Marketers were faced with major upheavals in 2015, from Google revealing many of its ranking signals to mobile optimisation becoming a major component of web presence to the massive shift in interest towards the user, and some of these trends will largely influence digital marketing in 2016.
Here is a look at some of the top SEO-related stories of 2015:
1. Google was more open about its algorithms than ever before
Compared to previous year, the biggest search engine, Google, was more willing to reveal how its algorithms operate in what is being seen as a ‘paradigm shift’ in its SEO business. Initially, marketers were unaware of any changes to the algorithms until after they had taken effect and businesses impacted in a major way – as was with HTTPS or Hummingbird.
In 2015, however, Google pre-announced or hinted the release of certain updates, like it did with the deployment of Mobilegeddon and RankBrain.
The company has massively changed its strategy, from talking to webmasters to announcing to journalists, which may be a proactive business-centered strategy to make major changes to the Google search engine.
2. Enter Mobilegeddon
Mobilegeddon was the most widely publicised search event in 2015. The mobile update was a significant indication of Google’s deep investment in mobile, as well as an alert to internet marketers to get on board. As a result, websites with a good mobile experience are favoured more by search engines than those that offer a bad experience.
The ranking algorithm separation reflected the intent, behaviour, and method used by searchers on mobile devices, which is very different from the desktop experience.
3. Rise of artificial intelligence systems
RankBrain, the new machine learning algorithm that interprets each and every query typed into Google, is the third most crucial signal affecting the results of a search query. The artificial intelligence system helps to process search results using machine learning – a form of AI where the computer programs can teach themselves how to change and develop when exposed to changing data (search queries).
The effect of RankBrain is a more efficient Google search engine in regard to analysing, interpreting and ranking webpages for every search query.
4. The release of quality guidelines
In November, Google released 160 pages of guidelines to help marketers improve search quality. Although Google still has many guidelines, those provided will offer some insight into the decision-making process followed by Google.
5. Customer Match
Google AdWords’ Customer Match is arguably the biggest PPC feature added in 2015. Customer Match allows advertisers to upload a group of email addresses to Google, providing targeting capabilities to customers that were unavailable before. Basically, the feature creates a list of new potential customers that match your current email list’s criteria.
Another change that occurred in PPC was the requirement for landing page testing or Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) so as to enhance conversion since the CPC (cost per click) keeps increasing. And for CPC to remain a practical option, conversion rates must increase.
Google changed a lot in 2015, becoming less withholding in the process, but one thing it did not do was announce a specific date for the Penguin update. It is possible that the delay from the previous refresh in October 2014 is because they’re yet to have fine control over their machine learning algorithms, but this could be among the first SEO related changes in 2016.