Gerald Heneghan

NW 2015: Searching for answers

Gerald Heneghan: Search engine optimisation has been truly embraced as a mainstream marketing tactic in the past couple of years, but in 2015, it'll practically be a necessity for property companies.

Ever-faster internet connection speeds and the ubiquity of smartphones that are as powerful as the desktop computers we had five years ago are irrevocably changing the way your customers research and purchase products and services.

While appearing prominently in relevant search results has always been desirable, in 2015 and beyond property companies that mostly ignore the web risk becoming virtually invisible to their potential prospects.

But it's not all doom and gloom, and for those keen to promote their business in the digital space – a wealth of opportunities abound.

So without further ado, here's some of my top picks for search engine success in 2015:

Local

The growth of mobile computing devices like smartphones and tablets has had a profound effect on search and this will only continue in the coming years.

As we'll discuss further, the ongoing emphasis on personalisation has increasingly taken into account the geographical location of searchers into account. Location-specific results are increasingly being thrown into the mix and so it'll be vital to ensure your web presence is sending as many signals about your locations to Google as possible.

Mobile

If your site fails to cater for mobile searchers in 2015 you're pretty much penalising yourself. While you probably won't vanish from search results Google is changing the way results are structured for mobile users to prioritise sites that offer the best experience.

While we won't delve into the technical dos and don'ts of this element if your site isn't optimised for mobile (or if you're not sure), there's no better time to address this issue.

HTTPS

Earlier this year, Google announced that in an effort to promote secure browsing – it would be rewarding sites that opt to use HTTPS encryption.

While I won't bore you with the technical details, setting this up could provide you with an easy win on the SEO front – so now's the time to get in touch with your web developer or IT people and get this set up on your site.

Content

Content will continue to be a staple of SEO in 2015, so if you're not producing it, expect to be overshadowed in search by savvy competitors.

It's no good throwing together the odd 200-word mind-dump either (and in some cases, this might actively harm your search performance). Instead, try and produce genuinely compelling, strategic content that speaks to your target audiences.

Links

Google takes any hyperlinks pointing at your site into account when deciding where it should appear in any given search. But it also frowns on (and sometimes punishes) those who try and manipulate this process.

In 2015, your link-building efforts should focus on digital PR, earning relevant editorial opportunities and coverage. Even if these don't always result in a hyperlink, there's some evidence Google pays attention to things like implied links and brand mentions.

Personalisation

Google's made leaps and bounds in understanding user intent and natural language in recent years and this is coming to the fore in 2015.

We've covered the wide-reaching effects of this move in further detail, but for the CliffsNotes version:

Keywords are out. Try and target the broader topic of a particular product or service, rather than optimising your pages for a single term or phrase.

User Experience. Google takes into account how real users interact with your site, so improving their experience is not just a generally good idea – but could also enhance your search performance in 2015.

Go social. Sites that perform well on social see a correlation with better search rankings. While there's debate about the how and why of this the bottom line is if you're not on social in 2015 you're missing a valuable marketing opportunity.

And You?

We've barely scratched the surface of fairly broad topic, so if you've got any questions or think I've missed anything obvious, leave me a comment below or fire me a tweet and I'll try my best to get back to you.

Gerald Heneghan is Head of Content at Roland Dransfield PR and says he combines a background in journalism with a genuine passion for technology and search.

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