If you are the person responsible for SEO or internet marketing at your company you know that 2013 threw some interesting curve balls your way. Updates to the Penguin and Panda Google algorithms were followed up by an entirely new Hummingbird update that is forcing SEOs to dig deeper than ever. The search engines are making it harder for everyone to compete yet are leveling the playing field by seeding out “grey-hat” SEO tactics that were being used to game the system.
In a sense SEO is better than ever in terms of bringing the best content to the people who are looking for it. But the process of creating and distributing content is more challenging than ever and the merger of creative marketing plans with online strategies is part of what is driving the most recent trends forward. Those who embrace and can forecast what is likely to come will be prepared to handle ranking and web traffic in 2104.
Here are some SEO forecasts for 2014 based on what happened it 2013 and the way search is evolving out in the real world.
Learn the Past to Understand the Future
If there was one thing we can all take away from 2013 it was that there will be no more cheating the system. Over the last few years we have seen the rise of mediocre companies with poorly designed websites and lackluster value-add somehow rank. In 2013 these websites paid the ultimate price of implementing grey hat techniques and were finally taken down a few pegs as their poor link quality and content quality was brought to light.
It should be evident in 2014 that SEOs who build links or create content solely for the sake of ranking keywords will get what is coming. Those who create great content that is worth linking to will be the ones who continue to win and will not have to inorganically try to inflate their rankings based on spammy linkbuilding techniques.
Build the Trust Signals of Brands
Google likes brands for a few reasons. These are the same reasons American’s like brands: trust, familiarity, reliability, sustainability. These are just a few words commonly associated with brands. In 2014 companies who succeed in earning the recognition of their customers as trustworthy and reliable brands will likely succeed in the online world as well.
Content Marketing will get Harder
This year’s B2B Content Marketing report highlighted the fact that companies with content marketing strategies in place consider themselves to more effective than those who don’t. Today’s content marketer (yes, these are very important positions in many companies) have to be involved in more things than ever in order to make a splash on the search engines and more importantly with their consumers. Amongst the most commonly used tactics of content marketing that will be more evident in 2014 will be:
- Social media
- Website articles
Good content alone was never really enough for Google to take notice although this is often the remedy companies will hear most. Good content and a sound distribution strategy (i.e. social media) are really what separate the men from the boys. Having more robust campaigns in these arenas will continue to be more important as consumers seek more content than ever and companies need to be in more places than one to get their message across.
Social Media will Require More Attention
In the past few years brands could get away with having a presence on one or two main social media hubs. In 2014 this will likely not be so and your company will have to be creative about interacting and engaging on multiple networks. According to the same content marketing study mentioned above, the most successful companies are active on at least seven social media networks. Unfortunately for marketers employing the same strategy on all of these networks is unlikely to be effective. Different networks tend to have different user behavior and while a picture contest is likely to work on your Instagram network with consumers under 25 your presence on LinkedIn will likely take a completely different angle.
Mobile will Not be Ignored
Early reports from Black Friday and Cyber Monday indicate that consumers are buying through their mobile devices like never before. Tablet and smartphone usage is unquestionably on the rise and this means more consumers will be browsing your site and making purchasing decisions through their handheld devices as much or more so than in person. In addition to the obvious need for mobile friendly websites, companies in 2014 will also have to pay more attention to consumer behavior on mobile devices (analytics) in addition to the search trends that stem from the rise of voice search.
The good news about SEO in 2014 is that it is somewhat predictable. Branding, content, social media and mobile will all have an effect on how well you are able to rank and convert leads. In 2014 more than ever shortcuts will lead to failure and those brands who are in tune with sound linkbuilding and content strategies will be able to capture the attention of the search engines and those consumers who make all the difference.
What are you forecasting for SEO in 2014? Please let us know in the comments.