The most consistent part of SEO, as we all know very, very well, is that it is constantly evolving. It’s a simple statement, but it’s a big one that we have to remember to prevent ourselves from getting too comfortable if we think we’re doing it right.
While most of the basic concepts evolve more slowly (link building is still good!), specifics factors within general concepts may be changed (Google can now spot you spamming your own link instead of link building organically). These specifics can directly and quickly affect overall success, especially once the larger concepts start to evolve as well. SEO has already started changing this year—and still is.
Read on to find out what me and my Edmonton SEO company friend have decided will be the SEO and online marketing changes that are happening and what you need to know when it comes to updating your search engine optimization skills in 2014 as well as a few things to keep doing right.
More Traffic is Coming From Long tail Keywords
Individual words used in posts or tags as keywords are called short tail keywords. Long tail keywords are phrases, often detailed in exactly what the page is. Utilizing long tail keywords can help you reach your client more quickly, and can help you end up in front of your target audience more directly.
Example: let’s say you’re searching for a fried catfish recipe. If you Google the word catfish, you get about 10,100,000 results. The first result that pops up is about the Catfish TV show. The second is the wikipedia page for the Catfish TV show. The third is the wikipedia page for the actual fish. On the entire first page is not a single recipe.
If, on the other hand, you search for “fried catfish recipe,” you end up with about 313,000 results, and what you’re looking for starts at the top of the first results page! Added bonus: Google has sorted through them all, so the most tried and highest ranked recipes even show up first!
As a user who has figured this out after a search or two, would you search for “catfish” or “fried catfish recipe?” You would use the whole phrase, aka the longtail keyword. This part of SEO reverts to the “think like your customer” rule.
Not only does a longtail keyword tend to put you in front of your direct target audience and helps you to not get lost in the abyss of the Internet, there’s another huge and understated advantage to using them.
If someone types “book” into the search engine, they could be looking for anything. They could want a romance novel, a classic novel, a cook book, or anything else ever published. They might not even really know what they want yet. Someone who, on the other hand, searches for “3rd edition Bleak House by Charles Dickens” is looking for something overwhelmingly specific. They know exactly what they want, and they are much farther along in the buying cycle. You want as much traffic to get to your site as possible, yes, but you also want your visitors to be as far along in the buying cycle as possible. Using longtail keywords helps you do just this, telling search engines exactly what you are, what searches your website is relevant for, and what audience to put your page in front of.
You Can’t Trick the Algorithm
The algorithm got smarter. Google engineers are constantly working on improving the algorithm, and they’re consistently doing just that. It’s one of the biggest parts of what makes SEO such a challenge to keep up with over time. You can no longer trick the algorithm into thinking you’ve done some strong link building when you’ve just spammed your site a bunch of times—it can now spot it and actually reduce your ranking because of it.
Google’s current algorithm incorporates version 4.0 of the panda update. It has just recently been released, and was designed in order to prevent sites with lesser quality content from ending up in high search rankings. As discussed in an article by Barry Schwartz,
“Panda 4.0 must be a major update to the actual algorithm versus just a data refresh. Meaning, Google has made changes to how Panda identifies sites and has released a new version of the algorithm today.
Is this the softer and gentler Panda algorithm? From talking to Google, it sounds like this update will be gentler for some sites, and lay the groundwork for future changes in that direction.”
Even if they aren’t uploading major overhauls, Google is constantly applying updates to their algorithms, ensuring that what they consider to be the best quality sites are the ones actually making it to the top of their results page.
Social Media Sites Have Become Search Engines
More and more people are using social networking sites as search engines. Done right, social networking sites can not only successfully drive traffic to your site in high volumes, they can also be essential to helping you build a stronger brand than ever.
Users are now sometimes looking up a company on Twitter or Facebook before they try to Google them. Not only does this reiterate how crucial it is to take advantage of the opportunity that is social networking, it makes a big statement about brand building. Users want to see the personal touch, the up close and personal look into your business that they are (or believe to be) more likely to see on your Facebook page than anywhere else. This is the part where SEO starts to get more personal—when the users want to get more personal and start basing their searches off of that.
Use marketing strategies designed for social networking sites in order to boost interest in your page as well as your social media search engine rankings. I Some experts actually believe that social media marketing may surpass SEO in terms of finding new clients. n the long run, with people using Facebook and Twitter instead of Google, making sure you’re ready for your customers in whatever way they want to reach you can make all the difference in the world.
