SEO in 2014 - Mastering Search

2013 was a turbulent year for search engine optimization professionals, but many expect 2014 to be equally, if not more, challenging.

Organic traffic is declining significantly for many brands, suffering at the expense of presentation shifts on the search results pages as well as the rise in paid traffic. Ecommerce platform MarketLive, in fact, confirmed what many search marketers have already seen or long suspected was occurring, releasing mid-year performance data in early September that showed a 30 percent increase in paid search traffic and a 3 percent decline in organic traffic. That is troubling in and of itself, but couple the issue with the ongoing Keyword Not Provided issue from Google, and it is not so difficult to believe that it will be increasingly challenging to acquire any substantial level of natural traffic through your website's digital doors in the coming year.

With an understanding of the broader trends, putting in place a formal strategy, and using a few key and time-tested tactics however, organic or natural SEO can still be the main source of traffic for digital enterprises and their websites. Brands must be more strategic and more tactical when it comes to their content and relationship efforts, be more open and emphasize their authority, and never, ever forget what is good for the consumer when it comes to design is often good when it comes to search engine rankings too.

In a perfect 2014, the search engines would just tell marketers exactly what's keeping their websites from achieving top rankings. Don't hold your virtual breath though, the algorithms that rank Web pages are more closely guarded than the secret recipes of Coca-Cola or KFC - and they'll stay that way. Unique and interesting content and engaging digital design experiences are what will separate your brand from the competition and what will earn your website the rankings you want and need.


: Comparing SEO Software :
There is no software in the world that an enterprise can purchase that on its own will increase rankings; no magical digital pill if you will that can be taken to earn the citations websites need to secure top positions on the search result pages. What SEO software can provide however, is an opportunity to understand where your SEO initiatives might be falling short and to expose sites that make good targets for link building. Discover some of the top vendors in the space now.


Strategic and Tactical

The future of SEO will increasingly be reliant upon the "go-to-market" strategy, not just the individual tactical approaches that have been put in place or are routinely espoused by industry mavens. SEO professionals will likely worry far less about including a variety of SEO in 2014 2013 was a turbulent year for search engine optimization professionals, but many expect 2014 to be equally, if not more, challenging. keywords on each Web page or the structure of their title tags, and more about the meaning and depth of the messages they are distributing on the Web. There will be less discussion of on-site optimization in general, and more about the relationships that need to be established to move the virtual needle and help your enterprise secure its rightful place high on the search results pages. Perhaps the best example of this strategic and tactical approach to SEO (while it may not scale perfectly for every enterprise) is how Google recently aligned with Nestle's KitKat for the release of its new Android operating system of the same name. While the arrangement likely was not intended to improve SEO efforts, it is certainly one effect that it had for both brands. The coverage generated links for Nestle, which on its own would have been quite difficult to acquire. While most enterprises won't have the resources to align their brands with a Google or Nestle, reaching out to enterprises that complement your own, ideally in some clever and creative fashion, could help your website in its link acquisition efforts and even manage to drive website traffic and new business if done correctly.


Transparent and Authoritative

Web users for too long have been subject to fly-by-night search optimization professionals, who, with a network of ready-to-link websites could find themselves high on the results pages in competitive positions. As users become more sophisticated, refining their queries and evolving their understanding of what a quality website and what quality content is, so are the search engines. Increasingly, savvy brands are opting to invest in those opportunities that help them establish authority. This is no better exemplified than in Google's release of its In-Depth Articles feature, search result listings that feature "high-quality" content to help users learn more about a subject. The feature is based on algorithmic signals suggesting that it will be helpful for SEOs to implement both authorship markup (a program Google recently expanded), as well as aspects of the article markup including headline and alternativeHeadline, image (which must be crawlable and indexable), description, datePublished and articleBody. While those elements alone likely won't secure an In-Depth article designation for your website's content, it won't hurt. Focusing on the quality of content, however, is always the best way to ensure your brand and the people behind it are perceived as authoritative sources.


Experience-Driven Design

In much the same way a rapid increase in inbound links could raise virtual question marks for search engines, so does the experience that is created by brands through their designs and site structures. Search engines know exactly how long users stay on websites if they return to the SERPs and likely log that information as a factor in determining a website's quality. In 2014, expect the savviest brands to focus on creative ways to convey meaning through design while creating highly engaging experiences simultaneously. The problem is that it is not always easy to balance SEO practices with good design techniques. Often Web designers are charged with cramming as much information as possible onto a page, but the drawbacks of hiding text are well documented. One of the ways designs can incorporate more content without making it look that way is to include tabs and expandable sections. The good news is that the tactic/approach will not negatively affect SEO initiatives if done in a non-spammy way according to Google's Matt Cutts.


SEO in 2014 and Beyond

The search engine optimization industry is evolving and the savviest SEO professionals are replacing quick tweaks for practices that help establish their brands as authorities, are beneficial in a strategic business sense and are good for users too. SEO in 2014 won't be easy but the rewards will be immense for those that take quality and experience seriously.


Keeping An Eye on Google
Not a month goes by where some change at the Web's most popular search engine (that would be Google with a consistent 60-plus percent command of natural search activity) does not send digital marketers into a virtual whirlwind of activity. Below are just a few of the more important insights and intriguing developments that have emerged since the last issue of Website Magazine was released:

- Webmaster Tools Offers Up Better Backlink Data
- NoFollow Links on Blog Comments Will Not Hurt Rankings
- Use Disavow Backlinks Tool with Caution
- Google Keyword Planner Places Keyword Tool
- Keyword Not Provided Issue Worsens