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It’s been a pretty wild year in the SEO realm. Barely a month went by without a significant update to Google’s algorithm. However, August’s in-depth articles update and the Hummingbird algorithm changed the game the most.
For a detailed review of what Google changed this past year, we recommend Google’s 2013 Algorithm Updates: A Look Back. But subject matter expert Jim Yu summarizes 2013’s changes as focused on “better organizing results and adapting to spoken language.”
Since the on-page optimization tactics you used a year ago might not work as well as they do now with the advent of all these changes, we've decided to summarize a year of SEO updates in an almost A-Z guide around today’s best practices.
Search in 2014: A Glossary of Best Practices
Google’s PageRank is gone forever! Oh wait, no it’s not. After 10 months where the search engine’s public authority measure wasn’t updated and plenty of speculation occurred that it would be gone forever, this public measure of authority was finally updated December 6th. It remains one of the hundreds of items Google's algorithm looks at when evaluating which results to return in the SERPs.
Backlinks are another word for inbound links which, when ethically gained, are still helpful for good SEO. Search engines continue to develop new ways to find -- and punish -- sites with unethical link-building practices. According to Google’s head spamfighter Matt Cutts, the easiest way to come back from a checkered past of purchasing links could be to just disavow your entire backlinks profile and start anew.
Any guide to SEO success would be positively incomplete without a mention of content -- fresh and high-quality content, specifically. Google’s own quality guidelines should be your BFF in this arena.
Conversion Rate Optimization:
Improving conversion rates is a good SEO move, because it tells Google that readers find your content helpful and your site is sticky.
Generally, you should avoid this stuff at all costs. That being said, there’s no cause to worry about the occasional, correctly-cited block quote. Cutts estimates that 25-30% of the content on the web is duplicated. So long as the vast majority of your on-page copy is original, you’re likely in the clear.
SEO for ecommerce websites is its own beast. Success in this arena requires an intricate understanding of usability, interfaces, psychology, conversions, and copywriting -- in addition to the rest of the search aspects mentioned on this list (and, for the love of all that's holy, please start writing unique product descriptions).
Does your site include almost no original content, and a whole bunch of links to unrelated websites? Well, you’re unfortunately what most SEOs refer to as a “free for all” -- abbreviated as FFA -- and will struggle to be indexed by search engines.
If you hear an SEO toss this term around, they may not be referring to their twice-weekly appointment with an elliptical. It’s actually a common acronym for “Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft (Bing),” the three largest search engines.
The native language of search engines, and the basic structure that holds up your web pages.
The number of pages on your site that are crawled and indexed by Google’s bots. You can avoid the indexing of pages (such as pages that contain duplicate content) with the use of canonical tags.
Latent Semantic Indexing:
A term you can use to sound smart, or a descriptor of the fact that Google’s gotten much better at indexing the right results for variations of longtail (three or more words) phrases.
The description of your website pages which appear in search engine results pages (SERPs). Meta descriptions are primarily a function of user experience, and the best marketers use this space to hook readers’ attention.
Natural Search Results:
The result of an awesome SEO strategy, these are the search results that are earned, not bought like paid ads.
Pay for Inclusion:
Fancy terminology for paying someone to build a link to your website, also known as a definitive SEO worst practice.
Content which exists in the root directory of your website for the sole purpose of communicating with search engines whether or not you wish for your pages to be indexed.
Google's looking more and more at social shares as a signal of content quality -- and thus, a reason to elevate a site's content in the SERPs. So for better SEO, you should be incorporating social sharing and social media marketing into your inbound marketing.
A measure of how well-designed and enticing your web pages are. Sticky pages draw in readers to engage with your website or convert into leads.
Time on Page:
How long web visitors spend on each page, a crucial measure for determining the relevance and quality of your web content.
The practice of incorporating other people's words, images, and videos into your own outreach for social proof of your shared awesomeness.
White Hat SEO:
An old-school, but entirely relevant, term used to describe the only proven way to win the Google game: Publish quality content, build relationships with other bloggers, maintain your community, and repeat. The opposite would, of course, be black hat SEO.
Think of your website’s XML sitemap as an open letter to Google. Technical marketers should learn to review and update this content to communicate whether pages should be indexed.
While this is by no means a comprehensive list of the terms and tactics you’ll need to win at search optimization in the year to come, consider it a refresher on creating content and site pages that both search and people love in 2014.