The Snapshot

  • Focus on delivering the best possible user experience with your website.
  • Link building needs to be strategic.
  • Write content that builds your reputation as a thought leader in your niche.
  • Focus on social media channels that your customers are most likely to use.

Ranking factors

Google Ranking Factor Lists

Google ranking factors are currently a hot topic within digital marketing circles. But why does it generate so much noise? Google never releases a definitive list of A to Z ranking factors. Instead Google gives guidelines and best practices through their Webmasters blogs and Matt Cutts, the public face of their spam Police.  The rest is up to webmasters to figure out and this uncertainty eventually leads to soothsaying, speculation and the large noise of activity that we see today.

There are some companies, such as Moz, who release ranking factor guides based on the opinions of SEO experts, such as this one for 2013.  Reports like these offer opinions but no cast iron facts.

If you are an SME looking to rank in 2014 what should you do?

You should focus on digital marketing using the guidelines that we know work.  Focus on tasks that help build your brand online and lead to qualified leads, sales and long lasting traffic.

Let’s get started on the core tasks we recommend for 2014:

User Experience as a Ranking Factor

User experience should be a key focus in 2014. As the video below outlines Google considers user experience to be an important part of a webmasters job. Matt Cutts even goes as far as to say that they can’t guarantee webmasters that own older websites that they will maintain their current rankings.

There are a number of areas that you need to think about:

  • Responsive website (i.e. Make it Mobile / Tablet Friendly)
  • Easy navigation
  • Fast website speed
  • Broken links, 404 errors, indexation issues

Links for SEO 

With the recent Penguin update by Google, link building can be perilous for your website. Watch the video below that outlines what can happen if you have an unnatural link profile.

If you have been building links from websites with low authority or building links using exact match keyword anchor text (i.e. the link is your target key term) you may be negatively affecting your website rankings.

The video below outlines the main issues Google is flagging in its algorithm update.

You can review Google Webmaster Tools or use Opensitexplorer to review your backlinks.

For 2014 and beyond you need to focus on obtaining quality links and Link Earning. By quality links I mean:

  • Links from relevant websites
  • Links from authoritative sources

And link earning – a process where you develop quality, engaging, useful, content (e.g. a useful online tool or application) that will earn links to your website naturally. We hope to publish a more definitive guide on link earning later on this year.

On-Site SEO – Search Engine Optimization

On-Site SEO should be a core part of your 2014 plans. This is a basic for every site and should be key component for your Digital Marketing strategy. For a typical B2B site, it takes Inspiration about 2 days do to onsite SEO however this can vary significantly depending on the amount of research required initially, the depth of product range etc.

The main issues to focus on for onsite SEO are:

  • Unique SEO meta data for every page on website. You can see an example of a good SEO title and description below.

Meta Data

  • Adding ALT text to images (descriptions).
  • Adding structured data to your website. Structured data is a way to help Google understand your website content. You can read more about it here.
  • Use data highlighter to help Google categorize content correctly. You can use Data Highlighter to teach Google about the following types of data on your site: Articles, Events, Local Businesses, Restaurants, Products, Software Applications, Movies, TV Episodes, Books
  • Webmaster tools review – troubleshooting errors, indexation issues.

Quality Content

As discussed in one of our previous blogs the introduction of the Google Panda Update in September 2012 changes the goalposts for publishing content. Quality content is now key and should be central to your Digital Marketing plans for 2014.

Key areas where Quality Content is essential – check out this list:

  • Your main landing pages
  • Blogs
  • Resources
  • Videos
  • Photography
  • Info-graphics
  • Case Studies
  • Testimonials

Social Media

In the video below Matt Cutts answers the question “Are Facebook and Twitter signals part of the ranking algorithm”. While Cutts indicates that they aren’t part of the ranking factors he does state that they may be in the future:

Regardless of what the video indicates social media should still be a core aspect of your strategy for 2014. You can be in no doubt that social media is a good source of referral traffic. If your target market is on a particular social media platform, that is where you want to be! For most of our clients, that operate on a B2B basis, LinkedIn is the critical platform (tho’ check out where your competitors are active too)

Recommended social channels:

  • Facebook (B2C in particular)
  • LinkedIn (B2B in particular)
  • YouTube (Both)
  • Twitter(Building Personality)
  • Google+ (Both)

You can help your social media development by optimizing your website for social media. Yoast’s SEO plugin for WordPress gives you many options for optimization – including Google+ Authorship and Publisher.

By following common sense guidelines in 2014 you can build your brand, improve your rankings and increase your traffic and sales.

Note: You may have noticed I have not included guest blogging in the recommended plan to rank in 2014. Why? Read on…

“Okay, I’m calling it: if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop. Why? Because over time it’s become more related to spam, and if you’re doing a lot of guest blogging then you’re hanging out with really bad company.” Matt Cutts.

While I think the quote above is a bit extreme it does give a good indication of where Google’s is heading with guest blogging.

Our advice on this – don’t guest blog for links. But if an opportunity arises where you can get your content or brand name in front of your target audience and this will generate good referral traffic and sales leads, take it.

If you need any help developing a Digital Marketing Strategy and Roll Out plan incorporating these elements please do contact us in Dublin today.

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