There is certainly a complex day-to-day science to ranking consistently well with the search engines. Unless you've made it your life's work to stay abreast of the ever-changing algorithms, your best bet is to stick to the basics.
Avoid attempts to manipulate search engine algorithms for short-term ranking benefits. It's a loser's bet given how often the formulas change. Instead, focus on these search-engine trends for 2014.
Google continues to deploy strategies to drive Google+ usage. One such strategy provides benefits to brands encouraging customers to complete Google+ reviews, as those endorsements could be shared with others searching in that business category. If you search for "restaurants memphis tn" for example, a banner appears at the top of the search window displaying restaurants in Memphis with Google+ reviews. The total number of reviews and the average rating are included, allowing viewers to quickly compare restaurant performance.
Search preference toward sites with consumer shares and mentions isn't limited to Google however. Search engines universally are relying more on human signals, such as these, to vet websites.
Another trend that began last year and is likely to continue in 2014 is Google's move away from delivering search results tied to exact keywords, instead delivering results based on related terms. It's called "semantic SEO." If you run a law practice, for example, in time it will become less important if the primary keywords used on your site are attorney, law firm or legal practice. Google's algorithms are beginning to pull results for the most relevant sites regardless of exact keywords used, giving preference to sites with the freshest content users are engaging with most.
The search engines are increasingly weighting search results toward original content others find valuable and worthy of sharing. Google's Matt Cutts said recently 25 or 30 percent of the content on the web is duplicate content. If you're going to take the time to share your expert opinion, be sure to deploy a multi-channel promotion strategy to create buzz and awareness of your original content. A "build it and they will come strategy" rarely works.
Mobile optimization of your website is just no longer optional. Not only is it an essential part of the user experience, given mobile internet usage is projected to outpace desktop usage this year, Google is also making it more difficult for sites without a mobile strategy to rank well. Develop a "responsive" website that ensures your site automatically looks great across a range of mobile devices, and develop a content strategy appropriate to the unique needs and attention span of mobile users.
Earning strong search engine rankings is generally as straightforward as developing a user-friendly website featuring relevant, fresh, original content site visitors are interested enough in to engage with in some way.
Lori Turner-Wilson is an award-winning columnist and CEO/Founder of RedRover, a sales training and marketing firm based in Memphis, Tennessee, www.redrovercompany.com. You can follow RedRover on Twitter (@redrovercompany and @loriturner) and Facebook (facebook.com/redrovercompany).