While the problems associated with writing predictions blogs – the opportunity to look foolish, in particular – are well known, that doesn’t stop them being great fun. Although we work in an industry where Google could turn everything on its by the end of January and render what we’re about to discuss meaningless, there are some search trends that we can expect to take hold and stick around throughout 2014.
Here is what we think will be the dominant trends over the next 12 months.
Google Authorship has already proven to be a topic for hot debate across the digital marketing industry, so much so that we even created a blog post asking whether Google Authorship hurts SEO. There is still going to be a lot of questions and controversy surrounding Google Authorship, but the fact that it is likely to become even bigger and more important to search in 2014 should tell you everything you need to know.
Using Google Authorship will fast become an extension of the much spoken “content is king” mantra and will be an SEO essential, without any debate, by the middle of the year. The importance of content will continue to grow in 2014, and claiming your content as your own will make it easier for businesses to enhance their credibility and for internet users to find high quality products and services providers.
We already know that Google Panda updates are now built into Google’s regular algorithm changes, but we can expect to see data refreshes happening regularly and probably two updates to Google Penguin in 2014.
The last few years of Google algorithm updates have been such that there should now be no surprises to anyone. Webmasters and SEO agencies know exactly what Google are penalising and rewarding – they even tell us on their Webmaster Central blog – so there is no reason at all why anyone with genuine intentions with their digital marketing and SEO strategies should fear future Google updates.
A continued focus on creating high quality, user friendly websites is the best way forward in 2014.
Everyone within the digital marketing industry knows what spam is, but we can expect Google to redefine its meaning in 2014. What we have looked at as spam for years will likely change as the focus continues to be on ever higher quality websites and highly relevant backlinks.
There are a number of ways Google could achieve this. One of the most likely is that they will begin paying more attention to some of the grey hat SEO tactics that are employed by webmasters and SEO agencies and ensuring sites using them do not reach high search rankings. Google will also look at making it even clearer – without giving the game away in relation to what their algorithms look like – what they want from a high quality website. By the end of 2014, we could be in a position where we simply have “high quality websites” and “everything else,” with the latter becoming the modern day definition of spam.
Mobile SEO came to the fore in 2013, and its importance will only increase throughout 2014 as the size of mobile markets continue to increase and businesses see increasing levels of traffic coming from mobile devices.
The exciting, or frustrating, thing about mobile SEO in 2014 is that it is going to become a completely different challenge given the changes happening with regard to keyword (not provided). In some respects, the increased percentage of keyword (not provided) – and the likelihood it will hit 100% at some point in 2014 – might be an opportunity for those switching focus to mobile SEO, as they will have no pre-conceptions or ideas about keywords, they’ll simply have to start anew and conduct fresh keyword research.
Mobile SEO isn’t just going to grow in importance in terms of keywords, either, the role of responsive web design and implementation of high quality user experiences on mobile platforms will also count for a lot.
Throughout 2013, using schema.org mark-up was something to do if you wanted to make your site more visible for certain things, but by no means was it seen as an essential. That is sure to change in 2014, as Google and the other search engines look closer at how schema mark-up allows them to give the best possible results to users. Search spiders won’t ignore or discount sites that don’t use schema mark-up, but they are likely to reward those using it as they’re demonstrating exactly what is on their pages and making it easier for search engines to present relevant content to their readers.
Don’t worry; this isn’t a “social media is the new SEO” type of prediction, but rather a look at how the weight of social signals will once again grow over the year ahead. Although Google might like to say that +1’s from their own social network or content shares on others make little difference to search rankings, the truth is that the impact of these is significant. You should ensure you have a strong focus across the big social networks and not just on Google+.
2014 is likely to be another memorable year of Google updates and changes to the digital marketing industry; get set for these six trends and ensure they’re set to be a part of your own search strategy over the next 12 months.