SEO Trends for 2014

SEO in particular is difficult to predict, its ever-changing nature means that even industry-leaders can have a difficult time seeing where things might develop over the course of an entire year. Looking at trends from 2013, developments in Google’s offering and web and PPC predictions, we have pulled together some of our thoughts on SEO trends for 2014.
Content Marketing comes of age – matures from a buzz phrase into a widespread strategic approach
This has been a long time coming. People have been talking about content marketing as the way forward for a while now (content marketing as a concept is as old as the hills) but what people have been saying and what we see in search results has often been quite a different picture. It’s still commonplace to find sites with low quality, thin content ranking for highly competitive keywords, seemingly on the strength of spammy backlinks (directories, comments, even blog networks). This can be extremely frustrating for business owners and digital marketing professionals alike, however, with the algorithm updates last year, we’re moving towards a place where the message and the reality are more closely aligned. Which is good news for everyone (well, everyone except black hat SEOs, spammers and people that are benefiting from artificially high rankings).
Google+ will make its presence felt
Again, this is an issue that has been floating around for a couple of years. Speculation is rife about the ‘SEO benefits’ of Google+; Do +1’s improve rankings? Does authorship markup improve click-through rate’s? Will Google favour people who are active members of the G+ community? With Google’s influence, it seems likely that they will ‘encourage’ people onto their social media platform one way or another and there have been whisperings that 2014 could be the year that this begins in earnest. We say it can’t hurt to have an active presence on Google+ but it depends on what’s right for your business and, as with any other platform, you shouldn’t engage just because “you have to have a Google+”
We’ll see more of the knowledge graph and Hummingbird’s influence
This one ties into the increased emphasis on content marketing mentioned above. The Hummingbird update signals Google’s intent to bring search into line with the way humans request and respond to information. Gone are the days when search engines simply crawled the web looking for a phrase to match your search query. Hummingbird improved the way Google understands the semantics behind a request and will seek content that answers, or is related to, that query (with the help of the knowledge graph), as opposed to searching for text or a title that mirrors the searcher’s request. As a result of this, sites should target themes and concepts as opposed to simple keywords and phrases. Again, this can only be positive for businesses and consumers alike.
A move to responsive will sound the death knell for ‘mobile seo’
Mobile SEO as a concept came on the scene with the widespread adoption of Smartphones a few years ago. The strange thing about mobile SEO is that advice can vary wildly depending on who you listen to; some people tell you there is no such thing, while others recommend it as an integral part of your SEO campaign. The truth is somewhere between the two, a mobile version of your website is obviously an improvement to the user experience of anyone accessing your site from a smartphone/mobile device (for anyone who has had to zoom in on tiny text or try to press a button the size of a pinhead, you can testify to this) so may, may help your site’s search engine optimisation, from the point of view of user experience. The other thing is that Google does keep a separate index of cached mobile pages for sites that redirect from their main website, however, rankings for these are based on the rankings of that main site (i.e. you can’t specifically optimise your mobile site for search engines). Responsive sites remove the need for a redirect or a separate cache and makes the mobile experience more closely aligned with the desktop experience (at least in terms of content, if not the layout) which allows a site to target both mobile and desktop users. 2014 looks like the year that mobile devices could replace desktops as the most popular devices for web-browsing, so sites that don’t take account of this are liable to be left behind.
Local SEO will play a bigger role
Local SEO, in the form of Google and Bing’s map listings have been on the scene for a few years now, however, the most popular form, Google Places has been in flux since the arrival of Google+. For a couple of years now it has seemed that Google hasn’t been sure about how to amalgamate the two, this year it seems that Google will finally get its act together and allow more mixed media to be supported on your Google Places listing, through Google+. All of which means if your business serves people in your locale, you will have greater flexibility to brand your Places listing with more informative, engaging content and build your local online presence.
Video content will play a bigger role
Ask any SEO about video a few years ago and they would have perhaps given you a “Meh”; video content would be viewed the same as Flash and images, i.e. invisible to search engines. This traditionally made video content a slightly grey area for most SEOs, obviously, video content can be great for the user experience but would not necessarily impact your site’s rankings (at least not until recently). Today, rich snippets and semantic markup (e.g. mean that video can play an integral role in the way your site is viewed by search-engines and visitors both. If video is the most effective way to get across the message or story that best represents your brand and values, it should definitely be incorporated into your online strategy.
Guest blogging will be under scrutiny
Google has hinted a lot lately about their plans to go after spammy guest bloggers in 2014. High volumes of links built solely through guest posting, without due care and attention to quality will cause issues for those site owners that engage in this practice. Some are claiming that this will equal the end of guest blogging altogether (notably the same people that announced the ‘Death of SEO’ in 2013), however a more reasonable take on this would be that guest posting is still ok; if what you are creating is useful and good quality, and you are posting on a strong site, but it shouldn’t be your only link building method.
The overarching theme is that with Google’s algorithm updates, Big G has begun to back up the message of good content and good user experience being key. Where previously, there have always been loopholes to be exploited by spammers, black, grey and even white hat SEO proponents, with Hummingbird and the increasing influence of social, we’re moving towards a position where old tactics really will cease to be effective. This is great news for users and scrupulous agencies (like us) who have long espoused the virtues of good content and good user experience. The message therefore is be creative and really try to do everything with quality and the customer in mind (no quick fixes!).
Find out how we can help you to make the most of digital in 2014, get in touch here or call us on 0800 222 9300

Written by Alex Wright

Head of Search