Thursday, 31 July 2014

Top 8 Best Web Hosting Companies of 2014

Here are the top 8 Best Web Hosting Companies of 2014 based on the results of our annual publisher survey. We present these results in a convenient and concise format that highlights respondent's most frequent comments about each service. Our aim is to create a simple starting point that will help guide your future web hosting decisions. 

Pros: Customer's loved AWS content delivery speed, pricing, and the integrated suite of website hosting products. Cons: The unique AWS architecture leaves limited flexibility and control over your content delivery. Verdict: The fastest and rated overall best in our survey but experienced webmasters will have a steep learning curve while trying to become familiar with Amazon's proprietary architecture. 

Pros: Host Gator is a great choice for small business websites and personal hosting because of their overall ease of use and user-friendly web management tools. Cons: Though they do have some prominent clients their service is not really geared toward large scale web publishers. Verdict: If you need to get your website launched quickly or your looking for a painless migration Host Gator is your best option. 


Pros: Rackspace is now and has always had the best customer support in the website hosting business. They are truly dedicated to solving their customers hosting issues and developing unique instances for custom deployments. Cons: Compared to the competition Rackspace is a bit pricey and their cloud service does not scale as well as say Amazon's. Verdict: The best choice for those looking for managed Dedicated Hosting. 

Peer 1

Pros: Peer1 was viewed as the most flexible web hosting company in our survey, with a fully integrated suite of content delivery products and a tech team that will help you build and maintain your custom hosting environment. Cons: Not a good option for small businesses as Peer1 is better geared toward handling larger websites. Verdict: Best for large scale websites that require flexibility and great customer support.

Pros: Softlayer has fantastic backend technology and had the best uptime and security of any of the other hosts in our survey. Cons: The major negative of working with Softlayer is price. In fact, every respondent familiar with their service mentioned their high service costs as a major drawback. Verdict: Very good for large scale operations that can afford best of breed technology and have the in-house tech no how to manage it. 

Pros: Blue Host is considered to be one of the best options for small publishers as they offer easy setup, excellent customer support, and low and easy to understand pricing. Cons: Just like with Hostgator, Bluehosts is not really setup to handle larger scale publishing operations, so it might not be the best choice if you're expecting huge growth. Verdict: One of the best web hosting companies for small business without question.

Pros: If you need a fully customizable web hosting environment, no one is better at helping you build it then Leaseweb, famous for hosting Wikimedia's European operation. Cons: They have often been criticized for their confusing billing practices and survey respondents felt they might not be a good fit for smaller businesses. Verdict: Great hosts for experienced operations wanting to build and manage a custom environment.


Pros: Many might be surprised to see Godaddy on this list, but they are still considered an excellent choice for smaller publishers. Their price, easy-of-use, and wide range of hosting products are the reason they enter our 2014 list. Cons: GoDaddy is exclusively focused on helping small business owners and therefore offers very few tools for larger enterprise customers. Verdict: Great place for smaller companies to get started.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Google’s Pigeon Update Solves Yelp Problem, Boosts Local Directories


As the analysis continues on yesterday’s Google local search algorithm changes — that we’re calling the Pigeon update — one thing appears to be clear: Local directory sites are getting better visibility in Google’s search results.

More specifically, it looks like Google has fixed its “Yelp problem” and is now showing Yelp pages at the top of search results when queries specifically include the word “Yelp.”

You might recall Yelp’s recent accusations that Google was manipulating its search results to show Google’s own local listings and content ahead of Yelp pages even when users specifically included “Yelp” in their searches. Yelp’s report specifically looked at the search term “gary danko yelp” (Gary Danko is a San Francisco restaurant) and showed how Google listed the restaurant’s official website first, along with several links to Google+ content such as reviews and its Google+ page.

Gark Danko search

Today, that “problem” is fixed.

The Yelp page for this restaurant shows up first when the query includes “Yelp.” Two other Yelp URLs also show up ahead of the official website.


