By now, you've likely broken some New Year's resolutions. What else was on your list this year? Eating better, exercising and reading more might be great goals, but the one you made about creating a search engine optimization (SEO) plan actually needs to happen. Even if you had a solid 2013 on the SEO front (despite the various Google changes), there's no better time to briefly review what SEO can mean to your business and take a peek at some 2014 trends.
It's typically agreed upon that SEO isn't the most highly understood marketing medium. Understandable SEO stats are:
- 70 percent of links that search users click on are organic results.
- 70 percent to 80 percent of search users ignore paid search ads.
- 75 percent of search users are not clicking past the first page of search results.
- Organic search traffic produces 25 percent higher conversion rates than traffic driven by equivalent paid search traffic.
Those stats shouldn't be scary to you if you have been employing proper—and not black-hat—SEO practices. Those stats should give you more reason or a reminder of your need to stay ahead of the SEO curve. A good way to do is be to review your SEO plan against the following five trends for 2014:
1. Animal House
Three creatures may guide you in 2014. Google's Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird algorithm updates may have been painful to you, or you heard horror stories, but they gave us some great takeaways that should be used to your advantage in 2014: Publish high-quality content that you know your target market is looking for and wants to consume. Publish this content often.
High-quality content also means writing in a natural, friendly manner and thinking about how your content is answering readers' questions. Continue thinking about high quality as you build inbound links. It's always safest to have inbound links from reputable sites, influential bloggers and key partners. High-quality inbound links should stand up to whatever changes Google makes, for years to come.
2. Be Responsive
Responsive design may be key to holding your SEO ground in 2014. "Google has made it very clear with their latest guidance on responsive design, mobile SERPs and similar topics that mobile is their focus heading into 2014," says Tommy Landry, president of Return On Now, an Austin-based Internet marketing consulting services firm. "Mobile browsing is poised to bypass desktop in volume within the next six to 18 months, and so this is no laughing matter."
Responsive design will give your users a more consistent experience, no matter what device they are on. This better experience will not only boost your search rankings, it will also improve your conversion rates and other key customer acquisition and retention metrics.
3. Play the Game
Use Google's tools to score much higher in "the Google game." Use Google Analytics to analyze and make improvements to your site's performance. Performance matters to the search engines, and it will contribute to your site's search engine rankings. Google Analytics or nearly any analytics software you use can also help you a great deal with overall site and marketing optimization.
Use these tools to answer questions like: "Are certain pages getting lots of visits, but not many conversions?" or "What marketing channels are producing the best conversion rates?" The data you glean will be beneficial beyond your SEO. Use Google Webmaster Tools to glean keyword data that is no longer available via Google Analytics. This change in 2013 was at first a bit of a shock, but there are ways to combat it. If you are running paid search ads, and I assume you are, use that data to help educate yourself about where to put your efforts regarding specific keyword targeting on the SEO side of things.
4. Get Googled
Google Authorship, Author Rank and Google+ will be highly discussed in SEO circles this year. "In 2014, we'll see more talk about Google Author Rank in the SEO community, but there will still not be any way for us to see what our Author Rank is," said Bill Hartzer, founder of the Dallas/Fort Worth Search Engine Marketing Association, in a recent blog post.
He goes on to state that Google+ will be a place where you have to be in 2014. Influence is something that you are aiming for, and influence on Google+ is likely to be key to your Author Rank. Be sure all of your original content includes Google Authorship markup.
5. Social Butterflies Win
Social media impacts search results and a whole lot more in 2014 (and beyond). While social is and will continue to be an awesome vehicle for customer engagement and brand building, you can't forget about its impact on search. This will continue in 2014 and beyond.
As mentioned earlier, Google+ will continue to grow as a medium for content sharing and discovery. You'll want to analyze each social media platform to see which are the best fits for your business. Are visuals of your product key? Then you should be on Pinterest. Keep in mind that the average U.S.-based business in now on seven social media platforms, so you don't necessarily have to be on all of them. But you do want to be on and active in any of them that are right for you.
Don't be afraid to try a few that might not seem like good fits upon first review. You might be surprised and find that a not-perfect social channel is just want your brand needs to find a new band of customers.
Remember to keep things simple when it comes to SEO. If what you are doing feels right for your customers and readers, then it will likely be right for your SEO. High-quality content written in a natural manner will go a long way. Think about user experience and the fact that more and more people are browsing the Web on non-desktop devices. Use Google tools to be better at "the Google games." Finally, social media will continue to impact your business on so many levels, including SEO.
Onward and upward (and to the right) in 2014, and best of luck with all of your SEO efforts.