We’re about to leave 2014 behind us and fly headlong into 2015, so it’s a good time to get the crystal ball out and predict what the next 12 months will bring for search.

I’m not much good at soothsaying, so I asked some of our good friends from the SEO world what they think is on the horizon.

Read on to find out what they came up with, or to learn more download our SEO Best Practice Guide

Disclosure and payments to bloggers

Andrew Girdwood, media innovations director at DigitasLBi

I think this will be a hot topic in 2015 but I’m unsure what the trend will be. 

If brands step up with a proper amount of concern or regulators became more active then I think we will see SEOs engaged in this shady behaviour react with due speed to retreat. 

Otherwise I think the bad habits will continue, the topic to become even hotter and the trend for 2015 will be that of growing concern. 

It will be like a legal game of chicken.

(For more on this topic, read: Paying bloggers for positive reviews: is it common and is it right?)

Mobile

Nick Fettiplace, SEO director of Jellyfish

It surprises me how many big brands still do not have an effective mobile proposition. There’s been so much talk around this topic for several years now, but I feel 2015 will be the year that it really counts. 

We only need to look at the development of Google’s own product suite to see how much emphasis is being placed here right now… e.g. the release of the ‘mobile-friendly test’ feature plus the recent tagging of mobile-friendly websites within their organic SERPs (which appeared in November 2014). 

With 2015 geared-up to be the year when mobile search overtakes desktop search, it’s definitely worth getting up to speed here.

(Related post: Mobile SEO: what should you be thinking about?)

Multimedia content

Ruth Attwood, advanced search consultant at 4Ps

A greater focus on multimedia content – onsite video engagement, creative image content and optimisation – potentially even the relevance and quality of images and videos as machine image reading and recognition continues to progress.

Will sites that use stock photography not do as well as sites that use their own unique images for a better UX?

Machine learning

Will Critchlow, founder and CEO of Distilled

We will see more and more machine learning in the wild. 

An example of this is the increasing use of general answer boxes (i.e. not those that come directly from the knowledge graph).

Google’s ability to interpret natural language is continuing faster than we might think and it is clearly already capable of summarisation. 

I think we’re going to start to see true winners and losers among websites that are getting new traffic this way and websites that are hit by having all their key information summarised and presented to the user within the SERPs.

(Related post: How to use machine learning to enhance your marketing campaigns)

A move beyond Google?

Ruth Attwood, 4Ps

2015 might also be the year we see a bit of a search landscape shakeup – with Yahoo’s market share already starting to ramp up thanks to the default search Firefox deal, and Google’s default Safari search provider deal with Apple expiring too, we may finally reach a stage where marketers can’t ignore other search providers.

Greater focus on speed and agility

Andrew Girdwood, DigitasLBi

SEO will think harder about newsjacking and the ability to get good quality creative content out in response to events. 

This all has to be done at ‘SEO effective’ price points.

(Related post: Agile newsjacking from Alex and Alexa and baby Prince George)

Latent semantic indexing

Nick Fettiplace, Jellyfish

A big discussion at the moment, but ultimately I feel this will lead to better content across the web and move us even further from the old ‘keyword stuffing’ days. 

Once again, when producing our content we can put the user first and rest-assured that we will still be rewarded by search engines for doing so. 

There has been so much movement towards this in recent years, with the evolution of the Panda algorithm and the release of Hummingbird. 

Latent Semantic Indexing is the next natural step. Is it also preparing us for the growth of voice-activated search in coming years? Probably.

(Related post: Has Hummingbird changed SEO forever?)

Knowledge graph

Andrew Girdwood, DigitasLBi

I think we will see greater focus on knowledge graph integration and schema. 

This will happen in both the technical side of the business but will also influence user experience and interfaces.

(Related post: Google’s Knowledge Graph: one step closer to the semantic web?)

Social

Nick Fettiplace, Jellyfish

There is much talk about ‘brand citations’ playing an increasing role as a ranking metric. 

With this in mind, social becomes important once again. 

Not only can social monitoring tools identify these brand citations, but they can also provide valuable insight around the demographics, personas and geographies of those who are more responsible for them, allowing us to utilise this information when planning our strategies.

Death to the keyword

Ruth Attwood, 4Ps

I expect to see topical search development pushing more and more towards conversational and query answering, even further divorcing from keywords. 

I wouldn’t be surprised if beasts like Panda start to implement additional, more subtle, over-optimisation penalties to combat keyword-chasing as Google tries to encourage sites away from this angle.

It’s not just about rankings

Paul Smith, CEO of 4Ps Marketing

We will spend most of our year explaining that Google rankings are not the best measure of online success.