The future of SEO in 2014

I know, I know, it’s been an AGE since I last posted on this little ol’ blog of mine and for that dear reader I am extremely sorry. Do not fear however because the wait is finally over, and what’s more I didn’t write a single word of this post, save this magnificent introduction and scene setting.

For those of you who’ve been around here before, bless every last one of your hearts,  you may recall this time last year I got a bunch of smart SEO’s to answer one very simple question.

This year I’m asking the same, very wide question of our SEO prophets:

“What they believe is going to happen to the industry in 2013 2014? How do they think Google will be changing, which factors will take a hit and which will be moving up the food chain in terms of importance.

Or if predicting the future isn’t you bag, how about what you think should happen in 2013 2014, whether that’s on the part of Google or the SEO industry as a whole.”

Over to them….

Alessio-Madeyski

“Thing is nobody knows what SEO will be in 2014, but everyone is already an expert on it. The thing I love about this job is that what used to work is not anymore, and every strategy evolves making the work of SEO more exciting.

I can tell you what I would like to do in 2014:

help website to have a better digital experience. The users deserve better website.

You do this with content? Cool.

You do this with social? Cool.

You do this with links? Cool.

Just do it. Talk less and do more.

You don’t have necessarily to make big things costing you 100,000$, you can do something small and for free and enhance the user experience from a day to another.

I hope that in 2014 SEO people are going to complain less about every move Google is making and to make SEO part of a digital strategy with a broader view. I hope not to see “SEO is dead….or not” kind of post anymore, I hope not to see “not provided” articles and I really hope to read more about how to help companies with almost zero budget just because you love your work of helping the others.

Big marketers forget too often the small companies, giving advice they can not afford to follow.

Let’s spend less hours on our little SEO geek world (following the same 13 people), and more time with clients, face to face, creating something.

Last wish for 2014: to see Nine Inch Nails and Queens of the Stone Age together. Ah yeah, I forgot: it’s already happening :D”

Connect with Alessio - Digital Hot House | Twitter | Google+

aleyda

“After the trends and releases we’ve seen this year, in 2014 we can expect:

The obvious: 

More of Penguin, Panda and EMDs updates.

More features, vertical services, ad formats and placements, decreasing even more organic search results visibility.

With a higher probability: 

Contextual search will play a far more prominent role thanks to Hummingbird, the knowledge graph and the information provided by mobile based searches.

The usage of structured data by Google will evolve and also become key to attract visibility in the search results.

Google will launch more updates focusing on mobile & multi-device search, providing also more services and guidelines around them.

With a lower probability: 

Social signals will finally become a ranking factor.

With a minimum probability (although not impossible, this would totally be in my Santa’s wish list):

Google will realize they messed up with “Not Provided” and organic keywords information will be given back in some way or another. “

Connect with Aleyda – Aleyda Solis | Twitter | Google+

Anthony-Pensabene

I think Matt Cutts’ videos will host at least one other background in 2014…

Google wants to move beyond links, yet I’m not sure its engineered a reliable, efficient way to do so; links will still matter.  Personally, I understand the immediate link building association (Google algos influence link builders’ pockets.), but I’m more interested in consumer behavior of 2014 than Google specifically.  Google, though open to manipulation, is only one buyer tool in itself.

In a particular industry for instance, what stops me from sending video email pitches to prospects? nothing. do I need Google for that? no. I’m not saying that applies all the time; I’m just giving an example of evading total reliance on search.

I’m feeling Twitter may drop the ball in trying to incorporate commercial sentiments to peoples’ streams (IPO pressure).  there’s great potential with social, but i don’t think it’s forcing ad material, erm content marketing, on users.  It’s hard to predict what a company will do, but it’s a safer assumption to think about what’s going to make it more money.”

Connect with Anthony - Content Muse | Twitter | Google+

Barrie

It’s always tough when you try in December put down in black and white what you think will happen in 2014, invariably some people will try point fingers or call you out, oh well haters gonna hate ;)

Another big year we had in 2013, and, while most knew that there would be continual iterations of Panda and Penguin, most didn’t see Hummingbird happening, our biggest upgrade (not an update) since Caffeine.

I think one of the things we can guarantee seeing in Search in 2014 is more craphats mis selling optimisation services and showcasing their hummingbird seo services and guaranteed number one positions….

The engine has changed, it still works the same way as it did before it’s just it working a little hard and processing a little more.

Let’s start with links.

Penguin is IMHO updating more frequently, the artificial intelligence modelling of Gogole as far as links is concerned is vastly different in the tail end of 2013 than it was in 2012 never mind 2010. Link data is being processed differently and daily.

Any link that doesn’t deliver clicks/traffic will increasingly become toxic, not because they don’t work ;) but it’s a when not if scenario as to when they get penalised by google.

Social done correctly produces “links” on the web… It’s were most normal people (not SEOs) go to “talk to people”, so twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, G+ wherever, quick post with link, not a blog post with an exact match anchor!

Social signals are still not what some people claim they are but again with Hummingbird and with the entity search and meanings behind entities analysis in addition with Knowledge Graph, the “picture” of value has increased significantly.

In 2014 google will continue to mine the social graph and some additional value can be attained from the social signals, but they are still a signal not a factor.

Rich Media and media which is consumed via Mobile will play a bigger part, it should play a bigger part in your activity.

Guest blog submission services will be “outed” just as the link networks were.

I have a bet with Cygnus that Jan 14th will be the next Google update ;) (Hope Matt doesn’t read this, want to win that bet)

Structured data will continue to grow, semantic mark-up and the use of schema or RDFA will aid the ability for a site to be optimised, there will be more emphasis placed on the onsite properties and less on the offsite signals, until a few glitches in the matrix are sorted.

Voice and the living room search – Xbox One, Smart TV’s etc. A lot to watch out for user behaviour wise in 2014 and how we will all need to optimise our clients site to maximise their traffic potentials across multiple platforms and devices.

