As we neared the end of 2013, we came across articles written by industry experts wondering if SEO is dying in 2014 , at Impression, we’re sure it’s not. SEO will continue to evolve as it did in 2013, but it is not dying by any stretch of the imagination.
2013 began with a bang for SEO with the 24th Panda refresh in January and it also witnessed Google’s largest algorithmic shift in 12 years, the innocuously named ‘Hummingbird’. The core focus of SEOs last year was to rework their existing strategy and align it with Google’s Penguin and Panda updates. Many spent a large part of 2013 trying to get their website rankings back on track by thinking very closely about the value their content brought to visitors.
Webmasters realised if they built links for the sole purpose of improving rankings, their efforts would go unrewarded, with Google seeing little value in these links. In 2013, the creation of useful user-driven content went increased, which lead to SEOs developing solid content marketing strategies within their overall campaigns.
Something else happened last year and that was SEOs began giving importance to social signals. While Matt Cutts categorically denied the number of Likes and Tweets had any bearing on a websites ranking, there was no doubt that social signals mattered if combined with other key factors. Also, Google+ started impacting search results and SEOs had to start taking a close hard look at Google’s social network as part of their strategy.
All this and more happened in 2013, and much of this will continue in 2014, along with marketers constantly refining their strategies and ensuring they keep up with Google’s many search algorithm updates.But, a New Year necessitates some predictions, so let’s take a look at 7 of them and how they will help you rank better in search results.
1. More focus on in-depth articles
According to Google, around 10% of searchers are looking for more than just quick answers to their search queries. What they are looking for are in-depth articles that give them comprehensive information on the topic of their search. With Google’s in-depth article feature, you now have the opportunity to target this audience and ensure your content is featured on search results in a way that helps it get noticed.
These articles will appear on SERPs in a separate block and are characterized by large thumbnail images, title, snippets, the source, and the source logo.
So why should you use in-depth articles that are completely non-commercial nature? They are a great way of building reputation and authority. They can prop up your content marketing strategy and help you do what Google wants you to do – make content the core component of your SEO strategy. ‘In-depth’ articles encourage deeper user engagement with the content and can provide incremental benefits to your SEO efforts. But in order to make the most of this feature you need a great strategy to create in-depth evergreen content. This can be time consuming, but it’ll be well worth the effort.
2. Google+ will rule
2013 saw the beginning of the rise of Google+ from an SEO point of view. A common perception is that Google+ is set to become the most important social media network when it comes to impacting your search rankings. Let’s face it, why wouldn’t Google want to further the importance of Google+ in SEO? More than Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, it makes more sense for Google to encourage the use of Google+. It’s likely to do this by rewarding SEOs who actively use Google+ profiles to connect to their content.
It’s time you had a Google+ strategy in place to leverage the opportunity the network provides. As you keep link your articles, blogs, and all other content to your Google+ profile page, these links will appear on your profile page, which in turn will trigger author rank. As you consistently share links you will strengthen your Author Rank. And what’s more, you will also have branded content through Google Authorship, improving content credibility.
Also, all those Google +1s that you’re earning will impact your search engine rankings; this article on MOZ offers great clarity on the correlation between Google +1s and higher search rankings. We believe the value of +1s will continue to increase in 2014.
3. Revisit why you want to guest post
Guest posting or blogging was increasingly popular throughout 2013. This was looking to continue into 2014, until it was clamped down on by Matt Cutts, read more in his blog here. So is guest posting dead? No it isn’t. But it’s time you stopped looking at it primarily from an SEO link building point of view. The idea behind guest posting is to build your reputation and relationships with other websites/blog owners. Do not think of guest blogging as new age article marketing. Your top priority should be quality, relevance and creating authoritative relationships.
To clarify, guest blogging isn’t dead, it’s just that Google has raised the quality bar.
4. SEO for Google Hummingbird
In 2014, Google’s Hummingbird will start playing a huge role in keyword relevance, link building and will start impacting search engine rankings. Today, when searchers enter their search phrase on Google , the Hummingbird update will aim to understand the whole phrase/search question. The focus will be on understanding the context of the question rather than identifying certain keywords in the query and throwing up results that match the keywords. The aim is to provide results that answer the question in the best manner possible.
So, SEOs now have to concentrate on creating a conversational search focused strategy, revolving around long tail keywords. So, how do you integrate the new algorithm into your SEO mix? One of the ways is to start incorporating long tail keywords into high quality content. More importantly, create content that will answer a natural search query of target users.
Your content strategy shouldn’t be keyword driven but must be a well-rounded content strategy that incorporates innovative and relevant ways to communicate the purpose of your site. Google’s goal with the Hummingbird update is to improve the quality of its SERPs, which puts the onus on your content. If it’s great content, it’ll rank well in the SERPs, if not, well your rankings will suffer.
5. SEO will be more about mobile
Recent reports have suggested that most mobile phone owners use their phones to browse online. If you haven’t got a mobile SEO strategy up and running yet, it’s time that you do.
An effective mobile SEO strategy involves getting a thorough understanding of the way content is accessed on mobile and knowing who is searching for and consuming this content. The fundamentals of good mobile SEO strategy include:
- Ensuring the mobile site offers a great UX, this offers a two-fold benefit – it can increase your rankings and helps to engage and convert your visitors.
- In August 2013, Google expressed its concern about slow loading mobile pages and wanted webmasters to optimise their site speed. So throw slow loading pages out of the window and improve page speed. Fast loading pages improve UX and such sites engage user attention, which in turn helps rankings.
- Keep the Hummingbird update in mind while configuring a mobile SEO strategy, as the focus is on making sense of mobile user intent, identifying conversational search queries and giving importance to voice search.
- Mobile users are searching for local businesses and products so elements of local SEO should be implemented in mobile SEO as well.
It makes sense to focus attention on mobile SEO, as this will be an increasing visitor segment throughout 2014.
6. The rise and rise of content marketing
There’s no doubt that content marketing will be important during 2014. In fact, it makes sense to think of your content marketing strategy in isolation from your SEO strategy. A problem that we have seen in the last is that creative content has been used primarily as a link building activity.
Content marketing deserves a budget of its own, with the team responsible for idea generation and execution. Content marketers should be made responsible for ROI, which will allow them to come up with a far better results-driven strategy.
It’s likely content will be the driving force of your SEO strategy, but isolating your content strategy from your general SEO strategy will help you keep it fit for users, engaging and relevant. Google doesn’t want you to use content marketing for SEO purposes.
7. The role of SEO experts will evolve
Traditionalists who want the role of SEOs to be limited to on-page optimisation and certain off page SEO activities will need to reassess their views. SEO professionals will be expected to be content and inbound marketers. There role will also be similar to that of a PR exec. The very clear lines of difference that existed between a business’s marketing, communication, PR department and SEO will continue to blur in 2014. For a business, we think this is good news as it allows them to adopt an integrated approach for their digital marketing efforts. This ensures a more carefully constructed, comprehensive internet marketing strategy.
These are our 7 SEO predictions for 2014. We see a common theme across the 7, this being that all will ask you to focus on high quality, engaging and relevant content. With content as the cornerstone of your SEO campaign, you’ll stand a good chance at seeing results.