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Even though 2014 is well and truly under way, it is never too late to start thinking about your search engine optimisation strategy for the next twelve months. If this is something you have never really considered before, you’re in for a bit of a shock – so much has changed and come to light that you may need to start over from scratch.

This article will cover those on and off page factors that you really need to be aware of for 2014. These are the things that Google (and other search engines) are really focusing on at the moment or the things that are really proving to advance your rankings. This is by no means a step-by-step SEO guide and instead just aims to show you what could be possible.

On Page

Content

  • Advertisements – It is time that we started considering advertisements as being part of a page’s content. Whilst search engine’s aren’t going to penalise you for having ads, they won’t be happy if you have too many ads or if you have inappropriate placement. The other piece of advice that we can offer is to be wary of text link ads – they need to match the content.
  • Engagement – This is really coming to the forefront in 2014, as getting visitors to actually stay and read your content is an important part of a successful web presence. This means that meaningful content is key, as no one wants to read boring blogs. It is also important to make sure that your content looks good – from layout and font selection to line spacing.
  • Freshness – This refers to two things – firstly, that you are posting about hot topics and, secondly, that you are regularly posting new content. The presence of new content helps you to attract readers, as well as improving crawl frequency. You need to think of your content as something that generates awareness and trust – place yourself as a reliable source.
  • Keywords – It is important to understand that keywords are not going anywhere and is still a vital aspect of on page SEO. This year, however, we are looking at entities (where topics take the place of keywords in result pages). We need to make sure that each page in our websites can stand on its own as a topic rather than multiple pages for similar keywords.
  • Quality – During 2013, we saw a distinct shift in content focus – instead of being focused on churning out massive articles that are the length of a small novel or short fluffy pieces that are a sentence or two long, we are focusing on the quality of the content. It must be well written with attention to correct spelling and grammar in order to be successful.

HTML

  • Description – This is another factor that isn’t really going to change in 2014 – you still need to write unique descriptions for each page of your website. Whilst the length of your description will depend on the combined pixel width of all the characters, special attention should be paid to making sure that they aren’t getting cut off in results.
  • Keyword Stuffing & Hidden Elements – The good news is that most experts steer clear of these practices. Unfortunately, keyword stuffing can be a real problem for ecommerce sites because the same word or phrase may be used over and over. People are also participating in unintentional cloaking – everything on the page needs to appear in the HTML.
  • Structured Data Markup – There is much debate surrounding this factor – some experts like structured markup and some don’t. Those who don’t are against helping search engines to display information that doesn’t result in website visits (such as opening hours). Those that do are looking for any and all ways to get bodies (and sales) through the door.
  • Titles & Headers – Whilst the usual rules for writing optimised title tags and headers have not changed as of yet, there has been some suggestion that search engines will begin rewriting title tags algorithmically. This actually links in with entity search, as you need to make sure that you are mindful of the keywords that you’re using in title and H1 tags.

Architecture

  • Crawl – These days, most optimisers are not paying enough attention to crawl because we get caught up with everything else that is happening with the website. You need to make sure that the search engines can crawl every single page on your website (at least, those that you want to be crawled) and that this is done in a timely manner after updates.
  • Duplicate Content – Even though Matt Cutts may have said that we don’t have to worry about duplicate content in 2013, it is important to remember that Google is not the only search engine out there and that they don’t all work the same. What does this mean? You need to manage your duplicate content and delete it wherever possible.
  • Mobile – Because it was so new, 2013 was actually an interesting year for mobile SEO. Both Google and Bing have agreed that the best course of action is to have a single set of URLs for all devices and to use responsive web design to present them accordingly. This is, however, not always possible but you should be fine if you treat all visitors equally.
  • Speed – Many people aren’t too worried about the speed of their website because you don’t get any SEO benefit from it and, according to Google, only a small fraction of sites are affected. Try surfing your website from a public place, like a café – if you aren’t waiting for pages to load up you should be okay, but if you are it’s time to make it run faster.
  • URLs – Did you know that simple and easy to read URLs are not just about optimisation? With multi-tabbed browsers commonly used today, people are more likely to see your URL than they are your title tags. What this means is that readable URLs are more likely to get clicked on than those that are completely nonsensical.

Off Page

Links

  • Paid – This is an SEO factor that has not changed in the last year and is not likely to change anytime soon – do not purchase links in the hopes that it will provide you with better rankings! Any expert who is worth their salt will know that these sorts of practices no longer work and that some search engines are even penalizing you for doing this.
  • Quality – Google is set to continuously become more aggressive this year and, as such, link building programs will start to be folded into influencer marketing programs and become more network oriented. Diversity will also become more important, meaning that you need to get links from a variety of sources and make sure they are of high quality.
  • Quantity – Whilst search engines used to operate on the principle that the number of links their website had was more important, they are now starting to lean more towards the quality of these links. At the same time, you need to quickly earn new and better links than your competitors if you don’t want to lose your ranking.

Trust

  • Authority – In addition to receiving links from high trust websites, it also refers to things like brand and author recognition. Brands can help you boost your rankings because people are constantly writing about and linking to them. Encourage your authors to engage in social media, ask an expert to write a guest post and have a central authorship voice.
  • Piracy – If your content management system is up to date, you should be equipped with the latest software for keeping unwanted personnel out of your website. If your server or website does get hacked, make sure that you take it offline immediately and put up a 503 page. Once you have rectified the problem, feel free to apply for reconsideration.

Social

  • Connections & Interactions – Whilst there can be no denying that social media is certainly an SEO factor, we need to accept that this does appear to be progressing much slower than anticipated. Even so, it is important that you are aware of the relationships between search engines and social media sites (for example, Bing is aligned with Facebook and Twitter).

Personalisation

  • Country & Locality – This has been the focus of optimisers for several years and there are actually plenty of things for you to optimise here, such as registering your business with Google+ and tagging pages with language codes. It is also important to focus on links from sites related to the geographic locations that you are targeting for better results.
  • History – It is believed that personal history is a ranking factor that will continue to come into its own during 2014. What this means is that if you visit a website when browsing with Google, that same site is more likely to show up in future search results. When you think about it, it actually makes sense for search engines to give trust to popular websites.

In many ways, we can boil down all of the SEO ranking factors that you need to focus on for 2014 into three categories – quality, authority and trust. It is important to understand that search engine optimisation is no longer about trying to ‘outwit’ search engines. It’s now about building an audience and posting useful, informative information that people want to read.

About Sukhbir Mehla

I am the founder and director of Zeemo, A Digital Agency that aims to help our clients succeed in the competitive online sphere using strategies that are specifically targeted to meet their needs.

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