Global sites not using hreflang will struggle against those using it correctly and I see a growing trend in “international SEO”

I also think SEO’s (most of those but there are some dinosaurs) need to think more from a rounded perspective. The introduction of Google Now, the acquisition of BUMP by Google, the continual developments of Glass, Search is moving to a more intuitive, predictive, “smart” environment and SEO’s need to adapt.

It also gives you a great excuse to buy some of the latest tech to satisfy your geeky side for testing, or that might just be me.

Be Safe and enjoy Search 2014.

PS… This is all from a client perspective, if you only work on your own sites and not building a brand, we’ll all the same stuff still works as long you are prepared to burn and churn.

Connect with Barrie – Barrie Moran | Twitter | Google+

Barry-Adams

“2014 is going to be another interesting year for SEO. While there hasn’t been a boring year yet for SEO since this whole internet search malarkey began, the last few years have been especially exciting and we’ll see that continue in 2014.

First of all I expect to see the repercussions of Hummingbird become more apparent in the course of 2014, with certain elements of the knowledge graph taking more prominence. Additionally Google’s improved ability to process social signals, combined with its Google+ forced-adoption push, will result in some interesting shifts in the search landscape. Expect some interesting uses of the social graph finding their way in to the SERPs.

Another area I think Google will be looking at is sentiment analysis, and finding ways to incorporate positive brand mentions as a potential ranking signal. Already we see positive reviews beginning to have an impact on a business’s visibility in search – especially local search – but Google will want to expand that to all mentions of a brand online, and endeavour to rank those brands highly that are mentioned most often in a positive context.

I also expect a few more carrots thrown the SEO community’s way in the form of rich snippets and other features enabled by schema.org structured data. I believe Google is going to be pushing for more widespread adoption of structured data, and will look at ways to further incentivise webmasters to add this mark-up to their sites.

In 2013 Google has successfully stalled a compromise with the European Commission about its abuse of power, but 2014 will offer no further respite. Either Google will make far-reaching changes to its SERPs to avoid a lengthy and potentially damaging antitrust suit (we already see some of those changes taking effect), or it will fail to sufficiently address the EU Commissioner’s concerns and we’ll see the start of the corporate lawsuit of the decade. And, like with Microsoft’s antitrust case in the early 2000′s, it will be quite a few years before anything will be resolved definitively.

And, as it has been doing for many years with remarkable success, Google will continue to wage its propaganda war against SEO, encouraging marketing directors to opt for AdWords advertising as the only sensible option. We know better of course, but our expert voices as SEOs are increasingly marginalised and undermined.”

Connect with Barry – Barry Adams | Twitter | Google+

Bill

“Every year I ask Google for the same thing, but they give me coal.  I simply want Google to be magic (along with the rest of the world).  In addition to a leveled organic playing field, I want Google to be better at understanding searcher intent.

In 2014, I think we have a shot at seeing them getting slightly better at the latter.  I think all the work we’re starting to do with entities will continue to improve results, as concepts and association bond algorithmically.  I love the idea of getting better results based on how most people associate a “thing” and not just based on a keyword.

I hope we’ll see more with synonym matching, and an improvement with context and co-occurrence (to continually limit the misinterpretation some keywords get).  I think 2014 will find us all writing with a keener eye towards topics and meanings, where we remember we’re trying to write to teach an algorithm as well as our customers.  This will hopefully add to a better web as a whole.  I’m hopeful to see SEOs get involved in better content strategy so our output is less noisy.

I also think we’ll continue to see diminishing returns from weaker links.  I think we’re already seeing it – the spectrum of links that simply aren’t worth the time obtaining seems to be growing.  I think SEOs will need to start focusing on link building with much more scrutiny (and work).  That will likely change a lot of strategies.

Google has proven they’re not afraid to experiment at this stage of the game.  Through a lot of the innocent casualties, they did a relatively nice job (in my opinion) cleaning up the index since 2011.  I think 2014 will be another year of highfalutin statements and theories, of which the SEO industry will have to challenge, test, and be patient.  I think it’s going to be another complex year, if not more so as new unknowns are introduced (especially considering the patents Bill Slawski has been digging up).  Good times ahead.”

Connect with #Sebald – Green Lane SEO | Twitter | Google+

Chris-Dyson

“Dusting off my crystal ball I see Google still trying hard to plug the gaps in their algo. At the moment the algorithm is still quite easy to predict whether that’s through QDF giving certain content an unfair advantage to link spam propping up sites.

Google’s search quality metrics will still favour “big brands”, and although it might not be intentional, the fight against spam will mean more small businesses being removed from the competitive SERP’s.

It will be interesting to see how Google continue to develop projects that will take up more organic real estate and keep searchers on Google for longer and therefore more likely to click on ads.

And the hipocracy will be clearly evident as they make changes that will be “beneficial to advertisers users” – you only have to look at the way in which they laid down the law on Advertorials and then a few months later released a Google Native Ads product.

In 2014 you will need to continue to assess the risk with the way you carry out SEO as we always have – after all do you go for a high risk strategy and make quick money or do you make hypothetical changes to your strategy in the hope that they will be what Google will reward months/years from now?”

Connect with Chris - Triple SEO | Twitter | Google+

Chris

“More Black & White Mammals.

It seems inevitable that Google will ratchet up Penguin and Panda once again, causing further panic in the industry and more client misery.

More Guest Posting & Paid Links. 

Bearing the above in mind, we may find a bit of a ‘skills gap’ in the industry, and guest posting for links will become even more of a ‘go to’ tactic for SEOs. The irony is that these sorts of links will probably end up attracting penalties in years to come. Whilst paid links are nothing new we’ll see more of the “little guys” leveraging them as a cost effective resource.

Negative SEO. 

I think it will become more widely accepted that negative SEO is indeed possible, and may cause some havoc in the SERPs. Unless Google deal with this issue properly, more and more SEOs will start to abuse it (when have SEOs ever not abused Google’s loopholes…?)

What we’ll focus on:

‘Un-copyable’ Link Building.

