For the better part of over a decade, I’ve been learning the ins and outs of the web. During this time, the world of SEO has changed drastically.  It’s no secret that I’ve been in the game a while.  The practices that led to my success a decade ago, would have most certainly lead to my demise in today’s world of SEO.  However, between you and me, I miss the snake-like days of link exchanges, and creating false signals that ultimately fooled search engines into making your site the number one spot.  Life, as they say, was easier back then.

SEO, as we’ve come to know it, is continuing to evolve into something far different than it ever was.  Any great SEO practitioner knows that you have to constantly perfect and reform your skills to stay in the game; it’s the nature of the beast.  Outsmarting search engines is not an option anymore; with new algorithm updates, search engines are smarter and more precise than ever before.

I am confident that this year will distinguish the SEO experts from the amateurs, and those SEO “fakers” will be left with nowhere to hide.   If you don’t want to be one of them, you need to adapt to the new environment and update your strategies.  Say goodbye to link juice, Google bombing and schemes, the future role of SEOs is going to be much more complex.  Based on my experience and professional opinion, I’ve outlined the more important aspects of SEO to implement for 2014.

Traditional SEO Still Plays a Part
It’s all about the fundamentals. A basic understanding of HTML and HTML tags, along with title, meta descriptions and ALT attributes, is necessary.  These things matter.  Google is placing an even bigger emphasis on structured data and authorship than in the past. Without a relative understanding of code; titles, meta descriptions and ALT attributes won’t matter- each one reinforces the other.

Design and Medium
These go hand in hand. It’s simple; the focus is on user experience.  Thus, the better the environment that you create for users, the more visibility you will receive.  The design of your website should be mobile and tablet friendly, fast, aesthetically appealing and easy to navigate.  The design should optimize user perception and experience based on the medium- whatever that is to you.  Specifically, ensuring that your design is tailored to your target market will enable a platform for conversions.  Spend time designing and allow your branded website to evolve based on feedback and analytics.

Content and PR
The “chicken and the egg” scenario. Google has showed us over a long period of time that good and compelling content wins the race.  It used to be that if you wrote content based around popular keywords and phrases, then followed that with a press release and a few good links, you’d gain authority and move up in organic rankings. Rather simple, right?

Now, writing good content isn’t enough.  Google has started to show a specific favoritism towards companies that build their brands and develop relationships with consumers.  Essentially, social signals have taken the place of “link juice” and can no longer be ignored. Establishing and maintaining relationships online should be integrated into every company’s business plan. Social networking enables a less intrusive platform for your brand to stay in front of its audience.  Build those relationships and utilize them properly when you need to.

Analytics
The evidence. I have been a relentless advocate for the web, preaching to my clients for years that the web offers a better ROI than any other medium.  You can specify where traffic and conversions are occurring and hone in on those areas.  The ability to start and pause campaigns, analyze, and improve based on these precise statistics ensures the continuous evolution of your company. There are a number of ways to customize dashboards of data and you can get some pre-made ones here. Google Analytics, and various other data platforms, are a gold mine for companies.  If set up correctly, you are sitting on mountains of data about your company- use it.

Why do we do it?
Think critically. Lastly, you need to understand user intent. Before you blog or produce a webpage think about the user intent. What do you want them to do – share, comment or complete a goal? How will these tactics work in to your overall strategy? Will the activation of a specific signal in a social network or search engine help to your overall game plan? Essentially you need to understand your specific conversion, the value of each consumer, and your goals for the year. As in every project, big or small, it is important to consider the end result before you begin.  Literally, answer each of these questions before you start to implement a plan.

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