The same thing is visible on searches for other restaurants, although sometimes it’s one Yelp URL showing up ahead of the official site. Consider these searches for three Seattle-area restaurants with “yelp” included in the query:




Not Just Yelp: Other Local Directories Boosted

It’s not just Yelp that seems to be benefitting from Google’s local algorithm update. A search this morning for “seattle restaurants” shows individual eateries up in the carousel, but the organic listings below are nothing but well-known directory-style sites like Urbanspoon, TripAdvisor, Yelp, and OpenTable. There are even lesser known directory pages from Seattle newspapers and magazines on page one. (You can click to see a larger version.)


On page two, an article from The Guardian (based in the UK) about the top 10 Seattle restaurants is showing up, as is a restaurant guide from the small (but excellent) West Seattle Blog. In fact, on that search, outside of the carousel results, an individual restaurant doesn’t appear until page three.

Similar things are happening on other search queries — but not all:
  • A search for “miami hotels” shows individual hotels in the carousel, followed by nothing but directory-style pages in the organic results below — URLs from, TripAdvisor, Expedia, Kayak and even a list of hotels from Marriott’s website. Individual hotels don’t show until page two.
  • A search for “chicago pizza” shows individual restaurants in both the carousel and almost completely through the first page of organic results.
  • Searches for “dallas dentists” show several individual practices in the organic results, but “dallas restaurants” shows nothing but directory-style pages outside of the carousel.
Overall, though, it looks like Yelp and other local directory-style sites are benefitting with higher visibility after the Pigeon update, at least in some verticals. And that seems logical since, as Google said, this update ties local results more closely to standard web ranking signals. That should benefit big directory sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor — sites that have stronger SEO signals than small, individual restaurants and hotels are likely to have. For those businesses and websites, local search has just gotten a lot more difficult.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

SEO 101: How Important is Site Speed in 2014?

Even incredibly patient people can’t stand waiting in lines – whether that’s at the bank, airport, or pizzeria. We either get bored or angry that it’s taking longer than expected. In fact, businesses learn all about this in Queuing Theory – which uses data to determine if a business should hire more employees or add an additional elevator shaft.

This theory has more recently been used in analyzing web servers. Why? Because waiting for a website to load is no different from waiting in line for a delicious slice of pizza. We want that pizza now. And if it takes too long to get that slice, we’ll walk out the door and find somewhere else to eat. The same is true when surfing online. If a site takes too long to load, we’re outta there.

But, how important is site speed in 2014?

Google Has The Need For Speed

800px Googles Lexus RX 450h Self Driving Car SEO 101: How Important is Site Speed in 2014?

Image Source: Wikipedia

For starters, Google thinks site speed is important. Some would even go as far to say that Google has a bit of an obsession with how quickly a page loads.

Which isn’t exactly breaking news. Google has always rewarded sites that have clean codes and download quickly. This became particularly apparent when the Big G announced its Speed Online Tool in 2011.

From its Webmaster Central Blog, here’s a description of the tool:
At Google, we’re striving to make the whole web fast. As part of that effort, we’re launching a new web-based tool in Google Labs, Page Speed Online, which analyzes the performance of web pages and gives specific suggestions for making them faster. Page Speed Online is available from any browser, at any time. This allows website owners to get immediate access to Page Speed performance suggestions so they can make their pages faster.
But, why does Google care about site speed?

Former Vice President Marissa Mayer asked users if they preferred 10 or 30 results for Google searches. Obviously, web surfers went with the higher number, and Google made the changes.

The result? Traffic dropped by 20 percent on the pages that featured 30 results. Yet, the download speed difference between the pages with 10 and 30 results was only half a second – what an impact!

It should be noted that page speed is one of 200 or so signals Google uses to determine rank. In fact, as Moz has pointed out, page speed has affected less than one percent of search queries.

Keep in mind though, that page speed remains a ranking factor in Google’s algorithm for both desktop and mobile sites. John Ekman explains in an article on Unbounce that faster load times will indeed improve your ranking, as well as help you gain more organic traffic.

So while it’s just one of many factors in determining your site’s ranking, it’s certainly shouldn’t be ignored, especially since mobile sites can be penalized for loading slowly.

Site Speed Improves User Experience

Helping a customer 9787708356 1024x680 SEO 101: How Important is Site Speed in 2014?

