Top 5 SEO Trends in 2014
by Elizaveta Naumov
February 6, 2014
The first thing that comes to mind when talking about SEO is Google – that seemingly all-powerful wizard that is relentlessly updating and changing the rules. Luckily, SEO in 2014 goes far beyond Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird, which makes things easier for content marketers, as long as they know what they’re doing.
Last year, Google made one thing clear: quality content will win out over all other types of tricks. What was once white-hat can become black-hat SEO at any moment and the only way to ensure that your site won’t be affected is to consistently produce high quality content that your audience will want to read and share, thereby boosting your SEO.
The SEO trends in 2014 are centered on quality user experience, both in technical terms and content.
1. Quality, targeted content is key
Semantic search is the cool new kid on the block thanks to the Google Hummingbird update. Google is now able to put search terms into context, which means that you need to be focused, rather than creating broad, keyword-stuffed content.
For example, if you’re in the travel industry, instead of publishing an article about 5 things to do in New York (too general), consider writing an article about the 5 best brunch places in New York City.
Two other elements that will make your content more attractive to your audience (and therefore Google), are its length and how recent it is. As we all know, website that are updated on a regular basis are seen as more valuable to users. There are always people looking for a shortcut, so some marketers resorted to short, bite-size lists in order to be able to publish more often. In 2014, these types of articles won’t hold much SEO weight and we’re better off writing an in-depth tutorial or how-to guide of 800 to 1000 words that will really teach the reader something useful.
Google is even willing to overlook its “freshness” policy if the content is valuable enough. The In-Depth Article feature will promote older posts that are still relevant and useful for months or years to come.
2. You can no longer ignore mobile
If you think that your desktop website is all you need, you’re missing out on the 46% of users that search for businesses exclusively on their mobile device, according to a study by Telemetrics and xAds. That’s why responsive design, which allows users to access the same domain name from different devices (rather than two domain names like mobile.company.com and company.com), is playing a larger role in SEO. It also helps to improve the user experience by making it easier and faster to browse your site.
Semantic search and location targeting go hand in hand with mobile. Someone looking for a restaurant can use the voice command feature on their phone rather than typing it in manually. Using their GPS, they’ll see the closest restaurants in their area. Depending on whose numbers you look at (20% according to Google and 56% according to ComScore), location-based searches are becoming more relevant, which is why targeting your content for specific cities or regions is another SEO factor to keep in mind.
3. Social media is having a real impact
Up until now, social networks have been a means of interacting with users as well as building e-word-of-mouth. It has now evolved to influence SEO through authorship. According to Google CEO Eric Schmidt, content written by verified online profiles will rank higher than anonymous authors. For marketers, this finally gives a solid ROI for the effort that they’ve put into being active on social networks. Not surprisingly, your Google + profile, which can be linked to each article you post, can boost your SEO if you’ve built up your presence.
It can also make your article stand out in search results, even if it doesn’t rank in the top 3. Have you noticed the photos beside some results? Google displays rich snippets when an author has linked their Google + profile to the post. Not only does this add credibility to the article by putting a face to the name, but it also makes it stand out among the other faceless search results.
4. Links are treated like content: quality over quantity
Traditional mass link baiting is dying out, with more weight being put on high quality links. While this is not good news for spammers, it’s good news for the rest of us (at least the ones focused on producing and exchanging better content). Once again, the keyword here is quality. When your content is valuable, people will share and link to it, including credible/popular websites.
5. Don’t drop non-SEO digital marketing
With Google changing the rules, some digital marketing techniques that were used to build SEO, like guest blogging, have no impact anymore. Should you stop doing them? Absolutely not!
Even if your guest blog backlinks have no SEO value anymore, consider the other benefits of that blog post. Aren’t you reaching out to a new audience, building credibility and boosting your brand visibility? Will those readers share the article with their network and start a meaningful discussion? If the answer is no, then your guest blogging strategy was not very good to begin with. If the answer is yes, then you should continue your digital marketing efforts, including guest blogging, because SEO is not your only metric. Many marketers can lose sight of more traditional benefits like building brand awareness and reputation, which remain important factors even today.
You may be just starting your content marketing strategy for the first time this year, or you may be taking a hard look at what you need to change in your existing strategy. Either way, you need to pay attention to these five trends when you’re building and executing your plan for 2014.
Until next time,
The TextMaster Team