There’s no doubt that SEO has changed significantly in the past year. The likes of Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird have meant that although on-site SEO principles are still essentially the same, the off-site marketing is altogether different. Whereas ‘link building’ (i.e. generating links from authority websites) was important, now it’s all about getting referrals from ‘authoritative’ people.
Authorship, Reviews & Social Media Marketing
Authorship is the new buzzword in the SEO world. There will be people within each industry and niche who are well followed on social media / blogs and considered to be trusted ‘experts’ by search engines. So marketing websites is now – more than ever – about creating compelling useful content and then connecting with the influencers in your industry.
Another big shift is in the method of acquiring SEO traffic which is now more and more linked to the point of purchase i.e. getting people to recommend you at the point of sale. So encouraging people to share on FB, Twitter, and Google+, as well as reviews.
To do this effectively, websites need to have social sharing (Facebook, Twitter Card, Google+), schema.org mark-up and Open Graph for Facebook. This allows more intelligent sharing of content on search and social platforms.
It is now also essential to have a Google+ Business Listing. At the SMX Conference in London in May, a large London agency revealed the results of a comparison survey of those of their clients last year who had a Google+ profile vs. those who didn’t. The ones who did had a 42% increase in organic traffic, the ones who didn’t had a 19% decrease in traffic. Not surprisingly, all their clients are now on Google+.
There is a definite ranking boost for engaging with social media. Setting up Google+ is the first step, then you need to follow and engage with influencers in the industry, and encourage user reviews.
The SMX panel said in May that it’s a time of ‘unprecedented change’ in the search and digital marketing space. Whilst the Panda update continues to penalise sites with poor quality content (e.g. advertising heavy, duplicated content), Google+ was updated in May and Google Adwords changed on 23rd July to a different model (enhanced campaigns).
Google Penguin 2.1 (the fifth spam-fighting Penguin update) was rolled out in October, further penalising sites that have used paid links to promote themselves. Google Hummingbird was rolled out in August/September and affects semantic search i.e. conversational search and a better focus on the meaning behind the words in a sentence rather than the individual words.
What does this mean for SEO in 2014?
My advice would be to focus on your content strategy primarily, producing quality rather than quantity, writing for your audience and their needs.
Technically, I would recommend your site become mobile-friendly if it’s not already, enable social sharing on every page, ensure you have an active Google+ business account whereby you follow and engage with influencers in your industry, and link it to any content you write on the web, encourage customer reviews, add rich snippets and you’ll have a competitive edge.
All the best for Christmas and wishing you a Happy New Year.