Based on the changes we saw in 2014, our marching orders for digital marketing in 2015 seem clear:
- Most of the old ways of doing things are either ineffective or not worth the risk.
- The best returns will be earned the hard way, though good, solid marketing.
- A set-it-and-forget-it approach to websites is asking for trouble.
Google’s algorithm updates in the last year have really turned up the pressure on low-quality links, low-quality content and, fortunately, low-quality SEO companies and consultants. A year ago, I wrote about the real cost of cheap SEO, and my advice there still holds true — there are no shortcuts to get good, lasting results for clients, and 2014 made that more clear than ever.
Here’s what we’re telling our clients about the year to come:
The gains from old tricks are gone. There’s just no reason to hang onto the tactics from the early days of SEO. The way search engines display results today have almost nothing in common with the way they worked when all you had to do was load up on keywords and build 1,000 spammy links back to your site. At best, old tactics won’t yield long-term results; at worst, they could earn you penalties on your site that take a lot of time and money to resolve.
Spend less time chasing algorithm tweaks and more on smart marketing. One way to boost your site’s immunity to the almost-constant updates made to search engine algorithms is to focus on the basics of good marketing: know your audience and marketplace through ongoing research; craft messages that help your customers find and understand you; and track everything that’s quantifiable with analytics so you’ll always know what’s working and what isn’t. Devote more of your budget to creating great content that can be used across all of your marketing channels and that can build a brand with staying power.
The technical side of SEO is more important than ever. The changes you make to one part of your website can affect every other part. New content, tweaks to payment gateways, new pages — these changes can have a ripple effect that cause changes in your site’s structure and lead to problems with your site’s performance in search results and its usability for site visitors. Having an SEO provider who knows what to look for while keeping an eye on the inner workings of your site can pay off in more conversions and customers.
Help your marketing and IT teams work together. If you’re not facilitating collaboration between your IT department and your in-house/agency marketers, you may be missing out on some important opportunities. Marketing needs access to your technology to make the most of your marketing efforts, and they also need the support of IT to get that done. Conversely, your marketing team must understand any constraints on your IT team, and work within them. Together, marketing and IT make a powerful combination that can make everything from your customer relationships to your analytics tools better.
Link building — still valuable, but use it right. No other segment of SEO has evolved as quickly as link building. As it is now, it’s as much of a land mine as it is a gold mine: Google has several penalties in place if you do it wrong. That said, I think content marketing will be at the heart of link-building tactics this year simply because quality content is timeless, and the synergies link building has with social media will continue to make it a very efficient marketing activity for SEO.
Take a closer look at clickthrough rates. Signs that CTRs from search results are increasingly impacting rankings are on the rise. Moz’s Rand Fishkin ran a few experiments last year that strongly suggested clickthrough rates (a behavioral signal) are being given greater value by Google. Also notable is recent evidence that older title tag keyword optimization tactics are not only becoming less relevant — they may even be holding you back. Just last week, Siege Media published an in-depth post on how its approach to increasing the relevance of title tags has yielded 20 percent better CTR for its clients. As with so many other strategies, this one underscores how a move toward relevant, authentic content and away from quick tricks is the key to better SEO results in 2015.
There’s more, of course, from the incessant rise of mobile to the smarter selection of social media channels, but a focus on the five areas above will help you continue to have a strong web presence. And what’s more important for businesses in 2015 than that?