By Richard Conway.
The year 2013 brought a sea-change in search engine optimisation (SEO) that was prompted, not surprisingly, by Google. The tech giant came down hard on people trying to ‘game’ the system, issuing a series of updates to its algorithms in 2012 and 2013 that had the effect of driving unethical, ‘black hat’ operators out of the business and rewarding the use of high-quality content with legitimate links.
This is a good thing not only for those of us who work in SEO, but for executives in charge of building and protecting company reputation.
SEO isn’t a one-size-fits-all model, and any SEO company you deal with – like any supplier to your business – must be able to demonstrate an understanding of your sector and your company’s marketing needs, and show measurable results of their work with other Kiwi companies.
Since I founded Pure SEO in New Zealand in 2009, the market has grown exponentially, though relative to the US and UK it is still in the emergent phase. While this means there are more cowboys and opportunists giving poor SEO service to their clients (as we saw in earlier phases of other tech and online sectors), the good news is it means the legitimate operators, and the businesses they serve, can make a lot of progress very quickly compared with the busier and more established offshore markets.
What will 2014 bring?
Partly thanks to Google’s assertive strategy, we will see the proliferation of high-quality content providing the most SEO value through measures such as:
• Using things like infographics as link bait;
• Directories, but only those that are high-quality and niche;
• The increasing importance of understanding and using social media in marketing strategy;
• For businesspeople, guest-posting and guest-blogging on high-quality, well-read, authoritative niche blogs;
• Media releases, but only those containing newsworthy content that is virtually free of anchor text-back links. This necessity will see SEO companies pursuing alliances with high-quality, ethical PR firms this year and beyond;
• Engagement with target market/s online in a non-sales way – for example, an effective tactic is a social media campaign or YouTube campaign;
• The adoption of a mobile strategy will be vital, without which companies will start to fall behind. This means either having a mobile-ready version of the existing website or a specific mobile application. Companies must be positioned to serve increasing numbers of people browsing the web through mobile devices. This may also include search engine marketing (SEM) through advertising on mobile. For instance, Google Ads offer extensions such as the inclusion of phone numbers, so reaching your company through an ad is as easy as clicking on the linked number;
• YouTube and video content. Many New Zealand companies are failing to take advantage of the world’s second-largest search engine, which is highly visual and the ideal platform for inexpensive video content. Businesses can also advertise through the Google AdWords platform. The use of well-optimised content improves SEO and online visibility; the examples of Orabrush and Dollar Shave Club show what can be achieved with low budgets.
We can expect more algorithm changes from Google in 2014 and, as in 2013, the main parties that will be affected are SEO companies that use questionable tactics and the businesses they work for. The clients of legitimate, professional operators needn’t worry. Quite simply, any SEO tactic that puts the benefit of consumers at the forefront is unlikely to be penalised by a Google update.
What will help foment change is specific training in the sector as to how SEO works from a technical perspective. The industry tends to appeal to programmers, but in fact it’s more of a business/marketing discipline. Additionally, people in developing markets are often called on for link-building, and that causes problems when you have a target market of English speakers in the developed world.
Richard Conway is founder and CEO of Pure SEO
December 16, 2013