Successful SEO in 2014 will mean diversifying your online marketing content formats, putting the user first, forgetting about paying for links, a renewed emphasis on creating technically perfect websites, and some creative approaches to data.
1. The SERPs will keep on changing
Look at that SERP page – just look at it. Users don’t need to leave Google to find out who Foals are, where their next (local) gigs are, the latest news, or to see their discography. Little over a year ago someone would have had to visit three or four sites to get that information.
This is called Google’s ‘knowledge graph’ and 2014 will see them doing more to adapt their results pages in order to keep users within their ecosystem, whether through the inclusion of local listings, shopping listings or pulling in ‘card based’ information from various sources.
In fact Moz recently published a fantastic graphic showing 25 different elements that can appear in any given search result.
This means that publishers need to diversify their online marketing efforts. It’s no longer enough to produce one well-optimised piece of content on a topic and pick up 15% of the organic traffic when you sit at the top of the results page.
Publishers need to appear in as many search verticals as possible. Well-optimised images, video, fresh news and local listings (where appropriate) are more important than ever; demonstrating expertise in a particular topic by delivering genuinely useful content in a variety of forms.
The approach we take at Blonde is to encourage clients to adopt creative content strategies that have a clear sense of commercial purpose, mixing the functional with the stand-alone or interactive, and in a balance of formats, in order to take full advantage of the opportunities available.
2. Personalised search
I’ve discussed the implications of personalised search on the Blonde blog before, and how I predict that a user’s context will play an increasingly pivotal role in marketing strategies in 2014.
If you’re a global restaurant chain, your centralised corporate website will no longer suffice for somebody in the street on a mobile device searching for ‘steak restaurant Covent Garden’.
Do you have endorsements from the local community? Are you recommended by that user’s social network? Have you used Gmail schema to make sure your promotional offers pop up in Google Now? These are crucial questions you need to be aware of and address in the year ahead.
Making sure that UX, design and development are integrated with SEO efforts (an advantage of working with a full service agency) is the key to making this happen.
3. Paid links don’t work anymore
I don’t buy the point of view that link building can really be ‘unethical’. There aren’t ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ approaches that can be ordained by a (commercially motivated) search engine; given the revelations this year about Google’s use of data they can hardly act as the moral arbiters of the Internet.
There are site owners and there are media buyers. They are free to do what they want as long as it’s not illegal.
But if you rely on search engines for business and you’re paying for links, automated social bookmarking, advertorials or crappy PR distribution, just stop it. It’s not a good investment of your money. 2014 will see Google getting even better at spotting it, harsher in dealing with it and personally I’m getting bored of watching Matt Cutts answer yet another question about cleaning up unnatural link penalties.
4. Technical SEO rises to center stage
If paid links don’t work, technical SEO most definitely still does. In relatively uncertain times for search marketers, the one thing you can be sure of is that making sure that your website is as easy to crawl as possible for Google categorically improves your search performance, and always will.
It always seems that it should be pretty straightforward, but it’s a constant surprise to me how many big brands and retailers don’t have their ducks in a row on this.
Expect smart digital marketers in 2014 to be auditing their websites and making sure their houses are in order from an SEO perspective; working with developers and editorial teams to make sure they’re dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s.
Also keep an eye out for wholesale implementation of schema.org mark up across entire domains to give Google an even better understanding of a site’s structure and semantic meaning.
Blonde’s technical SEO audits take in over 40 key technical factors that enable all search engines – not just Google – to crawl, understand and index sites better. A prioritised list of actions gives clients a roadmap to technical SEO success.
5. (not provided) and the dearth of SEO data
Last, but by no means least, 2014 will most likely be the year when 100% of organic traffic from Google will be listed as (not provided). As search marketers this is perhaps one of the biggest and most fundamental shifts in how we go about doing what we do. At least if you got hit with a Penguin or Panda penalty in the past you knew which keywords were affected.
Now Google has removed some of the most valuable data available to online marketers and it’s never going to come back. I’ve stressed before the importance of having new measurement strategies in place to cope with this – expect new data methodologies, and perhaps new SEO tracking software, to be a big talking point throughout 2014.
The year ahead
SEO is an ever-changing beast. And yet what is becoming clear is that some fundamentals seem to remain no matter what happens.
Google is by no means a perfect organisation, but they seem to generally want to steer publishers towards creating varied, and useful, content hosted on high performing websites. That much is to be admired and can only be good for users. As a result the year ahead looks like it will be one of rapid adaptation for brands and publishers.
If you know that you have SEO opportunities in 2014 and need a fresh perspective on the new search landscape, we’d love to help.
This article was previously published here http://www.blonde.net/blog/2013/12/17/seo-5-trends-watch-2014