In 2013, Google updated their search algorithm 14 times. Major 2013 changes included releases of Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird, and the shift away from providing keyword data thanks to encrypted search. Google’s ongoing algorithm updates already influence marketers to strategically create engaging, relevant, in-depth content that meet the information-seeking needs of their target audiences. With 2014 just around the corner, SEOs and website owners alike should be preparing their strategies and campaigns for the year to come.
We’ve compiled these useful suggestions for companies and SEO professionals that are thinking ahead to 2014.
SEO at its core will never be dead. All of the on-site needs we executed in 2013 will remain important in 2014 and the overarching pillars of content creation, social media marketing and link building will likely remain the three most important factors that impact search rankings. How you employ these pillars alongside their continual evolution, will determine how successful your online marketing will be in 2014.
Prepare Your SEO for 2014
1. Captivate with Content
In 2014, content will continue to be an increasingly important and relevant SEO strategy. If your website lacks promotional content or you don’t have a business blog, you may see you rankings drop. From an SEO perspective, search engines like Google will continue to provide users with the most relevant data. Since users are searching with more semantic queries, as content marketers and business owners, we must focus on quality over quantity.
Companies and SEO professionals will need to be asking the following questions in the year ahead about their content marketing strategy:
Do you have the time and resources to write this content yourself?
Are you curating and marketing your content to reach your intended audience by finding the right channels to promote and publish?
Will you be able to consistently update and manage your content marketing strategy?
Here are our recommendations for preparing your content marketing strategy for 2014:
Plan It Out: Take some time to brainstorm content for 2014 and create a list of small, quick pieces and longer, detailed articles, white papers, infographics and videos that will make interesting blog topics. We recommend developing quarterly content calendars that outline major pieces on the horizon 6 and 10 months out. You’ll be grateful that you did when the year gets busy, and you don’t have the time to brainstorm later on.
Hire a Curator: If your business does not have the resources to write blog and promotional content, we highly recommend hiring outside help to curate content for you. Many digital marketing companies (like ours) can create a package deal for a year’s worth of blog articles or offer to revise the content on your site if you hire them for on-page SEO updates.
Proper Promotion: When it comes to curating and marketing your content, keep in mind that it is usually twice as difficult to market your content than it was to write it. A great article is nothing when it is not reaching its intended readers, so take some time to find the appropriate channels.
Keep It Consistent: Content marketing is never a “one and done” activity. Keeping your site fresh with content requires a routine strategy and clear marketing message. If you don’t plan to update your site or blog on a regular basis, don’t expect to see your rankings improve. In order to get your content indexed by search engine bots as quickly as possible we recommend sharing the link to all your social networks as well as some blog sharing directories like the ones listed here.
Social media has been a major player in the digital marketing landscape for the last few years. First we saw the rise of mega platforms like Facebook and Twitter. In the last couple of years, visual content from networks like Pinterest, Instagram, and various micro-video services have swept through. Companies and SEO professionals will need to be asking the following questions in the year ahead:
Are we taking our social media seriously? Are we employing the pillars of strong profiles, good content, reciprocity, and engagement?
Is easy social sharing enabled for all of our content?
Are we active on the social networks that matter in our industry, to our customers and to search engines?
Have you considered Google+ and if not, why?
Frequency and Engagement: Do you spend time on the social media sites that your business is on? Do you ever use these social profiles as a platform to promote or share your content? If you don’t or can’t find the time to do this at least once a day, everyday, then you might even want to find someone to do it for you (i.e. outsource it). Why? Because social media is one of the three most important pillars of SEO as well as a very valuable asset towards driving traffic to your website and building brand authority. Any kind of positive social media activity will significantly increase the chances of getting more positive results through SEO. You will also see a ROI through an improved page-rank.
Social Sharing Made Easy: According to a recent study from BrightEdge Technologies, websites that include social sharing buttons generate 7x more mentions than those that don’t. Adding social sharing buttons for sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ is a great way to encourage your site visitors to share your content on social media. Simply add buttons like these to every landing page, web page, blog article, and other piece of content you create.
Social That Matters: Where are your customers hanging out on social media? Anyone can create a business profile on a social networking site, but you need to know the right places to be active in to reach your audience. You could be using Twitter as a platform to engage your customers, but your customers are all on Pinterest and Facebook. Or you could be posting Facebook status updates daily with no response because your target market is on Google+.