Image Source: Wikipedia

Site speed will also improve the experience for visitors.
This should be common sense. After all, how many times have you left a website because it was taking forever to load? But, to convey just how important loading time is for users, here are some fascinating stats:
  • According to a case study from Radware, 51 percent of online shoppers in the U.S claimed if a site is too slow they will not complete a purchase.
  • Radware also discovered in another study that the demand for loading speed has increased over time. For example, in 2010 a page that took six seconds to load witnessed a -40 percent conversion hit. In 2014? That same loading time suffered -50 percent conversion hit.
  • Research has found that 47 percent of web users expect a website to load in under two seconds.
    During peak traffic times, 75 percent consumers are willing to visit competitor sites instead of dealing with a slow loading page.
  • Besides making visitors happy, having a website that loads quickly is good for business. In fact, Strange Loop has stated that just “a one second delay can cost you 7 percent of sales.”
In short, if you want people to hang around your site and make a purchase, it has to load in under two seconds. If not, people have no hesitation in jumping ship to another site.

What Causes Your Page to Load Slowly?

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Image Source: veggiefrog/Flickr

There are a number of reasons why your web page is taking its sweet old time to load. And one of the first places to look is with your host.
Having the right host to fit your needs is a great business move, regardless. Remember, what you pay for is what you get. A cheap host may save you some money in the beginning, but it may not be reliable, which in turn will hurt your business in the long run. Make sure that you select a trusted host that can handle the needs of your business.
But what if you have a great host and are still having pages that load slowly? Here are some other common causes.
  • Unoptimized Images: Unoptimized images actually impact 90% of the sites included in the Alexa 1000. These are usually PNG and JPEG images that have extra data included for comments or because they contain an inefficient DEFLATE compressor. PNG should be used for icons or logos, but JPEGs work better as photos.
  • Widget/Plugin Overload: Sometimes the unsuspecting comment or social media buttons are to blame. For example, Matthew Ogborne discovered that the Facebook Like button was downloading 83 Kb of data at 1.34 seconds of load time.
  • Incompatible Browsers, Plugins, and Apps: Take Flash as an example. It can seriously slow down a webpage. And it’s not even compatible with most mobile devices. Also consider browsers like Chrome don’t always play nice with plugins. Always test your site to see how fast your site is loading on different browsers and devices.
  • Lots of Ads: No one likes tons of ads, but they can also slow down loading time. It only takes that one slow-loading ad to cause visitors to flee.
  • Bulky Code: Whether it’s a code for analytics, sign up forms, affiliates, or inefficient HTML5/ CSS, they can all add up to make your site drag. Try to condense codes and shrinking files.
  • Design Theme: While you want your site to look amazing, make sure you theme isn’t bringing your load time to a screeching halt.
  • External Embedded Media: Media like videos or slide shows may be valuable content, but they can also slow down loading speed because the site they are hosted on may be having issues. Try to host content on your own server to boost speed.

Tools to Test and Improve Site Speed

If you’re still having problems with site speed, or just curious to see how your page is doing in that area, there are plenty of free tools that can test the speed of your site. Here are ten tools that can test and help you improve the speed of your site (editor note: we have no affiliation with any of these listed, except for occasionally syndicating content by Yoast).


This tool is supported by Google and allows you to run a free website speed test. It provides waterfall charts that break down content, check for Page Speed optimization, and make suggestions for improvements after receiving a page speed score out of 100.

Pagespeed Insights

This is a must-use tool from Google. Besides being easy-to-use, you’ll receive a page speed score out of 100 and analysis of both the desktop and mobile versions of your site. You get recommendations that are divided into high-, medium- or low-priority.

Google Analytics Plugin By Yoast

This is an essential plugin if you have WordPress for SEO purposes, plus it can also determine your load time across multiple browsers.


This was designed by Yahoo! and has some pretty neat features like grades determined by predefined rule set or a user-defined rule set, suggestions for improvement, summary of components of the page, and performance analysis like and JSLint.

Pingdom Website Speed Test

Probably the best feature about this tool is that it performs tests on browsers like Chrome, which better reflects real-world conditions. Another nice feature is that you can see how well your speed is measuring up to parameters set-up by Google Page Speed and Yslow.


