To say the very least, 2013 has been an interesting year for search engine optimization, made up of equal parts frustration and excitement. There was a flurry of Penguin and Panda updates, and the last minute introduction of the Google’s new Hummingbird algorithm to increase relevant search results. We saw the debut of the Knowledge Graph, and the welcome return of Google Alerts.
Through it all were changes to backlinking protocols, a renewed emphasis on authorship rankings, and the rise of social media as a major metric for Google and other search engines.
Some SEO ideas are here to stay, while others need to be evaluated closely. So, as the old year is behind us, it’s time to shake off the dust of 2013 and look ahead to what’s in store for SEOs and webmasters in 2014.
Better Content Spells Better SEO
The mantra “Content is King” has long been a rallying cry for SEOs, and that will continue to hold true as we ramp up the new year. In the wake of Hummingbird, providing top quality authoritative content for the online user will become even more important. Short bursts of low value content, over optimized with strategically placed keywords, will no longer work. It actually hasn’t for quite some time. Google is looking for in-depth content that offers valuable information to the reader. And as we all know, where Google goes the other search engines “try” follow. Now is the time to step up both your production of online content, and its overall quality. An emphasis on syndication through social media channels should be utilized where ever possible.
Rich Snippets and Google Authorship
If Google is demanding better content from websites, they also want to know who is creating that content. Google Authorship allows writers to link their Google+ profile with their published content. Much like a newspaper byline, this allows internet users and search engines to associate a single writer with their ongoing body of work. A rich snippet is attached to the articles a writer publishes online. This allows readers to associate a face and a name with the content they are looking for so that it is easier to follow writers whom they trust. This also allows Google to assess a writer’s value to the online community, and to assign a value ranking to their overall output. If Google sees you as a trusted authority on a subject, the authority will pass to all of your subsequent posts. If you haven’t yet linked you Google+ profile to your published content, make sure to make Authorship a top priority.
Link Building in 2014
Link building is a major part of SEO, but it has been so badly abused in the past that Google and other search engines have had to take action. They have begun to devalue link building, and in many cases are actively penalizing websites using manipulative link building techniques. Restrictions on link building are only going to get tighter in 2014, and sites with an abundance of spammy or irrelevant links will get punished. As the new year approaches, now is the time to clean up your website and remove, or disavow, any unwanted or questionable links. Do not use Google disavow if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Guest Posting and Infographics
Guest posting has been all the rage in 2013, along with infographics for link baiting. It’s critical that you use these tactics in stride in 2014. There’s no telling what link building scheme Google will come down on next. Keep in mind that their #1 focus will always be high value in search results. It’s my strong opinion that either author bio’s in guest posts, embeds in infographics, or some other metric tied to these tactics will be devalued. As long as you keep your content value high, stay diverse, and contribute to well-known sites, you will be fine.
Mobile Friendly Websites
Over the last year, there has been a definite spike in the level of internet traffic originating from mobile devices. Most sites are seeing anywhere from 25-30% of their traffic coming from mobile devices. This trend isn’t going to change in 2014, and it is important that SEOs and webmasters make their websites mobile friendly. Responsive websites that are quick to load, and that perform well over a multitude of different devices, will receive more natural traffic from consumers. That’s not only better for business, but it will ultimately result in better page ranking overall. If your website isn’t mobile friendly, now is the time to bring it line.
The face of the internet is changing, and online users are responding to clean lines and visual simplicity in website design. Flat design emphasizes a bold user interface that relies on bright colors, flat icons, and easy to read typography. The key to flat design is simplicity. Keep your websites uncluttered, and easy to navigate. This appeals both to the user’s aesthetic sensibilities, and will help your website perform better on low resolution mobile devices.
Page Load Speed and Technical SEO
With all the advancements in 2013 towards high value content and link building, Google is running out of options to increase search value. You can definitely bet on Google looking at website performance as an increasing measure in 2014. At the top of this list is page speed. There’s no reason why your site is not loading at 2-3 seconds. Get away from Hostgator and other low quality web hosting companies immediately. Other measures such as compression, caching static content, and using a content delivery network will always increase your SEO value.
Yes, it’s been a hectic year for SEOs and webmasters, and undoubtedly 2014 will hold a few surprises as well. But the fundamentals of SEO remain strong, and these few highlights of what you can expect in the new year should make it easier to say good-bye to 2013 and hello to the year ahead.