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Interview with Phillip Thune: A Look into the SEO Crystal Ball

Phillip Thune is the CEO of Textbroker. As an SEO and online marketing expert, he re-examines the year 2014 and looks deep into his crystal ball to see what 2015 might bring us regarding content, SEO and online marketing.

Phillip Thune is the CEO of Textbroker. Being an SEO and online marketing expert, he knows a lot of information about web content. In the Textbroker interview, he re-examines the year 2014 and looks deep into his crystal ball to see what 2015 might bring us regarding content, SEO and online marketing.

The new year has just begun. In your opinion, what was the most important event in the online marketing and SEO field in 2014?

2014 was in many aspects very exciting. Initially, we had the upgrading and optimization of Google’s semantic search function, which came into existence with 2013’s Hummingbird update. Today, Google understands the meaning behind searches a lot more and, consequently, structures information more clearly: This is evident, for example, with infoboxes, such as the Knowledge Graph. Here it becomes apparent that the somewhat artificial intelligence, which Google has developed, has made considerable progress. If we turn search functions around – such as “men’s jeans” and “jeans men’s” – the search engine will deliver more and more identical results. So the improved semantics is the biggest improvement in 2014 in my opinion.

Another event that will cause a significant impact is the attempt that Yandex started last year: the removal of links as a factor in rankings. Despite only testing for the Moscow region right now, it seems to be working quite well. Google will surely monitor this, and I look forward to seeing how this develops.

The third important development that 2014 brought us is a stronger focus on mobile technology and the differentiation between the various devices: smartphone, tablet and laptop. Google has taken great leaps forward in this regard and is attempting to drive mobile optimization forward, like with the Pigeon update.

Taking the changes and additions that came in 2014 into consideration, what should we be paying attention to regarding search engine optimization in 2015?

It is becoming more and more apparent that SEO is increasingly gearing itself toward quality content. Google is constantly trying to better understand what is happening on a page, and they are trying to recognize user signals more. These include longer length of stays, less bounces and more clicks on the page, which can only be achieved through effective content: text, graphics and videos. That leads to this basic question: What content do my visitors want to see and how do I make this happen?

Regarding the “mobile” trend, it’s important that marketing experts determine when a user is using a smartphone, a tablet, a laptop or a desktop. Here’s an example: I’m googling about a vacation at work, but I end up booking it on my tablet while sitting on the sofa at home. Multiple-device tracking becomes critical, just like mobile content – not just responsive design, but responsive content. Therefore, it’s important to prepare content for each device individually and ideally also for each individual user. It will be a challenge in 2015 for SEO and marketing professionals to prepare SMEs for these requirements.

Who or what could new Google updates affect this year?

2015 will of course still see the cleansing of links, so there will be further Penguin updates in one form or another as well as Panda updates. Google is still working on the development of artificial intelligence in the area of semantics. However, whether we will be seeing some large, significant updates with funny animal names at irregular intervals or perhaps just lots of small, not very noticeable changes, I do not know.

There has been a lot of speculation in recent months regarding links. I don't believe, though, that it will lead to a complete devaluation short term. Google will certainly be testing search queries where they will be removing the links as a ranking factor to see how well the SERPs are received. In any case, they will have to take some sort of action. The company knows quite well that one doesn't necessarily have to build links organically. With the Penguin updates this year, it will be a case of identifying and punishing those who don't follow the rules.

It's clear that Google will be tweaking their algorithms a lot, especially with local searches. As the user will naturally expect local results for specific searches, this will become significantly more important.

What do we need in 2015 in order to satisfy clients online?

Recognize and serve the intentions of users. Always ask these questions: What do users want on my site? What do I want of them? And how do I communicate all of this? Even if it sounds like buzzword bingo, it’s important to have a comprehensive strategy for the site.

With online shops, I notice frequently that users no longer come to a site through transactional keywords such as “buying shoes.” The informational search is becoming more dominant. It’s now also required to be an information and entertainment portal. This way, it’s possible to be viewed as a trusted brand to the customer. Consumers like to buy from brands, so if you perform and appear as a brand and embody something specific, then they can identify themselves with that and will reward you with loyalty.

One of the most important points to consider in the new year is usability and conversion optimization: Make it easy for the customer. And content plays an important role. I ask myself, do I present my texts in an appropriate manner? Making content dynamic is key. If I know who is on my site, then I can adapt my content to the target group accordingly so that the user is addressed properly. Depending on how wide my target group is, I may not want to show all of my users the same text or video. The individualization of the web is gaining significance. 

What could the new online marketing trends in 2015 be?

As mentioned, individualized and dynamic content will be important, especially for mobile devices. In the future, I will have to offer really distinct forms of content, not just the typical 500-word text for the Web shortened to 50 for mobile. I have to condense my content so that it can be read perfectly on other devices. Consequently, Google will force us to produce better mobile content. This is already apparent in Webmaster Tools, where Google is checking a page to see if it’s mobile friendly. In the SERPs, it’s becoming common to see “mobile friendly” under the snippets.

I think that combining various marketing disciplines will be pushed even more. But how can I implement a comprehensive strategy for my products? These questions will need to be answered: Where does my traffic come from? Are there traffic sources that I can purchase and/or generate that will make me more independent of Google? And if I’m independent from search engine pages, what happens when Google shuts this off for me? We can see that happening with hotel or flight searches. Google will continue to get better at keeping people in the Google universe. This can lead to a business risk for many.

What do quality texts look like in 2015?

I think that the more prominent question in 2015 will be, how good does my text have to be to fulfill my requirements? There will be times when I really do need the best content that the Internet can offer and other times that the text requirements are not that extensive. Therefore, the length of texts will also vary more widely. People will be able to differentiate how I apply my text layout and structure the information. It will be important to have insight into the informational overflow of the user beforehand and to prepare content so that the reader will find the required information faster. Other than that, the good ol’ hands-on approach will be making a stronger appearance: Think ahead when creating content and consider if users will be able to understand the industry terms. To summarize, the need for texts to be clearly structured will continue in 2015.

What does Textbroker have planned for this year? What can clients and authors expect?

Textbroker will continue to adapt to the trends and requirements of online marketing, so we will be strengthening our two platforms: Self-Service and Managed Service. We are working toward offering our clients the entire content marketing lifecycle. Basically, that starts with developing a content marketing strategy and ends with measuring its success, and we will offer various services to this extent to continue to reflect our mission statement to “Offer the best content possible, to everyone, everywhere, for every situation.”

Regarding authors, we are, as always, looking for more quality writers, and we will further improve the services we provide for authors. Our team of editors and author service representatives will continue to produce and publish tutorials and interesting blogs tailored to our authors.

So this year we, as experts in the field, will be working hard to further develop the building blocks and put them together as one large puzzle so that our clients and authors are consistently happy with the Textbroker platform.


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