Search Engine Optimization: In many ways, it’s a factor that can make or break a website. These days, when you’re putting together a digital marketing plan that includes an online presence, it’s vital that you also look at Search Engine Optimization and how it can help get as many eyeballs on your website as possible. Sounds simple enough – until you realize that SEO is fluid and constantly changing in order to prevent companies from “gaming” the system. With that said, it’s always a good idea to look back at the year’s changes to SEO so you can move forward into the new year with an even more refined digital strategy.

Let’s take a look at what went down with SEO in 2015:

2015’s SEO Changes and Trends

The Inclusion of Social: It’s a reflection of our times — and the dominance of social media on our everyday lives — that Google is now cataloguing Vines and Pinterest Pins in its search results. This cross-channel merging of worlds puts even more emphasis on having a well-rounded social media aspect to a digital marketing campaign; covering multiple platforms means your campaign gets even more exposure.

An article at Brafton also noted that, starting in 2015, individual Tweets began to be included in search results as well — definitely a big bump to any brand account that’s been active on Twitter. “The content you’ve created for social can get play in search results, too,” says a separate Brafton piece. “But for the 24 percent of B2Bs with no social media presence at all, this could pose a threat. There’s now more content to compete with at the top of search results.” All of this means there’s no better time to dedicate resources to social media.

The Importance of Mobile: An article at Colocation America refers to this cheekily as “Mobilegeddon” — April 22nd was the date that Google announced that your webpage’s mobile friendliness would factor in to your mobile rankings.

“Therefore, if your webpage was great on a computer, but had trouble rendering or annoying characteristics (like lots of side-scrolling or large images that took forever to load) Google would penalize your site on their mobile rankings,” Colocation America explains. This led to many site owners doing a major cleanup of the way their webpages rendered on mobile, lest they get penalized. Google even added a note on the SERPs to identify which sites were mobile-optimized or not — nothing like a little public shaming for those who neglect their mobile users.

The Rise of RankBrain: In 2015, Google announced the launch of RankBrain, just one of the components (the third-most important, actually) that feed into its ranking algorithm, Hummingbird. Search Engine Land defines RankBrain as “a computer program that’s used to sort through the billions of pages it knows about and find the ones deemed most relevant for particular queries” – and Colocation America adds that “it’s a machine learning algorithm. It learns on the flow and, thus, can decipher and sort through the mess much faster than an algorithm that compiles data and then decides what to do with it.”

So while it’s not true AI, RankBrain is a more intelligent step up in assisting users by suggesting search results that they might have only been thinking of. Not quite mind-reading, but close.

More Content, Less Keyword Overload: The days of jamming your content full of barely-related keywords are over. “Google’s latest search engine algorithm focuses more on content, which means there is less focus on keyword saturation and more focus on the quality and relevancy of the content to the reader,” says Tribute Media, before advising that creators “…should continue to generate custom content that uses relevant keywords and synonyms but focus more on the content than the words themselves.”

The article also mentions that “long-tail” keywords will begin to have heavier importance, which means you need to start adding more context and finessing your content strategy rather than simply picking out what keywords to target.

Search Engine Changes in 2015

As search algorithms continue to get smarter, content creators also need to stay ahead of the game and keep on top of current SEO trends. By taking note of what Google is factoring in to its page ranking system, it’s easy to tailor a digital strategy to better suit the types of link juice that Google takes into account — especially when it comes to things like social media.

As content creators and curators, we can no longer navigate the digital world on autopilot — now, we need to take full advantage of SEO and search engine rankings if we want our content to stand out in a crowded cyberspace.

What SEO trends and changes affected you the most in 2015? Tell us in the comments.

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