Your speed will receive two speed page grades from GTMetrix and Yslow, plus a charted history of page load times, analysis page sizes, and request counts.

P3 (Performance Plugin Profiler)

If you use WordPress, this is a plugin you shouldn’t miss. It examines which plugins are slowing down your site. Once this is installed you can even use it to test other speed-increasing plugins like Theme-Check.

Webpage Analyzer

Provides you with page size, composition, and download time. This tool also comes with a summary of page components with advice on how to improve page load time.

Load Impact

Unlike the other tools we’ve listed, Load Impact simulates a scenario where your page is flooded with users. This simulation will determine the areas where your site cracks, as well as how to fix any problems before they happen.

Page Speed Tool (Internet Marketing Ninjas)

Provides a complete analysis of page load time, how long it takes your page to load at different connection speeds, plus a report on external CSS, Javascript, and image files.

Source - SEO 101: How Important is Site Speed in 2014?


Monday, 28 July 2014

10 Awesome Infographics to Guide Your Marketing Plan for 2014

Infographics seem to be getting more and more popular lately. They’re certainly fun to look at, and they convey useful information in a format that’s fast and easy to digest. One thing to keep in mind with infographics is that they’re generally static—unlike blog posts, they’re rarely updated as new information becomes available.

To help you get your 2014 marketing strategy off to a great start, we’ve rounded up 10 infographics with useful stats, information and suggestions about online marketing.

1. 20 Captivating Marketing Statistics that will Drive 2014

This infographic from WebDAM looks ahead to 2014 to explore the trends and changes we can expect. One statistic that really surprised me was about the growth of internet advertising: by 2015, this will make up almost 25% of the entire ad market.

2014 Marketing Statistics Infographic

2. Email Cheatsheet

Marketo‘s email marketing infographic has some really interesting stats, including how the time you send an email affects the open rate. One that jumped out at me was that 75% of smartphone owners say they are highly likely to delete emails they can’t read on their phones.
Email Marketing Cheat Sheet Infographic

3. How to Increase LinkedIn Engagement by 386%

This infographic from Quick Sprout has some really handy tips for getting involved in LinkedIn. It includes useful stats like 60% of LinkedIn members are interested in industry insights and posting on weekday mornings will help you to reach more people.


4. Tumblr Numbers: The Rapid Rise of Social Blogging

In case you thought social blogging was dying, this Mashable infographic will clear things up. An interesting point about Tumblr’s userbase is that the demographics are almost evenly split between male and female users.

5. Infographic: The Lifecycle of a Web Page on StumbleUpon

StumbleUpon has been around for a while, but I didn’t know that much about how it worked. This infographic from Column Five Media breaks down the lifecycle of a web page on the service and sheds light on some interesting stats. For instance, 51 pages are added to StumbleUpon every minute. That’s a lot of content.


6. The Ridiculously Exhaustive Social Media Dimensions Blueprint

This infographic from Tent Social is a more practical one which will hopefully come in handy for your marketing efforts in 2014. It includes details on the dimensions recommended (or required) for images and videos on each social network. And it’s being constantly updated, so it’s a good one to save as a reference.


7. Geosocial Universe 3.0

Geosocial isn’t quite on the tips of our tongues these days like it once was, but it’s still a big part of how we use social media—particularly from our mobile devices. This JESS3 infographic explores the Geosocial Universe and looks at what services are popular and growing, and what percentage of their users are on mobile.

Geosocial Universe 3.0

Thanks for this great data from the JESS3 team.

8. Social Media Shortcuts

Another practical infographic—this time from the team at quintly. This one includes some handy, time-saving shortcuts for Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google+.

quintly Infographic: Social Media Shortcuts - How To Save Your Time On Social Media Platforms

Thanks for this great infographic from the Quintly team.

9. Blogging statistics

Some of the most interesting stats about how the blogosphere operates and more interestingly, how much money the biggest blogs generate every year. Here’re some great tips to get your blogging up to date:

Thanks for this great infographic from IgniteSpot.

