SEO marketing finally matured in 2013. With more than 500 algorithm changes a year, keeping pace with innovation was a source of confusion and frustration for some people, yet provided great clarity for others.
The rapid pace of change in our market, fueled by the convergence of earned, owned, and paid media has meant that the traditional SEO mindset moved from keyword-centric methodologies toward new content-centric, and key revenue based strategies.
Google's move to make 100 percent of search keyword data "(not provided)" in September finally forced SEO marketers to rethink their strategies. Some people failed to identify trends, and struggled to adapt, while others took a giant innovative leap into the world of secure search.
In 2014 we'll see a new content and page-centric SEO workflow form the backbone of, what I like to call, a new "Secure Search Manifesto." This new manifesto allows you to actually match your SEO and content marketing strategies to measurable business outcomes.
2013: The Year SEO Changed Forever
SEO changed forever in 2013. The evolution of SEO and the focus on content started a long time ago. Google's Hummingbird update "rubber stamped" the essential need to focus on quality content marketing and, in conjunction, secure search did the same with regard to "adapt or die" pure keyword rank checking philosophies.
Google began giving SEO marketers signals about how their model and algorithms would change in 2011. Panda and Penguin gave clear signals on the shift to content and relevancy and the removal of "black hat" strategies. The gradual rise in the number of keywords "(not provided)" signaled an impending paradigm shift in the keyword model market to a content-centric model.
In September 2013 marketers witnessed the single biggest change to happen in this industry since the introduction of off-page factors and backlinks. Secure search ensured that adapting to change was no longer an option but a necessity.
The Dangerous Perception: Old school strategies can still work
Any fundamental shift in a market brings with it opportunity but also resistance and fear. Many marketers still maintain the misconceived perception that SEO is dead – a very mute and irrelevant topic.
A far more dangerous perception is that although SEO has changed, the way you work doesn't have to change. Let me be clear:
- In a pre-"(not provided)" world, marketers had the luxury of having access to traffic, conversion, and revenue data by keywords.
- In the new "(not provided)" world, marketers no longer have access to this data.
- Continuing to look at just keyword data won't work for your business.
- Marketers that still focus on an outdated dependence on rank checking tools will see their SEO performance decline rapidly.
- Moving from old school to new school tactics across page, content, search, and social sets you up for success in 2014.
The Reality: Content, Page and Analytics Integration now are King and Key Strategy
A renewed importance and focus on quality content was reflected in the Hummingbird change that ran in parallel to the move to secure search. For the forward thinking marketer this was a clear signal that SEO is in fact more alive than ever.
Forward thinking marketers have been evolving and developing content and on-page strategies in line with Google innovation. They changed the way that they work and now look to innovative ways to integrate analytics data to restore visibility no longer available with secure search.
Organizations that can mirror and adapt to a new SEO workflow stand to benefit at the expense of their competitors.
2014: The New Secure Search Manifesto
Adapting to the epic change and shift in our market requires adapting to, and focusing on, a new direction in SEO. Here are four key truths about secure search that you can use as a guide to formulate your strategies in 2014.
1. Analytics is the Source of Truth
Secure search changed the way that we think about SEO forever. In 2014, new SEO reporting requires a shift to measuring real (not estimated) business metrics at a page level. This includes making sure that you measure traffic, conversions, and revenue.
In 2013 many marketers viewed secure search shift resulting in a technology or integration problem. The best marketers saw this as a logical outcome of a shift to page-centric SEO. Your web pages, are what will attract visitors, drive conversions and help you measure organic revenue in the New Year.
2014 Tips and Tactics:
- The most effective way to manage your SEO programs going forward is to make pages the center of your SEO world.
- Pull actual data from your web analytics at the page level in order to do this.
- Understand what is happening with your traffic, conversions, and revenue as a result of secure search and prioritize you work accordingly.
2. Rank Still Matters
In 2013 the meaning and focus on "what rank is" changed rapidly. The convergence of earned, owned, and paid media was reflected in the search engine results pages (SERPs). The integration of search, social, mobile, global, and local, and the growth and adoption of mobile, changed the way content appeared in the SERPs.
SEO success is now the gateway to measuring the ultimate business impact of your content – driving a greater keyword rank for your page's is essential and tracking your keyword performance still matters. Rank still matters in 2014. It always will.
2014 Tips and Tactics:
- Focus on accurate rank in 2014 – this means having a robust methodology in place that takes account of spikes and drops in traffic and not focusing on generic rank reports that do not take into account these shifts.
- Make sure that you measure rank and performance by device type – research shows that rank and conversions on tablets, phone, and desktop vary dramatically.
- Ensure that you are measuring and tracking universal/blended rank. This includes looking at Carousel results. Remember, there aren't always 10 results per page.
In 2014, rank means ensuring that you have complete visibility into how content appears in the SERPs by device type (mobile, tablet, desktop) in universal listings, and by location (city and country).
3. Page and Content are the Center of the Universe
It's essential that your approach to content in 2014 is done the "Hummingbird way." Content on your pages are what attract visitors, drive conversions and bring in revenue. The most effective way to manage SEO programs in 2014 is to make pages the center of your SEO world.
2014 Tips and Tactics:
- Think like a content marketer, analyze like an SEO.
- Analyze your content and data at a page level in 2014.
- Integrate and work closely with GWMT to correlate page and keyword data.
- Use this data to understand your SEO and content performance across revenue, conversions, and traffic at a page level.
- Set up and report on individual and group pages total performance.
"The industry has become overly dependent on keyword referral as a data point," said Chris Keating, VP, SEO, CO and Data Feeds, Performics. "We will continue to leverage other search engine-provided data, but our main source of advanced metrics will cover page-level performance, share of voice, and other enterprise measurements."
4. All Data is Relevant and Connected
In 2014, you'll need to utilize a rich set of data sources to ensure that you have a complete, 20/20 vision, on how your content and SEO is performing. Secure search brought about challenge for some but opportunities for many.
All structured data has a meaning and is connected across search, social, and digital marketing. The opportunity manifests itself in analytical integration and how you connect the search, social, and content dots on your web page.
2014 Tips and Tactics:
- Utilize all your data from multiple data sources (such as Majestic SEO and Google Analytics)
- Ensure that you utilize Google Webmaster Tools data to restore partial keyword visibility.
- Integrate this data to form new format keyword reports.
- Build comprehensive dashboards that collate all rank, keyword, social, and content data in one place – do this at a local and global level.
Old habits die hard in SEO. However, adapting to change is the new imperative that marketers in our industry have to follow in 2014. SEO has always been the most predominant channel in online marketing and it always will be.
So, what has changed? People's perception of what SEO is has changed.
- SEO is content
- SEO is social
- SEO is analytics
- SEO is marketing
Google's shift toward 100 percent secure search meant that the metrics and methodology SEO practitioners had been using needed to change.
The role of SEO as the driver of earned media has become even more important as part of the content marketing revolution. The key to unlocking this potential lies in gaining a 360-degree view of how your content is performing across all your web pages and attributing this to revenue.
It's time to build a new dashboard – a content performance dashboard.