I just made that word up, but it describes the type of link building that we are increasingly carrying out for clients, and it is basically building links that your competitors will have real trouble copying. As opposed to an SEO looking at your link profile and going ‘ok I’ll just go out and get all of those too’, we want them to go ‘how the hell did they get a link on there?’. Of course this type of link building is much more challenging, but in a good way :)

Building Content Assets. 

Scalable link building has been through a revolution over the last few years, and now even the likes of guest posting and infographics are getting called out by Matt Cutts as manipulative. Since we have a design and development team at our fingertips, we address this problem by building out link-worthy content assets – interactive infographics, games, long-form HTML5 posts, etc… If they are targeted correctly, executed professionally and then followed up with quality outreach, this can be an extremely scalable way to attract a high quantity of links.

Site Audits. 

With more customers coming to us with ‘suspicions’ of a penalty, deep SEO analysis is often required to figure out what has happened. In addition to all the ‘normal’ checks we include as part of our reports, we also try to identify the one or two things that will make the biggest difference to a client’s sites – whether they are in a penalty or not. We also offer a heuristic CRO analysis, comprising a list of potential issues and our recommendations to deal with them. These have gone down extremely well with our clients – and often lead on to website development work – as basically we are telling them how they can make more money.”

Connect with Chris - Hitreach | Twitter | Google+ 

geoff-kenyon

“While I’m definitely not psychic and have been wrong more than a few times, I think we can see our industry heading in a few clear directions.

First, I expect to a much tighter integration of Google Plus into Google properties. We’ve already seen this with YouTube as they recently made signing in with G+ a requirement to posting comments on YouTube – though this was quickly changed to be an option rather than a requirement (though leaving it a requirement would probably have reduced the amount of comments on YouTube and done us all a favor).

I would expect to see G+ as a sign in option (or requirement) for different Google properties such as maps or potentially even search (leading to further personalization). For Google it is vital to drive users to G+, as they have invested significantly into the platform and the success of G+ is critical to improving search and organizing the world’s information and making accessible and personal.

As Google is seeking to merge search and social, I think the SEO industry is going to become a lot less defined as the lines between search and social are becoming blurred. We’re going to see tighter integration of search, social, content, paid search, display, and even offline marketing.

As analytics platforms continue to improve, we’re going to be able to better track users across different mediums and devices allowing us to better understand how all of our campaigns and efforts work together and how users interact with our brands. One of the big outcomes of this will be a focus on users, not just visits.

Finally, I think we’re going to see a shift where the web will move to become more secure. We are all very aware of privacy issues on the web that have not only been highlighted by high profile hackings, but also by governments collecting personal data. Largely as a result of this, much of the web is going to push to become more secure. “

Connect with Geoff – Geoff Kenyon | Twitter | Google+

Ian-Lurie

“Here are my predictions. I’ve actually been pretty public about this already:

But I can get more specific:

Authorship and rel=publisher will matter, a lot. I know, not exactly an earth-shattering revelation. But everyone must pay attention. It looks like Google’s starting to tie unlinked, dispersed content together with Google+ as the central connection. If you have rel=author and publisher set up, you’ll get the advantages. If you don’t, you’ll be left behind.

Previously-penalized sites won’t get their rankings back. This is already emerging. Sites that have come out from under manual or Penguin penalties will reappear in the rankings, but never get back to their previous positions. Why? Because they got those rankings through crappy links, and Google appears less and less inclined to restore them without a new, cleaner authority profile. If you’ve been penalized, get started on a 100% organic authority-building campaign.

Don’t buy any links.

Seriously, wasn’t one penalty enough?

You’ll need to invest at least 5-10x the monthly amount you spent on purchased links if you want to recover within a year. Ouch. But that’s the reality for 2014.

Bing will be heavily revamped. It’ll look like a shut down/launch of a new search engine.  Whoa!!!! This one’s crazy. It probably won’t happen. But rumor is that at least one CEO candidate for Microsoft wants to do away with Bing. I’m sure they’ll replace it with something else. But I give 10% odds on Bing going bye-bye in 2014-2015. So I’m hanging my hat on it. If I get it wrong, I’m just another hand-waving prognosticator. If Bing isn’t shut down, something big will change on the consumer side. Bing’s support for SEOs is fantastic, but the search engine continues to disappoint. Somehow, they have to get numbers way, way up.

Ambient mobile search will take over. You know Google Now? Those little cards that appear on your cell phone based on your location, time of day, past searches, etc.? Google and Apple will race to match each other. Because of that, you’ll see increasingly advanced (and ragged) rollouts of mobile ads that notify you a bit more intrusively, and advertising driven by things like AppleTV and ChromeCast.”

Connect with Ian - Portent | Twitter | Google+

james-agate

My link building theme for 2014 is signal over noise.

I predicted something similar for 2013:

I also think we are going to be a lot closer to quality and trust winning every time when it comes to links rather than pure volume that seems to still be a trump card in certain sectors.

I still think I was right to make that prediction it is just playing out over a longer period of time than I envisaged.

So as we head into the new year, I think that we’ll continue down a path where the needle can be moved with a more focused and often smaller number of links that tick more of the right boxes. Sniper shooting if you will versus the shotgun approach (and heavy machine gun approach before that).

If we look around, we notice that Google is devaluing links, other links are being disavowed by webmasters and it becomes clear that even if you are looking in one of the top link tools like Ahrefs or Majestic SEO, you may just be building a case with the wrong information.

I look at it as follows: you see 10,000 jigsaw pieces that make up the picture of a link profile, Google sees the same picture but only sees it as a 32 piece jigsaw – everyone sees the same picture but the reality is there are a smaller number of pieces (or links) that actually make the picture.

Internally, we’ll be focusing on very individualised strategies for each of our clients (and clients of our partners) not necessarily just looking at which tactics we use but the benchmarks for those tactics, volumes, timeframe for delivery and so on. Different types of sites respond very differently so a key theme for us in 2013 has been testing the waters (with client buy-in) and devising plans based on the results of those tests.

