Every few months we like to get a feel for what others in the SEO and online marketing industry and feeling about certain topics. We talked with 10 experts and asked them the following questions:

What is one SEO topic that you think will be more important in 2014 than ever before? How do you plan to bring this idea into your strategy this upcoming year?

With the year wrapping up, it’s important to look at some of these things and figure out a strategy for the future that really takes these changes seriously and uses them as advantages and not annoyances. Below are the answers from industry leaders (and some of their answers might surprise you):

neilNeil Patel, Owner of Quicksprout, also Co-founder of Crazy Egg, KISSmetrics, and ACS

 

Now that Google has implemented “not provided” the days of keyword research is much harder. But through content marketing, you don’t have to worry about specific keywords. I think the most important thing for SEO in the upcoming year will be content marketing. Businesses will need to blog and be specific about what they are blogging on.

My plan, and what i’ve already started doing is blogging about very specific topics and going into greater detail. I try making every blog post between 1500-2000 words now. I also make sure the blog post is helpful to the reader. I want the reader to finish it up and think “Wow, I took a lot from that.” If I do that, I believe I’ve accomplished multiple goals. First, I’ve earned the readers trust and loyalty. Second, Google will reward me for it.

grantGrant Simmons, Director, SEO and Social Product at The Search Agency.

 

I think inspiring links with relevant, engaging content, distributed within social & owned venues, in multiple mediums, from recognized topic experts.

What this means to SEO folks is five-fold. You need to:

  1. Encourage partners to build authority personalities within their organizations or to hire topic experts as part of a holistic SEO strategy
  2. Think beyond the link’ and have these personalities create both valuable and easily shared content without the constraints of embedded anchor text links
  3. Create multiple formats of this content – long / short form, video, image, etc. – that is easily digestible within social platforms, blogs, as summarized excerpts and / or formatted for alternate search engines
  4. Understand your potential audiences and make certain you’re; educating, entertaining, enlightening, engaging or inspiring them through your content message & mediums.
  5. Test. Test. Test. Test. Monitor and measure the metrics that matter to both you and your partner’s business to justify investment, demonstrate results and inform strategy.

The first phase continues our current education programs. Whether this is one on one with our partners, in group sessions, via our blog, at conferences or via the webinars we conduct, the key to success is helping our partners understand the fundamental question of “why”, that then leads our partners to the question of “how”.

Second, we’re looking at additional data partners to help in developing better audience models including interests, behavior, affinities and other segmentation to really understand the “who” are partner’s ideal customer(s) should be.

Third, we plan to expand on our core products to offer more comprehensive content ideation, development and distribution support.

Lastly, we’re just about to introduce new tracking, reporting and consulting deliverables that will given both our Account Directors and partners more actionable data insights to measure tactical and strategic initiatives.

Overall, despite the major Google updates we saw in 2013, we’re building on a successful year for our partners by sticking to our holistic approach – (SEO) – and building out geeky new data points, services, processes & tools to help continue that success in 2014!

ericEric Enge, CEO at Stone Temple Consulting.

 

I think there will be 2 major areas where SEO will have to focus on 2014, in a way that is far beyond what has been done before.  These are:

  1. 1.     Mobile. A surprising number of sites have not yet adapted to mobile, even though this is already a huge presence on nearly every site out there.  Even if that device accessing your site is a tablet, you still need “tappable” links instead of clickable links.  Continuing to ignore this will bring great SEO peril.  Remember, Google does not want to send traffic to sites that provide a poor user experience.
  2. Content Marketing. The industry is still coming to grips with the fact that link building the way most people have done it is just plain bad.  Strategies to holistically acquire links will be the only way to go from here on out.

These are areas we have been investing in for some time.  The main thing we focus on is educating people on both of them, and doing whatever we can do to help people realize the important of both of these areas!

kailaKaila Strong, Director of Client Strategy at Vertical Measures.

