Search engine marketing has always been a rapidly changing environment and 2013 saw perhaps the most turbulent and volatile year in Google’s history in terms of the ways in which Google evaluates and ranks websites in its search results. In an industry that continues to evolve rapidly, the impetus placed on staying ahead of the game in terms of one’s strategic approach to on and off site optimisation becomes even more critical in order for our clients to gain a competitive advantage in an increasingly crowded online space.
At the end of 2013, Google’s Matt Cutts spoke at PubCon about the possible future developments in SEO in 2014. While there were few major surprises in terms of Google giving priority to addressing issues surrounding topics such as hacking and other illicit industries, there were also some significant takeaways that were highly applicable to our client base – and as such are helping drive our online marketing strategy for the coming year:
- Mobile SEO is already extremely important for the majority of our clients with such a high percentage of traffic coming from mobile devices in 2013 – and is an area that has seen growth even beyond Google’s own expectations. Accordingly, we have already successfully employed both mobile and local strategies for our clients throughout the previous year. However, it remains evident that mobile SEO is going to be an even more important area of focus in 2014 as the uptake of such devices continues, along with Google’s improved understanding of voice / conversational search and semantics through the Hummingbird update.
- Page Layout as a ranking factor first came to our attention way back in January 2012 but will become increasingly key in the forthcoming year. We continue to work closely with our clients in order to re-address the positioning of products and key content assets on the page in order to not only seek improved on page optimisation but also to improve site navigation, usability and conversions on a range of screen resolutions and mobile devices.
- Link Networks will continue to be hit by Google, meaning cleaning up any poor quality links or groups of links within the website’s profile is essential to minimise risk of search visibility being affected. Careful analysis and maintenance of the link profile is now a standard part of all our client accounts, and we also look to advise our clients on how they can manage the interrelationship of their own websites in line with Google’s guidelines – thereby minimising risk.
- Google Authorship / Social / Content – Matt Cutts states that in the long term, Google will put greater emphasis on social signals, which means all webmasters should be looking to ensure their sites and social platforms become more authoritative and engaging. This includes working much more with social media, providing more useful on site content assets, and leveraging Google authorship and other rich snippets on your site.
- Detecting and Promoting “Topical Authorities” – Google will look to further reward sites who become authorities in their niche. Matt Cutts speaks of the importance of becoming a resource within a topic area, so leveraging an effective content marketing strategy is also likely to impact positively on SEO in 2014. As internet users look for websites that are a “hub” and resource of useful content that stretches way beyond purely the commercial offering, we are working with our clients to evolve their outlook in terms of how their brand engages with their customers.
- Request Autocomplete – with an increasingly impatient audience and demand for high speed results “on the go”, Google is going to start taking into consideration sites utilising its request autocomplete functionality in Google Chrome. We are always looking to encourage our clients to utilise resources that make their visitor’s experience on their site much easier – and it seems request autocomplete could come with an added bonus of improved search engine presence too.