seo trends 2015If your company is like most organizations, most of its incoming web traffic comes from organic search results, not online advertising.

According to Search Engine Journal, 70% of web searchers ignore paid ads and focus on the organic search results. What’s more, 75% of users never scroll past the first page of search results.

That’s why it’s essential to understand SEO best practices and continually changing search engine algorithms in order to best position the organization in search engine results for the selected generic keywords that searchers use most often to find your type of organization. For CyberAlert, for instance, those search terms are “media monitoring” “media measurement,” “media analytics,” “social listening,” and similar terms.

Digital marketing experts cite the following SEO trends as the most important of 2015.

The Demise of Keywords – the Rise of Content

While keywords are still a factor, they are less important than in the past. A couple years ago, websites could rank well merely by targeting keywords. No longer.

Focusing solely on keywords and links will not maintain sizable web traffic without meeting users’ needs, warns digital marketing expert Neil Patel. That’s because Google has gradually become much better at understanding users’ intent. An example shows what he means. A search for “top hybrid bikes” shows high-quality, in-depth articles, not results for hybrid bikes for sale. Research shows that longer, high-quality articles with substantive content tend to gain more shares and backlinks.  

As a result, blogging has become a crucial tool for increasing website traffic. Marketers who have prioritized blogging are 13 times more likely to enjoy good SEO ranking and positive ROI on their SEO investment, according to HubSpot.

Since achieving first page ranking for popular keywords is challenging, answering questions is an effective way to get attention and improve search engine ranking. Many experts recommend using Quora to find relevant questions that your target audience is asking.

Instead of trying to compete with big brands with strong domain authority, complement what they’re doing through creation of in-depth and helpful content, and by targeting conversational search terms.

The Importance of Social Media

Republishing and promoting owned and earned content on social media increases inbound links and brand visibility. Some top brands dominate Google’s top 10 search results for their keywords, not because they’re good at SEO, but because they’ve got strong social media presences. Case in point: Etsy ranks well for “handmade gift bags” because of social media. Its website lacks incoming links.

Social signals are much more important for raising domain authority and page authority, even if the links from Facebook posts and Tweets are nofollow – that is, search engines don’t follow the link to the source. Although Google is tight-lipped about its algorithm, SEO experts are convinced that traffic from social media can improve search results. In addition, social shares can lead to more incoming links.

Social media is a double-edged sword. A large number of negative reviews of a brand on social media may well hurt search engine rankings.

That means monitoring social media for corporate and brand mentions is even more important for identifying and responding to negative comments before they spin out of control.

Earned Links Become Crucial

“Google expects big brands to generate positive and trustworthy mentions (not just links) and it will be problematic to a brand’s SEO if that’s not happening,” Andrew Girdwood, media innovations director at Digitas LBi, told eConsultancy. “SEO and PR started the year close; they finish the year snuggled together.” Girdwood’s comment recognizes that earned media in well-recognized online publications improves search results and that PR produces most of those earned media placements.

Backlinks remain vital, but earned links from high-quality, relevant websites are more important than ever. Like earned media, they result from the value that you deliver and the voluntary decision of a third party to mention your content. Your content must be superb to generate backlinks.

More marketers realize that a top-notch content marketing strategy is essential for earning those links. A study by the Content Marketing Institute found that 70% of B2B marketers were creating more content this year than last year.

The greater importance of earned links has increased the importance of public relations in creating, optimizing, and placing content that achieves superior search engine results.

Bottom Line: SEO has changed enormously in 2015. If PR and marketing professionals do not stay abreast of SEO trends, they may see their company’s search engine ranking decline and website traffic falter.