The first question one might ask is how important is search in 2015? As of 2015, Google is still the most popular site on the internet based on data from Alexa, Compete and Quantcast. Visitors make 3.5 billion searches every day, but the space given by Google for organic results has steadily decreased with the introduction of new ad formats, maps, knowledge graph results and news so that even if you rank #1 for a competitive term your result will probably be below the fold. Although the space for organic results might be decreasing for highly competitive terms, organic search still accounts for 30% of traffic to the average website according to a report by Shareaholic. So at least for now Search Engine Optimization remains almost as important as ever. Here is a quick look at what might be the 5 most important factors for search in 2015.
Engagement in Search– The factor most correlated with high search rankings in 2014 was CTR within search (SearchMetrics Report). If you are trying to build a quality search engine this makes sense since the results should relate to what people actually like and click on. The take home message here is that one of the most important things you can do is focus on developing good title and description tags since snippets in the search results are primarily based on these. When it comes to other engagement metrics such as bounce rate and time on site there is less evidence that these play a big role in search results although I expect these to increase in importance in 2015.
Relevancy – Relevancy relates to what a specific web page is actually about and has less to do with specific keywords on the page. Specific Keywords are becoming less important as Google is better able to judge entire pages more holistically along with the intent of the user making the search. It’s important not just to think of specific terms when but also “proof terms” that most often coexist alongside specific keywords.
Backlinks – Inbound links from authority sites will probably always play an important role in search as they are votes of trust. Quality of links has become much more important than quantity and the focus should be on getting a few links from a handful of trusted sites.
Social Shares – Social shares correlate strongly with search rankings but little evidence suggests they are directly responsible for good rankings (Correlation does not equal causation). My guess is that social shares probably are a good indicator of content quality and the frequency at which it’s produced. Websites that regularly create great content likely attract more inbound links, get more social shares and have better engagement levels.
Mobile – Google’s role out of the Mobile Friendly Algorithm in April 2015 marked a serious shift towards penalizing websites that are not mobile friendly at least in mobile results. Over 30% of today’s website traffic is from mobile so it’s time to make sure your website works properly across all devices.
Google has indicated that its algorithm is based on over 200 ranking signals so this is just a quick look at those that are probably the most important in 2015. What do you think are the most important factors for SEO in 2015 and beyond? What if you had to pick just 5?
http://www.searchmetrics.com/knowledge-base/ranking-factors/ : The 30 most important ranking factors in 2014 based on over 300,000 websites
https://moz.com/search-ranking-factors: The most important ranking factors based on a survey of 100 search engine optimization experts.