2013 was a record-setting year when it came to SEO and changes in the Search Engine Optimization industry. Most notably, the Google Penguin algorithm updates had the biggest impact on the industry. 2013 started a huge wave of change when it came to link building, mainly because it changed the way SEOs thought about links.
What's in store for us in 2014? Will there be more change or more of the same, with minor "tweaks" of what we've seen in 2013? In this article, I'll attempt to predict what SEOs will see in 2014.
When it comes to links, we've already seen major updates with the Google Penguin algorithm, which is not yet on a regular "schedule" so to speak. It took quite some time before Google Panda began to be a part of the regular Google updates, where Google didn't have to roll it out on a "manual" basis.
During 2014, I believe we'll see Google Penguin be part of regular Google updates, and there will not be any specific dates when Penguin is rolled out with an update. We may see a few updates, but at some point during 2014 I expect Google's Matt Cutts to announce that Penguin is an automatic part of the algorithm, just like Google Panda.
While 2013 was a banner year for change in link building, we'll continue to see more link earning take place. More and more site owners will realize they need to jump on the link earning bandwagon and get away from the old link building.
In 2014, we'll finally see more smaller sites — and even local businesses — realize they cannot just go out and write massive amounts of articles and place them on "article sites." Most site owners who are "in the know" now realize that article sites and low-quality syndication are not worth the hassle. But in 2014 we'll see less and less article submissions. So much so that article sites will start to go away entirely, and site owners might not even renew their domain names.
Link earning will become more popular in 2014. In fact, media outreach and blogger outreach, will be a strong part of this, where site owners will continue to create higher quality content on their sites and attempt to tell the media and bloggers about that content. We will see link earning be more part of an overall content marketing strategy. While "old timers" like me who have been doing organic SEO since the 1990s realize that we've been doing link earning and content marketing all along, it will just become more apparent, get more publicity and be more talked about.
Google Authorship and AuthorRank
We've already seen Google Authorship in full swing for quite a while now. But we're beginning to see some changes and updates to how Google handles Authorship. Google recently announced a 15 percent reduction in rich snippets. During 2014, there will be more of a reduction in Google Authorship rich snippets, and your content will really need to earn that rich snippet if you expect your photo to show up in the Google search results. At the same time, since there is a reduction happening, we'll be able to start to figure out what it takes to get your photo to show up in the search results, and "what it takes" to get your photo to show up. It no longer just takes verification of Google Authorship — it's as if your content needs to be "good enough" to deserve a rich snippet with your photo.
In 2014, we'll see more talk about Google AuthorRank in the SEO community, but there will still not be any way for us to see what our AuthorRank is. Google will keep that number (or our AuthorRank) private, and we won't be able to see what it is. This will actually be a good thing, but for some enterprising individuals they will, I predict, be able to figure something out and some way to show who has a higher AuthorRank than someone else.
Along with Google Authorship and Google AuthorRank, I believe we will begin to see more public adoption of Google Plus. SEOs will begin to realize they pretty much HAVE to be a player. I have already adopted Google Plus into my daily routine, and realized it's not just about posting stuff to your Google Plus profile. It's all about engagement, being an influencer. Who cares how many "friends" or followers you have? It's about how many people are +1ing, sharing and commenting on stuff you post. Even if you have over a million followers on Google Plus, if no one comments or shares your updates, then you're not an influencer. My prediction for 2014? SEOs will begin to realize that AuthorRank is tied to being an influencer.
There you have my 2014 predictions for the SEO industry, with a heavy influence on Link Earning and Google Authorship and AuthorRank. Google is on their way toward getting away from any way where SEOs can manipulate search engine rankings through links. During 2014 we'll make strides toward getting away from links being a major search engine ranking factor — but we still have a long way to go. It'll be several more years until we see links as being a minor factor.
Bill Hartzer is a successful internet marketing expert, having practiced search engine optimization and website marketing since 1996. You can visit his website here, and read his last article for SEMrush, “How to Use SEMrush to Help Your Newsjacking Efforts.”