Well, it is the beginning of yet another year and we have seen plenty of changes in the SEO world throughout 2013 including Penguin and Panda updates, the domain crowding release, the rise and rise of mobile search and, very recently, the announcement from Yandex of the removal of links from its algorithm. We would expect nothing less from the wonderful yet unpredictable world of search. But it got me thinking, what is in store for us in 2014? And what key points should we consider for our strategies in 2014?
Say goodbye to machine-generated duplicate content
Now, this might sound quite obvious, but many sites still suffer with machine generated duplicate content issues that are left unfixed. Although non-malicious, search engines still view this as duplication. To avoid potential penalisations, you need to provide search engines with your preferred URL through canonicalisation.
So, if you have not done it already, then 2014 is the year to get kick-ass with Panda! And here is how:
Machine generated duplication can appear in many forms including:
The content provided on each URL is the same, however as the URLs are provided in both upper and lower case, this causes an internal duplication issue. Now, imagine this same problem happens for each product on your site and you have 10,000 products! That is a lot of duplicate pages! Fortunately, this problem is easy to fix. Choose a canonical page for each product (the lower-case version is recommended) and canonicalise the non-canonical (the upper-case version) back to the canonical page. Voila!
Or sessions IDs:
All issues mentioned here can be dealt with using canonicalisation.
Implement a search-friendly geo-selector
Why is this important?
Usability – A crawlable language selector allows site visitors to easily navigate between regions/languages if they want to do so.
Crawlability – A search friendly geo-selector allows search engine spiders to easily discover and crawl all pages of your websites. This helps them to better understand the structure of your network for geo-targeting purposes.
Link juice – Making your language/geo-selector visible to the search engines allows link juice to be passed through all sites, helping to maintain link strength across all.
A quick list of do’s and don’ts:
- Incorporate the country/language selection tool on each page of your site
- Allow search engines to crawl links using HTML or CSS
- Use HTML forms – They do not include links for a search engine to crawl
- Use iFrames – Search engine crawlers do not follow links to content in iFrames
- Use AJAX – AJAX asynchronously displays different content using the same URL. This means only one version of that content will get indexed by search engines
Clean up your backlink profile
With Penguin updates being released throughout 2013 (Penguin 2.0 and 2.1), and the clear indication from Google that they will continue to clamp down on web spam, there is no better time to kick bad backlinks to the curb!
Manual link removal
First, remove any links manually that you can do yourself.
Once you have removed any manual links that you can, move on to use the disavow tool to remove any that you cannot remove manually.
Once the bad links are gone, you need to start earning new links. Note the key word here is earn. How do you do this? Create amazing content that people want to share socially and link back to naturally.
Give your content strategy an overhaul
With the announcement from Yandex that they will be dropping links as a ranking factor for commercial queries in the Moscow area, the message is clear – especially if you are targeting Russia: it is time to change your SEO strategy! Stop thinking about all links in the same way and start thinking about on-page factors, including conversion optimisation and traffic generation.
The question that is hot on my lips is: will Google soon follow suit? We already know that Google is looking for other ranking indicators including the use of social signals, and they did follow the Russians once before with the introduction of Panda. We have seen SEOs worldwide manipulate search engines through black hat link building schemes for years, and the Penguin web spam updates serve as evidence to prove that the search engines are acting to wipe out these kind of practices.
So, what is next? My prediction for 2014 is the devaluation of backlinks (to what extent, who knows?), making way for the rise of other ranking factors including social, use of content, conversion rates and traffic volumes.
So, think about your content marketing strategy and create content that adds value and encourages the visitor to engage with your site. Create sticky content that will encourage visitors to come back time and again (this could be in the form of useful guides or videos and audio).
Optimise for mobile
You know it, we know it, everybody knows it! Mobile search is on the rise and it is only set to get bigger in 2014. If mobile is not part of your international SEO strategy, then it should be! Especially if you are targeting markets like Korea and India, where mobile search is used more widely than in other countries.
India, Indonesia and South Korea are booming in the world of mobile search – more internet users in these countries use their mobile phones instead of desktops. If you are targeting these countries then mobile SEO cannot be ignored! Do not alienate your main target market!
A recent report by searchmetrics, based on 10,000 keywords, shows the top ranking indicators for 2013 in the U.S:
Is this because the sites ranked well for the key phrases used in the report that they gained additional social shares, or do they rank well because of the social indicators? This, we do not know. What we do know is there is certainly a correlation between social shares and high rankings.
We can also see that social indicators are up there with number of backlinks, so this really cannot be ignored. If social has not been in your SEO strategy before now, 2014 is the time to engage.
Not only does a social strategy help to boost rankings, its added value holds no limits. Why would you not want a platform to raise brand awareness, drive traffic and share content?
Be sure to put these pointers on your SEO New Year’s resolutions list and look forward to a year of change in 2014!
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