10. 25 Awesome Content Marketing Tools To Use In 2014

Looking for the best content marketing tools in 2014? We’ve got you covered! Here’s a terrific list for you to make finding the best tools the easiest with a concise overview of all of them:


Thanks to this terrific resource from the Social Media Strategies Summit.

I hope we haven’t created visual overload for you here today on the blog and some of these infographics can help you make great decisions in 2014. Are there any visuals you’ve discovered recently that you’ve found particularly useful? We’d love to see them in the comments below.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

The 8 Most Important SEO Data Points of Any Website

Data is the currency of online marketers. If you’re an SEO or digital marketer, you know exactly what I mean. You live in a sea of data — numbers, line graphs, bar graphs, pie graphs, venn diagrams, percentages, proportions, analyses, analytics, and every combination of said metrics.

I get that. I’ve helped to found two analytics companies. Sometimes, though, it’s necessary to get the quick-and-dirty on things — the barebones numbers that provide the core information source on a website.

Those are the numbers that I want to explain in this article. When you’re finished reading this article, you’ll know the eight data points that will give you an accurate read on your website. Then, you can take action based on what you know.

What you’re about to discover will enhance your ability as an SEO, a marketer, and a digital expert.

Domain Authority

The Domain Authority of a website is a number developed by Moz that functions as a comparative metric for how important and powerful your website is.

Domain Authority is Moz’s calculated metric for how well a given domain is likely to rank in Google’s search results. It is based off data from the Mozscape web index and includes link counts, MozRank, and MozTrust scores, and dozens of other factors. It uses a machine learning model to predictively find an algorithm that best correlates with rankings across thousands of search results that we predict against.
Domain Authority is measured on a 100-point scale. If your site is in the 20s, it’s not so hot. If your site is in the 90s, you’re doing really well.

Why It Matters

The Domain Authority metric has proved to be one of the most reliable numbers for determining the success of a website in the SERPs. A higher DA invariably translates into bigger traffic and better search ranking.

I’ve developed a chart to help you understand your DA. Find out your domain authority (“Where to Find It” below), and then find out how you’re doing.

Thankfully, you can improve your Domain Authority through careful and persistent work.

Where to Find It

Domain Authority is publicly available for any website. You can use the following free sources

Site Speed (Load Time)

A website’s speed is basically how fast it appears in a user’s browser.
Technically, site speed is dependent upon load time. Load time calculates the latency from the point at which a user submits a request. The network server time and browser time are both factored into the equation, along with the page size (measured in bytes), and requests.

Though there are a variety of technical factors to load time, the most important issue to take notice of is the number of seconds/milliseconds it takes for your page to appear.

Why It Matters

Site speed is crucial for two related reasons — 1) SEO and 2) user experience. From an SEO standpoint, it’s apparent that Google devalues sites with long load times. This may be tied to the user experience issue. Pages that take a long time to load have higher bounce rates and lower levels of engagement.

You know this experientially. If a page takes a long time to load, you probably become impatient. You may click off to a new tab to pass the time while the slow-loading page comes into view. Or, you may just forget about it altogether.

Where to Find It

There are a variety of helpful places you can get site speed metrics. Here are the top three free places:

Quicksprout – (full disclosure, this my company) My analysis tool gives you both a basic speed score, and a full report. The “speed score” is a handy number for determining how you rank, along with load time (in seconds), page size, and requests.

0618 NeilPatel01 The 8 Most Important SEO Data Points of Any Website

A more advanced report (also free) provides a full graphical readout of speed metrics based on content analysis, page type/file/size/load time, scoring performance, along with a series of recommendations.

Google’s pagespeed tool is another handy and freely available source of speed insights.

Their analysis provides desktop and mobile displays for your site, along with scores, images, and recommendations.

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A quick and easy analysis of site speed is provided by Pingdom Tools. The Pingdom readout displays the performance score, and load time in milliseconds.

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A backlink is any link to your site from an external site. There are entire companies devoted to analyzing this set of data alone. There are an infinite number of ways you can slice, dice, analyze, parse, interpret, and view this data, but the simple metric that I want to point out is the number of backlinks.