 

Sure Author Rank is probably going to be more important in the coming year and mobile has a growing importance after Hummingbird as well. But one topic I feel will also be even more important in 2014 than ever before is in the realm of link analysis. Many of us in the SEO industry have been working with clients to take care of Penguin penalties whether from Penguin 1 or the roll out of other updates. The hard part about dealing with manual penalties and re-inclusion requests is having a streamlined approach to backlink analysis. Matt Cutts has stated they are in the beginning stages of developing a “completely different system that does more sophisticated link analysis.” This roll out very well could be the change of SEO as we know it if a new system of link devaluing is in the works.

Experts suggest all the information we’ve submitted through disavowing links is likely to be considered in part of this revamp of the system. I’d also venture to say that social links may have even more impact on a links value. These as well as additional algorithmic advancements are sure to allow Google the ability to analyze links more effectively, reduce the “good” sites from being lumped in under the “bad” and in the end search results improved. What does this mean for SEOs? We have to get better at link analysis. Link analysis is subjective, a link that I might value may be seen in a different light by another SEO. Third party tools are reliable but not foolproof. The industry as a whole will need to develop ways to analyze links with scalability in mind, in addition to taking the time to prune and reclaim links after link analysis has concluded. The value principles of a link will also need to expand to new link acquisition and link attraction. No one wants to build links that in the future will be valueless.

Overall I think in 2014 we’ll see a heightened focus on link quality analysis and a growing need to be able to educate our clients about the value of link quality.

kelseyKelsey Jones, Associate Editor of Search Engine Journal.

 

I would say a mixture of long-form content and authorship credibility. I think these go hand in hand because Google is likely coming to the conclusion that if you care enough to write content that is 1500 words or more and it is verified with your Google+ profile, then you are reputable. I think spammers have gotten away with writing hundreds of 300 word articles and getting traction in SERPs. Most spammers (and lazy people in your industry) aren’t going to bother with long-form content. Stand out from the crowd by dedicating yourself to writing longer content.

I am guilty of not writing enough long-form content. My goal is to write two long-form posts per month, minimum, in the coming year. Ideally, I should be writing 1 per week, but I usually take small stuff first to make something a habit. I am also working on only writing when I have something good to say, not just because it is on my schedule to blog that day. When you write inferior content, both your readers and the search engines know it.

jessicaJessica Hill, SEO Manager at 99designs.

 

While it’s not a specific SEO method (as SEO-specific methods are a dying breed), storytelling will be an important element in 2014 and moving forward, especially for smaller businesses. Whether it’s telling your company’s story or the story of your customers, relating to people and connecting to them is the best way to elicit an emotional response and ultimately make them want to do business with you.

A great example of showcasing a company’s spirit and values is the WestJet Christmas Miracle. This video was published on 12/8/13 to the official WestJet YouTube account. I’m writing this on 12/16/13; it’s only been 8 days!

Here are the approximate numbers to the YouTube video link:

Referring domains: 965

Total links: 6,400+

(links source: ahrefs.com)

Facebook Likes: 960,739

Facebook Shares: 591,003
Tweets: 52,854
Google +1s: 43,198
LinkedIn Shares: 9,485

(social media source: sharedcount.com)

Why has this gone viral? Because it’s a great story! They also did a great job with production. It wasn’t just a homemade video.

What has it done for WestJet? It allowed new customers to become familiar with their brand in an extremely positive way. The video unfortunately wasn’t posted on the WestJet domain (YouTube only), but they have gotten in front of many eyes. People will be on the lookout for other things from WestJet and they are certainly searching for their company; just look at Google Trends.

So my advice is: tell a story.

This coming year at 99designs, we are committed to creating content that will be useful and interesting for our customers and designers. Additionally we’re looking to showcase our wonderful customers and designers and use various mediums to do this.

adamAdam Torkildson, Owner of Tork Media.

