SEO Roadmap for 2014
2013 is drawing to a close. Understandably, online marketers are now busy discussing expectations, projections, and preparations for their 2014 SEO campaigns. As you build your own roadmap for your 2014 SEO strategies, it’s important for you to bear the most significant changes of 2013 in mind. Google’s Knowledge Graph enabled the search engine to understand the meaning of web content whereas the Hummingbird update enabled it to understand the context behind search queries.
These changes are significant because to a certain extent, they will dictate the direction your SEO strategies will take in 2014. For one thing, it seems to lead online marketers towards focusing more on semantic SEO and entity-based search results. Why semantic SEO, you ask?
It is aligned with the manner in which search engines are expected to handle future searches and search results.
You may have noticed Google gradually veering away from the traditional way of ranking search results from the most relevant to the least. In a bid to make their results listing more customized to users, they’re now taking into account factors such as the freshness factor, localization, context, and personalization. Semantic search aims to respond to both the stated and implied needs based on the perceived meaning behind search queries. Semantic SEO, therefore, aims to provide answers in as few clicks as possible. Structured data markup helps search engines understand the connection between queries and web content, and how content solves problems implied in queries.
It can help improve your conversion goals.
Note that we’re saying it can as opposed to it will. If you’re doing things right and you’ve managed to achieve consistently good rankings, then structured data markup indeed has an excellent chance of helping you improve your click-through rates and consequently, your conversion goals. A Google+ Authorship test has even shown that blog posts with author markup receive twice as many clicks as those without.
What with its emphasis on structured data markups, it helps improve user interaction with your brand and enhance overall user experience.
Your site visitors may not actually see structured data markup on any of your web pages, but the rich snippets provided by these markups will definitely allow for more engagement. When users see an image, a rating, and the presence of customer reviews right on search results pages, they’re likelier to click on your link than others, regardless of your ranking (as long as you’re on the first page of SERPs, of course). These snippets are sure to make your listing stand out from even your higher-ranking competitors.
Other than focusing on semantic SEO, it’s a given that you’ll have to take care of fundamental issues concerning content and technical factors on your site. In fact, it would be wise for you to take care of these issues before you even begin focusing on the changes in the search experience. Here are some of the most important questions you should ask yourself for the purpose of identifying possible issues that need to be addressed and problems that need to be solved on your site:
- Does your home page clearly tell visitors what you have to offer?
- Does each of your web pages have a unique and relevant title tag?
- Are the headlines on each of your web pages clear and concise?
- Does each of your page URLs give users an idea of what the page is all about?
- Is your content really informative, relevant, and engaging?
- Are there duplicate pages on your website or pages that have very similar content they may as well be the same?
- Is there text on any of your web pages that has duplicates on any other web page or site?
- Are related topics and pages internally linked such that site visitors can make full use of them?
- Do any of your links lead to error pages?
- Is it easy to navigate and use your website?
- Do your web pages have clear calls to action?
- Do your web pages load within three seconds or less?
Needless to say, your answers to the above questions have to be yes, except for those referring to duplicate content/pages and broken links (error pages). Make sure, though, that you don’t just answer without giving the questions much thought. Remember that your goal is to improve your website to make sure you’re ready for whatever changes may lie ahead. You therefore need to be as objective and honest in answering the above questions as you can possibly be. This exercise is, after all, for your own benefit.
Now, you may have observed that these questions have something to do with both user experience and the ease with which search engines can “read” your site. The reason why it’s necessary to address issues concerning both users and machines is that the outlook for 2014 points towards the need to make websites easy for both users and search engines to navigate.
The above checklist of questions that need to be addressed is far from complete. Understandably, each website has its own set of issues, needs, target market, and problems. The point is for you to check your site as thoroughly as you can to make it as near perfect as possible in the coming year. The above questions (and your answers) should help you identify at least three things that need your attention as you prepare your SEO strategy for 2014.
2014 SEO Success Factors
Now you realize the importance of thoroughly checking your website for possible problems before setting your SEO plan for 2014 in motion. You also know that a focus on semantic SEO may be in order if you want to survive well beyond 2014. At this point, you’re likely ready to find out what factors you need to consider so as to ensure SEO success in the coming year.
2013 SEO Environment
The loudest buzz in the SEO world in 2013 had to do with one algorithmic change after another implemented by Google. There were also a number of changes that had to do with other aspects of search, such as Google Now, the Knowledge Graph, Local Carousel, and secure search (often referred to as the “not provided” update). These changes had online marketers scrambling to keep up and understand the direction in which Google is leading them and other search engines. As the end of 2013 draws near, it’s important that you gain as complete an understanding of these changes as possible, so you can adopt the right mindset for success as you welcome 2014.
