I first met Bart Gibby, VP of SEO for fast growing Utah firm Boostability, in October when I spoke on Crisis PR at a local meeting of Salt Lakeâ€™s search marketing professional association, SLC/SEM. Boostability is an expert resource for SEO and local search services. We spoke about crisis PR, of course, but we also discovered we are kindred souls in our passion for the increasingly better ways marketers are discovering to make SEO really â€œworkâ€. To that end, I invited Bart to collaborate with me on the article you see here today. Of all the greatest developments on the horizon in the SEO universe, what are the trends marketers need to be aware of as we move into 2014, and what should they do? Hereâ€™s what he said:
1. The Ever-Changing Google Search
Google has said in the past that they do approximately two tweaks to their algorithm every day. The graph below represents the most noteworthy changes to Googleâ€™s algorithm in the years since 2002. These are changes that Google either mentioned officially or that have had a significant impact on the Internet marketing community.
Though we have only seen 15 noteworthy changes for 2013, it is clear from the rising graph that Google has taken exponential action in its algorithm changes since 2011.
Since February 2011, in fact, Google has released 25 updates that affect its website content quality algorithm known as Panda. Other include website layout and the devaluation of generic product or service keywords in the domain name known as the â€œEMDâ€ (Exact Match Domain) update. Examples of a domain that would have been devalued by the EMD update would be DaytonOhioPlumbing.com or iPhoneAccessories.net, in an effort to take away the â€œunfair advantageâ€ of hits to a company whose name precisely matches the generic search term it answers.
In 2013, the Panda algorithm logic was merged with the main Google algorithm, so updates for the Panda algorithm have ceased. But Boostability estimates that changes that could amount to another 10 Panda updates in 2013 could bring the real number of major changes in 2013 to 25.
Google has been relentless during 2013 in its pursuit to squash link building in cases where the intent of the link builder is to manipulate Googleâ€™s algorithm rather than add genuine value to users. Thus the advent of the new Google algorithm, Penguin, that the company applies separately from the main Google algorithm about once a quarter.
These updates may seem daunting, but they actually level the playing field and give web marketers the opportunity to step in and make their sites more competitive in the context of Googleâ€™s new rules. Googleâ€™s desire, of course, is to give search engine users great results, not the results that contain the highest level of spammy link profiles.
If your company has the resources to spend on truly advancing its website, the updates mean a significant thing: you can out position your competition by simply having a better website, which means offering better products and services, providing best value, and refining your websiteâ€™s user experience.
Gibby recommends online marketers cease all spammy link building practices immediately, and I agree. Marketers should focus on cleaning up their link profiles and should aim their efforts at creating compelling and textually rich content that includes images, video, and audio, and that fully explores what attracts new customers and keeps them coming back. â€œIf you take care of your customers, they (and Google) will take care of you,â€ he concludes.
2. Optimization for Multi-Screen and Smart Phone Tablet Use
In June 2013, Neilson reported that of mobile phone users in the U.S. 61% of them now use smart phones. That is a 10% increase since early 2012. The study â€œWhy We Donâ€™t Buy: Consumer Attitudes on Shopping Cart Abandonment,â€ by Bronto Software and Magento said that 54% of people who buy online daily or weekly own a tablet and 64% Â own a smartphone.â€œYou canâ€™t afford not to have a mobile friendly website in 2014,â€ Gibby says, and notes that having a mobile-friendly website implemented wrongly could hurt your siteâ€™s performance in Google searches. Hereâ€™s why:
In November 2013, Bronto Software published a study of 106 online retailers named â€œResponsive Design Provides the Perfect Fitâ€. The study showed that for companies marketing through emails, when smartphone and mobile users clicked on the email link, only 4% of retailer websites rewarded the usersâ€™ efforts with a mobile friendly or â€œresponsiveâ€ website design. iPhone and Android users, however, received a responsive or adaptive design 69% and 68% of the time respectively.