Two 2013 SEO Trends that Will Die in 2014

Throughout 2013 SEOs have faced huge challenges—staggering algorithmic changes, the influx of mobile audiences and keyword data being brought to the slaughterhouse via not provided. Some marketers have announced that SEO is, in fact, dead. Others have simply repositioned themselves to be flag bearers of inbound marketing.

In light of these changes, many SEOs have looked elsewhere to find inspiration for how to not only market their clients, but also market themselves to businesses in need of optimization. While the need for SEO has never been so high, with new technologies and new user behaviours being introduced every few months, the worth of SEO has never been so difficult to project or measure.

What stems from these challenges are handfuls of half-baked solutions that the larger community holds onto, finds solace in—dubs as trends. This article will deconstruct these trends and hopefully redirect marketers’ attentions back to our true objective: providing the most optimal experience for searchers, from query to result.

Content is… whatever.

When marketplaces become saturated with a particular thing—whether it be directory listings, guest posting or corporate social media participation—the overall level of quality decreases. Worse, with saturation, the perceived barrier to these markets lowers and talent begins finding themselves with less of a competitive advantage.

Commonly, when we see the word content being thrown around it is being celebrated for something that it is not: a Band-Aid solution to the underperformance of brands big and small.

IAB Canada recently released an overview of the minimum, maximum and average salaries by position within digital agencies. Whereas more technical jobs were valued more on average, the evidence most interesting is the huge discrepancy between the minimum and maximum salary of positions deemed more “creative.”

  • Senior Designers spanned $55k to $100k
  • Copywriters ran the spectrum of $40k to $125k

These gaps not only exhibit the misconception of content’s worth—“Content is… whatever”—but also showcase the industry’s inability to standardize the value of talented creatives.

In 2014, marketers across channels will see a necessarily stark shift away from content for content’s sake. More competitive than advertising dollars is a users’ attention span. There is a near-infinite amount of dollars that can be spent in a day, but an audience only individually has twenty-four hours of potential attention to divide among sleeping, eating, loving and consuming.

This thinking is precisely what drove Facebook to offer $3 billion for Snapchat. The platform, while wildly a ways away from monetizing, is capturing the user attention that Facebook is losing—Millennials and teenagers.

Besides revenue, attention is absolutely the most important metric to be chasing in 2014. Ensure that your content marketing efforts are not falling short of capturing it.

Desktop-First Design and User Experience

Not quite a 2013 trend—more an antiquated norm—desktop-first design is principally the way we approach designing for web. However, this past year we have made huge advances in how designers design and users use the digital interfaces made available to them.

Frank Chimero wrote a wonderful long-form essay entitled What Screens Want. Not only a prime example of what content should look like, this article discusses the ways in which design is evolving. In it, Chimero chronicles two schools of thought—skeuomorphic vs. flat—and presents an important, conclusive sentiment about the future:

Increasingly, it feels like we decided to pave the wilderness, turn it into a suburb, and build a mall.

While freshness can certainly be found online, the real frustration stems from the mobile experience of a disgusting majority of businesses online. When:

  • 91% of American adults own a mobile phone
  •  63% of mobile phone owners use their phones to access the Internet
  • Amazon, Wikipedia, and Facebook all see about 20% mobile traffic
  • Pinterest sees 75% of their traffic on mobile devices
  • 77% of mobile searches take place at home or at work

Despite these enormous numbers—numbers that are only set to trend upwards—businesses big and small continue to neglect mobile design. Futuristically, I predict that more companies will design mobile first. Trendsetters such as Quartz, Medium and TED have already taken this approach and the results are not only beautiful, but entice engagement and repeat visits.

It’s becoming quickly impossible to ignore the fact that desktop-first design is on its way out. The New Year is the perfect time to allocate budget, build out some wireframes, and fully pivot towards mobile marketing. With Google actively demoting brands who fail to provide an above-average user experience in the search engine result pages, SEOs will likely begin to see rankings shift in early 2014 to skew towards businesses doing mobile right.

This article was originally written by Jack Allen.