Social, Local, and Mobile SEO
For the past few years, you’ve probably had your fill of advice regarding the importance of social media marketing, local SEO, and going mobile. If you listened to these pieces of advice, then good for you! They were likely to have led you to implement some proactive SEO strategies that allowed you to move away from too much focus on SERP rankings and keywords, and look closely instead at how various factors work together to affect search results. They would also have led you to focus more on improving the overall experience of your site visitors.
If you have long began to work on the social, local, and mobile aspects of SEO, then you probably saw how local and social started to converge and soon got integrated into Google search results. You’ve also probably seen how localization has made search results more relevant in both web and mobile searches. Additionally, you’ve most likely seen how fast the popularity of mobile search has grown. All of these observations will come in very handy as you map out your SEO plan for 2014.
The Future of SEO
When the “not provided” update was officially announced, online marketers were somehow caught by surprise and disappointed. Although there are some who expected something like this to happen, they didn’t really expect it so soon. Remember what I said earlier about heeding the advice regarding a shift in SEO focus? Well, that was true with this update as well. Those who had started veering away from focusing on keywords too much took it rather well when they started seeing “not provided” in their analytics data.
Some things worth considering as you look towards the future of SEO:
- Proximity and review generation, rather than keywords, are important factors that can help you with Local Carousel.
- You can’t expect Google to provide you with Knowledge Graph box for a certain keyword.
- Google Now probably won’t do anything for your keyword strategy, but your efforts on social media will.
When you look at this more carefully, you’ll realize that when all of these updates are tied-in, they lead to making search conversational, and that is where your SEO direction should also point in 2014.
Is SEO Dead?
There had to be a mention of the death of SEO, otherwise this would not be a SEO roadmap post :)
With all the algorithmic and technology changes as well as the shifts in focus that occurred in 2013, many are asking if SEO, as a profession, can now be considered dead. The answer: Far from it!
Take a close look at the business environment these days. You’ll realize there’s still a very strong need (maybe even stronger now than ever before) for businesses to make their presence felt online. You’re also likely to see that the online marketing landscape has become very, very competitive. Additionally, the potential for getting huge returns on your investment in online marketing is significantly greater.
Considering all these, how can you even entertain the notion of SEO being dead? SEO is most definitely NOT dead! It’s just that the time of using black hat and even gray hat SEO tactics has passed and now is the time for SEO professionals to step up their game and adopt a better and richer vision. It is now more critical to anticipate the next moves of Google and other search engines. Here are a few possibilities:
What you learned in 2013 will be amplified.
The updates Google implemented in 2013 generally targeted websites that planned to get to the top of SERP rankings by cheating, instead of providing value to their site visitors. This trend is expected to continue even beyond 2014. Future adjustments to search engine algorithms are expected to target the quality of both links and content. You can set up a proactive SEO campaign by performing regular site audits and making sure your links and content are always solid and of excellent quality.
Content marketing will be even more important.
Content has always been at the core of online marketing. It will become even more important in 2014, as Google places more value on websites with robust content. Solid and consistent efforts at content marketing will now be construed as a sign that you’re the kind of business Google supports.
With a good content marketing strategy, you’ll be able to regularly provide your target market with relevant and useful content. Excellent content will earn you a lot of social signals from engagement and sharing. High-quality content is also seen as one of the signs of a growing website. Finally, a good content strategy will help you build authority.
These are exactly the things Google wanted you to bear in mind when they implemented their recent updates. The changes you need to make in 2014 as regards content will depend on where your content marketing strategy stands today. It’s time to truly commit to quality content and keep responsiveness in mind.
Social media will become increasingly important as a SEO tool.
With the rise of Facebook and Twitter, social media increasingly became important in the world of Internet marketing. They were soon joined by other social sites like Instagram, Pinterest, and of course, Google+. In 2014, you’ll have to start taking your social media strategy very seriously and invest some serious effort in building your presence in Google+. Be active in at least the three most popular general social networking sites as well as the three most popular niche- or industry-related social networking sites.
This year was marked by an overwhelming number of changes. Planning for 2014 can be understandably daunting. When you think about it, though, the recent changes have made it a lot easier for you to see where the trends are headed in the next few years. Therefore, it should really be easy enough to map out your strategies for 2014 and beyond.
Good luck and see you at the top!