Google SEO & Search Engine Marketing Services

What Is SEO Going To Bring Us in 2014?

Well, this is my first blog post since August, and the first thing I can tell you is that 2014 is going to bring a revival, lots more blogging, tweeting, speaking etc…

Things have been extremely busy over the past 12 months at Branded3, we’ve seen massive growth in SEO, Content, Online PR and Creative; proof that SEO is going through a change, thanks to all the curve balls that Google keep throwing our way. It’s no longer about picking up as many links as you can, strange anchor text formulas or in content links (dear me) to rank well in Google, you have to focus on becoming the best result, and this means more than acquiring a handful of rubbish links.

So, over the last 12 – 18 months I have been working hard with the team to restructure our offering, add new skills to our growing department, and thankfully it’s been a massive success.

What will 2014 bring us then? More link penalites as Google tightens the choke hold? Will SEO finally die? For the next 1000 words ‘ish’, I am going to presume people are interested in what I have to say and reel off what I think are some things to look out for in 2014.

Engagement & Brand Building

Now these have been losely spoken about in the past, but in my opinion they are about to get really important, really. We have a saying at Branded3, “If you have enough links to be in the top 5, you have enough links to be position 1″. I am a firm believer in this, and how someone engages with your site is key to winning the battle at the top of Google.

I was speaking with X Googlers (Web Spam Team) around a year ago, and they kept talking about an algorithm ‘return to SERP’, we’ve adapted this slighty and called it ‘return to search’. The algorithm monitors the time it takes for a user to click on your listing and then click back to Google, either to refine the search or choose an alternative result. If users clicking on your result are back on Google within seconds looking for the next result, then this may suggest you aren’t ‘the right’ result and your rankngs will drop. We believe that this was a part of the Panda algo, but has since been incorporated into the main algorithm, and it’s going to be important over the next 1-2 years as Google tries to identify who should be at the top.

Return to search algorithm

We have trialled this since with great results, moving clients from 4-5 to position 1 without running a single link acquisition campaign. Of course links will continue to be important, but if no one is engaging with your site, link efforts will be a waste of time. Engagement on and off site are going to be really important.

This brings us nicely onto brand building, how else will Google recognise that you’re a result that should rise to the top? Well if thousands are searching out your brand every month this is a pretty good signal, and your link acquisiton strategies should incorporate an element of ‘becoming famous’. Let’s face it, Amazon don’t rank for everything because of their perfect site architecture and quality links, they rank where they do because they are the result everyboby wants to see (Do you honestly search ‘books’ anymore?).

I’ll likely be blogging/speaking on this throughout 2014 quite a lot, so hopefully I can catch up with you at one of the events.

Links

Boy, they have had a rough ride for the last couple of years, does anyone know what a natural link is anymore?

There is a lot of speculation about links, what works, what doesn’t work, people still trying to trick Google etc…. For me there are a couple of very clear cut facts:

1) Google are still going to ‘manually’ identify unnatural links.

2) Google are going to penalise any website operating any form of manipulation, the bigger you are the harder you’ll fall.

When I hear people talking about anchor text formulas, mixing up landing pages, and brand link building only, I can’t help but think they’re just not getting it. If you’re trying to think about how you fly below the radar, then it is only a matter of time before you’re in trouble. Real people are looking at your links, if you’re using low quality blogs, or even high quality paid links, it is going to stand out. Google are active on ‘black hat’ forums, and other SEO forums looking for new tactics and supposed tricks, lets face it, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist, but just in case they probably have those too.

Your links have to be a natural by-product of genuine activity, think traffic first, or brand exposure, or social interaction, think anything, but don’t run a link strategy where the sole purpose is to acquire as many links as possible.

To make my point you only have to read the post on iAcquire with regards to how they would solve the RapGenius problem (once they have recovered of course).

Badges?! Isn’t that too risky? Not if you switch up the link destination and ALT attribute randomly using Javascript magic.

They are talking about giving badges to fans, however, if you have to go to lengths to manipulate links using JS then your strategy clearly isn’t the type of thing Google want to work. Natural links shouldn’t need manual intervention, we should all be moving away from link control, unless of course you are disavowing the nasty ones.

Great post otherwise, but I’m not sold on this particular tactic.

