marketing_2014Thanks to Google’s recent Hummingbird update, it looks like 2014 is going to be another curious year for SEO and online marketing. There will be some major challenges that businesses will have to face in order to increase their visibility online. Here are several examples of what businesses and SEO firms are going to have to deal with during the upcoming year.

Rankings Aren’t Permanent

When businesses start thinking about what they’re going to do during the upcoming year, they often focus on additional keywords they want to be found for. While there’s nothing wrong with wanting to increase their reach online, what many businesses forget is just because they’ve secured a top position for a specific phrase, it doesn’t mean it will stick. In order to prevent traffic from dipping, it is worth dedicating some resources to a maintenance plan.

Not only is it important to focus on keywords within what I call the “click zone” (position 1-5), it is important to focus on keywords between position 5 and 10, because they generally have a great return on investment. Spending a little bit of time on these keywords (position 5-10), can have massive gains.

If a business shifts too much of their focus to new goals and doesn’t keep an eye on their previous achievements, it’s possible for their overall organic traffic to take a significant hit.

Expert Tip: Businesses should allocate some time on improving their top landing pages, to make sure they secure or even improve their rankings.

Certain Issues May Require Deeper Investigation

While Google Analytics can provide a lot of useful information, what they initially show may not paint the full picture. For example, when Apple updated iOS last year, it caused a referrer issue that made traffic sent from mobile browser Safari showed up as direct instead of from search. This led to plenty of people getting worried because they saw a major drop in their organic traffic. It wasn’t until they had time to dig deeper that they found the full story.

When businesses get in a hurry and don’t take the time to fully investigate a change, they may end up making the wrong decision about how to react.

Expert Tip: It is important businesses are proactive instead of reactive – otherwise they will end up making a mistake they might regret.

future_of_marketingNo More Keywords

Google recently announced that they’re going to start encrypting all search terms. What that means is instead of only some searches showing up as not provided, the majority of organic traffic is eventually going to be handled that way.

On October 1st, 80.78% of keywords resulted in not provided. This is going to fundamentally change the way that many sites approach their keyword research and strategy. It’s also going to make it significantly harder for businesses to pinpoint the keywords that are sending the type of traffic they want.

For many businesses and marketers, this huge shift means they’re going to have to experiment with a variety of new tools and tactics in order to figure out what will work best for them.

Expert Tip: Link Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics to get more keyword insights such as keyword avg. positions, impression and click data. Keep in mind this data isn’t entirely accurate – however it is great for insights.

Don’t Put All Your Eggs into One Basket
Between Google’s mobile search, local results, and the influence of Google+, it’s crucial for businesses to expand their approach to SEO to consider factors such as localisation and social signals.

Google are continually updating their algorithm to eliminate / penalise any business trying to manipulating the system and to display the most relevant results to the searcher. What this means for businesses is that Google is becoming smarter and will be focusing on many other metrics, such as social signals that would suggest the real reputation of a business, not that of manipulative link building or onsite optimization etc.

Expert Tip: Business should focus less on rankings and start monitoring other metrics such as social signals, brand mentions and content marketing.

A Quick Fix May Have Long-Term Consequences

Quick SEO fixes aren’t necessarily done in a way that’s meant to be spammy. Unfortunately, if a business doesn’t know the possible implications, this type of tactic may end up having them penalised. Even though it will probably take more work, coming up with a more sustainable strategy will yield more results in the long term.

Expert Tip: Instead of trying to manipulate the system, business should optimise for the end-user instead. They should write valuable and useful content for their target audience.

How Can You Make Your SEO Efforts a Success?

The SEO process can be quite complicated and involve a lot of effort; most businesses find that it’s better to hire a professional SEO company who keeps up to date with the latest SEO updates, such as Google Hummingbird. There’s a huge difference in quality among companies in this field.

In addition to going through the standard process of carefully researching a company, it’s useful to take time to define what your goals are. By knowing exactly what you expect a SEO firm to deliver, any potential company you interview will have an opportunity to demonstrate whether or not they’re capable of delivering on those specific outcomes. Once you do find the right partner to help you with SEO, you’ll be very happy with just how much can be accomplished through this form of marketing.