The way we approach search engine optimization was altered forever in 2013. Reflecting back on all the changes in SEO, the question must be asked: “What will happen in 2014?”
Based on analysis from experts, gradual updates from 2013, and what employees at Google have had to say, we can make a decent projection about what websites should do in 2014 to have the most effective strategy.
First, let’s review the changes in 2013. Then we’ll talk about what you need to do to stay competitive in 2014.
The 2013 Updates
So what exactly changed in 2013? Most of what occurred came as a result of Google algorithm updates.
Panda was first introduced in 2011 to reduce the amount of content farming that was going on within websites. In 2013, Google updated Panda on multiple occasions, although this was not anything that webmasters weren’t already used to.
Penguin 2.0 (May 2013) and 2.1 (October 2013) brought more to the algorithm to fight against spam links and dish out more penalties for sites that broke the rules.
However the biggest and most significant update Google has tackled in years wasn’t an update at all — it was a massive algorithm overhaul in August 2013.
Hummingbird completely changed the way sites would look at their content, keywords, and SEO strategies. It gave a heavier focus on semantic search and placed greater emphasis on the power of the Google Knowledge Graph.
Preparations for 2014
Microsoft reported that at some point in 2014 the number of mobile web users will surpass the number of desktop users. This means that it is mandatory that your site has a mobile presence.
In creating a page that is optimized for mobile users you have a few options. One is choosing a mobile web design which will only apply a few selected aspects of your original site. A mobile design typically allows for faster download speeds and is useful for highlighting less but more valuable information.
The downside of mobile web design is that there can occasionally be an issue with split-page ranks when a mobile web site is not coded correctly.
To bypass those concerns, a responsive design might be a better option. It is simply a shrunken-down version of your site. This allows you to keep most of your original information, although it can weigh down the load time.
Additionally, you can opt to create a mobile application for your site, although this is usually an option best reserved for larger businesses who are looking for very specific consumer interaction. Regardless of what type of site you have, it is mandatory that you ensure it is prepared for mobile users.
Google made it clear in 2013 that, if sites want to improve their site rankings, they need to make sure they’re content driven. By understanding more about user intent, Google can make it easier and faster for searchers to find answers to all of their questions.
To provide faster answers, the Google Knowledge Graph has been released as part of the search algorithm. Instead of having to rifle through pages of search results to find out how long the Nile River is, users can see the answer directly on the results page.
However if there is a search for something like, “How can I get a better tax return in 2014?” Google obviously cannot provide a clear-cut answer. If a site wants to rank well for this search, it needs to create unique, valuable content that is competitive with other options.
There has been some amount of uproar over the state of keywords within SEO. Google analytics no longer directly provides keywords for webmasters. Instead, you must decide on your own (based off your data) what keywords are going to yield the most fruitful results.
It’s no secret that if you’re interested at all in keywords, long-tail ones are the name of the game. However, if 2013 has proven anything, it has shown that Google could change anything about search at any given time. A focus on keywords will not be nearly as important as a high, intense focus on quality content.
If you create valuable content for your page, it doesn’t do you much good unless your site can be trusted by Google.
This is where the importance of link building comes in. It has already been established that you want to avoid hosting spammy links on your site. Additionally, you want to keep your own site from being referenced to on spammy sites. But Google has taken authority one step further.
Google has recently pointed out the value of Google Authorship. By linking an author with a Google Plus page, it shows that the author has distinction and will help a page get a better ranking.
As such, it is key for sites (particularly any form of blog) to make sure they host only reliable authors and their work. Additionally, guest writers should link their high-quality work to their Google Plus profile to show that they are also reliable authors.
SEO is a constantly changing game
The rules, guidelines, and even major players in SEO seem to shift and adjust on a regular basis. While it is impossible to predict exactly what will happen next, it is possible to make assumptions and form strategies from there.
To have effective SEO in 2014, make sure your site is optimized for mobile users, provides quality and informative content, and has a high level of authority.
Continue to stay up to date and follow guidelines that Google lays out as you work to improve your site’s traffic and rankings.
Thoughts? Additions? Share your ideas in the comments below.
See other Crazy Egg articles by Drew Kobb