The Disavow Tool

Yes, I think this tool will continue to be heavily used, simply because it works. I do think Google will come out with an official statement which makes it clear that the tool works and put an end to the crazy amount of link removals that are happening. Going to blog on Branded3 early next year about link removals and why they are a bad idea.

Lets keep this simple, continue to disavow your bad links, even if you have no manual penalty, keep things clean. It will prevent as well as recover.

Link Tools

Little left field this one, but I think link tools will go through a drastic change. A lot of link analysis is now dead, you simply don’t know what your competitors have disavowed, or what may be penalising them, so mining their links is a waste of time. However, understanding what links are harmful is key, so tools that help you audit and disavow nasty links will become more popular. Tools like Linkrisk and LinkDetox already exist and I expect to see a few new competitors pop up in 2014. (I would always manually audit your links as well as using these tools, if Google can’t create an algo to detect all the bad links, I doubt anyone else is close.)

Even though technical link information is going to be less popular, competitor strategies are still going to be important to understand. What is the campaign, who is talking about it, how popular is it on platform x, where did the conversation start… these are all questions Online Marketers and SEO’s are going to be interested in.

Guest Blogging

Time up I’m afraid, it’s been overdone and I think Google are going to be all over this in 2014, penalising blogs with follow links on posts marked as ‘guest post’ and sites that have lots of links coming from such posts.

Yes, if you are an expert looking for brand exposure, and the posts have an authorship box that links back to your Google plus profile, and you only post on the best quality, high traffic blogs etc…. then yes, it is still worth doing, otherwise I would simply leave it alone.

So where does this leave SEO?

Well, it leaves it exactly where it has always been, going strong.

SEO has never been about link spam, anchor text, high PR links, sidebar links, keyword stuffing etc… it’s always been about driving relevant search traffic to your web property, those were simply tactics to artificially increase rankings. Search traffic is still there, it’s still extremely profitable, and you will still need to inlist the help of a search expert to help you get at it.

You will absolutley need collaboration between different teams and skill sets, but the objective remains the same, more relevant search traffic.

I could go on, but I’ve covered the things I want to discuss, yes social will continue to be important, more so as an activation tool in my opinion, but nevertheless important, and yes mobile, we all know it is huge, and having your site in order is a priority, Google have already fired the warning shot.

Anyway, hope eveyone is enjoying the holidays and looking forward to 2014.

Happy New Year!

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Author: Tim (296 Articles)

is the owner and editor of SEO wizz and has been involved in the search engine marketing industry for over 9 years. He has worked with multiple businesses across many verticals, creating and implementing search marketing strategies for companies in the UK, US and across Europe. Tim is also the Director of Search at Branded3, a Digital Marketing & SEO Agency based in the UK.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Marie Haynes December 28, 2013 at 6:28 pm

There’s a lot of wisdom in this post Tim. I’m normally not one for year end prediction posts, but I’m glad I read this one.

I wanted to let you know that I’m testing your theory of disavowing rather than removing links for manual penalties. It still blows my mind that this could possibly work because John Mueller makes so many comments in Webmaster Central hangouts about how important it is for people to remove links. I have one site so far where we had already done a thorough disavow and link removal but Google gave us some example links that were not in our backlink checkers. Some creative Google searches led us to find an additional 100 or so bad links. We didn’t remove any, but just disavowed and resubmitted and we passed. Interesting, huh? I have another case that I will likely be submitting without doing extra removals in the next few days. However, this site has already manually removed a large number of links that they had access to, so if they pass it may be because of that work. We’ll see!

I’m interested in your statement about how if you can rank in the top 5 you can rank #1. In our local real estate SERPS I’m amazed to see that the top sites are ones with very few links but they are ones that really have good content to engage users. I think that links are still important (provided they are natural) but user engagement is supremely important. The “return to SERP” algo you are talking about sounds like what is described as “the long click vs the short click” in the book “In the Plex”. It makes sense. If users consistently click away from your content and engage with someone else’s content then that sends a strong signal to Google.

I’ve gone on enough already. Just wanted to thank you for this post. All the best in 2014.

Marie

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Tim December 29, 2013 at 2:28 pm

Thanks Marie, really appreciate the feedback. I really would like to blog more, things are just extremely busy at the minute, but I do plan on prioritising it in the New Year. This was a little bit of a brain dump based on all the things that have been on my mind for the last couple of months, little surprised with the attention it has received to be honest.