Why It Matters

It’s an undisputed fact in the SEO world that backlinks are the most crucial component of a website’s health and wellbeing. Without strong backlinks, you have no search engine optimization, no authority, no traffic, and very little in the way of digital marketing success.

It is still extremely important that your site have a variety of strong backlinks to show the search engines that your site is valuable, useful, and worthy of high rankings.

Backlinks, or more comprehensively, a site’s link profile as a whole, is the most important factor Google considers when it analyzes a site for ranking.

It’s dangerous to rely on the number of backlinks alone as a determinative metric for taking action. A site could have billions of backlinks, but a huge percentage of these may be spammy, thus compromising the link profile. Another website may have just a small handful of backlinks, but they are all high-authority, reputable, niche sites that lend value. Although this is one of the most important numbers to consider for SEO, it should be considered in conjunction with other factors.

Where to Find It

Quicksprout – Get a quick score of your total backlinks using my analysis tool. There’s no distracting data here — just a simple number and rating (“high,” “medium,” “low,”).

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Open Site Explorer – For a comprehensive yet free analysis of your site’s link profile, you can use Open Site Explorer. They provide some parsing of the data.

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Google Webmaster Tools – GWT allows you to download a selection of links and view the top linking domains, latest links, and sample links.

Number of Indexed Pages

The number of indexed pages is a count of how many pages the searches engines have crawled, and are thus returning in search queries.

Why It Matters

Indexed pages is basically a count of your website’s content. The more blog articles you write, for example, the more indexed pages you have. Besides, the more pages you have, the more opportunity you have to rank for given keywords. In addition, you can strengthen your own internal link profile with more indexed and interlinked pages.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

20 SEO Tips, Trends and Predictions for 2014

Google made big changes to its search engine algorithm in 2013. What will those updates mean for search engine optimization in 2014? SEO experts offer their advice for the new year.

On average, Google makes about 500 adjustments to its search engine algorithm every year. Since the first Panda update in February 2011, though, many of Google's algorithm updates and other changes have been more ambitious and far-reaching in their impact. The net effect, in part, has been to elevate quality content over "thin" content, punish dubious link building practices and spammy sites and push digital marketers away from relying on keyword usage and performance data.

The changes are designed to improve the quality of search results Google delivers its users. For those who practice search engine optimization (SEO). However, the updates' collective impact has been at times confounding, frustrating and game-changing.

"I've been under the hood in this SEO game for over a decade, and I can't recall the last time the SEO community was this panicked," says Casey Halloran, co-founder and CEO of Namu Travel Group in Costa Rica. We dropped from the first page of search results to page 2 for our top keyword phrase, and we've been working to regain that position for about five months now."

Search Engine Optimization
Digital marketers in 2013 scrambled to keep up with all the Google changes, which included Hummingbird, a major overhaul of the Google search engine.

"Every time we react and recover from one Google update, there's another," Mike Huber, vice president of client services for content marketing agency Vertical Measures, said in a recent webinar. "It's like a game of Whac-a-Mole."
Given Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird and other big Google updates, are we moving into a post-SEO era? How will SEO in 2014 be different from SEO in 2013? What do digital marketers, businesses of all types and search engine optimizers need to do in the coming year to adapt? asked these questions to the SEO community and received more than 60 responses. The following is a sampling of opinions and tips from a variety of experts.

Are We Moving to a Post-SEO Era All About Content Marketing and Results Tracking?

1. SEO will always be with us. Says Brian Provost, vice president of digital strategy for Define Media Group: "SEO is like tax law. It's a set of compliance issues and strategies to optimize businesses around them. To that end, SEO will always exist as a practice discipline to market content." Smart businesses, he adds, have stopped playing "chase the algorithm," opting instead for metrics-based content creation "in line with market demand."

Content Marketing

The same SEO tool that white-hat SEO pros used last year will be used next year, Wood says. "That said, it's true that the quality bar is getting higher as more and more sites focus on producing quality content. It's also getting harder to earn links with good content as bloggers are inundated with great stuff."

3. SEO and content marketing are becoming synonymous. "If you play by the rules, you can't have one without the other, SEO consultant Christian Sculthorp says. But traditional SEO will always have a place, he adds. "People underestimate the work that goes into keyword research, tagging each page [and] website structure. There's much more to SEO than simply spamming links."

