For a few years now I've written up what I think will happen in the following year for SEO and Digital Marketing, this is one of those posts and it relates to SEO in 2014. If you are wondering if my predictions come true, take a look at last years seo predictions and results, you may be surprised. So without further ramblings, which is what seems to happen in other posts of this nature, here are my predictions for SEO in 2014.
Predicted SEO Trends for 2014
1) Semantic Markup for All
If 2013 has been the year of relevance and fresh content in SEO, then 2014 will be the year of Semantic Markup.
Semantic Markup, otherwise known as Microformats and Rich Snippets, has been around for years - there are several specifications which are understood by search engines, and several types / subjects within these specs which they already show in search results. One use case is shown below in a Google Search Result listing for a Victoria Sponge Cake.
From the above the following are marked up semantically; rating, number of votes, time take to complete recipe, number of calories in the recipe and the thumbnail image. And this is just scratching the surface of what you can markup. If you want to implement it my advice is to use Schema.org as your tool, its simple to fit in with existing code, if you need help with this look out for an in-depth post coming in the new year.
My prediction is that: Microformats will become widespread within search with almost all results showing some kind of markup where possible (even if this is just the breadcrumbs from a website). I also think that over the next 12-24 months microformats will become common place and platforms such as Facebook will begin to use them as well as their own systems (open graph in this case).
2) The Death of Definitive Rankings
Over 2013 one of my weekly rituals has been to monitor the personalisation of search results across various marketing. One of the things I've come to realise is that "definitive ranking" for keywords and keyphrases is going to quite soon be out of the window. Yes, you will be able to get an idea of where about you are ranking (so say for example you maybe able to say you are top 5 when someone searches for something in the UK), but beyond that within a few month I expect the flux of rankings to be huge as personalisation of searches really kicks in.
I expect that regardless of your connection type and device in use, search will see your location and this will itself personalise results - so if you search for seo consultants then you may have formerly seen broad results from across the world or in the country you are in, moving forward I expect that if you are sat in manchester and do that search you would see very localised results and rankings. I predict that more than this, if you did a search from a city centre you would see results from very close to that location. Further to this as search engines get to know your social graph (Bing with Facebook - they are deeply integrated / Google with Google+) these will be more and more mixed into results.
This means if my friend in manchester searches for seo consultants, and I've shared a link to SEO Andy or RedStar, then they will see local results first and in the mix will be me from thier social profile - and if that item was already ranked it would then be moved in the rankings - making for a high flux area but more importantly results which are extremely relevant and helpful to the user.
And thats what this is about, personalisation will for most mean that results are highly relevant - it will mean drops in bounce rates - and it will mean the death of definitive search rankings. Which leads me to my next prediction...
3) Keywords Die and Natural Targeting Grows in 2014
In 2013, the death of keywords in Google Analytics hit home and today for SEO Andy about 85% of keywords are not shown within Analytics - though you can still see various trends within Google Webmaster Tools. This move, combined with my belief in the death of definitive search rankings means that I also believe that 2014 will be the year that many SEO's stop suggesting link building using targeted terms (though this may never die completely) and also stop suggesting that writers/authors look at keyword density within articles and pages.
Instead, I think (and want) there to be a move towards natural and semantic content. Google has placed more and more emphasis within its algorithm on the topics you talk about within your website and content of each page, this means it knows what you are talking about contextually, its a move we really saw started with Google Hummingbird and Google Knowledge Graph (see video below about how this works). The contextual knowledge is why I predict 2014 will see the end of direct keyword and keyphrase targeting - its a move by search engines to ensure quality is high in results it shows, as is relevance.
We've already seen contextual search in use from Google Now, where you can ask on question and then ask another on the same topic and another - give it a try, ask the following: who is the president of the united states?, who is his wife?, how old is she? - it works because Google knows the context and knows the answers because they are semantically marked up and are clearly related.
Contextual search in 2014 will explode onto our devices and now is the time we move to natural targeting of phrases and away from direct targeting using things like keyword density as metrics.
4) The Role of Social Media is Amplified
Since the release of Hummingbird earlier this year, I've experiments a lot to see what can drive results for customers with rankings (which is still the most asked for metric, i hate that, i prefer to drive traffic and conversions not rankings, which as you will see above i think are a dieing breed) - both transient rankings and stable / solid rankings.
It is clear from a very localised search experiment I did, that you can drive rankings up using just social media. The role of sharing and this counting as a vote for an article or website is growing, Hummingbird is just the start of the story when it comes to how Social can and will affect rankings in 2014.
Combine this idea with personalised search and again the picture of "giving users what they want, not what they ask for" grows clearer - ultimately a vote from a trusted / authority figure from social media can be worth a whole bunch in rankings. If you want rankings and aren't maximising your potential with social media, then you maybe in trouble in 2014.
Other Predictions for Digital Marketing in 2014
- Website which release content on a regular basis will be more trusted
- Social Authority will come with true engagement (and probably be linked with Google Authorship)
- Google+ will mature and be used more and more by businesses and "normal" folk.
- Mobile becomes dominant in search (as do responsive websites)
- Quality Content remains King