2013 has been a year of many changes for SEO. We saw the first major changes occur back in May and July with Google’s updated algorithms: Hummingbird, Penguin 2.0 and Panda. The original updates sought to eliminate “black hat” techniques, and decrease the value of spammy-link-building and poor content, which they have accomplished quite well over the remainder of the year. Adhering strictly to these updates, Google continues to emphasize the importance of quality link-building for business rankings on SERPs, and quality content creation for gaining momentum in particular marketing spaces.
SEO Point of View: what we should take from these updates
While each update has strategically identified and implemented changes to key factors in Google’s search algorithm, they each clearly outline a few things for us:
Moving away from specific keyword queries to phrases that match specific content, not just individual words
Importance of quality link-building, rather than spamming new content
General quality content creation to help build authority and increase rankings on SERPs
Most of these key points have been reinforced in recent months. One way was addressed by Google’s head of search spam, Matt Cutts, as he advised on moving away from bad content creation and practices. This can include things like duplicated content and “stitching content”, a concept that involves pulling information from different sources and stitching it together.
Most SEO experts have new recommended strategies in creating new content for websites. Among them includes breaking down information to more specific ideas. You can do this by: writing general information on a product/service, writing about company information on that product/service, and informing and educating on that product/service, etc.
Why is this a good practice? Well, for starters, Hummingbird and Penguin introduced the notion that search engines are becoming more acclimated to discovering & understanding full phrases and concepts. So, using the same information repeatedly with different keyword targets is actually becoming less effective. Again, Google is becoming more proficient at understanding the general picture of content rather than specific keyword targets.
What about links?
Links continue to define processes in SEO strategies. While social media still hasn’t established its own set of authority, it’s still recommended to establish media presence on major sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube. Although, next year it is possible that social media may play a bigger role in SEO.
For link building it is vital that businesses continue to share new content through quality link building. Google has become more aggressive toward businesses that continue to practice bad link-building. Likewise, guest blogging has also gained momentum in the last few month as a valuable way in sharing new information. But it shouldn’t be your only link building strategy. Experts suggest businesses move away from low quality, automated, or spammy guest blogging, especially on sites that don’t have solid “merit” or “editorial value”.
On-Page SEO Factors
On-page SEO practices are still prevalent. Aside from building unique, quality content, establishing structure for your site is very important. Continue to feed dominant, and more-important pages on your site through links and ensure that search engines are crawling through new content when appropriate. Architecturally, business website URLs, site speed rules will continue to hold true in 2014.
We learned some valuable things in 2013 for local search. So, what can we expect in the New Year?
Well, for starters, local search & SEO seems to have made a few changes in recent weeks, including the frequency of authorship showing up in SERPs. According to head of search spam at Google, Matt Cutts, there has been a total of 15% reduction in the number of times that authorship shows up on search results. Many are speculating that this is a move away from businesses attempting to gain authority through minor SEO changes rather than quality, long-term changes.
Additionally, Hummingbird gave us a notable update in 2013 and, again, keyword searches will be minimal in the coming years, especially as technology’s voice-recognition continues to become more prevalent. For local search, this means making efforts to establish content marketing practices that will help boost appearances on SERPs.
It’s also really important to keep up with technological changes, including optimizing for mobile business websites. More consumers are shopping and searching via smartphones and other devices, so site traffic is really becoming dependent on mobile friendly sites. Moreover, it’s important to properly configure mobile redirects.
Reviews will still be important in 2014. We saw this first move back in July with Google attempting to recruit “City Experts” to generate more local reviews. It was Google’s way of finding avid reviewers to grow Google+. So they are definitely taking reviews into consideration.
As mentioned above, social media is still gaining some momentum and will continue to converge with SEO & local search where it matters most. Especially, to help drive traffic to a business’ website.
Overall, we have quite a bit of information to help us transition to the New Year. 51Blocks is continuing to re-evaluate our campaigns year-over-year and make necessary adjustments where needed.