Search and Visibility: The Playbook for 2014

By Stevie Sleeter, Content & Social Media Manager

Published: December 17, 2013

This year brought significant change in the search industry. Even contemplating strategies for 2014 can feel staggering.

The good news is looking back, it’s easy to see which direction trends are heading. Staying the course on solid white hat tactics and paying attention to a few priority areas that are shifting rapidly will give you the insights needed to improve organic search visibility in 2014 and beyond.

The ‘new SEO’ is plain old marketing.

SEO Trends

According to Search Engine Watch, “sometimes moving forward means going all the way back to the beginning. For a time there was a real distinction between SEO and online marketing. SEO focused heavily on technical proficiency, but also became an umbrella term for every trick, tactic and strategy for getting higher rankings. Even if the tricks are dying out, the technical aspects like speed, structure and optimized hierarchy still matter. That doesn’t mean the definition of SEO is shrinking; just the opposite, its expanding.

With the changes we’ve seen, brand power and recognition are very much a part of SEO, but they are also the foundation of marketing online and off. Even before the internet, if you wanted to sell products, people had to know who you were.

Remember word of mouth? Well, that’s social media now. Billboards still exist on the information superhighway, but they are 2-inch jpegs instead of 50-foot signs. Fliers come into your inbox instead of a mailbox. Coupons get tweeted instead of clipped.” And it’s all an important part of ensuring online brand visibility moving forward.

In 2014, visibility efforts are about a cohesive, closed loop content strategy that ensures usability and experience are top priority.

It’s not only about the keywords anymore. And context can’t go overlooked.

Keywords have always been the lifeblood of a concrete SEO strategy. Careful selection and accurate analysis of traffic volume acted as the foundation for page-level optimization and the core first step for web masters. For years, we’ve perfected our search for that quality list of descriptors to help build the visibility of our sites. Not any more, not in the same way. At least, according to the latest Google announcement following closely on the heels of the Hummingbird update.

Building on the features of Knowledge Graph (a system that Google launched in May 2012 that understands facts about people, places and things and how these entities are all connected), Hummingbird will better show relevant results for queries that don’t necessarily have simple answers. As more and more mobile devices entrench our daily activities, users are performing searches on the go, often based on behaviors or precise and contextual actions.  The way users search is changing as things are going mobile. People find it more useful to have a conversation, especially when using audio search, an impetus for the latest Hummingbird change.

It’s about People Traffic Optimization.

People and Traffic Optimization (PTO) is about optimizing information for your end user, for your customer. It means creating consistent, relevant content that speaks first to a human rather than a search spider. Gaining in popularity along with content marketing practices, PTO is readily making a place for itself even in search algorithms. Good solid content coupled with social conversations and connections on sites like Facebook and Twitter have created a newer method of marketing called trend marketing, noted as a precursor to People and Traffic Optimization; which is now being ushered in by Google, and generally pioneered by Bing.

Social media plays an increasingly visible role.

“Social media has been a major player in the digital marketing landscape for the last few years. First we saw the rise of mega platforms like Facebook and Twitter. In the last couple of years, visual content from networks like Pinterest, Instagram, and various micro-video services has swept through. Today, diversification is a major trend: depending on who you’re targeting, it’s no longer enough to be active on a single network. In fact, the Content Marketing Institute recently released a study that the most successful B2B marketers are active on an average of seven networks.”

In addition to strengthening your overall social media marketing position, it is absolutely critical that you are investing in your Google+ presence. Recent studies in ranking factors confirm that Google social network is playing an increasingly significant role in search rankings.

Content is bigger than ever.

Content marketing will move from buzzword to mature marketing movement in 2014. From an SEO perspective, Google will look at companies that have robust content marketing efforts as a sign that they’re the kind of business Google wants to support. What changes you need to make in 2014 depends largely on where your company stands now in relation to an active content marketing strategy. Companies with existing content strategies will need to assess the role of mobile, specifically. If you’ve just begun to move in the direction of content marketing, it’s time to really commit and diversify. If you haven’t started yet, it’s time to take the plunge.”

Google Analytics introduces demographic data.

Until recently, a demographic data set was missing from Google Analytics. Now, data collected from DoubleClick third-party cookies is available in the new demographic report. You’ll see valuable information about your audience’s gender, age and interests with just a couple of clicks. No more guessing about who your ideal customer is.

Also on the technical side we’ll likely see a revamped advertising format, greater growth of the Knowledge Graph, and adjusted user experience with new search engine results layouts. The full playbook for 2014 visibility strategies is still in the works, but this will give you a jumpstart when it comes to concepts you need to start thinking about. What’s on the top of your search list for next year?