Some of our clients get a small quantity of links per month from us but continue to move forward, others need significant numbers to get the results they are looking for.

From a practitioner’s point of view, managing expectations and carefully selecting the right projects for your skillset (and setup) is going to be an important aspect of being successful in 2014.

So to return to my original point; providing Google with the signals it is looking for versus the usual noise that a “standardised” link building plan may offer.

I’m not going to stand here and say that Google has got it completely right yet in terms of where sites are ranking or even assessing the arbitrary “quality” of a link over sheer quantity – just ask any number of higher-level affiliates who many of you will know that build vast numbers of links (but in sophisticated ways) and continue to be successful at what they do without picking up, what would be considered amongst our community, a ‘good’ link.

As always, “be good” or “be good at it”.

Connect with James - Skyrocket | Twitter | Google+

jason-acidre

“Google is obviously heading towards a far more complicated and competitive search results display (including features such as knowledge graph, rich snippets, carousel, shopping results, and more). We’ll definitely see more of them next year.

With that, SEO as a marketing practice will be a lot more difficult than what it is right now – I’m sure that everyone has already anticipated this.

I really liked what Dr. Pete Meyers mentioned on his presentation at MozCon earlier this year: business should build to sell in order to rank (and to sustain rankings as well).

And the best way to do that is to really build a solid online brand presence (as I’ve also mentioned on my contribution last year, online branding will still hold the key to SEO success).

Implementing a holistic marketing approach will help brands get the most out of SEO, given that search engines are trying to get more data from different areas of the web to validate authoritativeness, trust and demand.

Factors that will definitely increase its importance next year:

Social signals – it’s continuously growing its importance over the years, especially in determining trusted content/brands. So getting your brand more involved in social networks (particularly on Google+) might also help get your site become more visible on personalized search results.

Brand signals – brands are evidently surviving the aftermath of several algorithmic changes this year. So content marketing, social media, and offline campaigns that can help grow brand awareness, mentions, and brand searches will be very vital in any SEO campaign next year.

UX and conversion data – how users interact with the site can highly indicate quality and relevance, and these two marketing practice have somehow been an integral part of modern SEO.

Use of structured data – it’s the future of site optimization (for sematic web), so better invest on implementing it across your website while it’s still on its infancy stage.

Links – the value of high quality links in influencing search rankings will not decrease, in my opinion. It’ll just get more difficult, but still necessary.

Mobile – mobile search is continuously growing, and so many future algorithmic updates will be most likely based on mobile users’ data.”

Connect with Jason - Kaiser The Sage | Twitter | Google+

John-Henry-Scherck

“I see Google putting a lot more effort into improving Hummingbird, as of right now (11/6/2013) It’s a bit weak in my opinion.

The query, “what has more calories a hot dog or a hamburger”

hotdog

should be easy for Google to figure out, but it’s not doing it. You have to spoonfeed Google to get the knowledge graph to serve comparative results. For example, here’s, “calories hot dog vs hamburger”

calories

I think Google is going to start trying to determine what information users really want with long tail queries, so they can serve them knowledge graph results and keep them on Google.com for longer periods of time.

As far as line items, I could see 2014 being a year where people start investing more in conversion rate optimization rather then strictly going for traffic generation. Competing for competitive terms is only getting harder and harder for small businesses, I could become so difficult that many SMBs shift to CRO and try to maximize on the traffic they already have.

Industry-wise, I think we are going to see some agencies and established websites that can’t adapt, that are still stuck in traditional link building, closing their doors and shuttering their windows. The industry is rapidly evolving, and the next few algorithm updates causing an extinction level effect for small, white-ish hat SEO agencies that primarily work with local clients and resort to mediocre tactics from time to time. “

Connect with John-Henry - TLC SEO | Twitter | Google+

Jon-Cooper

“I suck at “future of SEO” type posts, so I tried to make mine somewhat unique:

For the entrepreneurial crowd, the big movement that we’re starting to see in the last year or so, and the direction we’ll continue to move in, is focusing more on less sites. Entrepreneurs have obviously been using SEO in a huge way to grow businesses online for a while, and for a lot of them, they’d usually have more than a few sites that they were trying to make lucrative.

However, the overhead time & effort investment costs are gradually increasing, and as a result it’s making less & less sense to be building sites in mass like we used to. Case in point – people talking about creating “great content” on niche sites. That’s kind of an oxymoron, isn’t it? To create truly high quality content, either a lot of time or someone else’s (which costs $$$) is needed, but the idea of niche sites are to be A) low time investment and B) low cost.

So as a result, when it’s getting to be so much work just to make a smaller site work, you’re going to see a lot of people trying to create more authority sites, just because Google is & will continue to push in the direction of big brands, and continue to take small businesses/sites into a dark alley and, well, you get the point.”

Connect with Jon - Point Blank SEO | Twitter | Google+

Julie-Joyce

“I think that we’ll all be kept off balance by Google as we have been in 2013. Even the 100% whitehat pro-Google people have gotten the chance to fuss about Google lately, so I expect it to continue as they take away previously available information.

As I keep saying every year, I expect bad links to take a hit but I don’t see good paid links taking one simply because you can’t tell they’re paid links, if they’re done really well.

I think that in terms of a link helping a site, we’ll see that there’s more to it than just getting the link.

I think we’ll see that social movement on the page that a link is placed on will help boost the power of that link.

I think that webmasters will start to realize the danger of being deindexed or downgraded in Google and they’ll start to market their sites elsewhere, especially establishing presences on the big social platforms.

Overall, I think that my job will continue to challenge me and I’ll not be bored for a very long time.”

Connect with Julie - Link fish Media | Twitter | Google+

Kane-Jamison

“I think the industry’s interactions with Google through most of 2012 and a good portion of 2013 focused around Google taking external action: primarily decimating mediocre link networks and a number of shady link building practices. Aside from refreshes of Penguin and Panda, I’m not expecting as much in the way of new developments in this area.

