2013 made it imperative for SEOs to reconsider and evolve their existing SEO strategies. Let’s have a look at some key drivers to keep in mind going forward, for 2014 and beyond.
Rich Snippets enable Webmasters to include a summary of relevant information that helps their website stand out, such as ratings, reviews, customer testimonials, location, etc. as supplemental data on the website’s search result itself. This gives the user additional relevant information pertaining to his or her search without even having to navigate away from the search results page. Google spends time initially analyzing the veracity or the domain, the factual information provided therein etc. before accepting your website’s Rich Snippets. If Google accepts your website’s rich snippets, it indicates an increase in trust placed on your domain, which in turn helps your SERPs improve.
Off-Page Optimization Changes
Off–Page Optimization refers to third party influence driving traffic to your site and also involves back-linking what others write about you via blogs, news articles, RSS feeds, social networks and any other sources. This changes the way you communicate with influencers and draft your PR literature. Millions of sites took advantage of Google’s approach to off-page optimization up until a couple of years ago. But with Google incorporating many changes since then and tweaking their algorithm to ensure spammy, non-relevant, black-hat link campaigns penalize rankings rather than improve them, SEOs and Webmasters will have to be extremely careful in determining their off-page optimization campaigns and scopes of work.
Content is King
Going ahead, search will be about interaction and it will go beyond static keywords. People are evolving in the way they interact with their devices. This has lead to changes in the way the information is structured. Google has recognized the need to go beyond basic search based on generic categories. Changes in Google’s algorithm have led to a need to revisit and repackage content strategies. The content has to provide answers and add value to the query. It has to be dynamic and relevantly packaged for consumption – whether in the form of text, audio, video or images.Mobile search volumes are rapidly increasing as people become accustomed to finding information on the go. Form-factors need to be factored in while designing content. A particular site’s desktop audience might expect different information, in a different context, than its mobile audience. People are not merely searching, they are conversing - framing search queries as if they are asking another human being. If your website can engage your visitor and ‘reply’ back in a similar vein, you’re on the right track.
Analytics to assume new found importance
It’s all about knowing exactly what’s driving traffic and what’s causing a backslide. One needs to have an insight into each metric like traffic, conversions and resulting business gains. One will need to get real about measuring actual data and not rough estimates. Marketers and analysts need to collaborate to arrive at smart and effective SEO strategies. It will revolve around a shift to page-centric SEO, with individual web pages bringing in not only new visitors but also new types of visitors. Google has been moving away from providing specific keyword-based traffic information over the past 2 years, and most predict that in 2014, Google will render organic keyword-driven traffic analysis obsolete under the pretext of user privacy. That obstinate, all-elusive ‘not provided’ keyword result in your analytics platform will continue to grow, and SEOs will have to come up with new, innovative ways to measure in-bound traffic, using reference points such as estimated impressions and landing-page-wise traffic statistics.
Data will drive your growth
Today, due to the proliferation of smart devices and internet on the move, data is being generated everywhere. A combination of both structured and unstructured data, if leveraged well, can serve as great sources to generate insights into consumer behavior, competition status, what is driving conversation in the world of the web etc. All this information can generate actionable intelligence driving your unique SEO strategy built on data generated from actual users and consumers. The right combination of handpicked, curated references and automated, syndicated data streams will boost your website’s overall credibility. Google Analytics is going to help you leverage these insights.
The impact of social signals on a domain’s credibility was on a steady upswing over the past few years; and since 2012, that impact exploded. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Google+ shares, referrals and linkages are all social signals that have gained multifold importance in recent times, and this is only expected to grow further in 2014. Predictably, Google Plus referrals and shares in particular have been given particularly high weightage in determining a website’s credibility.
Google reasons that ultimately, users and user experience must play a larger role in determining how useful a website is, and social networks are the primary source of relevant data in this respect. As Google fine-tunes the ways in which social signals factor into their algorithm, expect an even larger contribution from your household social networks.
Google is leading the way in achieving excellence in the way digital strategies are created and implemented. Convergence of mobile, tablets, laptops along with the daily influx of new apps, social media networks, websites, blogs, etc. it is tough to break through the clutter. Google has made changes in its search strategy and tools to focus on qualitative driven results rather than only the quantitative. All these changes are pointing towards a new era of content driven strategies rising above just random clicks and basic keywords oriented approach. It will be interesting to watch and learn how the businesses are going to leverage these changes and try to maximize from their unique benefits. 2014 promises to be a new renaissance in the world of the digital marketplace with Google leading the way.
In retrospect, 2013 gave us a fair sense of direction in the SEO landscape. There is enough indication that Google is trying to make their algorithm as less ‘gameable’ as possible; that is to say, they’re trying to make it more and more difficult to manipulate. This is excellent for two stakeholders: the user, and the white hat SEO. 2014 will be an interesting year for SEO and we’re proud to be a part of it.