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BACK TO BASICS: Four 2013 Takeaways That Will Carry Into 2014

by Chelsea Adams, November 20, 2013

Online Marketers

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes


  • Entity search is shifting the search landscape.
  • Google is becoming a resource that provides answers, not just links to answers.
  • Google Glass will mean changes to the way users access the Internet, and the way optimizers optimize.
  • Enhanced Campaigns make connecting with multi-screen users easier.

2013 has been an incredible year of growth and change for the SEO industry. 

For instance, compare the landscape just six months ago — when we were using Google Analytics and the AdWords Keyword Tool to make content and optimization decisions based on monthly keyword query data — to the approach we take today in light of (not provided) and the sunset of the AdWords tool. 

Or we can reminisce back to just four months ago — pre-Enhanced Campaigns — when advertisers were forced to duplicate entire campaigns in order to push an ad to both the mobile and desktop experiences. 

Or — my favorite — how about we consider many moons ago (re: sometime in early 2013) when “entity search” wasn’t the buzzword of the year and “the Star Trek computer” was something you only heard about on Star Trek? Actually, come to think of it… remember last year when wearable face computers were only something that existed in Star Trek as well...? 

Yeah… a lot has changed this year. To help you round out Q3 and kick off Q1 the right way, here’s a rundown of four significant 2013 changes that are sure to affect the way you do business in 2014.

1. Entity Search, Structured Data, and Schema Change the Way Google Resolves Search Queries

When Bruce said that he believed the Knowledge Graph would be “SEO’s hot new thing” in our 2013 Internet Marketing Forecast, I don’t think he realized just how hot it was going to be, or — to mix a hot metaphor with a cold one — to what extent it was truly only the tip of the proverbial semantic search iceberg.

At SMX East this year, conversations about Schema, semantic markup and “the entity revolution” emphasized and re-emphasized the fact that we are now living in a world where the search engines' goal is to return results based on implied intent rather than keyword phrases. Entity-based answers in SERPs are transforming Google from an engine that provides answers via relevant links, to an engine that simply provides answers.

Semantic search leader David Amerland just wrote an excellent article about this for Forbes. Read “How The Semantic Web Changes Everything. Again!

The glance-and-go takeaways and what to expect in 2014:
  • Google is returning results that it deems a good fit based on what the search engine understands to be the context that surrounds the query, as well as the deeper context that surrounds the searcher’s question. 
  • This means Google search results are selected and returned based less and less on keywords and more and more on context, relevance and quality. 
  • This also means Google is actually returning answers in search results — not just links that redirect to answers.
  • Which ultimately means the way optimizers are able to gauge success is going to continue to change well into and beyond 2014. The rise of search engines delivering answers rather than redirecting to answers also means we can expect 2014 to yield a new emphasis on the importance of connecting to your target market in ways that actually go around the SERPs.

2. A Move to Secure Search Makes Keyword Data 100% (Not Provided)

While (not provided) was becoming an issue in 2012, it officially became an issue in 2013. In late September 2013 Google moved to encrypt all search term referrer data originating from its engine and, accordingly, made Google-derived keyword data 100% (not provided).

Despite having the search industry momentarily stunned (“How will I track keyword success and audience demand??”), what has resulted — and what marketers should take into 2014 with them — is an influx of alternative ways to garner keyword data; not the death of keywords as a tool that helps inform content and optimization.

Read more about why (not provided) isn't a death sentence.

The glance-and-go takeaways and what to expect in 2014:
  • Despite Google making its keyword data 100% (not provided), keyword research is still possible! 
  • Heading into 2014, consider using keyword data from Google Webmaster Tools, keyword referred data from Google AdWords, and keyword ranking data provided by a source like Bruce Clay’s SEOToolSet

3. Google Glass is Changing How Searchers Interact with the Internet

“Hands-free” took on a whole new meaning in 2013 when Google launched Google Glass and invited a slew of people to start wearing their Internet access point on their faces as part of the Glass Project.

Reva McEachern at SMX East 2013.
“What wearable devices do is bring Knowledge Graph, social graph and link graph together, and display it all in a unique way,” said REVA Digital Media Principal Technologist, Reva McEachern, at SMX East this year. At the same conference Search Engine Land founding editor, Danny Sullivan, also pointed out the huge potential opportunity that Google Glass suggestions based on current physical location could present for brick-and-mortar search marketers. 

So, what should we expect in 2014? Well, with hands-required multi-screen use continually on the rise, adding another hands-free screen to the mix can only mean a surge in connectedness and cross-device usage. To get a feel for the implications Google Glass will have on the industry I also urge you to imagine what the world will be like in 2014 when Google Glass becomes available publicly and searching becomes as easy as speaking the words “Ok glass, find an Italian food restaurant around here.

Can we see how this all loops back to the rise of entity search, context rather than keywords (where's "here"?), and Google’s effort to deliver the best solution — rather than pointing to a list of possible solutions?

The bottom line: It’s coming. If you’re not already working as mobile as a part of your 2013 optimization strategy, you need to be — and sooner rather than later you will need to be working on a Glass strategy as part of your 2014 strategy as well.

Read more about how five search marketing experts have used their Glass in 2013, and how they expect the tool to change search marketing in 2014: Search Marketers Talk Google Glass at SMX East 2013.

The glance-and-go takeaways and what to expect in 2014:
  • Google Glass is here and people are accessing the Internet hands-free using voice more and more. 
  • This means it’s imperative that SEOs get on board and start using semantic markup to optimize for context-dependent voice phrases like “where can I find shoes around here.” 
  • Because Glass shows results one at a time, in 2014 there will be a heightened urgency associated with being number one. (Imagine how the significance of being number five drastically drops when the user has to swipe five times to see your result.

4. Google Switches to Enhanced Campaigns; Combines Mobile, Desktop, and Tablet Campaigns to Create Multi-Device Experience

In July 2013 Google switched all of its AdWords accounts over to a new multi-device system called Enhanced Campaigns. The biggest changes include the elimination of mobile-only campaigns and the addition of multi-device marketing, which allows advertisers the ability to track the root of conversion, even if the final sale happens in a different place than the original ad click (for instance, an advertiser can see if a desktop sale started with a click on a mobile app).

Another significant change that will continue to impact bid strategies in 2014 is the ability to assign unique bids to several geographic targets within one campaign. This means brick-and-mortar advertisers can now, for instance, bid higher to have an ad reach a mobile customer that is within a mile of their establishment, and lower to have the same ad pushed to a mobile customer that is 10 miles or more away.

There were mixed emotions in our industry when Google announced that the switch to Enhanced Campaigns would be mandatory. Some reacted colorfully claiming the shift to be just another ploy by Google to make more money, while others welcomed the change viewing the new system as a more efficient way to build, optimize and manage AdWords campaigns. Whether you like the change or not, the fact of that matter is that Google Enhanced campaigns are here to stay, so adapting is essential.

For a deeper dive into the positive effects of Enhanced Campaigns I recommend reading “New Data Suggest AdWords Enhanced Campaigns Actually Work” from Larry Kim of WordStream.

The glace-and-go takeaway and what to expect in 2014:
  • In 2013 there’s no denying that we live in a plugged in, multi-device world. The introduction of Google Enhanced Campaigns only serves to reinforce this idea. 
  • Despite grumbling from critics, Enhanced Campaigns are here to stay and if advertisers stop complaining and start digging in there are many positive features that can be applied to 2014 strategies, like the ability to track the root of multi-device conversions.