4. SEO basics will never go away. Adam Barker, senior inbound marketing manager for SmartBear Software, admits that SEO has changed: "Content is the new way to optimize and drive traffic." But you still have to prepare your site through keyword research and basic on-page SEO, he adds. "This is laying the tracks for the train to come through — and making sure you have the right train coming, through keyword research, is still just as important as it was before."

How Will SEO in 2014 Be Different From SEO in 2013?

5. Search engines will get smarter. "Search engines are rapidly developing the intelligence to discern between websites that provide value from sites that create the illusion of value," says James McDonald, ecommerce analyst for Lyons Consulting Group. "If you [only] think of SEO as a series of HTML, link building, and keyword tactics that enable a site to rank better in a search engine, then yes, we are well on our way to a post-SEO era." Why? The next generation of SEO specialists will eschew those techniques, McDonald says, "and will instead dominate search rankings by consistently creating relevant, engaging and detailed content."

6. Social presence will be more important than search. This trend, evident in 2013, will only be more apparent this year, says Ian Aronovich, president and co-founder of "It's not that search rankings and the SEO era are over," he says. "It's still worthwhile to put resources into SEO. But having a strong social presence is becoming more and more reliable in driving traffic and building brand awareness."

That's because people can quickly share content across social media networks, especially Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn, Aronovich says. "If you put out content that people are willing to share, you can get way more eyes on your company and brand in much less time [when] compared to waiting for search engines to update their listings."

7. Determining what ranks, and why, will be more complicated. Copley Broer, CEO of LandlordStation, expects a lot of time and effort devoted to sorting out what type of sharing and content move the needle for Google rankings now and which don't.

Flipboard, the mobile content aggregation app, is a good example, Broer says. Being indexed into Flipboard's bot so your content pops on Flipboard is important — but it's nearly impossible to tell when readers view your content on Flipboard unless they click through to open it in a browser. "How do you know if Google thinks that content is important if you can't tell how many people are seeing it?" Broer asks. "Does Google's Hummingbird search engine overhaul take Flipboard directly into account, or are you only impacted if someone shares your content from Flipboard to Google+?"
8. In 2014, SEO will be all about mobile. David Finkelstein, director of worldwide marketing for KEMP Technologies, notes that more than 40 percent of emails are now viewed on a mobile device. "Email remains the killer digital marketing app that can … create the viral marketing effect like no other app," he says. "SEO and associated content optimized for the mobile platform that connects to other apps via open APIs will continue to be the biggest trend, and challenge, to marketers."

Wood, of, says mobile search is the big shakeup, as it's growing faster that desktop search (which is also growing). "At some point, we can expect Google to start heavily weighting a proper mobile site … and to weight speed, speed, speed. Ultimately, nonresponsive desktop sites or mobile sites that are only a portion of the site content are a bad user experience, and Google doesn't want to deliver that." Wood doesn't know if the mobile ranking overhaul will come in 2014 — "but when it does, sites without a quality, comprehensive mobile solution are going to be scrambling."

9. Local will continue to be big. Austin Melton, onsite SEO supervisor for, expects to see Google and Bing continue their trend of localizing search results. "[This] will spell the death of the 'national' search in many verticals," he adds.

10. Natural language queries will be more important. Daniel Laloggia, digital marketing manager for Walker Sands Communications, says the biggest trend for SEO will be trying to take advantage of Hummingbird, which is less a change to Google's algorithm and change to the engine that drives Google.

SEO Specialist
Google wants people to be able to "talk" with the search engine the same way they would talk with anyone else, Laloggia says. Users, meanwhile, want Google to parse sentences and understand their intent. As a result, the focus on individual keywords should fade in lieu of a more keywordtheme approach to content creation. "In other words," he says, "1,000 keyword variations on a theme should be less important, while great content built around the hub of the keyword theme will become more important."

11. The role of SEO experts will evolve. "There will be a continued rebirth of SEO agencies as content marketing or inbound marketing shops. It's already started to happen," says Chad Pollitt, director of marketing for DigitalRelevance. In addition, the marriage of SEO and traditional public relations will represent another SEO trend, taking the name "digital PR." Finally, Pollitt says, expect marketing communications and PR departments to swallow up SEO departments.

