Probably the most important question for SEO’s or Site Owners in 2014 would be – "Could my website survive a manual or algorithmic Google penalty?"
Over the past two years, as Google's Webmaster Spam team gets better at identifying tactics, we have seen the number and frequency of algorithmic updates and manual penalties increase. This only looks set to continue over the next couple of years.
So how can you adjust your tactics to get results without risking everything?
Here are some ideas for content, link building, technical, offline, local, social and mobile considerations to create an overall picture of what search engines see as a 'good' site and help you renovate your SEO strategy for 2014. Just to let you know, we have been working successfully and carrying out on most of these strategies since the last year. In fact we have already included them in our SEO deliverables as well.
Using content as the foundation of your SEO strategy is not a new concept, but the definition of "good" quality content is ever-changing. Although the Panda update punished sites with thin content, there still are sites which use such content to rank higher. It might help temporarily, but will definitely affect in the long run.
· Drives traffic through searches related to your industry
· Builds authority in the eyes of users and search engines
· Increases engagement with your brand on social media
So what can be termed as good content?
Content in 2014 will not be just limited to the pieces of text you will add to the website or blog. You will need to think outside of this and make sure to develop a range of different media like videos, presentations, whitepapers, infographics, how-to's etc. These become your assets and can be one of your best sources of links. Basically, you have to provide content which is useful to the end user.
Not to forget your site pages, you should be constantly improving your static assets (especially landing pages) to improve conversions and provide the best user experience. Engagement and conversion metrics are not just important to your bottom line, they're important to Google providing the best results.
Link building is still the mainstay of how major search engines rank websites but the interpretation of link data has changed ever since the Penguin update was launched.
Bad link building is one of the easiest ways to get penalized, but good link building can be the hardest part of your job (even more so in certain niches).
So, what can be considered definitely as a bad link or a link that should be "disavowed"?
If you have fallen prey to this techniques earlier by some unethical vendors who claim to be experts, it is always advisable to get rid of such links either manually or disavowing the links via Google Webmaster Tools.
From our end, we have adopted the below techniques as far as building links is concerned.
Backlink Analysis - Balancing of followed links to nofollow to have a natural profile. Check backlinks and traffic of sites from which we are getting links to find and weed out sites which are themselves hit by this update.
Link Velocity - The first and most significant observation that stood out among sites which were affected by Penguin update was link velocity. We have reduced our link velocity since the update. Getting too many links quickly will be flagged easily by Google.
Anchor Text Diversity – Continue to vary anchor text and lower the % of specific key terms focus. We have been doing this since 2012 and will continue to work the %’s.
Link Diversity – Sites performing well have good link diversity including links from Guest Blog Posts, info-graphics, videos, local business directories, presentations, coupons submissions etc. Since Google prefers a diversified link profile. We recommend getting links from these sources. Most of these sources are also now part of new deliverables.
Apart from this, to get quality links you can also consider link reclaiming. Link reclaiming is the act of finding sites that mention you, your brand or a related story and simply asking for a link.
There are a number of ways to find opportunities for link reclamation:
Web Mentions - Google Alerts is the most popular tool for monitoring mentions on the web, but Moz has also just released an alert function for their Fresh Web Explorer. Set up an alert for your brand name and when a site mentions you without linking send them an email.
Images - Use Google's Search by Image tool to find out where people are using your images and ask for a link credit, this works almost 100% of the time.
Videos - If you are hosting video on YouTube you can use their analytics platform to see where your videos are being watched on external sites. Visit those sites and ask for a link to your website to supplement the video.
Something that we have personally seen develop over the past two years is the influence of location on search results. Google are actively expanding the number of searches that trigger a local result as they understand which searches are relevant to a location.
You need to be clear about the locations your business really serves and try and make sure you don't look more local than you really are.
Schema is one way to show search engines where you are based and which areas you serve. Apart from this, you can also look at some local on-site changes like creating GEO based landing pages for each location you serve, optimizing your Google Places page by filling out as much information as you can and getting genuine reviews from your customers, implementing rich snippets and obviously altering the page titles and meta descriptions to feature the service and areas you serve.
The final piece of the search puzzle is social. While there is still no direct link between social and ranking, search engines are increasingly adding social elements to search results.
Google uses Google+, Bing uses Facebook and both show reviews. Social proof is a great way to encourage searchers to click through to your site.
Social is also the best way to promote new content immediately to encourage shares, links and engagement.
We already have social media integration as a part of our deliverables. In addition, to improve social signals, instead of doing social bookmarking of the articles submitted we will be getting social signals to those articles which will include (either of) Facebook likes, Tweets or Google+ Votes. Client participation is encouraged.
We hope this post has given you something to think about for 2014. Start planning your strategy for next year and get ahead of the competition.