Target Topics, Not Necessarily Keywords
Again: think like your customer. A customer doesn’t necessarily think in keywords. Keywords, as established by just about every SEO resource available, are still hugely important. I’m not saying not to use them and not to put emphasis on them, because (at least for right now) you definitely should. But we also need to expand our thinking past just using keywords and letting that be it. By focusing on keywords, you are focusing on rankings, which is understandable and not entirely wrong. However, putting more focus on topics means you’re putting more focus on customers.
SEO has always been trying to be ranked the highest for the keywords you choose. That’s still important. Sometimes, however, as Rand Fishkin puts it, this can lead to ignoring content, social, and email marketing opportunities. He has an incredible video (and transcript below) talking about why focusing on a topic instead of individual keywords can help revolutionize your SEO campaign. He discusses using groups of keywords and phrases to focus on one topic, as well as creating good content and improvement instead of focusing on pumping out landing page after landing page.
Content Is Valued Higher Than Ever
This stays consistent with the trends seen in recent SEO history. In order to achieve high search engine rankings, your site absolutely has to be content driven, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Utilize social networking sites to distribute content marketing efforts; if your content is good, users will share it and distribute it on their own.
Again, the new Panda update to the Google algorithm was designed, first and foremost, to weed out poor quality content from resulting in the top search engines. It doesn’t matter so much anymore that you have mediocre content that’s not relevant—it won’t cut it for the top results page.
Blogs are just as essential as ever. Just as with social networking, the key to a strong blog is good content that’s uploaded frequently. Blogs help you build your brand, get to know and talk more directly with your audience, and establish your credibility and expertise in your industry’s field.
It’s also important to make sure your content consistently includes strong keywords. This includes using variations and different phrasings of keywords, making sure your basis is covered no matter how your customers try to search for you. This has been true, but its importance has increased as more and more people are successfully incorporating keywords into their URLS, headlines, and content.
Content shouldn’t just be really good, it should also be of relatively substantial size now. Search engines are increasingly favoring content when there is more of it. Articles and blog posts should a minimum of 1,500 words (1,000 if you’re really stretching). After all, it’s easy to get together a couple hundred words for a post—it takes much more time and dedication to get over 1,000, and priority here is given to time and effort.
More People Have Gone Mobile
I was against smart phones forever (largely due to cost), and I finally even caved in and got one. While I still prefer a desktop or a laptop if it’s available to me, I (like a lot of people today) am constantly on the go and end up using my phone for all kinds of things. I can download a recipe right in the grocery store if I’ve forgotten my list, and use conversion sites to figure out how to make a dinner for six a dinner for three, all in under a minute. More importantly, of course, I’ve made online purchases via my phone.
Technology is changing rapidly, and we’re becoming an increasingly mobile world. An article on CNN reports that usage of mobile apps has surpassed PC internet usage as of early 2014. It is now mandatory that your site is accessible to mobile devices.
Creating apps for your site can be helpful for customers, but first and foremost test your site. You should either have a version of your site designed solely for mobile users, or make sure that your current site operates on all versions of mobile devices (tablets and smart phones included) and as many browsers as possible (Safari, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Google Chrome, etc). Not having your site accessible to mobile devices means you’ll lose business, and a lot of it.
When you design your mobile site, use the practices you already do to increase SEO ratings. Utilize link building and keyword heavy text and headlines. Use standard coding (html) and have relevant descriptions of your site.
What To Keep Doing Right
So we know now what needs to be tweaked and toyed with in 2014. What you’ve just read is a list of things to either completely change or adjust a little, depending on where your SEO campaign currently stands. That’s all well and great, but what about everything else we already know about SEO?
The good news is that a lot of factors SEO, despite the reminder that it is always changing, have stayed relatively the same. At least for now it has, anyways!
- Organic link building still takes time
- Link building is still important. It still reflects on credibility and quality.
- Search engine optimization in general still takes time, and there’s no rushing it and doing it overnight. Don’t try. Just don’t. It’s a long process, but a worthwhile one.
- Website crawlability is still important to ensure your website is ranked well.
- Keyword research as remained stagnant. We lost Google’s Keyword Tool, which was replaced by Google’s Keyword Planner (which is only for those with Adwords campaigns), but there are still lots of other good tools out there like Wordstream
- You still want to put keywords in a lot of places. URLS, headings, tags, and several times within the content itself. Even though emphasis has to be put in other places too, keywords are still crucial to SEO.