As 2014 gets started, it’s a good time take a look at what type of on-page SEO factors are most likely to be successful in the new year, given the various changes that were made to search engine algorithms throughout 2013. SEO is an evolving discipline, and the last few years have seen a gradual move by the search engines to de-emphasize keyword spamming in favor of high quality content – and this trend should only gather steam as we head through 2014.
Less is More When It Comes to On-Page SEO
At one time, SEO consisted primarily of finding a way to cram your targeted keywords on a page frequently, and then using over-the-top stylistic methods to get the search engines to take notice, such as underlining, italics, and bold type. As a result, this can lead to awkward sentence construction and hard-to-read content, adversely impacting a page’s readability. This approach has been devalued to such an extent that pages pursuing this strategy is very likely to be counter-productive.
In 2014 using keywords sparingly, just enough to let Google know what your site is about, while focusing on readability and benefit of your users, is the way to go. Placing your main keyword in both your title and description is still the best way to accomplish this. Avoid using misleading or unrelated keywords in an attempt to increase traffic, and stay away from lacing your content with keywords that are extraneous to the subject being covered or hinder readability.
Emphasize High Quality Content
Google has had a history of clearly communicating updates to its search engine algorithms and its goal of rewarding high-quality content over link spamming and repetitious or linkbait-focused material. While we don't agree that content on its own will achieve high rankings, we certainly believe that the quality of your content will play a role.
Content length can play a part in determining search engine rankings for the content on your page, with lengthy or “deep” content of 1500 words or more being favored. High quality pieces of any length are worthwhile, although disposable articles, blog posts, or other material of less than 400 or so words that don’t offer much in the way of unique content aren’t likely to help a page’s rankings. In addition, frequent use of unoriginal, low-quality content runs the risk of encountering ranking penalties introduced in the Panda update.
Focus on Readability
Readability is about more than simply providing quality content for your visitors. It also has to do with page layout and ease of navigation. Metrics such as bounce rates, click-through rates, and repeat visits should be used to gauge the performance of your site in this regard. If you provide your readers with high quality content, but fail to make it easy for them engage with that content, it defeats the purpose. On the other hand, combining information that engages your readers with a page that looks good and is easy to navigate is a recipe for SEO success in 2014.
Avoid Duplicate Content
E-commerce stores and other sites with frequently repeated data may find this hard to do, but, generally speaking, duplicate content should be avoided as much as possible. To avoid keyword spam and other such practices, search engines have increasingly looked to devalue sites with repetitious content. While they claim to try to distinguish between content that is spam and that which is repetitious by nature (such as product listings and the like), it makes sense to alter the wording of your content as much as possible to avoid being penalized for duplicate content.
When designing your page, be careful to make sure that the robots.txt file is enabled so search engines can crawl and categorize your pages. Check for inadvertent cloaking of text or pages, and make sure that each of your pages has unique, detailed descriptions. Placement of ads on your page is worthy of attention; ads should be placed as organically as possible within the page and shouldn’t overwhelm the content of the page. Be careful that any pop-up ads you utilize don’t prevent bots from crawling your page.
To increase the chances that search engines will crawl and update your new content as frequently as possible, place such content on or link it to the highest authority pages on your site. The loading speed of your site is not likely to substantially affect its ranking, but excessively long load times can definitely reduce page visits. Check loading speed to verify that your pages load at a reasonable rate, whether at the office or at an offsite location such as a restaurant or coffee shop. Endeavor to make your URLs readable and on-topic; doing so increases the likelihood that they will be clicked on when they show up in SERPs.
Optimize for Mobile
With an increasing amount of page views originating on mobile devices, optimizing your site for mobile usage only makes sense. Search engines such as Google and Bing prefer that sites use a single URL for all types of visitors that adjusts to take into account the platform they are using. If you choose to take this approach, verify that your site management system is sizing your page appropriately for mobile viewing. Adjusting your content for optimal mobile viewing by reducing rich media content such as images and videos should also be considered when plotting a strategy for your mobile viewers in 2014.