This year has been eventful for Google in terms of updates. Major changes included further releases of the Penguin and Panda algorithms. Google’s hummingbird platform has also taken flight.
People are wondering if the SEO profession is a dying breed, but the playing field has been altered thanks to Google. Google has taken major steps for spam fighting which benefits SEO specialists as well as anyone who is trying to get their site noticed in the coming year.
The need for companies to have an online existence has never been stronger, and the field has never been more competitive. Your company has the potential to make a real return on investment with a good online marketing initiative. As long as the SEO professionals you work with embrace a more robust vision in the area of expertise.
You may look at it as a move from tactics to strategies. The most successful participants will be able to anticipate Google’s next moves and respond to them effectively. Look at it like an infinite game of SEO chess that will continue, but the rules will become more complex.
The updates last year targeted websites that cheated their way to the top of rankings, and website that provided no value to visitors. We expect these updates to be carried forward throughout the coming year as well as micro adjustments to Panda and Penguin that will target link and content quality.
High quality content is extremely important to Google. Companies must keep their content relevant and maintain quality.
Google will be paying attention to companies that are making strong, hearty marketing efforts as a sign that they are the businesses Google wants to support.
Here are some advantages of good content strategies;
- Helpful content targeted at your audience
- Regular sharing and engagement resulting in good social signals
- Signs that your site is popular and showing growth
- Increasing authority that is connected to your body of work
This is the approach to SEO that Google’s recent updates have been designed to shape.
For the upcoming year, changes you need to make depends on where your company currently stands in relation to an active content marketing strategy. If your company has content strategies, they will need to be assess for the role of mobile.
If you have just begun getting into content marketing, commit and diversify. If you haven’t started yet – you really should.
The giant in the room. Social media has been a major asset to the digital marketing environment for the last few years. There are the mega platforms, which almost everyone uses such as Facebook and Twitter. In more recent years, visual content from applications such as Instagram, Pinterest, Vine etc. have made a splash.
Depending on who you are targeting, it is no longer sufficient to be active on only one network. You must diversify.
Here are some questions that companies and SEO specialists need to be asking themselves;
- Are we taking our social media accounts seriously?
- Are we following the pillars of strong profiles, quality content, reciprocity and engagement?
- Is all of our content easily shared across social platforms?
- Are we active on all social networks that matter, in our industry?
- Are we active on all social networks that matter, to our customers?
- Are we active on the social media networks that matter to search engines?
- Does our social media strategy stimulate the level of social signals required to meet our goals?
Google’s updates are likely to rely increasingly on social signals.
Not only should you focus on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Your Google+ profile is critical to your overall social media marketing position. Your Google+ presence plays a significant role in a solid SEO ranking.
Areas to focus on;
- Establish Google Authorship of your content. Tie it to your Google+ account. Authorship plays an important role in SERP’s as well as strengthens your Author Rank.
- Use those +1’s. Although it is not entirely clear how much Google +’s directly contribute, in coming year we are expecting +1’s to be a factor in social signals.
Hummingbird & Mobile
2014 has been the year of mobile SEO. Google’s Hummingbird was just the tip of the iceberg as Google has to adjust to the rapid changes where most of the population is browsing on their mobile devices – smartphones or tablets.
As a result of the mobile boom, your sites mobile performance affects your SEO rankings. Sites that you are trying to rank need to now be designed for mobile first, then scaled for bigger screens. If your website is not optimized for mobile it should be your top priority.
Long vs Short – Content Battle
What is better? Longer content or shorter content? Well, it depends on many factors; who is creating it, who is reading it, what is it about, what context it is being consumed and how you define “better.”
Frustratingly, the answer is more of a “both/and” than “or.”
Google values expertise and quality. As a trend, the “minimum desirable length” for text based content is between 500 to 1000+ words.
Then we take a minute to think about the reality of the mobile device. If you are reading something on your phone that you may only moderately be interested in, the chances of you scrolling through 2000 words on your phone are very low. This dilemma leaves content marketers with the challenge of creating mobile-friendly content, which is much shorter.
Solutions for this have run the scale from content mixes to site architectures that allows you to point readers to specific versions of the content based on the device they are using. This idea is great for user experience but its not certain where it affects the SEO algorithm. This is an area of concern and something you should keep your eyes on.
Guest Blogging on Industry Relevant Authority Sites
This has become very popular over the last year or so and it will remain as an effective mean of building quality links, traffic and brand exposure. It is critical that the content being created is high quality, original and not duplicated and that the site on which it is posted is industry relevant and Google compliant so that it does not exceed the link density, not selling links and has good authority with low bounce rate. In early 2014 Google suggested that some guest blogging activity may lead to quality penalties.
The past few years have brought significant changes to the SEO industry. Looking back, it is easy to gauge what direction trends are heading in for the future. Paying attention to priority areas that are rapidly changing should provide you with the insights needed to improve organic search visibility in the years to come.