Another year has come and gone, and with it a whole host of SEO updates which will be keeping the industry on its toes well into the new year.

So what were the biggest changes in 2014, and what did we learn from them? Here’s our roundup of the 5 top things to take away from SEO this year:

1. Link Building has changed… Forever

Google began penalising ‘bad’ backlinks back in 2012 with the introduction of the Penguin algorithm. 2014 saw Penguin 3.0 launch in October which only impacted approximately 1% of search queries, but since then Google announced that Penguin is now part of a rolling update which has resulted in some pretty unpredictable search results. So what does this mean for link builders? Well the key message is don’t be scared off from link building all together – it is still vitally important for SEO, but Google now favours quality over quantity. Spend time understanding your audience and building brand awareness where it matters on honest sites, rather than just trying to improve your rankings by cramming in as many backlinks as you can – it will only catch up with you, and sooner rather than later judging by the staggered rollout of Penguin this year.

2. Good content is worth the investment

This year Google released two iterations of its content monitoring algorithm Panda in May (4.0) and October (4.1). The algorithms are designed by Google to improve the user experience by lowering search performance of those websites which they consider to contain poor quality content. The key to unlocking good content lies, as with good link building, with establishing your audience. Get to know your users, use analytics to find out how they search and tailor content to them. You can no longer focus on stuffing your content with as many keywords as possible  – Google’s got smart to old fashioned SEO tactics so this just doesn’t work anymore. Write authentic articles that you and your users would genuinely want to read in order to add real value to your website.

3. Social media is part of SEO

Social media has often been handled entirely separately to SEO, but finally more brands are recognising the positive impact that it can have on search results. Social media profiles should be well optimised, as a website should be, in order to them to be discovered easily, and contain useful information for the user. Descriptions and posts should contain keywords, and links back to high quality content on your site – posts don’t always need to be dry and informative, but they should always be engaging in order to have the best impact on your SEO. You can learn more about how social media can help your brand in our recent blog post.

4. Mobile browsing is no longer an afterthought

At the end of Q3 2014, some sites were seeing up to 40% traffic from mobile devices (up from 10% in the same quarter last year). Optimising your website for smartphones and tablets is no longer something that you can ignore, especially as many purchases are now made directly from mobile devices. One of the biggest changes to mobile search in 2014 was the addition of ‘mobile-friendly’ text labels in Google search results. You can check your site to see if it passes Google’s mobile-friendly test. If your site is not deemed mobile-friendly, Google will tell you what’s wrong and give you suggestions on how to improve it. In 2014 Google also released an algorithm aiming to enhance local search results, making mobile optimisation even more key for users on the move.

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5.  SEO is constantly evolving

You can be certain of one thing when it comes to SEO – there is no certainty! While Google constantly moves the goal posts in order to enhance the user experience, website owners will always be left to pick up the pieces. In order to plan ahead for the future it’s important to learn lessons from the past. Google’s algorithm updates have all been variations on a theme aiming to reward one thing – high quality. Have this in mind when you seek to optimise your site, while remaining flexible to new trends and requirements – learning how to adapt to new challenges is key to staying on top of SEO, as it is with business in general.

Whether you’ve had a great year, or one that you’d rather forget, there are always lessons to be learned when it comes to optimisation. As a search performance marketing agency we make it our business to stay one step ahead of all changes in the world of SEO. If you’re concerned about your website’s search performance, or would like some help and advice on how to bring your business up to speed with digital marketing, please get in touch with us today.

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