SEO in 2014 looks almost nothing like it did even just a year ago. Thanks to Google updates like Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird -- which influences more than 90% of global searches -- content creators need to get away from tactics that used to be successful, like keyword packing and link building, and provide content that is created with the end user in mind.
This year, the Moz Industry Survey brought that point home. It states, “Across the board, content marketing is on the rise and fewer and fewer of you are actively link-building.” The study found that content marketing is now the second most common activity, after analytics.
What does this mean for web designers?
Essentially, the shift to content creation that has readers and topics, rather than keywords, at the core means that website developers need to follow suit if they want to earn and sustain high rankings. For the most part, that means designers will need to provide an easy-to-navigate, highly accessible site that allows visitors to find the information they need quickly. As a result, there are a few things that should be kept in mind when trying to build an effective website.
That term might seem a bit too theoretical for some web designers, but, basically, it is the idea that people will try to avoid situations that make them feel out of control. Warren Lee makes the connection with web design in an article on <em>Search Engine Land</em>, writing that “cognitive dissonance tells us that when a website isn’t easy to navigate or offers too many choices, the user would rather leave than negotiate through an environment that feels too chaotic.” He adds, “To provide the best website experience, we should let data and the user experience drive our design. Only by doing this can we ensure we aren’t alienating our target audience.” Using that notion to drive web development should help designers make a clean website that helps, rather than slows down, web users.
Fewer Choices Lead to Easier Decisions
Lee also notes that “People are overwhelmed with choices, and when a website design includes an abundance of categories and subcategories, audiences may disconnect -- they’ll avoid making a choice if they are too overwhelmed.” Keeping it simple, and providing visitors with only a handful of options, is smart for web designers who want to provide the best user experience. It represents a fundamental change from when SEO campaigns were strengthened by topical subcategories, but is important for today’s site builders.
Make Room for Content
Because of the virtually limitless nature of the internet, site designers don’t necessarily have to get rid of certain pages to make sure they can fit in new content. However, they should try to showcase <em>bigger</em> articles that can stand out in Google’s in-depth article section. They offer lots of value for readers and will be featured on SERPs. Sites won’t earn those spots with thin and simplistic content.
Be Careful With Link Building
Kevin Vertommen notes that “Links are still the holy grail of SEO. Search engines see each link to a website as a vote for that website. The more links a page receives, the easier it becomes to rank accurately.” However, Google will now penalize sites who go for the quantity over quality approach. Making sure to link with reputable websites and never spam them is important for web designers who hope to avoid the wrath of Google.
The number of consumers who shop online is consistently growing, and businesses that want to attract the most shoppers need to pay attention. Google says that web designers should feature a responsive design, so that they can use just one URL, reduce load time by eliminating redirection, and save Google crawlers’ resources. But most importantly, this fluid design, which changes the appearance of a website based on the device that’s viewing it, allows consumers to shop and conduct product research quickly and from anywhere.
Though having great web design is important for companies who want to perform well on Google’s SERPs in 2014, it is not the only area they should focus on. In addition, social media plays a vital role. Some 90% of companies use social media, but just one out of every eight actually measure the direct revenue impact. Taking the time to do that could help businesses build the dynamic web presence they need to consistently attract new customers and grow.