 

First of all, I’m a firm believer and proponent of the morphing of SEO into something entirely different than what it is right now. I worked at SEO.com for 3 years, and in that time I saw huge shifts in the industry that totally destroyed some client’s traffic, and dramatically increased other clients’ traffic. I personally do a hybrid form of PR-driven SEO that helps build organic, referral, and branded traffic to client’s sites. I talk to alot of editors at sites like Forbes, BusinessInsider, SearchEngineJournal.com and many others. And the things these guys are thinking about are what smart marketers in general should be thinking about.

Therefore, taking into account the fact that there are more mobile devices per person in the U.S. than there are actual people (it’s slightly more than a 1 to 1 ratio) I believe one of the big ways SEO will morph is into the mobile optimization space. I don’t claim to know alot about how to do mobile optimization. But I know that publishers, advertisers, and businesses are seeing more and more traffic and purchases from mobile devices than ever before. It stands to reason that ‘SEOs’ should jump on the mobile bandwagon heart and soul.

elisa-gabbert-newElisa Gabbert, Content Marketing Manager at WordStream, a provider of PPC management software and services as well as the free AdWords Performance Grader, a PPC account auditing tool.

The method that will be more important than ever in 2014 is, to speak broadly, content marketing. Surprise, surprise! It’s not the be-all, end-all of SEO (more technical stuff still matters) but it is a HUGE and growing part of SEO. Specifically, here are some of the strategies we’ll continue to bring into our content marketing plan next year:

  • Focus on topics, not single keywords – This was always a good strategy, but in a post-not-provided world, it’s even more important to let go of the single-keyword mindset.
  • Focus on quality, long-form content – Try to create content that is truly the best answer for questions that are relevant to your business/industry. Google likes to rank this stuff because people like to click it and read it! It’s great for your engagement metrics too.
  • Focus on “PR-worthy” content – Thought leadership is the new linkbait. We try to create noteworthy content that big media outlets will want to cite and link to, which creates a trickledown effect in terms of both links and brand mentions. This improves the authority of your whole site.

annAnn Smarty, Community and Brand Manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas, also Owner of MyBlogGuest and SEOSmarty.

 

One thing I am going to look closer at next year is Google’s knowledge graph. With Hummingbird update and experiments like this, it’s clear that Google is taking a huge effort at learning the machine to understand, cluster and interpret entities and concepts.

I am going to research and develop tools that would help marketers and content creators to keep an eye on what Google can understand and how. That will be a huge thing for reputation management too because every brand will obviously want to be in Google’s knowledge graph, so we’ll have to understand how this will need to be accomplished!

In late 90s the big thing was to be included in Dmoz. In mid 2010s it will be how to be included in Wikipedia because Google is using it (and similar resources) to build up their knowledge base. But that’s not just that! So it will be an exciting time, I am sure!

sem rush guyEric Van Buskirk, Senior Sales Manager of SEMRush.

2014 is going to see better use of off-site big data with SEOs, just as the past few years have seen on-site analytics tracking of large data sets advance in leaps and bounds. Many SEOs in 2012 said their job was to get more involved with other areas of internet marketing to address the massive changes Google brought us over the last year and a half. However, the most successful SEOs will dive deeper into analysis of what signals are the flavor of the month for Google’s algorithms and find new ways to increase ranking.

Social media marketing, for example, has an even stronger direct connection with SEO today than at any other time. Practitioners of each need to work more closely, but let’s call a spade a spade: they’re still independent disciplines requiring different skill-sets. Individuals with expertise in statistics and data modeling will bring big new SEO wins to the larger in-house digital marketing departments and agencies that can afford to hire them.

As I speak to SEMrush clients, the big data SEO trend means encouraging organizations to take advantage of API and custom data exports. SEMrush is still seeing rapid growth in the use of our “tool interface.” However, we’ve seen the most forward-looking SEO and SEM teams use large data sets from us via API or custom reports to apply their own statistical models; ones that are unique to their SEO strategy. For example, some large companies access 400,000+ keywords their website and their competitors rank for on Google. Side-by-side analysis will give them new insights to content development.