A previous report from Forrester Research established Search Engine Optimization (SEO) as the most important source of targeted traffic business owners can have for their websites, with organic web search or natural search sitting at the top of traffic sources. Digital marketers expect this trend to persist and would grow at a steady rate despite the proliferation and growing popularity of other traffic sources like social networks and other online or offline channels.
Using SEO tactics as part of your overall digital marketing campaign is still a very wise investment that business owners should undertake if they want to remain competitive in this ever-changing digital marketplace. The following infographic describes some of the most anticipated SEO trends that marketers are watching out for this New Year. To get ahead of their competitors, business owners should have a clear understanding of these future trends that will affect and eventually change the SEO landscape this 2014 and beyond.
The infographic (click to zoom)
1. More Changes To Google’s Search Algorithms
In its fight against spam, dropped content farms and black hat link building techniques that are intended to manipulate search engine algorithms, Google came up with several changes to their algorithms intended to squash such practices. Aiming to add more value to search users, Google came up with the Panda and Penguin updates to its algorithms with Hummingbird at the late 2013 and it will be buzzing around this 2014.
The following graph from Moz.com graphically shows the number of major changes Google has made with its search engine algorithms and is expected to continue with these tweaks this 2014. Since 2010, the frequency of these updates grew exponentially but slowed down in 2013 as the Panda updates was eventually integrated into Google’s main algorithm. The latest Hummingbird update is expected to influence SEO this 2014, attempting to focus more on conversational search, in content that directly answers what people are asking or looking for online. These are the kind of content that are actually read by real people and not just the search engine robots crawling the web.
What these changes intend is to crack down on sites with spammy links and content, forcing legitimate website owners to focus more on providing high quality content that would be more valuable to their website visitors. For marketers wanting to get good SEO results with their website content, it simply would be more than a matter of providing keyword-stuffed articles and content that really does not provide value to website visitors. This means providing your website visitors with good content, products, services and a great user experience.
2. More Focus on SEO for Smartphone and Tablet Users
The proliferation and global popularity of Internet-capable smartphones and tablets is a trend that business owners should not take for granted in terms of marketing value – a trend that will definitely have a strong impact on SEO for 2014. Nielsen reported 61% of mobile phone users in the United States have smartphones that can access the web. In another report conducted by Bronto Software and Magento entitled “Why We Don’t Buy: Consumer Attitudes on Shopping Cart Abandonment”, it was highlighted that 64% of online buyers use a smartphone, with another 54% owning a tablet.
What this implies is that business owners and digital marketers need to focus more on making their websites mobile-friendly this 2014 in order to reach out to this growing market through their smartphones or tablets. The best way to make your websites mobile-friendly, which Google actually recommends as well, is to make your websites more responsive. In its most general sense, a website with a responsive design automatically adjusts its layout depending on the screen a website visitor is using when viewing the web pages. This makes it easier for online users to view your website when they are using a smartphone or a tablet, which has relatively smaller screens than standard laptops or PCs.
Another advantage for using a responsive design is that you don’t need to have a separate mobile website built for mobile-internet users, which requires you to use separate URLs for each. With a responsive website, all you need is just one URL and it automatically adjusts depending on whose viewing. There is a big opportunity for business owners in this arena as a great number of websites are still not using a responsive design, as can be seen in the graph below, which Bronto Software backs in their study called “Responsive Design Provides the Perfect Fit”, which highlighted that only 4% of online retailers use a responsive design.
3. Increased Focus on Location-Based Search
Location-based search is expected to be a big factor for SEO success in 2014. Figures from Google Places Stats and Facts placed location-based search on Google at 20%. Another report, this time from comScore, placed this figure at even higher levels particularly for mobile phone users. The report stated that 56% of mobile online users use the browsers from their smartphones or tablets for local searches. Business owners, particularly small and local establishments, can leverage on these figures, optimize their websites for local searches and making good business right there in their own localities.
4. More Importance of Authorship in Search Ranking
With Google as the primary and most popular search engine that can spell success of failure in your SEO campaigns, it would be important to consider giving focus to Google+, particularly with respect to the growing importance of authorship in search ranking. Authorship provides users to link any content available in the net that is created by them directly to their Google+ account. Such direct linkages will affect your Author Rank which in turn will create a big impact on SERP results.
Author rank is Google’s gauge in identifying which author or content provider would be the foremost authority for particular topics. The better your Author Rank would be, the more chances for Google to identify and promote you as an authority figure – and will thus put your web pages on top of search results. If you haven’t done so, now would be the best time to start linking your websites and blogs to your Google+ profile.
5. Social Media Signals will Influence Search Ranking
Social media marketing and optimization will still play a big role in providing you with SEO success in 2014. As search engine algorithms are changing and updated, SEO success has evolved from merely getting a whole bunch of inbound links from various website, to focusing more on the influence of social signals. These signals represent how online users interact with you and your content such as likes, comments, followers, shares and industry influencer citation.
Search engines have come to place greater importance in these social signals, using it as a gauge on how your website is visible to online users as compared to your competitors. More social signals mean better visibility and the better the visibility means better ranking for your websites. What this means is that business owners should have better social media presence not only in the major platforms like Twitter and Facebook, but in other social networks as well including LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, and of course Google+.
As a final word, there have been many significant changes this past year in the online marketplace that has affected how business owners and marketers use SEO for their overall digital marketing strategy. With SEO still a very important factor for online business success, it is expected that SEO will continue to play a bigger role in 2014, with this role driven by various trends discussed above that businesses cannot afford to overlook during this New Year.
Whatever trend is becoming more and more popular out there in the online marketing field, business owners should remember to stay the course and continue to provide their targeted visitors with premium and high quality content pertaining to their brand, product or services – all moving towards continuous SEO success.
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