As the New Year approaches, many small business owners will be taking time to reflect on their marketing strategies for the New Year. This year their timing couldn’t be more perfect—with the changes to Google’s new Hummingbird algorithm settling in, companies need to look at a fresh new approach to their online strategies.
Gone are the days of using services that either create or provide shoddy content and link that content to substandard, irrelevant sites.
Gone are the days of just focusing on keywords.
Gone are the days of ignoring the importance of content and online marketing.
This is good news to anyone who feels they’re producing good things and should be recognized in Google search result rankings for providing quality information to their target market.
After spending considerable time reviewing suggestions from today’s top thought leaders, I’ve compiled a list of what I believe to be the top five online marketing tactics to focus on in 2014. To me, these tactics go beyond just the benefit of increasing your SEO rankings in 2014. They are solid tactics that will more importantly help to:
- position you and/or your company as experts in your identified niche
- provide valuable content to your target market, and
- attract more qualified prospects to your company
It’s important to note before we get started that marketing tactics only work effectively if you can clearly answer these strategic questions:
- Who is my ideal client?
- What makes my company/products/services different and unique?
- What type of information is my market seeking online?
- What type of content can my company provide to our market that showcases our strengths, personality and values?
1. Keep Your Website Relevant
While keywords may have lost some value, both Google and your market still need to know what your site is about. Today that means relevant rich content. You will want to make sure your page title, H1 tags and content explain what your site is about, but in 2014 you want to make sure that the keywords aren’t overused (spammy), are unique and relevant to the page, and that you pay more attention to other long-tail phrases your market might use. In other words, use a more conversational tone in your online writing.
Eric Enge summarized a lot of the “New School” ways to optimize your site in this great diagram. Use it as a guideline to keep your website relevant.
2. Keep Your Website Fresh With New Content
It’s a no-brainer that you need to ensure your website pages are current and up-to-date, but more importantly, you want to make sure you have a vehicle to continuously add great content. This vehicle is your blog, and adding engaging content to it regularly is key in 2014. This can be a mixture between great content that you have created and curated content (content from other writers and sources out there on the web).
What’s interesting about the content you create is the evolution of the blog post itself. Whereas years ago the average blog post was around 500 words, today the average is over 1000. In fact, studies show that longer blog posts are read more and shared more. Other elements—such as engaging photos and videos—also increase readers and engagement. That doesn’t mean everything you create needs to be lengthy, however. The increase of smartphones dictates that some posts still need to be more digestible and therefore shorter.
Long story short, the average length of your content needs to be longer (1000 words) and you should include pictures, videos and infographics for better engagement.
3. Make Sure Your Site is Mobile- and Share-Friendly
If your website is not yet “responsive” or you don’t have some sort of plugin like DudaMobile that helps make it mobile- and tablet-friendly, then make it a priority for 2014. I have seen this very simple change increase traffic to a website by up to 30 percent. Mobile also plays nicely into Google’s new algorithm. For example, when someone has activated their current location and searches for a “hairstylist nearby,” Google will respond with possible locations. If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, you can lose a possible customer.
Just like ensuring your site is mobile-friendly, you need to also make sure it can be shared.
Part of your online credibility comes from others sharing your information. This is hard to do if you don’t make it easy for the reader to do so. I’m astounded by how often these are missing, especially on blog posts. This is going to be even more heavily weighted in 2014, so make sure you have this feature added to your website, if you don’t already.
4. Engage on Multiple Social Sites
Social media sites certainly have mixed reviews. Since 2012-2013 we have definitely seen the shift from “should I be on social media?” to “which social media sites should I focus on?” Generally, business owners have gravitated to maybe one or two sites. In 2014, you will want to expand your social media presence, as social engagement plays a more important role in not only Google rankings, but also how people interact online. If you are wondering where else to focus beyond Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter—take a closer look at Google+. More specifically:
- fully create your Google Profile for your business
- encourage people to add Google reviews
- look for ways to have readers +1 your content
- start engaging on your Google+ channels
5. Add Credible Links
Last but not least, look for ways to add rich, relevant links back to your website. This means that junky sites like article submission or blog posting sites should no longer be part of your strategy. Instead, you want to look for credible guest blogging opportunities and other credible PR opportunities.
Chuck Price created a great Quick Start Guide to Guest Posting that outlines a great approach to take to start increasing your reach and relevance online.
If you are wondering if online PR submission is still worthwhile, I would say yes. However, you need to change your approach to a more conversational tone and watch your formatting. In other words, don’t jam pack your press release full of a keyword and have the anchor text go to an irrelevant link on your website. Your press releases and links need to be newsworthy and helpful. You should also pay more attention to the authority of the PR site you are using. A good rule of thumb is to look more at sites like PRWeb that require a fee to submit a release. Typically they rank better in authority and—not surprisingly—could get you actual media exposure.
I’m sure that as 2014 unfolds, more and more online marketing tactics will continue to present themselves. To keep things in perspective and not become overwhelmed, remember: Google is trying to ensure that people just like you and me get good quality results when we search solutions online. So if you provide quality, helpful content to your audience, regularly and in an authentic conversational tone, you will continue to survive and thrive in Google’s online world.