I am expecting more significant SERP changes, similar to what we saw this year with the knowledge graph carousel results. I’m also expecting a wider roll out of answer boxes than what we’ve seen in 2013.

With this year’s NSA debacle and mostly-complete roll out of encrypted search I’m only expecting more to follow in terms of privacy. Not sure how it will affect non-paid search marketers – I think Google is still committed to reporting aggregate data for non-paid traffic via Google Webmaster Tools so I don’t see that going away, but I don’t see a big increase in reporting coming out from them, either.

I’m expecting many tool providers to start integrating with Google Webmaster Tools if they’re not already, and reporting search volume by page compared to page-level analytics metrics. Seems like a pretty natural reporting method of using page/keyword clusters instead of activity-by-keyword.

Finally, I’d expect to see a notable search agency merge with (or be acquired by) a more traditional creative/pr agency. Also, a continued general increase in non-SEO hires, with companies stocking up on content and design hires from separate disciplines – content strategy, journalism, PR, and graphic design being the primary ones.”

Connect with Kane – Kane Jamison | Twitter | Google+

Kieran-Flanagan

“The change in SEO over the past two years has been insane. If you told SEO’s in 2010 there would be updates to penalise poor quality content, low quality links, a first move towards semantic search, plus they would strip away our keyword data, there would be a lot of SEO’s jumping out of a lot windows.

I don’t think a lot of things will change in 2014. SEO is becoming a lot more complex. The perfect SEO strategy now incorporates a lot of different skill sets. I really question if the role of “SEO” will not be split into different roles in the future.

a. Website Optimisation (UI, Traditional SEO error clean up, keyword mapping, speed performance)

b. Content Development

c. Content Distribution (links, social signals etc)

Obviously this isn’t always possibly due to resource/budget constraints, but if I was creating a team, I would opt for this vs having a typical “SEO” team. I might tag CRO onto website optimisation. You could also tag analytics on if you hired a real super star. The point being, the person I would want doing the website optimisation role is pretty different from the person I want doing content development & distribution (at times I would near split development & distribution as well)

For me the interesting part next year isn’t what Google does in 2014. It’s obvious from Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird where search is heading. What’s interesting is where the industry continues to go. I predicted two well known SEO’s would move into “marketing” roles in 2013 in the last post. It turned out quite a few SEOs no longer have SEO in their title. They are now digital marketers, inbound marketers, content strategists. I feel this is going to continue in 2014 with a number of search agencies continuing to diversify their offering away from “SEO”. You only need to look at the Google trends in 2013 for “Content Marketing” vs “Link Building”

The influx of SEO’s into “Content Marketing” roles is going to result in a lot more budget spent on content, which means a whole load of content shit on the horizon. Doug Kessler’s stand out deck from last year is still a great overview of where I think things are going with content:

The truth is content is hard. Creating an audience from content can take 18 months. Development is only 50% of the battle. I feel distribution is going to be a lot more important in 2014. People need to read http://www.aimclear.com/. Content development and distribution is also way more costly than what SEO’s used to do.

One change I feel Google will make is sort out the huge preference for fresh results. Glen did a great post over on Viperchill showing the problem

The other development I would be interested in is what does Google do with Webmaster tools and Google analytics. They are continuing to add more value to Webmaster tools. With the removal of keyword data from analytics, will they create some type of paid tool that gives us some of that data back (think of the search data we get in GWT, but more useful).

Lastly, I need to give a shout out to people like Aleyda Solis. Her content and presentations on international SEO was some of the best content on SEO in 2013.

Connect with Kieran – Search Brat | Twitter | Google+

Lauren

“Looking back, I’d say 2013 was the year of the crap content.

Content marketing is reaching its adolescence: online marketers have experimented with different content types, latched onto recognizable formats that worked well, and used them over, and over, and over.

There seemed to be discontent among my online marketing colleagues. The “ultimate guides”, infographics, and even some guest blogging methods are overused. Plagiarized content is wearing us down. The loss of keyword data is throwing a wrench into our content planning.

I’m optimistic that 2014 will be the year of innovative shifts in content marketing.

1) Google’s updates such as this year’s conversational search will push content marketing’s boundaries.

Content will become further targeted depending on situational context. Improving sentiment analysis and syntax technology will enhance targeted content strategy.

2) Online marketing will adapt to a more comfortable position in a post-keyword world.

Marketers will uncover new signals and data combinations to replace keyword data. (Hey man, we’ve seen the Keywordpocalypse coming for at least few years now.)

3) Conventional content marketing tactics will change.

“Ultimate” guides and infographics aren’t going anywhere in 2014. However, online marketers will see some growing pains as we escape the orbit of overused methods. Visualizations will continue to play an important part in content – but we’ll be experimenting with new ways to communicate ideas.

4) As content continues to proliferate, content distribution and curation systems will become just as essential as the content itself.

With an overwhelming amount of content being produced every day, audiences are coming to rely on software to select and present the best and most relevant. Curation software will be refined to incorporate more user context. Content marketers should be thinking about how to make their content more relevant and attract the attention of both readers and curation systems.”

Connect with Lauren – Marketing Gal | Twitter | Google+

Max

Search and SEO in General:

Mobile & tablet search volumes will grow rapidly as more people get connected on the go. Desktop search numbers will continue to go up as more people get access to the internet around the world. Google Now, Siri and other voice assistants will continue to penetrate tech market – mobile, desktop, cars, Glass, watches, gadgets, etc. Google and other companies will focus on educating the public to “talk” to technology & try to make conversational interactions with tech smooth and more “natural.” Technology will slowly continue to get out of the way – no touch, sensors, voice activation & assistance, etc.

It’s important for SEOs (or whatever your “holistic” title may be now) to pay attention to, or at least be aware of, these general technology trends. Search is becoming more robust (yet, at the same time, simple for the user) with emphasis on entities & subjects as Google, Apple and others are trying to change user behavior by introducing new tech and features which will help easily match whatever it is on our mind to “packets” of instant information & help.