What's Your Best SEO Advice For 2014?

Customer Satisfaction
12. Identify your customers' biggest pain points by asking sales and support team members for feedback. "That means those questions aren't being addressed on your site," says SmartBear Software's Barker. "Write your content plan around those pain points and questions."

13. Stay honest. "Focus on generating high-quality content, creating a website that really serves your users and avoiding old link-building tactics entirely," says Namu Travel Group's Halloran. "If you build a 'killer app' of some sort, you'll most likely attract quality links regardless."

14. Be an authority, don't talk about yourself, and be better than your competitors. "Don't just have another company blog using announcements that nobody wants to read. Add value. Educate your target audience," says Adam Connell, marketing manager for U.K. Linkology. "Tap into influencers within your market sector and use them to distribute your content."

Don't worry about being unique, Connell adds; just be better than your competitors. "That's what Social Media Examiner did, and now [it's] one of the biggest marketing/business blogs on the planet."
15. Earn attention and develop your network. Pollitt recommends creating problem-solving and/or entertaining content and getting it featured by the online media and industry influencers. "Brands that can truly earn media will be the biggest SEO winners," he says.

To do this, build a network of writers, bloggers, editors, journalists and industry influencers, Pollitt says, as "these are the folks you'll rely on to write about and share your content." In addition, pitch your firm's executives as possible columnists on popular industry websites. Their expertise is valuable, Pollitt says, and the search engines respect link citations from reputable sources such as those industry sites.

16. Consider link building as another form of business networking. Jason Whitt, the "geek of all trades" at Geek Powered Studios, notes that there's been wide speculation about links becoming obsolete. "While I can understand the reasoning behind this, I don't believe it to be true," he says. "It comes down to the types of links you aim to build for a website and the intent behind acquiring the link."

Links will become obsolete if your Link-building strategy is limited to paying for inclusions in directories and posting blog comments with spammy links, Whitt says.

"Real link building is hard work, and it is in no way quick. The easiest way to look at legitimate link building is to view each link as a business relationship. The more time and effort you put into that relationship, the more likely that relationship will help you grow into the position you want to be."
17. Focus on quality in all its forms. Yes, your content should be "compelling, descriptive and differentiated," says Joelle Kaufman, head of partnerships and marketing for BloomReach — but quality extends to the technical side of your site, too. Kaufman's tips:
  • Identify and reduce or eliminate duplicate pages and content.
  • Make sure your "in-linking" helps users and search engines find their way around your site.
  • Identify sources of insight from within and beyond your site to guide the content you create, curate and retain.
  • Ensure your content is accessible and optimized for mobile searchers, who Kaufman says are already reaching 50 percent of search traffic.
18. Build a single site for mobile and desktop users. As the digital divide evolves and segments Web searches, there's an increased need for adaptable websites that are cleanly viewed on smartphones, tablets and computers, says Jayme Pretzloff, online marketing director for Wixon Jewelers. Instead of developing a site for each device, consider responsive Web design, which adapts to a device's browser size. In addition to improving the user experience, Pretzloff says this boosts SEO thanks to increased visits, reduced bounce rates, better search engine result rankings, more return visits and more social shares.

19. Look for the best long-tail keywords. Kelly Boyer Sagert, content services manager for The Search Guru, says long-tail keywords are expected to become more important Hummingbird era of Google. Long-tail keywords typically contain more words, and are therefore usually less competitive. They are also more laser-targeted. (Examples include bedroom closet organization tips and kitchen pantry organization tips.) When you find one that perfectly fits your intended audience, it's a terrific find, Sagert says.

20. Schema markup will grow in importance. "Since the beginning of the Web, the most important Web coding language has been HTML. As the Web has evolved, so has HTML," Sagert says. The latest version, HTML 5, incorporates sets of HTML tags that help search engines understand structured data. (These tags are cataloged and referenced from "Structured data helps the search engines quickly and easily understand the different elements of a page, such as articles, events and local address information," she says.