SEO has and will always be characterised by rapid change and unpredictable swings of favour, and it continues to manifest at a quick pace. SEO techniques that were once considered to be the most effective of tools to get a website ranking are now deemed as cripplingly ineffective. Blog spamming and ‘bad’ backlinks spring to mind, but we’ve also seen anchor text over-reliance and article syndication fall from grace too. These are tactics that should be avoided at all costs today.

We’ve now moved into the new year, and after the first month we’ve decided to discuss some of the best SEO practices that will help drive traffic to your website in 2014.

How SEO Has Changed

Google – by far the most sophisticated and popular search engine around – changes its algorithm upwards of 500 times a year, it doesn’t exactly come as a shock that SEO techniques are in a constant state of change and adaptation. It can certainly be difficult to keep up-to-date with the most recent algorithm revisions. However, we can say with utmost certainty that Google will always strive to provide search results in the most useful, relevant way they can, with even more focus shifted on to location-driven searches (it’s almost the default now to to provide Google with your location)

Google’s biggest algorithm updates – Caffeine, Penguin, Panda, Hummingbird – were all implemented to achieve this. High quality content creation and a good, consistent user experience have become absolute necessary to obtain good website performance. The quality of your content will always remain key, and Google knows it when it see it. It may not be clear now how Google will further expand and change its algorithm (when has it ever been?) but what is clear is the fact that Google wants to you earn your position on the search engine results page.

Creating Quality Content

When all is said and done, Google will always rank content, not companies. When users conduct a search, they are essentially looking for an answer to a specific question (whether it’s direct or not; hence search ‘query’) and Google wants to provide these users with the most relevant answer possible. The more detailed this answer is and the more relevant it is in comparison with other similar answers, the more useful it will be to Google search engine users. Produce content that Google views as useful and relevant and it will rank better in search results. The opposite of ‘spam’ you could say if you see bad spam as the antithesis of relevance.

Get Your Content Out There

The content you create can’t exist alone, without promotion – unless you have a super popular website. You must promote it to gain exposure and for it to have a larger impact. In the current climate, the following methods are the best to achieve this:

  • Social Media – Use social media as a platform. You have Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and others to expand the reach of your content. In these posts, provoke comments and other forms of engagement to amplify its impact.
  • Outreach – Spread your wings. Reach out to relevant, prominent bloggers and other influencers with your content offerings. It’s these people that will help you get to the next level. If you’re yet to discover who these people are, reference blog directories or try services like  Buzzstream or BlogDash to help you find the right influencers.
  • Public relations – Outreach can be a highly effective endeavor, no doubt, but conventional PR replacements in trade and general interest publications are a great way to promote your content and get more people seeing it.
  • Paid advertising – There are a variety of paid advertising options that can be used to create exposure for your content: Paid search, promoted tweets, Outbrain, Facebook ads, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon Paid Discovery, and more. Best of all, putting money into paid advertising can elicit strong results, usually at an affordable price. In a previous blog we also discussed the way Facebook has been putting emphasis on paid advertising recently.

Optimising For Conversions

Conversion optimisation is important because it can increase the return on your current SEO investment. Converting a higher percentage of your traffic is much more effective than trying to attract more visitors. The technique doesn’t focus on attracting more visitors to your website, but the capitalisation on already existing traffic and getting visitors to take a desired action when they arrive to your page.

Among other aspects, conversion optimization involves:

  • Clear messages – customers must understand the value in what you are offering
  • Eliminating problematic features (poor navigation, ineffective CTAs, etc) Have a look at your top competitor’s website/other well optimised websites. What do they have that you don’t? Why is their site easier to use?
  • Creating an easy path through your sales funnel. You must have a pathway in which you want users to go down – the end product obviously being the purchase of a product (if its a product website)
  • Pick your moments. Offer the right content at the right time.
  • Measuring the right aspects to gain insight into further improvements that can be made

Provide A Great, Easy To Use User Experience

Google sees website usability and experience as being vitally important because they use data to determine how people interact with websites, and from this they gain an idea of the quality of the site. Focus on building your website so that it’s a pleasure to use and easy to navigate and understand. You must deliver direct and relevant information in the form of good quality, remarkable content. We may not be able to determine what kind of changes Google will make to their algorithm, but we can certainly bolster our SEO efforts by at least understand their end goal – to provide users with the best, most relevant answers to their questions. Building up a stream of quality, remarkable content and providing a great user experience on your website is a fantastic place to start properly optimising your website for SEO, and also to insure it against future algorithm updates.