Some methods and factors might slightly change in 2014 but the core of SEO will be the same as it’s been for years now – helping search engines to match user intent to valuable and relevant information. Now with more focus on topical and conversational approach, markup and technicalities. Something true SEO specialists have been practicing for years. Google Now approach is the direction Google is intensively heading towards. It’s a reality. Optimize with that in mind.

Local Search:

Now, on the local search side of things, I hope Google will finish making experience more uniform and straightforward for consultants, agencies and business owners/managers. The space is all too confusing but getting better. Now that all Google local data is in one database and local listings are slowly moving to new dashboards in Places for Business and Google+ I hope to soon see a simple and manageable ecosystem that makes sense to any non-technical local business owner and has incentives for them to come back.

I also hope that in 2014 more local SEOs and marketers will pay attention to current & emerging local systems, like Apple Maps and Facebook Local, and first do what’s best for a particular business and their audience/users.

Again, it’s critical to optimize for local with Google Now and Siri in mind.

Overall:

Be honest with clients. Be upfront. Educate. Get “SEO is a magic bullet” out of their mind. Ask the hard questions during pre-qualification. Build long-lasting relationships. Get them involved in the process. Don’t undersell your services when you know what you’re doing. Instead, be proud of what you do and the impact it can have on their business.”

Connect with Max – Max Minzer | Twitter | Google+

Moosa-Hemani

“I believe 2014 is going to be much more competitive than 2013 and this is because Google will continue to make SEO more difficult and will do everything to encourage businesses to invest more on paid advertisement.

If you ask me the 3 things that Google is going to put their focus in the coming year will be:

Google will stop providing Keyword Data to 100%
In the beginning Matt said this change will only hide 10% of the total data but now we see the average % of (not provided) keyword is around 50 to 60% and plus. I believe Google will not stop here; Google will try their level best to make it 100% (not provided) and businesses in order to get this data should have to continuously invest on PPC as well.

Alternate Channels will be a focus
Alternate inbound marketing channels other then search engine will be a major focus of many businesses. This is mainly because Google is becoming very uncertain and competitions between different businesses are increasing.

I believe businesses in order to stay away from any loss from the last minute change from Google will focus to invest more on alternative inbound marketing channels.

Content Marketing will be more important than ever!
We all know that Content Marketing is powerful and important for almost every business present today. In 2014 the importance of it will increase tremendously. Businesses will be ready to invest serious money to get a piece of content that have the ability to go viral.

In 2014, I see lot of people will attempt to craft a viral piece of content but not sure about the success rate of it!

There can be few more but these are the 3 I think are the most important ones.”

Connect with Moosa – SE Talks | Twitter | Google+

Paddy-Moogan

“I think that we’ll start to see more search results where rankings are harder to explain. This will come as a result of Google getting better and better at understanding two things:

1) Topical relevance of a page outside of pure keywords

2) Understanding the implicit intention of the user (credit to Tom Anthony for planting this wording in my head back in May)

Google have always been good at these two things in isolation, but I think they are starting to tie the two together better which leads us to search results that we can’t always reverse engineer. We saw this with Hummingbird and I think we’ll only see them get better and iterate on it.

In terms of the industry as a whole, I think we’ll see more PR, Creative and Content agencies moving into SEO. So we may start to see budgets flow towards those companies which may threaten the SEO industry unless they can adapt and offer more PR, Creative and Content services. Tied into this, I think that SEO companies are very well positioned to get better at measurement and with the introduction of technologies such as Universal Analytics, I think there is a lot of opportunity for companies to improve their measurement of what they do. This in itself can help defend their position at the marketing table and show their value a lot more.

Related to this, I think we’ll see more integration with Google products and their advertising products. For example, I think they’ll push more data into Google Analytics from advertising platforms. They will also grow products like Google Tag Manager to allow for easier measurement of online marketing. Whilst they clearly have their own intentions for this (measuring advertising ultimately means companies will spend more), we as marketers should take advantage of this. “

Connect with Paddy – Paddy Moogan | Twitter | Google+

Peter-Attia

“While I think the largest changes to search optimization have passed, I think the industry role is still going through a dramatic change. I don’t mean from changes to search algorithms or link building, but more from search marketers taking on a larger overall role. Some of the projects “SEOs” have executed in the past year have become much more elaborate than simply “link building”.

A single promotion can build social follows, email subscribers, virality, news listings, local awareness, and of course – rankings. Basically, I think SEOs are doing what PR folks have been struggling with. I’m not knocking the people in the PR industry by any means, but people coming from a search and social background have become savvy PR managers without even realizing it.

Weather you want to call it inbound marketing, SEO, digital marketing, or another term, I think this trend will continue and search marketing will become much more analogous with PR.”

Connect with Peter – Cucumber Nebula | Twitter | Google+

steve

“A lot of talk surrounding over-optimisation seems to be squarely aimed at exact match anchor text (thanks to our dear friend Mr Penguin). I have a theory that Google will continue to crack down on over-optimisation and in other capacities:

1) on-site copy

2) EMDs (exact match domains).

Regarding the latter especially, I’ve recently helped two clients migrate away from EMDs to branded domains and neither of them saw a drop – one even saw a slight increase in rankings! So I genuinely do think that EMDs have (finally) seen their last days, which makes me happy, as I genuinely hate ‘em, haha!

Also, I think that Google will take authorship further, introducing more tests and maybe new aspects to it. Matt Cutts’ announcement at PubCon about authorship reduction may sound like a step back, but I think it’s a step forward, potentially reviewing where authorship should and shouldn’t show (and who it should and shouldn’t show for) with a view to roll it out in a more effective way (and possibly in new, different ways, too).”

Connect with Steve – SEO NoTwitter | Google+

steve-webb

“Before I put on my Nostradamus hat and deliver my 2014 SEO predictions, I want to take a moment to score my predictions from last year. After all, if I got everything wrong last year, who cares what I have to say this year?!

