SEO: 2014 in Review and New Year’s Resolutions
If there’s one constant in the world of SEO, it’s that there is no constant. Between algorithm updates, best-practice tips, and users modifying how they search for information, you can always count on something changing.
This past year may not have brought as many huge upheavals in search engine optimization practices as in years before, but there were still some pretty significant SEO changes from 2014 that are worth noting.
SEO Changes in 2014
This list isn’t exhaustive by any means, but I’ve included some of the highlights and biggest SEO changes 2014 brought. I would say let’s put the past behind us and start prepping for 2015, but in order to effectively do that we need to know what changed this past year!
- Guest blogging: Just say, “No.” That’s not to say you can’t ever utilize guest blogging, but make sure you’re following best practices. Over time it has become more of a spammy practice, and it’s not nearly as reputable or effective as it used to be. As Matt Cutts shares, “A trend starts out as authentic. Then more and more people pile on until only the barest trace of legitimate behavior remains.”
- Google’s 100% secure search: Have you seen that “Not Provided” keyword section in your Google Analytics, yet? You’ll be hard-pressed not to; more than 80% of Google traffic is lumped into this section now.
- Google+ Authorship demise: Google Authorship, what was once a promoted and driving force in G+ land, went away. The authorships program originally lost author photos, and then Google did away with it altogether.
- Mobile emphasis: Have you thought about responsive web design, yet? You should, if for no other reason than Google emphasizing its importance. When users are scrolling through SERPs on a smartphone, a new “mobile friendly” tag now appears next to websites that are responsive.
- Panda 4.0: Beware poor content! If you want to have a site that’s user friendly, then make it user-friendly – this includes the copy on the site.
- Pigeon: Local search got a refresh with this algorithm, which focuses on distance and location ranking parameters. It aims to deliver a relevant experience for those searching for local results.
- Penguin 3.0: Designed to target sites that are spammy, this update was a major release for sites that had been penalized in the past. It provided the opportunity to submit a reconsideration request and maybe get on Google’s good side again.
Make SEO Resolutions for 2015
Now that we’re caught up to speed on some of the biggest SEO changes that happened this year, let’s start prepping for 2015.
- Remember the intent of the searcher: Thanks to the Hummingbird algorithm, phrases and keywords in SEO don’t hold as much weight. Google looks at actual search intent. When crafting content, bear in mind that your audience probably isn’t simply looking for “flowers” around Valentine’s Day. They’re most likely searching for results using phrases like: “Valentine’s Day bouquets,” “fast delivery for Valentine’s flowers,” “Valentine’s Day flower specials,” etc…
- Check your site’s structure: Think of a house. Even if all the cosmetics are in place and there’s new paint on the walls, if the structure is rotting and the foundation has cracks in it, at some point you’re going to have major issues. The same remains true with a site’s URL and coding structure. Take the time to make sure the coding is clean and the URL structure is streamlined and organized.
- Quality, not quantity: It doesn’t matter if you have 1,000 back links if only 5 of them are reputable, trust-worthy, and viewed as an authority in your field and industry. However, if you only have 250 back links and 200 of them are authoritative and trust-worthy, your site is much better off.
- Responsive Design: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – having a responsive website is becoming more and more important. You have to think about the entire user experience now, not just how a site looks and performs on a desktop. Google has already penalized sites that provide a bad mobile experience.
That’s the basic game plan for 2015, though there’s much more that can be done and should be done to help ensure your site is at the top of its game (and SERPs) for the New Year.