Bold SEO Predictions for 2014

2014The only constant in search is change. Every time you think you have Google figured out, they switch it up again. The search engine giant kept the SEO world guessing in 2013 by changing their algorithm over five hundred times, a trend that will most likely continue this year. It’s important to stay a step ahead, so in that spirit, here are five bold SEO predictions moving forward in 2014.

Conversational Search via Natural Language Processing

In 2013, Google made most keyword data private, a move that many saw as a declaration of war on keywords. As of this writing, the dreaded “Not Provided” is at a return rate of 82%, with that number expect to rise to 100% by June. The message is clear: spamming website content with keywords will no longer work. Search Engine Optimizers should continue to move away from focusing on search queries and instead create high quality content that is written to attract the attention of conversational search.

Google is trying to perfect Natural Language Processing (NLP), a field of linguistics that emphasizes interaction between humans and computers. As such, the company “develops algorithms to predict part-of-speech tags for each word (e.g., noun, verb, adjective) in a given sentence as well as the various relationships between them (e.g., subject, object and other modifiers).”

This is a big reason keyword density lost weight with the recent Hummingbird algorithm, and as NLP becomes more advanced, this trend will most likely continue with all future algorithms. If you want to appease the 2014 algorithm updates, write for your audience, stay on topic, and use the right vocabulary and grammar.

Author Rank will Become an Official Metric

Much like Bigfoot, Author Rank has never been documented in the wild, but its existence is often talked about. Maybe this is the year that it finally reveals itself. It’s well known that Google has a history of tinkering with Authorship, and most recently they announced a 15 percent reduction in rich snippets. This isn’t all bad news, as webmasters will begin to adapt and will soon have their beautiful faces back adorning the search results.

Ultimately, Google wants to reward trusted authorities by boosting these people and their work. If your Authorship is verified and you’re contributing valuable content on high ranking websites, you have no need to fear Author Rank, if or when it becomes an official metric. If you want to see where you stand, check out your estimated Author Rank number over at Virante.

Faster Sites will Rank Higher on Mobile

Today, the average mobile page takes 7 seconds to load. Google would like that number to be under one second. That being the case, it’s not going to be enough that your company has a mobile presence and responsive design. Your mobile page will need to be lightning fast to boot.

Google suggests applying the following to achieve website rendering in under a second:

  • Server must render the response (< 200 ms)
  • Number of redirects should be minimized
  • Number of roundtrips to first render should be minimized
  • Avoid external blocking JavaScript and CSS in above-the-fold content
  • Reserve time for browser layout and rendering (200 ms)
  • Optimize JavaScript execution and rendering time

Google Plus Posts will Show Up Higher and More Frequently

Google Plus is the red-headed stepchild of social media. It has never been taken seriously, and 2013 was another year that it was neglected by the masses, average Joe’s and businesses alike. Luckily Google Plus has an ace up its sleeve that may give them an edge in their ongoing battle with Facebook and Twitter. That ace is Google Authorship.

If you are serious about inceasing your visibility, you must be fully engaged on Google Plus. An active Plus account sends signals to Google that you are competitive and, to a certain extent, playing by their rules. Webmasters are already seeing their Plus posts, profiles, and pages (say that 5 times fast!) appearing higher and more frequently in the search results.

Make sure that your web site is linked to your Google Plus brand page via the verified rel=publisher connection. In 2014, companies should begin to notice that Google Plus packs more SEO punch than previously assumed and plan their engagement strategy accordingly.

We’d love to hear your predictions on what lies ahead for SEO in 2014. Let us know what you’re thinking in the comments below.

Image Credit: Flickr/artisrams

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