biggest reasons for praise; if they head towards a different direction, I’m sure you’ll be hearing outcries.

5. Google will be more than a layover, and will now be only a destination?

Historically, Google has been a ‘layover’ for searches. Users have gone to Google, performed a search, and then moved on to the website as their [potential] final destination for that search journey.
However, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, Google has been answering more and more queries directly within the SERPs. Google Now, predictive search, Answer Cards, and the Knowledge Graph are all features that keep users within the Google ecosystem rather than send them onward.
If people begin to expect answers directly from Google, and no longer use Google simply as a compass to point to the most relevant website, how will your brand respond? If a lot of your content is informational, there’s a good chance you already are or will be seeing traffic to those pages diminish.

6. Amazon launches its own search engine to move beyond just products?

This seems plausible, doesn’t it? Let’s be honest, we have all been to Amazon.com to buy something – and their internal site search functionality is off the chart (eCommerce brands, take note). They have a ton of data on you, and they sure do know how to use it.
What happens to Google – as well as your site strategy – if and when Amazon starts to offer up services and information?
Now, I’m not saying any of this is going to happen. But I am saying it’s worth thinking about – and thinking about how your SEO strategy might shift.
Got any other what-ifs? I’d love to hear them. Drop a comment!

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