To refresh your memory, I gave a list of 3 losers, 3 winners, and 1 grand champion. I’ll give myself a point for every correct prediction and take away a point for every wrong prediction. Let’s do this…

First, I predicted Google would devalue the following techniques and signals in 2013:

Low-Quality Guest Posts (+0.75)“I expect low-quality posts to receive even more scrutiny in future updates.” I didn’t really go out on a limb with this one, but I was still right. I’m only giving myself +0.75 because there wasn’t an explicit low-quality guest post update (but they were implicitly impacted by recent Panda/Penguin updates).

Low-Quality Infographics (+0.5) – This one isn’t as straightforward as the last one, but I’m still giving myself points because the Google PR machine definitely went after infographics in 2013.

Anchor Text (+1) – Now, don’t freak out. I’m not saying anchor text died in 2013. But I am saying it became less valuable (and much more dangerous, especially now that Penguin is investigating the backlink profiles for most of your site’s pages — not just the homepage).

Then, I predicted Google would emphasize the following in 2013:

Mobile (+1) – The mobile movement had already been gaining steam for years, but it REALLY escalated in 2013. Google even announced smartphone ranking changes that target sites that are misconfigured for mobile users.

Knowledge Graph (+1) – I should really get multiple points for this one because the Knowledge Graph exploded in 2013. And more importantly, 2013 was the year Google unabashedly turned their back on their own company philosophy. Once upon a time, the goal was “to have people leave [Google] as quickly as possible.” Now, the goal is to keep people on Google properties for as long as possible… for as many query types as possible.

Rich Snippets (+1) – Technically, I was right… Google did “continue to experiment with the functionality and appearance of rich snippets.” But the biggest change was that they began cracking down on rich snippet spam.

Finally, I gave my “single most important prediction”… wait for it… keep waiting… BOOM: “2013 will be the year in which AuthorRank becomes Google’s most important algorithm.”

Admittedly, I went a little overboard with that one, but I blame the wording more than anything. If you really dig into my prediction, you’ll see this line: “AuthorRank won’t meet its full potential in 2013, but it will take a giant leap forward.” Now, THAT statement was 100% correct.

Publicly, AuthorRank didn’t gain a lot of traction in 2013, but that was an adoption problem… not a technological one. In 2013, Google+ still wasn’t popular enough to generate the amount of data necessary to reliably rank the world’s information based on agents/authors/etc., and that’s one of the primary reasons they ramped up their forced adoption tactics.

Anyway, I’m not giving myself points for this one, but I’m also not taking points away. So it’s a push, and my final score is 5.25 (out of a possible 7), which means 75% of the time… I’m right ALL OF THE TIME!!!

Now, let’s finally tackle some 2014 predictions…

First and foremost, EVERYTHING I just discussed is still in play for 2014. EVERYTHING. The dirtiest secret in SEO is that the industry doesn’t change nearly as much (from year to year) as the hype machine would like you to believe. When you cut through the bullshit, many of the core concepts stay the same, and many obvious trends continue in the direction you would expect.

So don’t be shocked next year when I’m giving myself points for predicting similar positive and negative trends to continue in 2014. That’s at least 5 points in the bank right there, but I’m greedy so here are a few brand new 2014 SEO predictions…

1. More updates are coming. Google’s Panda update is already quasi real-time (i.e., monthly updates with about a 10 day roll out period), and in 2014, the Penguin update will move closer to a similar refresh schedule. At the moment, publicly announced Penguin refreshes only occur twice a year (May and October), but it’s safe to assume that number will rise in 2014.

Also, it’s been almost 2 years since Google released a new animal to wreak havoc on our websites so I predict we’ll have a new “friend” in 2014. And I’m calling this new friend the Porcupine Update because 1) it’s another ‘P’ name and 2) it will be a huge pain in the ass.

2. Google will finally provide a much more representative sample of your site’s backlinks in GWT. And they’ll also raise the bar even higher for anyone trying to recover from a manual penalty. If you’ve ever navigated the reconsideration request gauntlet, you already know the Googleplex is full of link Nazis. Well, buckle up because it’s only going to get worse.

No Reconsideration FOR YOU

3. Google will keep cramming G+ down your throat, and they’ll ramp up monetization strategies. This could go in a number of different directions. Google could blatantly monetize with Google+ ads and/or amplification tactics (i.e., the Facebook playbook), or they could be more subtle (e.g., leveraging a personalization layer for AdWords — which will obviously cost advertisers more to use).

I’m assuming Google is smart enough to start with a less invasive monetization strategy, but there’s plenty of evidence to suggest they don’t care about pissing off their users. So maybe they’ll completely open the flood gates in 2014.

4. You’ll be buried by an avalanche of buzzwords. 2013 isn’t even over yet, and the community has already published hundreds (maybe even thousands) of posts about Hummingbird, “things not strings,” make-believe updates, etc., etc., etc. So here’s the 2014 prediction I have the most confidence in: you’ll need an umbrella… because there’s a 100% chance it’ll be raining bullshit ;-)

Happy 2014 everyone!!!”

Connect with Steve (Ph.D.) –  Web Gnomes | Twitter | Google+

tad-chef

“Q: What do you believe is going to happen to the [SEO] industry in 2014?

Did you mean the PPC industry aka the Google Adsense peddling industry? Or do you mean the digital internet inbound content marketing industry? Just kidding. I bet you mean the ancient SEO industry that once was about website optimization so that they perform well in so called organic search results. As organic results are almost a thing of the past on Google the SEO industry had to decide in 2013 whether they keep on dying or whether they just give up and either offer more PPC services to still get some visibility on Google or to give up and do some marketing instead. Whether it’s

- digital marketing, you know the binary thing with zeros and ones

- Internet marketing as in selling on the Intertubes

- inbound marketing as in luring people like some sirens on the sea

- content marketing like producing “great content” to please Google

There is is still some SEO in it but most people are oblivious to it.

So the SEO industry has become pretty small by now, at least compared to what it once was. I’m a bit disappointed. Almost nobody embraced reforms. Most people just fled the industry. Even industry icons have “retired” their SEO and are only the artists formerly known as SEO.

