Last month, I recapped things people were talking about most in SEO in 2013. Now let's talk about a few things we should be discussing in 2014.
This year SEO professionals will have to keep pace with innovation. SEO is all about improving things now to achieve results in the future, so how will 2014 be different from 2013? What do we need to do to overcome future update issues?
Here are six things every SEO professional should be concerned about in 2014:
1. Maintain the Basics
Content is still king in 2014, but beyond that the fundamentals of sound on-page architectural SEO haven't changed that much. For content to get evaluated and have a chance to rank core on-page, SEO has to be optimized. The keyword research and on-page SEO are crucial for a successful campaign, especially in the beginning.
Ever since Google stopped providing keyword data, it has become harder to predict which keywords should be pursued. There are some companies that started focusing more on brand recognition than non-branded keywords. By becoming an authority in their industry, they have a better chance to appear in the SERPS even if they are not optimizing for specific keywords.
2. Develop a Content Marketing Strategy
Content marketing is the process of creating and disseminating content that is both relevant and valuable. How do we define that? It should be content that will attract, acquire, and engage a well-defined target audience. Ultimately the goal of that content is to drive a desired customer action.
Content marketing is the art of speaking to your audience without selling. Instead of pitching your products or services, deliver information that makes the audience more intelligent, more informed. The fundamental principle of this content strategy is the concept that delivering consistent, ongoing valuable information to users will drive interaction and ultimately result in loyalty.
3. Address Mobile -- Move to a Responsive Design Site
With the huge growth of mobile devices worldwide year-over-year, there is no doubt a website should work for mobile devices as it does for desktops. Responsive design coding makes it possible to have one website that fits all devices. No more messy codes or subdirectories and folders. Responsive design works in all platforms and devices no matter how big or small they are. Best of all Google tells us directly that it's their preferred technique in dealing with the multiple device issue.
A mobile-ready website is important because in addition to improving the user experience, "this boosts visibility due to increased visits, reduced bounce rates, better search engine result rankings, more return visits, and more social shares," says Jayme Pretzloff, online marketing director for Wixon Jewelers.
4. Link Building -- Yes Still!
For years link building was the SEO professional's best friend, until now. After numerous Google algorithm updates, it has become quite difficult to achieve meaningful external link building results. At present, it's not only a question of how many links a site has, but also the intent behind acquiring the links. Google uses all its power to fight spammers across all industries. The result impacts everyone along the way -- not just spammers.
A couple of "bad links" pointing back to a website can have a significant negative impact in the SERPS. To avoid spammers appearing in the top of the SERPs, Google has been fighting link networks very aggressively. Last year, Google brought down several networks and are continuing to do the same in 2014.
Here's a tweet from Matt Cutts a few days ago:
Google also has a page about link schemes.
The takeaway message is: Avoid acquiring links from unknown sources and link networks. Clean up the bad links from your inventory and be consistent in looking for good-quality links from authority websites in relevant, related industries -- if its right for your visitor, Google should like it!
5. Schema Markup
Structured data helps the search engines quickly and easily understand the different elements of a page, such as articles, events, and local address information. The type of markup used by search engines is very diverse. Some examples include: authorship, event snippet, breadcrumb, reviews, recipe, video, and geo tag. It's worth noting that not all the markups will apply for every single industry. You have to do the research to establish which ones would benefit your site the most.
We all know Google loves more data and if they can turn around and provide to the user, all the better. One of the most used tools from Google, Google Webmaster Tools, allows users to highlight the data elements in the website that can later be read by Google. Then the data can be presented more attractively, and in new ways, in search results and in other products such as the Google Knowledge Graph.
6. Engage in Social Media
The big social players continue to dominate market share. Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ are still the biggest social media sites in the world. Some might say that YouTube is part of that list, too, while others prefer to leave it as the second-biggest search engine.
Social media marketing should be used to increase engagement from customers, to notify followers about current news and promotions, and encourage customers to come back. Admittedly, it is not easy to stand out from the competition. So here are some things to start with that can be done to attract more followers and keep the current ones: Create interesting headlines, post quality content, make content shareable, pay attention to visual media, be consistent, be active, and provide links when applicable.
Ultimately a strong social presence serves as a solid way to drive traffic and build brand awareness. Additionally, it can have indirect influence on ranking potential. For these reasons alone, it has to be part of your strategy in 2014.
So there we have it. Six areas where you should pay attention in the upcoming year to succeed in search engine optimization. What are your thoughts? What are some new areas you'll be watching this year?
Meet Your Favorite ClickZ Contributors
Many of ClickZ's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Jeremy Hull, Lisa Raehsler, Andrew Goodman, Bryan Eisenberg, Mathew Sweezey, Aaron Kahlow, Stephanie Miller, Simms Jenkins, Jeanne S. Jennings, Dave Hendricks and more!
Crispin Sheridan is the Senior Director, Global Search at SAP. As part of the digital team, he established and leads the search and testing practices at SAP. Crispin is responsible for paid, natural, and mobile search and all online testing. Search and testing at SAP are fully centralized and globally funded and run under a hybrid in-house and agency model.
Crispin has proven that search learnings and keyword insights work hand in hand with social media marketing and together can effectively drive B2B lead generation. Furthermore, the development of the SAP.com Test Lab has contributed significant success to SAP's digital marketing efforts.
A frequent guest speaker at conferences, including SES New York, San Francisco, Toronto, London, Delhi, Shanghai, and Hong Kong, Crispin was appointed to the SES Advisory Board in December 2009. He has also been a guest speaker at the e-Metrics Summit and ad:Tech, and is a member of Google's B2B Technology Council. You can follow him on Twitter at @crispinsheridan and read his monthly SEO column on ClickZ.
March 19, 2014