Sunday, December 28, 2014

2014: The Top SEO Stories

The Organic SEO Blog was created two years ago, in December, 2012, with a simple purpose: to demystify the theory and application of organic search engine optimization. We spent a great deal of our first year writing about SEO basics, like keywords and algorithms. In 2014, we began to write more about topical matters, like the emerging market for mobile SEO and Google's ever-changing algorithms.

Despite our evolving emphasis, however, we've continued to explore the world of organic search engine optimization in layman's terms. We write with an eye for how small business owners can apply key SEO principles. We hope that you've found our posts helpful!

Today, in the spirit of the ubiquitous end-of-year lists, we'd like to take a look back at the year in SEO. And as we near the end of our second year, we'd like to wish our readers a happy, healthful, and prosperous new year.

1. Mobile SEO

2014 was certainly the year that mobile SEO caught fire--so much so that many SEO professionals are sick of talking about it. In its predictions for 2015, Search Engine Watch gathered a few choice comments from the SEO community:

"I hope we move away from having to tell advertisers to invest in mobile. Those who aren’t providing a good mobile experience for their visitors will be left behind, plain and simple." - Melissa Mackey (@mel66), Gyro

"We’ll finally be moving away from the tired reminders of the importance of mobile. By now, I think we are aware that a lot of people use smartphones to search for things!" - Andrew Goodman (@andrew_goodman), PageZero Media

To Melissa Mackey's point, we posted a detailed analysis of two decidely different mobile experiences from two Brooklyn-based clothing companies: one clearly optimized for mobile, Brooklyn Industries, and one one clearly not optimized for mobile, The Brooklyn Circus.

Since that post, The Brooklyn Circus has optimized their site for mobile. Below is a screenshot from an iPhone. At the time of our post, the site was essentially a shrunken desktop site with zero navigability. Now the site is easy-to-read and easy-to-use. Kudos, Brooklyn Circus!

A new mobile experience from The Brooklyn Circus

For more on mobile SEO, please read: "Don't Lose Sales: Optimize Your Website for Mobile Search Now!"

By now, as Mackey so definitively notes, and our experience in Brooklyn revealed, if you're not optimized for mobile your totally hosed, plain simple.

The intriguing question for 2015: How will SEO mobile evolve to match consumer's browsing habits? Since social media seems seems intertwined with so many people's mobile experience--and, let's face it, people's experience of life itself--how will brands adapt the mobile experience to take advantage of, say, Facebook.

Speaking of social media...

2. The Changing Nature of Social SEO

We predict 2014 will be remembered as the year that brands lost the power to "advertise" on social media.  Recently, Facebook announced that starting in the New Year, the social media giant will crack down on "overly promotional" posts. And if you're thinking about switching your efforts to Twitter, forget about it!

In November, Shareaholic released a "quarterly report" (for Q3 of 2014) detailing how much traffic the eight largest social media sites drive to other sites. Facebook drives the most traffic: 22%. And Pinterest is Facebook's closest contender. Surprisingly, among the eight largest social media sites, Twitter ranks close to StumbleUpon in referrals. Despite its apparent influence, Twitter is a relatively insular site, driving less than one percent of the"big eight" referrals.

So Facebook it is--for now. And Pinterest, which we believe will attract even more SEO attention in 2015. But without the power to "promote" what's a brand to do? Take a cue from the best social media mavens: engage!

For more, please read: "Brands: Say Goodbye to the Facebook News Feed and Hello to Your New Customer Service Hub" & "SEO 101: Three Tips for an Effective Social Media Campaign."

3. The Implications of Algorithms

Of course, talk of algorithms will always dominate the SEO world. But this year seemed to bring a host of conversations about the very idea of algorithms. More than ever, algorithms have been scrutinized in light of what information is revealed (and sometimes withheld).

With the debate about the nature of algorithms, came the startling news that many sites were testing users without their knowledge all in the name of the algorithms. There was an uproar about Facebook testing its users without their knowledge or permission. Then OKCupid announced the results of its own studies without the slightest hint of apology.

As the company's president, Christian Rudder, wrote on the OKCupid blog:

"We noticed recently that people didn’t like it when Facebook 'experimented' with their news feed. Even the FTC is getting involved. But guess what, everybody: if you use the Internet, you’re the subject of hundreds of experiments at any given time, on every site. That’s how websites work."

For more, please read: "A Frank Look at Algorithms: OKCupid, Google, and How You Can Fight Back with Organic SEO." 

Rudder was essentially detailing part of the problem people have with algorithms--specifically how they seem to compromise privacy at the expense of a better browsing experience.

The idea of "algorithm neutrality" developed particular poignancy in the wake of Ferguson, which we detailed with an eye to Facebook, who seemed to be burying Ferguson posts on the News Feed.

Please read: "Algorithms Have Consequences: #Ferguson, Facebook, and Algorithm Bias."

The most elegant work on this subject came from Zeynep Tufekci:

"But I wonder: what if Ferguson had started to bubble, but there was no Twitter to catch on nationally? Would it ever make it through the algorithmic filtering on Facebook? Maybe, but with no transparency to the decisions, I cannot be sure. Would Ferguson be buried in algorithmic censorship?"


What will 2015 hold for the world of SEO? Stay tuned next week for a futuristic look at 2015.