Google SEO Trends in 2014

Are you wondering, ‘What is SEO-friendly in 2014?’

Well, if you have a website, then chances are that you’re impacted by Google! As the world’s most popular and well-known search engine, Google’s algorithm updates have a widespread impact on webmasters across the globe. Many don’t realize it, but Google makes daily algorithm updates, but there are a handful of Google updates each year that have a dramatic impact on the internet search ecosystem.

So what SEO techniques and strategies are beneficial in 2014? Let’s look at what Google’s been doing in terms of  its algorithm updates and what that means for your website!

Google and SEO: Targeting Top Heavy Sites

In early February 2014, Google issued a reiteration of its algorithm update governing page layout. This particular update penalized sites with a so-called ‘top heavy’ layout — that is, sites with lots of adverts located on the upper portion of the page (a region that’s known as ‘above the fold’.)

Like all Google algorithm updates since the infamous Panda update, this one serves to reinforce Google’s emphasis on a user-friendly experience. It’s no coincidence that these top heavy, ad-cluttered sites tend to be packed with ads, often with little real value in the content. So the message is clear. Don’t pack ads onto your website pages. If you include ads, use them modestly and throughout the page; don’t pack them in like sardines on the top half of your page.

May 2014 Google Algorithm Update

In mid-May 2014, Google released a new version of its so-called ‘Payday Loan’ algorithm update, which sought to shake up the results for ‘very spammy queries,’ including those related to — you guessed it — payday loans, pornography and other spammy topics.

Originally launched in summer 2013, the Payday Loan algorithm is independent from the infamous Panda and Penguin updates, but like both of those algorithms, this one has a similar underlying philosophy: penalize sites that use keywords that target historically spammy queries by offering up low-quality content and a poor user experience.

Google’s Panda 4.0 Update

On the heels of the Payday Loan algorithm release, Google launched its Panda 4.0 algorithm update. This change came on May 19, 2014 and it impacted the results of over 7.5% of search queries.

Like the original Panda algorithm launch, this update served to reiterate Google’s emphasis on high quality content and a positive user experience. Virtually every SEO practice can be rooted in user experience, so by focusing on delivering a positive, engaging and rich experience to your website’s visitors, you’ll inherently be appealing to Google.

For instance, Google demotes sites with a high bounce rate. A bounce indicates a visitor spent a very short period of time on-site; an action that’s typically associated with poor quality content or content that’s irrelevant to a particular query.

Google also penalizes sites with an unnaturally high keyword density. Pre-Panda, many webmasters wrote meaningless, rubbish content, densely packed with keywords. This content was anything but reader friendly and it was frustrating to readers who would land on these pages after clicking a result on the first page of Google’s results. So the Panda algorithm penalizes and demotes those sites, instead favoring sites with natural keyword usage and quality content.

In the world of SEO, 2014 has also brought lots of reminders that backlinking packages and other ‘unnatural linking’ activities are no longer tolerated by Google. The search engine can easily detect these webmaster-generated links, designed solely to elevate the site’s pagerank and improve performance in the search engines. Therefore, Google has started ignoring links that are the result of ‘unnatural linking’ and in cases of egregious ‘unnatural linking’ activities, the offending sites are removed from Google’s search results. And while webmasters can disavow links from low quality sites, it cannot fully counteract the damage from unnatural linking activities.

In all, the message is clear: Google favors sites that deliver a rich and engaging user experience, with well-written, high quality content, easy navigation, useful interlinking, relevant (but not over-done) keywording. These characteristics, combined with frequent updates to make for a dynamic, ‘fresh’ site, should be the focus for webmasters who want to practice good SEO in 2014