Now the good news is, if you get your SEO strategy right, your chances of topping the organic rankings will increase. But with Google constantly changing its algorithm, how can you keep up?
In particular, how can you maintain the integrity of your site to ensure you don’t get “hammered” by one of Google’s inevitable 2014 updates?
To help, I’ve dusted off my crystal ball to create SIX predictions for SEO this year.
They should not only help you stay one step ahead but also lead to an increase in your Google ranking…
SEO Prediction 1: Unnatural backlinks will become even more dangerous
If your website was penalized by last year’s Penguin update, one of the reasons may have been because you’d acquired lots of low-quality backlinks.
A backlink is a link from another website that points to yours. So whilst good backlinks can boost your site’s performance – unnatural links that were acquired to manipulate PageRank (e.g. paid for links, those acquired by automated link building services or excessive “free exchanges”) are increasingly dangerous.
I predict that Google will release more updates over the coming 12 months and penalise this issue even further. In response to this, I suggest you:
- Perform a link audit and manually review your links to identify those that look “spammy” and have the potential to undermine your authority. Examples could include poor quality directories and “spammy” blogs or comments
- Next, remove all unnatural links or disavow them (if you’re not sure how to do this, seek the advice of a trusted SEO consultant to help)
SEO Prediction 2: Social Signals will increase in importance this year
I’ve already blogged about the growing significance of social signals for the performance of your website. All the signs are that this is going to be an increasingly influential component of the ranking algorithms used by search engines this year.
What this means for you is you need to review your social media strategy
- How could you embrace Google+ to increase your results?
- Have you sorted your Google authorship so you can increase your individual authority and presence across the web?
- Are you creating interesting, relevant content that gets naturally shared on social media?
- Do you have a strategy in place to actively grow your Facebook likes?
- Are you forging relationships with people of influence who can help raise your profile?
SEO Prediction 3: Your website will need to provide a rich mobile experience
Back in June 2013, Google told us they’d be rolling out ranking changes to improve the user experience for mobile web searchers.
To improve the search experience for smartphone users and address their pain points, we plan to roll out several ranking changes in the near future that address sites that are misconfigured for smartphone users”.
Given the explosion in mobile search, it’s no surprise that Google is working hard to ensure information is accessible on a user’s preferred device – whether that be a tablet, desktop or smartphone. And as a business owner, you need to embrace this challenge.
That’s because I predict websites will be penalised if they continue to provide a poor mobile experience. So if you want to avoid this, you need to make steps to ensure your website is accessible “on the go”. This means either installing a mobile responsive theme OR creating a bespoke website built specifically for viewing on mobile devices.
SEO Prediction 4: Positive user reviews will boost your site’s performance
There’s already growing evidence that positive reviews are having an influence on a business’s visibility in search – especially local search. And it makes sense that Google should weave this into their algorithm – especially now that social media has become a powerful force for sharing reviews and seeking recommendations.
I predict that this year, positive brand mentions will become a vital ranking signal.
As a result, it’s important you do what you can to ensure your brand gets mentioned in a positive context, whether that’s increasing the number of online reviews you collect or gaining positive PR.
SEO Prediction 5: Rich snippets and Google Authorship will have a greater impact
I predict that Google will use more structured data to improve the usefulness of the SERPs – in particular through the provision of rich snippets
Snippets are the lines of text that appear under the search results (not to be confused with the meta descriptions). Snippets are created by Google (if they understand the content of your pages) and are designed to provide the user with additional information to help them decide where to click.
So for example, the rich snippets for a restaurant could include the number of star reviews and a price range.
In a similar way, Google authorship is also destined to continue to influence CTRs. After all, seeing a picture of an “author”, along with the number of Google+ “circles”, instantly gives credibility and suggests a level of authority.
But to benefit from these features, it’s necessary to ensure Google can understand your content by using the right schema markup (a method of presenting data in a structured way that search engines can understand). In return, your website could enjoy an improved visibility in the search results.
SEO Prediction 6: High quality content written to benefit your visitors will become increasingly important
Continually building your online presence through quality content is the foundation of any smart SEO strategy. And here are a few reasons why:
- Google is all about user experience – which means providing your users with content that’s unique, useful and engaging will have a positive effect on your ranking results
- Content can target the long tail keywords – people do search for very specific and niche search terms. This means if you create content that’s tightly focused, you’ll increase the chances of getting found. PLUS because this content is so relevant, this will have an overall impact on your conversion
- Quality content fuels social signals. If you create content that makes an impact, gets shared and gets talked about, you will notice a positive impact on your ranking
What this means for you is you must start or continue to invest in your content. By this I mean resist the temptation to view your website as “done and dusted” and instead add blog posts, revisit your FAQ page and tweak your main content. I promise, you’ll reap the rewards.
What are you predicting for 2014?
What do you think of my predictions? What are you hoping Google delivers in 2014? Please share your thoughts and questions in the comments below.