Would love to hear more on any of the disavow tests you do, as you know from our convo’s on Twitter, we don’t do any removals at all anymore, I understand why people still do though with lots of statements and advice coming directly from Google. The way I see it is that Google would prefer fo you to declare your bad links rather than remove them, they can use that data :)

Local may have other factors at play, the Venice algorithm automatically favours results with relevant content, e.g. searching for ‘SEO’ in London will automatically favour companies in London, or SEO companies with a relevant London page. This kind of SERP layout can have very little to do with link authority.

Sometimes links will be the key, and you might be just too far behind, but I think people are too focused on links, when really, once you’re in the top 5 there isn’t much between you and the top result, quite often we will see it come down to engagement or the fact the other site is a bigger brand, at least that’s our guess. We had a client in 4th for a pretty competitive term in the UK, they had been there 5-6 months, we decided not to run any more link acquisition campaigns, and instead focus on making the page a better result. We nearly halved bounce rates, increased pages visited from 1.59 to 2.8 and conversions were up 50%, within a month we were in position 1, not one new link.

Now I know this is correlation and link penalties/devaluation were at play in this set of results, however we feel very strongly that engagement as a signal is going to be a big deal in the next couple of years.

Watch this space :)

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Alex December 29, 2013 at 10:32 pm

Hey Tim,

awesome piece of content. I had no idea about “return to search”, but now that you mention it, it’s almost like I knew it all along.

Definitely going to watch this space in 2014 for more stuff like this :)

Thank you,
Alex

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Michael Wall December 29, 2013 at 10:34 pm

More so than ever, diversify your traffic. Anyone relying on Google Organic search for traffic is building a business on quick sand. Organic traffic is unreliable and unpredictable, at the mercy of algorithm changes, competitor pushes, and the advancement of PPC.

That’s not to dismiss SEO, as it’s still a valuable and reliable source of traffic.

Agree with you on Guest Blogging, read more on Matt Cutts on how to do it with ‘Higher Quality’ posts http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGieiNe6RL4

Not sure I’d agree with this ‘A lot of link analysis is now dead, you simply don’t know what your competitors have disavowed’, I think this is still important, at the very least you can see their strategy and how it has affected their rankings. If they’ve bombed then manually looking through their links can highlight some of the poor strategies they’ve followed.

The advice ‘focus on becoming the best result’ isn’t something that’s new to 2013 or 2014, I’ve heard it for well over a decade. Maybe now it will really will kick in.

Good luck for 2014.

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Tim December 30, 2013 at 2:47 pm

Thanks for the comment Michael, I agree on the analysis to get an idea of strategy, but link mining/cloning is pointless, I just think a lot of the tools out there need to adapt to serve todays SEOs.

I think being the best result has always been valid advice, however the SERP’s have always suggested something different e.g. be the result with the most links. I think this will definitely change in 2014 and moving forward.

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Sunday December 30, 2013 at 10:03 am

I have no doubt that content marketing is still going to be an important part of SEO in 2014. However, Google may try to highlight this more by recognizing contents shared through it social network – Google +. Therefore, SEO in 2014 should be ready to embrace the Authorship!
Quality links would still be relevant!

This comment was shared in kingged.com – the social networking and bookmarking website, where it was aggregated for Internet marketers.

Sunday – contributor for Kingged.com

http://kingged.com/what-is-seo-going-to-bring-us-in-2014/

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Saji January 1, 2014 at 12:47 am

In the upcoming days of 2014, the role of SEO will move to content writers.

SEO going to bring us viral content without any duplicates. Not only that and also brings us more relevant information.

I am waiting for the SEO 2014 changes.

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Peter paul January 1, 2014 at 8:23 pm

I think SEO 2014 is not easy. Google change my site and change my content. I don’t like them

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Natilya James January 26, 2014 at 10:47 pm

Hey …..!! Peter you don’t have to worry for this . I just advice you for making some good authority links and write some good contents for your web site . You will get good results soon … All the best .

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John Shaw January 25, 2014 at 9:19 am

Every blog post should having good content and that content should briefly describing the title of that blog thanks for sharing. Just Like I wrote about Valentines day in my blog.

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