The world of SEO is frontier country. Really, meaningful statistics on search rankings only go back about eight years. Think about that: the whole industry of search engine optimization—those sophisticated techniques that keep you and your client’s websites high in search results—is basically just in the second grade. That’s infancy.
But that’s still enough time for some key ideas in SEO to become well known and widely accepted. Strong keyword use, healthy links and savvy social media campaigns are still the foundation of any relevant SEO strategy. This will likely hold true indefinitely unless Google does something unfathomable with their famously secret and storied algorithm. (Cracking the esoteric code is like SEO voodoo, with experts constantly debating what factors affect rankings).
Google subtly tweaks their algorithm hundreds of times a year, which can mean big consequences for how certain kinds of pages rank. That means SEO changes quickly so it’s wise to keep your ear to the ground to suss out the trends and innovations you need to know to keep your content competitive. And this stuff matters: the higher you rank in search, the more traffic your website gets and ultimately the more your business thrives. Here are a few things to keep on your radar for SEO and content marketing in 2014.
Changes to Google search
As already stated, Google is the big boy, the Grand Poobah, of the Internet. It is the most visited site and is by far the most widely used search engine by a long shot with more than two-thirds of all searches. Last year there were nearly six billion Google searches—every single day. It’s been reported that the search giant accounted for an insane 40 per cent of all Internet traffic. They are by far the most influential force online by any measure.
So every change they make to their ranking system—and they make about two daily—can either help or hurt millions of website rankings. In 2013 they made considerable efforts to stop people from fooling their algorithm by unscrupulous link building, instead of actually doing the hard work of making a quality website that people might enjoy. Basically it means Google is doing whatever it can to discourage weak websites that succeed only on dodgy schemes to rank high.
This could either hurt or harm your website, depending on how good your content is. If you’ve based your SEO on sketchy link building at the expense of compelling and original content, you’ve likely taken a hit in the rankings. But if you’re wise enough to realize that having noteworthy and interesting content is the truth path to SEO success—say, by being cool enough that people want to link to it organically—then this is good news. As always, err on the side of quality.
You only have to spend a few minutes in public to see that people are glued to their smartphones and/or tablets. Be it on the bus, walking down the sidewalk or sitting on a bench, people are taking every opportunity they get to use their digital devices to go online. Either they’re shopping online, (likely) laughing at cat pictures or reading reviews for local restaurants.
So what does that mean for you? Well, it means you should cater to the growing number of folks who are mobile Internet users (or start posting pictures of cats on your site). A great first step, if it’s something you haven’t already done, is to optimize your content for mobile use. It’s called responsive design and it’s basically a scalable version of your website that works with the smaller screen size of a phone or a tablet. Have you ever squinted at microscopic font of an unscaled website on your gadget screen? It’s straining on the eyes and awkward to use. That can be a real turn-off for people who’d like to use your website with their mobile devices.
It all boils down to good design. Any decent web design company understands the importance of responsive design and will include it in their services. And a good website developer will also make sure that you have one unified URL for your desktop/mobile sites—in contrast to designs where there are separate URLs for your mobile and non-mobile sites. A single URL with responsive design ensures that you’ll always get the right website no matter if you’re viewing it on a big screen or a little screen; and it keeps your sites from getting fragmented and weakening your SEO.
If you haven’t already invested in responsive design, 2014 is a great time to do so.
Content, content, content
Now, more than ever, content matters. With Google cracking down on spammy websites, 2014 is the perfect time to make sure you have the best website possible by updating it regularly with interesting and relevant content that matters to your customers. The idea is organic growth, which means you get attention from the strength of your content. That attention translates into people sharing your stuff by linking to it. That, and smart keyword use, is the best way to boost your search ranking—and Google’s algorithm changes are making that more and more true every day.
SEO trends come and go but the core principals have stayed constant. There are going to be content marketing fads as the experts try to work their voodoo on search rankings. But you’ll always see good results if you use a strategy of updating your website with consistent and high-quality content coupled with a coordinated social media campaign. But, as with anything, it’s wise to learn as much as you can about SEO strategy. The field changes quickly and the competition gets stiffer every day.
Best of luck to you and your SEO in 2014!