What Is SEO Going To Bring

Well, this is my first blog post since August, and the first thing I can tell you is that 2014 is going to bring a revival, lots more blogging, tweeting, speaking, etc…

Things have been extremely busy over the past 12 months at Branded3, we’ve seen massive growth in SEO, Content, Online PR, and Creative; proof that SEO is going through a change, thanks to all the curve balls that Google keeps throwing our way. It’s no longer about picking up as many links as you can, strange anchor text formulas, or in-content links (dear me) to rank well in Google, you have to focus on becoming the best result, and this means more than acquiring a handful of rubbish links.

So, over the last 12 – 18 months I have been working hard with the team to restructure our offering, add new skills to our growing department, and thankfully it’s been a massive success.

What will 2014 bring us then? More link penalties as Google tightens the chokehold? Will SEO finally die? For the next 1000 words ‘ish’, I am going to presume people are interested in what I have to say and reel off what I think are some things to look out for in 2014.

Engagement & Brand Building

Now, these have been closely spoken about in the past, but in my opinion, they are about to get really important, really. We have a saying at Branded3, “If you have enough links to be in the top 5, you have enough links to be position 1. I am a firm believer in this, and how someone engages with your site is key to winning the battle at the top of Google.

I was speaking with X Googlers (Web Spam Team) around a year ago, and they kept talking about an algorithm ‘return to SERP’, we’ve adapted this slightly and called it ‘return to search’. The algorithm monitors the time it takes for a user to click on your listing and then click back to Google, either to refine the search or choose an alternative result. If users clicking on your result are back on Google within seconds looking for the next result, then this may suggest you aren’t ‘the right’ result and your rankings will drop. We believe that this was a part of the Panda algo but has since been incorporated into the main algorithm, and it’s going to be important over the next 1-2 years as Google tries to identify who should be at the top.

Return to the Search Algorithm

We have trialed this since with great results, moving clients from 4-5 to position 1 without running a single link acquisition campaign. Of course, links will continue to be important, but if no one is engaging with your site, link efforts will be a waste of time. Engagement on and off-site is going to be really important.

This brings us nicely to brand building, how else will Google recognize that you’re a result that should rise to the top? Well if thousands are searching out your brand every month this is a pretty good signal, and your link acquisition strategies should incorporate an element of ‘becoming famous’. Let’s face it, Amazon doesn’t rank for everything because of their perfect site architecture and quality links, they rank where they do because they are the result everybody wants to see (Do you honestly search ‘books’ anymore?).
I’ll likely be blogging/speaking on this throughout 2014 quite a lot, so hopefully, I can catch up with you at one of the events.

Boy, they have had a rough ride for the last couple of years, does anyone know what a natural link is anymore? There is a lot of speculation about links, what works, what doesn’t work, people still trying to trick Google, etc For me there are a couple of very clear-cut facts:

1) Google is still going to ‘manually’ identify unnatural links.

2) Google is going to penalize any website operating any form of manipulation, the bigger you are the harder you’ll fall.

When I hear people talking about anchor text formulas, mixing up landing pages, and brand link building only, I can’t help but think they’re just not getting it. If you’re trying to think about how you fly below the radar, then it is only a matter of time before you’re in trouble. Real people are looking at your links, if you’re using low-quality blogs, or even high-quality paid links, it is going to stand out. Google is active on ‘black hat’ forums, and other SEO forums looking for new tactics and supposed tricks, let’s face it, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist, but just in case they probably have those too.

Your links have to be a natural by-product of genuine activity, think traffic first, brand exposure, or social interaction, think anything but don’t run a link strategy where the sole purpose is to acquire as many links as possible. To make my point you only have to read the post on iAcquire with regards to how they would solve the RapGenius problem (once they have recovered of course).Badges?! Isn’t that too risky? Not if you switch up the link destination and ALT attribute randomly using Javascript magic.

They are talking about giving badges to fans, however, if you have to go to lengths to manipulate links using JS then your strategy clearly isn’t the type of thing Google wants to work. Natural links shouldn’t need manual intervention, we should all be moving away from link control unless, of course, you are disavowing the nasty ones.

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