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by Emma North on 13th December 2013
2013 has been another crazy year for SEO, with numerous updates and even a shiny new [rehashed] algorithm. But what can we take from this year’s changes to aid our SEO in 2014?
In this post I’ve looked at some of the most significant recent changes in SEO and what we should be adding into our 2014 search strategies.
In August 2013 Google launched Hummingbird; a new algorithm designed to improve the way the search engine organises and delivers search results. Unlike updates such as Penguin and Panda, this was not an update to the existing algorithm, but instead a completely new system which took parts of the old algorithm that worked well and combined them with completely new features.
One of the most publicised and understood changes brought about with the Hummingbird algorithm is the development of “conversational search” and the way in which the search engine understands and handles these sorts of queries.
For example, if a user searches for “where is the nearest bank?”, it wouldn’t be useful to show them a list of results about how to find a nearby bank. Instead, the search engine now aims to better understand user intent and context to deliver them the most relevant results.
While Hummingbird is not a cause of ranking penalties in the way we associate with other updates, it does give us something new to think about when optimising our websites through SEO in 2014.
In August we were finally warned that (not provided) keyword data in Google Analytics was to climb sharply as Google drives more users to HTTPS secured search. With (not provided) keywords soaring over the last few months, we’re all resigned to the fact that the organic keyword data we used to enjoy in Google Analytics is a thing of the past.
That said, all is not lost and there are still ways we can gain some insight into organic search behaviour. Landing page analysis is now increasingly used to consider the sort of traffic that sites are receiving, and the likely types of keywords that were used to reach those pages. There is also the Search Queries Report in Google Webmaster Tools which provides some useful, if approximated, organic keyword data for us to consider.
With many new solutions and workarounds for SEO in a post (not provided) world, the impact of these changes should be subsiding. As we head into 2014 we know what to expect from organic keywords and now is the time to make sure we fully understand the alternative techniques for gaining organic keyword insight.
There have been more updates to the Google Penguin algorithm this year, with the most notable being the fourth major update in May, referred to as Penguin 4 by the industry or Penguin 2.0 by Google. The impact of this update was actually far less than many expected and mainly targeted link issues more specifically at page level.
October saw the release Penguin 2.1, a further tweak which did not majorly change the Penguin algorithm. Instead, this is thought to have been more of a data update and had a moderate impact over all, with many sites reporting little or no change while others saw severe effects.
While these changes caused upheaval for some, the fundamental facts about harmful unnatural links haven’t changed. It is only the case that Google is becoming increasingly able at detecting them. Any site still partaking in spammy link building practices to place links that serve no purpose to actual users should reconsider their strategy and bring things in line with Google’s expectations before they too feel the wrath of Google Penguin or a manual penalty.
The in-depth articles update launched early in August 2013 introduced a new type of search result dedicated to long-term, evergreen content designed to provide value to users believed to be looking for more in-depth guides or information.
This update has increased the potential value of quality content and informational guides, offering websites a new opportunity to strengthen organic search performance. The best way to see benefits from this update is to design and implement a strong content marketing strategy in which you regularly create and promote quality and informative pieces of content designed to meet a specific user need or answer a specific question.
Webmasters and SEOs will be used to the ever-changing world of search engine optimisation and will already know the importance of keeping up-to-date. This year has seen some major changes as well as some minor tweaks that could have a big impact on the way we work.
For me, the most important thing to consider for SEO in 2014 is that the user is key to everything Google targets. Write for users, build links for users, optimise your site for users and you are far less likely to fall foul of penalties and more likely to see your site climb through the organic search rankings.
2013/2014 Image Source: Bigstock