The SEO game – long characterized by rapid change and fluidity – continues to transform at a frenetic pace. SEO techniques once considered best practices in the industry are now cripplingly ineffective, and may even serve to damage overall online visibility. Meta-keyword tags, anchor text over-reliance and article syndication, for example, have fallen from grace and are now tactics that should be avoided.
Now that we have moved into a new year, we've decided to reflect on how SEO has changed and what SEO techniques and practices will help drive traffic to your website in 2014.
A Look At How SEO Has Changed
Given that Google – by far the most popular search engine – changes its algorithm upwards of 550 times per year, it doesn't come as a surprise that SEO techniques and best practices are also in a constant state of flux. It's difficult to stay up-to-date when things can change at the drop of a dime.
However, there is one thing that can be said with absolute certainty: Google strives to provide the most useful, relevant search results in relation to its users search queries. The most impactful of Google's algorithm changes, updates and modifications over the past few years – Caffeine, Penguin, Panda, Hummingbird – were all implemented to achieve this goal. As a result, high-quality content creation and awesome user experience have become paramount to good website performance.
So while it may not be clear how Google will change and update its algorithm in the future, it is clear that you must EARN your position on search engine results pages.
SEO Techniques And Best Practices In 2014
In the current landscape, achieving a strong online presence requires implementing a multifaceted, cohesive and integrated SEO strategy. The following are the areas we recommend you focus on in order to ramp up your SEO efforts and ensure your brand has a killer online presence.
When it comes down to the wire, Google ranks content, not companies. Essentially, when users conduct a search on the search engine, they are looking for an answer to a specific question, and Google wants to provide them with the best, most relevant answer possible. The more detailed that answer is, and the more superior it is in relation to other similar answers, the more useful it will be to Google's users. If you produce content that Google perceives as useful and relevant, then it will rank better in search results, plain and simple.
The content you create can't exist on an island; in order for it to gain more exposure and make more impact, it must be promoted. In the current landscape, the following are the best methods you can use in order to promote your content:
- Social Media – Use your social reach on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others to expand the reach of your content. Encourage social sharing, commenting and other forms of engagement in order to amplify its impact.
- Outreach – Reach out to prominent bloggers and other influencers in your industry with your content offerings. If you have yet to identify who these people/sites may be, reference blog directories or try services like Buzzstream or BlogDash that help you find relevant influencers.
- Public relations – While outreach can be a highly effective endeavor, good ol' conventional PR placements in trade and general interest publications are a great way to promote your content (and by association your brand).
- Paid advertising – There are a variety of paid advertising options that can be used to create exposure for your content: Paid search, promoted tweets, Outbrain, Facebook ads, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon Paid Discovery, and more. Best of all, putting money into paid advertising can elicit strong results, usually at an affordable price.
Conversion optimization is important because it can increase the return on your current SEO investment, and converting a higher percentage of your traffic is much more cost effective than attracting more visitors. It focuses not on attracting more visitors to your website, but on capitalizing on already existing traffic by getting visitors to take a desired action once they have arrived.
Among other aspects, conversion optimization involves:
- Clear messaging so customers understand the value you are offering
- Eliminating problematic features (poor navigation, ineffective CTAs, etc)
- Creating an easy path through your sales funnel
- Offering the right content at the right time
- Measuring the right aspects to gain insight into further improvements that can be madeIt can help you secure the right kind of customers, maximize your profits, and significantly lower you cost-per-acquisition. Furthermore, because conversion optimization doesn't require paying more to acquire conversions, you can allocate more marketing dollars in order to acquire more traffic to your website.
Provide Awesome User Experience
Website usability and user experience are important because search engines like Google use data to determine how people interact with websites, and this gives them an idea of the quality of the site. These two aspects act as indirect influences on search engine ranking success, because visitors who have a positive experience on your website are more likely to share, bookmark and revisit your website, all of which can serve to boost performance on SERPs.
Focus on building up your website so that it's easy to use, navigate and understand, provides direct and relevant information, and delivers remarkable content.
While we may not be able to determine what kind of changes Google and other search engines will make to their algorithms, we can bolster our SEO efforts by understanding their end goal – providing users with the best, most relevant answers to their questions. Building up a stream of remarkable content and providing an awesome user experience on your website – while not an exhaustive list – are two SEO techniques that will help you drive traffic to your website and insulate it from future algorithm updates.