Google’s Quality Rater guidelines 

Andrew Girdwood, media innovations director, Digitas LBi

There was no shortage of talking points for SEO in 2015; a reminder that this is a discipline which requires time and study to maintain at an expert level.

I argue that we’re all becoming publishers, earning audiences and then monetising those relationships and as 2015 winds to an end I’m even more firmly in that view.

Google publishing their updated Quality Rater guidelines towards the end of the year was big SEO news. We got a look inside Google’s decision making processes and learnt what the search engine wants to see from a site. Reputation was a big factor.

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. SEO and PR started the year close; they finish the year snuggled together.

pic from Google's quality rater guidelines

App indexing

Andrew Girdwood, media innovations director, Digitas LBi

Mobile was incredibly important and dangerously easy to underestimate in 2016. Google improved how apps could be indexed by their search technology.

How long will we continue to think of Google as an index of web pages for?

The introduction of apps and their content in to the search results is good news for brands with the budget to build apps and the agility to optimise them. Publishers with smaller budgets; affiliates, bloggers, SMEs, on the other hand, might feel a little left out but big brands who fail to coordinate their mobile development and marketing with SEO will suffer as well.

Ruth Attwood, SEO consultant, 4Ps Marketing

The push towards app indexing in Google is [emphasising the trend for functionality in search], and I think as consumers get more accustomed to this idea of a SERP as an action space we’ll see more happening there in both the organic and paid spaces.

That’s an interesting difference to me between Google’s approach and Microsoft’s use of Bing in the Windows 10 environment or via Cortana on Windows Phone – Google seems to be trying to pull people into the SERP by giving them more to do there, while Microsoft is instead trying to push Bing into the places where it knows people exhibit search-style behaviour.

Twitter and Google search 

Will Critchlow, founder, Distilled

I think that the Twitter deal, [tweets embedded deeply in Google search], is going to be an interesting one for the long term.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Google (or Alphabet!) eventually buy Twitter. Speaking of Alphabet, I guess the Google restructure is a pretty big piece of news.

twitter in search

iOS search

Will Critchlow, founder, Distilled 

Broadening outside Google, I think that the growth of iOS search (especially app search) is the beginning of an interesting trend though the challenges with tracking it are already leading many to underestimate it’s effects.

Google’s offline measurement 

Andrew Girdwood, media innovations director, Digitas LBi

The [Quality Rater] guidelines shine the light on new search types with some incredible implications. Google has a whole set of queries it considers to be “Visit-in-Person” indicators.

In other words; a web search that doesn’t conclude with a web visit but with the searcher arriving at a new, physical world, location. This is Google for the connected world.

App streaming

Andrew Girdwood, media innovations director, Digitas LBi

..Google’s App Streamer test at the end of the year is incredible. Searchers in Google’s ecosystem may no longer need to have an app installed on their smartphone in order to use the functionality of the app.

Apps can send messages, book flights, open garage doors, share locations or engage in a myriad of other activities. A highlight for me in 2015 was seeing how this world of interaction and connectivity was about to become an incredibly important part of search.

app streaming

Direct engagement within Google SERPs

Ruth Attwood, 4Ps Marketing

[As alluded to earlier], I think probably the biggest change I’ve seen start up in 2015 would have to be the growth of Google results pages as a transactional and direct engagement space.

Not just in terms of passive presentation via elements like the Knowledge Graph or Quick Answers, but in the growth of direct book-through advertising or sitelink search markup.

Things like this are really starting to take users away from “clicking in results to get somewhere” and much more towards “clicking in results to do something.”

Brands really have to be thinking carefully in terms of their user touchpoints rather than relying solely on their own assets to do business i.e. real end-to-end UX, not just “on the website” or even “in the app.” 

Building the ultimate personal assistant

Will Critchlow, founder, Distilled

My colleague Tom Anthony and I have been putting together a more structured set of thoughts about the big trends that are emerging at the moment, [including Google’s strategy of building the ultimate personal assistant].

Google's path to the ultimate personal assistant

Got your own opinion on the most important trends of 2015? Any brands you think have been doing good things in search? Let us know below.