Ensure that the social sites that you join make sense for your business and overall goals. If you’re selling attractive products and have the rights to engaging imagery, you’ll probably want to take advantage of Pinterest, but if you’re looking to interact with viewers and start a discussion, you might want to get your business on Google+. Each business will have it’s own recipe for reaching the right people through the right social networks. Just focus on 2 or 3 networks and make them work for you.
Google+ For the Gold: In addition to strengthening your overall social media marketing position, it’s going to be absolutely critical that you are investing in your Google+ presence. Moz’s most recent study of ranking factors confirms that Google+ is playing an increasingly significant role in a solid SEO ranking. The immediate areas to focus on include:
Establishing Google Authorship of your content, and linking it to your Google+ account. Authorship helps SEO by signaling to search engines that you have authority in the SERPs and helps strengthen your Author Rank.
Those +1′s add up. It isn’t clear exactly how much Google +1′s directly contribute, but it’s fair to say that it’s a major factor in the “social signals” component of Google’s algorithm. We expect too see this increase in the year ahead.
3. Build Links Like A Pro
The concept of link building is where SEO becomes very murky because most search engines have penalized many sites in the past for obtaining links from shady sources. In 2013, Google updated their algorithm to lower the rank of sites that utilized black hat SEO techniques like “link farms” or “link circles” and will continue to penalize websites that link to sites that aren’t industry relevant or significant in any way.
Do you know where your website back links to? (Which websites is your site linking to/ Which sites is your website back linked on?)
Do you know which links on your site are broken and how to repair them?
Do you engage in a link outreach program or strategy?
Are you capable of contributing guest blog content in exchange for a back link?
Have you submitted your website to any online directories?
Here are our recommendations for preparing your link building strategy for 2014:
Link Check: Using webmaster tools, you can check which links point to your site by accessing ‘Search Traffic‘ on the left hand navigation bar and then choosing ‘Links To Your Site.’ Here you will be able to check and evaluate your site’s most linked content, who links to your site the most, and how your data has been linked. This information will help determine if search engines like Google aren’t ranking your content due to back link penalization.
Broken Link Building: This is the practice of finding broken links on good ranking sites and contributing content to fill the void. Moz has a great guide on how to repair broken links, here.
Link Outreach Strategy: “Link building” used to mean building links for SEO, but the future of this practice will start to encompass all links, whether for search value or not. For example, a link in an email newsletter will be one of the types we’ll pursue in the future.
Essentially, link building will start to increasingly become closer to what other forms of marketing are. Find and collect a list of sites in your niche where there is a potential to get back links to your site and work to build relationships with them. To do so, you’ll need to actively participate in social media, blogging, etc. and contact them over the phone, email or other method to ask whether they allow guest posts. Once you have a strategy to ask for links, you must maintain and manage these links to ensure they will help your site.
Guest Blogging for Links: One of the best ways to get exposure for your business is by appearing as a guest blogger on other people’s blogs. Simply reach out to a website owner with the right audience to pitch your guest post. At the end of the article, include an “About the Author” box with a link to your own blog (or Services or Contact page) for more information. This isn’t link building to bump up your Google Page Rank. This is how you build links for instant, targeted, qualified, interested traffic ready to buy. Making guest blogging an integral part of your company’s marketing strategy will over time bring new visitors to your website, some of whom will turn into customers.
Dip Into Some Directories: Submit your site to authoritative directories like DMOZ, Yahoo, Bing for Business, Yelp, Yellow Pages, etc. to gain links that often appear on top search results. For a great tool to help you get on top local listings check out getlisted.
In 2014, SEO-minded businesses need to create long-form, super-relevant content, stay socially active and focus on quality link-building. Though all of this work might sound daunting, all of these processes work hand-in-hand to promote the most successful businesses that are online today. Surviving online in 2014 will require you to step-up your marketing and maybe even your budget in the months to come.
What are the biggest SEO challenges and opportunities that you foresee for 2014? How do you plan to prep your web-based business for up-coming SEO updates?
Contact our digital marketing & SEO team for a free assessment of your business sites’ current search engine stats and ranking positions. We will recommend areas where you should focus your SEO budget and how you can improve your rankings.