Thus many SEOs are gone. Personally I’ve never been just an SEO so I don’t need to rebrand. I’ve been focusing on blogging and social media as part of SEO (2.0) for several years.

Now that SEO 2.0 is common sense – nobody doubts that you need a blog or social media activity these days – 2014 will be about progress to a better convergence.

The distinction between social media and search is vanishing altogether so that you can’t ignore either or anymore. I expect to see more optimization for personal and social search. Whether you call yourself SEO or not is secondary. In case you still want visitors from search, social media and other sites along direct traffic you will still be doing SEO. I increasingly like the term findability even though nobody else in the SEO industry seems to accept it people outside of do. Especially government sites, libraries und colleges do use the term findability.

So either you join the large number of SEOs who give up and become second rate marketers or you just optimize for all of the Web, not just search. It’s basically back to the roots. Before Google most people optimized to get traffic not for a special third party that throttles it. I may even return to ideas likes web rings etc.

Q: How do you think Google will be changing, which factors will take a hit and which will be moving up the food chain in terms of importance?

With Hummingbird and its Google Now like features Google shows the way of the future: Google is to become your personal assistant and compete with Apple’s Siri. Third party sites offering

- weather reports

- scores from sports events

- dictionaries

- flight information

or any other popular service Google will offer themselves have to retire as well. I’m not kidding. I’ve seen that happening with shopping search engines that were trashed with Google Panda and then replaced by a paid Google service (Google Shopping) shortly after. Also Google seems to be keen on coming up with more and other direct revenue sources than Adsense and Adwords ads. So you won’t be able to buy in on the first page anymore for many topics. Weather and dictionaries are good examples of that. They will get marginalized whether they want to buy ads or not.

So Google stops being a search engine, becomes a destination instead and even attempts to move on from search ads to their Now services. They will attempt to earn money directly cutting out the middleman, that is you. So either you become independent of Google or Google gets rid of you. Will you go out of business because you depend on the gatekeeper? It’s your choice. You can still build an audience of regulars, create a community of supporters, recruit a tribe of hard core backers.

At least you should try not to build your own coffin by supporting Google with your free content, linking out to Google services instead of your own sites so that Google outranks you for your own name etc. Also giving Google all your data via Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools, Chrome, Google+, Google Webfonts and a myriad of other “free” tools might backfire. Right now Google owns you. Even though I try to become independent for years I still have a lot to lose, for example an audience of 9k on Google+ which Google already throttles and will sell back to me one day. Google will also most probably monetize everything in the future so ask yourself, are you prepared to pay for the “free” Google tools you use now?”

Connect with Tad – Tad Chef | Twitter | Google+

will-critchlow

“From Google, I expect to see a continuation of a few major trends that we’ve seen recently. I think:

From an algorithmic perspective, they will continue focussing on improving their understanding of users’ queries and on understanding the unstructured web.

A continuing push towards G+ and hence to increasing personalisation

On the UX side of things, I agree with Dr. Pete that we will see:

A card-based interface (looking more and more like a cross between Google Now and the mobile Google search interface)

Labelled adverts allowing more creative experimentation

Increasing knowledge graph and personalised knowledge information

Analytics-wise, we’re going to see more and more that measurement will be focussed on the kinds of metrics that traditional and offline advertising has valued – particularly demographic information and changes in brand awareness. We can already see the beginnings of this trend with the integration of the Doubleclick cookie with Google Analytics and with developments in the YouTube analytics information.

I am generally pretty bullish on an increased impact of authorship information and ultimately on something like author rank though this is contingent on many of the other changes so I expect it not to roll out in 2014 in any way that affects our day to day work.

From an industry perspective, I anticipate an increasing focus on brand – not only on the “signals” as so often in the past – but also on measurement of brand improvements, creative focussed on audience development and targets centred on people and demographics.”

Connect with Will – Distilled | Twitter | Google+

Comments

  1. SEO strategy is always changing. Next seo will be based on Mobile technology, I hope so.

  2. All the global SEO guru’s in the same place talking about the future of SEO. Awesome!

  3. Great Job again Gaz!

    Thanks for having me and lots of great points here, certainly food for thought

  4. ALL THE CONTENT! Look at all this content! So many smart thoughts. (And kinda excited that Kieran and I have similar thoughts.)

    Thank you for including me, Gaz.

  5. Wow, this post is epic!

    thanks Gaz for including me and this is going to be for sure my SEO reading for today!

    cheers!

  6. Great post but a lot of the names are off! Double check the names because “Connect to..”

    • Thanks Christian. What issues did you spot?

      I must be blind to the post now (I’ve read it 10+ times!) because I can’t see any problems.

  7. The new year 2014 just be a new year for SEO because it is waiting by all of us . So don’t be hopeless !

  8. Mmmmmmmmmmonster post (unreal tournament voice) :)

    Brilliant Gaz definitely a book marker too look back on.

  9. Wow, what a long post about the future of SEO in 2014. It is true that there will certainly be a lot of changes in the coming future in SEO. But the way everything has been discussed here is really wonderful. It took me quite long time to read the full article. But it is worth it.

    According to me, the future of SEO will mostly depend on recommendations and social activities. Quality links will still matter, but not as much as it is now.

    It was a good read.

  10. Thanks all for your great seo comments, now really confused and do not know where to start. If you was starting again what would be your number 1 tip?

  11. We are only into the second week of 2014 and it’s interesting that we have started to see some of these trends start to take hold in the SEO world.

  12. For a blogger, it becomes quite easy to set SEO campaign after reading the suggestions and reviews of SEO experts. Here different SEO professionals are sharing their thoughts about the future of SEO in 2014. This is relatively changing with the time because search engines want to deliver quality results to researchers and consider queries according to the most recent Google algorithm Hummingbird. It is pleasure to read informative thoughts of these professionals and become very easy for me to make successful SEO campaign to get top ranking.

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