Now that the new year is here, it’s time once again for business owners to focus on making sure their marketing and SEO efforts are dusted off, fine-tuned and in step with the times. While the intent is not to bore you by bringing up the past, it is important to know what happened in the SEO world during 2014. Last year, the web was abuzz with loads of information concerning the importance of local SEO. This topic was so hot in fact that it seemed small businesses everywhere were trying to target anyone and everyone including their next door neighbors.
While some business owners failed miserably at local SEO, many more did an amazing job in transforming their businesses completely. Every small business owner out there who plans on being around in a few years should indeed be focusing a great deal of effort on local SEO as more and more consumers are using mobile devices to connect with businesses of all types when out and about.
One more notable observation about 2014 worth mentioning is that last year seemed to be the first year that marketers and SEO became one. If you’ve been involved with internet marketing for a while now, you can surely remember when SEO was something many people (including marketers) feared because they didn’t understand it. Nowadays however, SEO is not such a big mystery and more marketers are understanding that it plays a vital role in what they do. In short, anyone purporting to be an SEO expert these days cannot possibly stay on top of things without also being an impressive marketer.
Now on to the tips for the new year!
Tip #1: Don’t Get Caught Up in the Scare Tactic Surrounding Link-Building
Over the past year, Google’s algorithm has changed at a rapid pace. The search giant even went as far as to announce that its Penguin algorithm is going to be rolling out on a consistent basis. In case you don’t know, the Penguin algorithm is all about over-optimization. It does not like sites with spam links and highly targeted anchor links. It even frowns upon blog comment links if they’re being accumulated just to positively rank in the search engines.
Link building took a hard hit last year (as well as the year before) with the Penguin updates and all the many “Don’ts” from Google. Many marketers were reading blog posts and articles that said they shouldn’t guest blog, trade or buy links or worry about getting as many links as possible in order to rank better. All these “Don’ts” pertaining to link building are enough to scare the pants off anyone and cause a lot of confusion at the same time. What we did learn in 2014 is that we still do need to concentrate on getting the best links possible which are relevant links that drive traffic and help the brand and site overall.
Acquiring relevant, quality links is and always will be important and it’s a task that shouldn’t be scary. Guest posts still do work as do partner links. Niche directories can also prove helpful. Link building should be done with the focus on reaching your targeted audience and building brand awareness and not just on improving your rankings. The days of just planting links wherever you like are long gone. Instead of thinking about link building, think of link earning! You can earn great links all types of ways. One of the best ways is to create awesome content people want to link to. You can also earn links by sharing your content on social media. Links can also be earned by establishing relationships with the leading influencers within your industry that will prompt them to mention and link to your content and brand in their published work.
Link earning is all about being focused on building your brand. By zeroing in on publishing high quality content and then spreading it to the right outlets, you can acquire valuable links the natural way which is exactly what Google wants you to do. Shifting the focus from link building to link earning is something every business needs to concentrate on doing in 2015.
Tip #2: Mobile Search will Reign Supreme in 2015 So Be Ready
During 2014, Google began testing mobile-friendly icons next to search results. It also added a mobile usability section in Google Webmaster accounts so site owners can see how their sites perform on mobile devices. We also know that Google penalizes sites that generate errors for mobile users.
For the past couple of years, SEO experts have been talking about mobile as the “future”. But now that Google is beginning to place more importance on mobile search, it’s time for businesses to stop thinking about focusing on mobile search and instead concentrate on making sure their websites are well optimized for the mobile consumer.
Mobile users consume content differently than desktop users as they are are looking for information to help them accomplish specific tasks while ‘on the go’. This is why businesses that are not tailoring their websites and content to mobile users have seen their conversions plummet and their search engine rankings drop.
It has been estimated that local mobile searches are expected to exceed desktop searches in 2015. This means mobile search is going to be bigger and more important than ever before. Mobile optimization is a process that takes many things into consideration including site design, site structure, page speed and more. Now is definitely the time to concentrate on optimizing your website for smartphone and tablet users because if you don’t, your conversion rates and search rankings will inevitably plunge.
Tip #3: Focus on Ranking for Conversational Keyword Phrases
Back in the fall of 2013 when Google released its Hummingbird algorithm update, the door to semantic search was officially opened. In a nutshell, this update improved the way the search algorithms understand conversational phrases or questions entered into a search query to make sure the entire phrase was understood rather than each particular word.
It’s becoming more and more clear that Google is attempting to become a destination for people to find answers to the questions they have. Nowadays, you can type a question into Google like “what’s the weather like in Tacoma, WA right now” wherein you’re provided with an instant answer instead of a list of urls from which you can find the answer. As time marches on, web users will increasingly be typing in or voicing in their queries on Google. And this is exactly why long-tail keyword targeting in SEO is becoming much more important.
Putting a focus on long-tailed keywords is certainly nothing new. A few years ago, long-tailed keywords were deemed a great way to gain search traffic, making these keywords very hot in the SEO world. Nowadays, there is a strong resurgence in these keywords because they’re now more valuable than ever. This year, businesses should focus on learning exactly what their customers are searching for and change their keyword strategies to reflect those phrases being used the most in search queries. Not only is it cheaper to rank for long tailed keywords but it also cuts down on the competition and helps drive very targeted traffic.