Three Ways to Shift Your SEO Strategy to a 2014 Mindset


“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”Lao Tzu

When I ask clients about their most valued SEO KPI’s, they inevitably come back to two major points: Rankings & Backlinks. It’s no surprise why, as this is what folks have been taught over the past 10 years; that online marketing & SEO is something to game, to hack. A short cut if you will: Beat the system and come up first by doing the right code tweaks. It went something like this:

Add the right words to certain places on your web pages + Get links from tangentially relevant sources = Profit

2013 certainly changed this. In fact, we could call it the “Year of Change” in SEO. This was a year in which Google launched update after update to fight article/e-zine linking sites, bad backlink strategies, and over-optimized pages. It’s also the year that Google Analytics data for keywords were taken away from marketers as a data point and lumped into a (not provided) bucket. Google’s ranking algorithm now compiles 200+ factors to serve web sites to searchers, yet much of the online marketing world’s mindset has continued to focus on the Old Two: Rankings & Backlinks.

The SERPS themselves have changed as well. In this (highly) exaggerated example from the Moz Team Blog, we can see that there are no longer 10 text results on a search result page, but a wealth of possible and contextual information types: Carousel for Local Places results, Shopping Ads, data from Knowledge Graph, News Items, and so forth.

Let’s look at a specific example. In the older days of the web, domain squatting was a popular activity. Someone would buy a keyword heavy domain and sell it to the highest bidder. sold to a buyer for $2.6 million. The assumption was that users would inevitably type the domain or that the domain would rank #1 because it was keyword heavy and could have been easily optimized/linked.

Let’s look at a search for pizza today:

There are a lot of things that pop up on my results, but no (which is still around, by the way). Why? Because of Google’s 2013 changes.

They are serving me results that are:

  • Locally Relevant (Places I might want to try in Pittsburgh)
  • Contextually Relevant (News articles about pizza and pizza trends)
  • Knowledge Relevant (Nutrition facts and data from Wikipedia)

These are the 3 big concepts you should use to realign your SEO in 2014. If I were advising a local pizzeria on how to compete with these results I’d have them focus on:

Location Relevance

  • Are you listed on Google Local Places? If so, have you claimed your profile and added the necessary information? Is your data correct? Did you include photos or any video content?
  • Are you listed on local search and review guides? Use to find out.
  • Do you have reviews on Google, Yelp, Urban Spoon and other platforms? This will help a user choose a pizzeria from the carousel.
  • Do you have a 360 interior view attached to your map view? This helps customers look inside your business before visiting.
  • Can I view your menu if I’m on a mobile device? Remember, there’s less screen real estate on a phone, so having a mobile-friendly website is no longer recommended, it’s necessary.


Contextual Relevance

  • Forget about keywords for a second — does your search result and website answer my question? I searched “Pizza” as a keyword but I really am asking “What pizzerias are near my location and which one would I want to eat at?”
  • Is the right information available? For a pizzeria, this may be as simple as letting a user know that you offer delivery on your homepage or that they can place an order online. Maybe you have a local specialty that has to be tasted to be believed. Include the right information to help a user make a decision.
  • Are you creating the right conversions on your site? Add a click-to-call button to your site for mobile and track this as a Google Analytics Goal. Google is very much looking to see if your site is effective.


Knowledge Relevance

  • Are you using social networks to demonstrate your business experience? Google+, Facebook and Twitter are great places to share content with your customers. Building strong customer lists and making sharable content available on social networks can influence your position in the search results. Of course you’ll want to share specials and deals for your pizzeria, but you can also share videos you make while visiting food trade shows, post pictures of your best pizza tosser in action, and  create other content that’s not just promotional in nature.
  • Link your business to vendors, suppliers, partners, local groups and non-profits you work with and relevant media in your industry that back up your knowledge and expertise. Instead of submitting to every directory you can find, imagine for a minute that there is no Google, no search engines, and no internet. Would you want to connect your business to this other company or organization? If not, you probably don’t want that link. Your pizzeria should definitely have a link from the Little League Team you sponsor and from the local Chamber of Commerce if you’re a member.
  • Demonstrate your expertise through content.  A pizzeria near my house in Pittsburgh has an alternative menu on their site for people seeking gluten free pizza and Italian food and they’ve received press/links because of this. What’s your specialty? Blog about it, include it on your site and tell others.

2014 is the year we get back to online marketing basics and design our campaigns as if they were to run in the real world. Follow Lao Tzu’s advice and embrace the new changes. By demonstrating local relevance, context and knowledge, you can have a great year on the web.

Let’s celebrate that with some pizza.


Michael Bartholow is a Senior Account Manager. He has a special knack for B2B Lead Generation and e-Commerce Marketing. Michael holds an Integrative Arts degree from Penn State University and uses the same SEO & PPC skills he once employed to promote award-winning independent films to help businesses across a variety of verticals find audiences. He has Google certifications in Analytics & AdWords.

  • Yes, I’ve also went through the Moz post earlier and starting from that very time, I’m sweating till date. How difficult it is becoming to “sustain” your position at the “formidable position” within search results page by every passing day.

    Clients are asking for results then-and-there. Superiors are becoming impatient – asking why our effort estimation was incorrect in terms of performance projection. Needless to say about the leaders / experts from the industry who apparently become your competitor.
    Everybody is looking up for the pole position. Sigh!

    All these stuffs are accumulating some enormous pressure on the neck of beginners like us.
    God knows! I’m heading towards which direction?

    But then Lao Tzu’s advice – coming as a blessing from another world!

    Now I’m again reconstructing my ambitions and positive attitude in order to handle properly the situation. After all dynamism is the pattern and we have to be flexible enough to remain in web.

    OMG! Google is changing algorithm again. 🙂

  • Partha,

    As marketers, we can never completely control a platform, we can only adapt and do what’s best for our clients. As you said, being flexible is the key and I think that’s a terrific guiding principle. Thanks for the comment.


  • SEO Castell serves its client with the latest marketing strategies that help achieve the Internet marketing goals. Website Optimization, SEM, SEO, SMO, Google +, Google Local, PPC Management, Brand Development are some of the key highlights of our work. Call in for support at 9560969020.

  • Hello, i read your blog from time to time and i own a similar
    one and i was just wondering if you get a lot of spam comments?
    If so how do you reduce it, any plugin or anything you can recommend?
    I get so much lately it’s driving me mad so any help is very much appreciated.

  • Thanks for this advice. Really certain changes had happened in SEO in 2014. Contextual relevance and location relevance are really helpful in indexing. Only keyword stuffing doesn’t give any output in 2014.

  • Those people who are still using black hat or automated tools for getting top position in search engines, its time to focus on contents because search engines are improving their research methods. Every blogger should pay attention towards contents as these are considered the king for your position in search engines. If you have quality content then you’ll get more visitors which resulted in top position and if you have duplicated contents then these will be treated as spam and your website will be penalized. By the way your post is good enough to pay attention on relevancy and contents which is the basic requirement of modern SEO 🙂

  • Thanks for this post. Location relevance has been a huge push for us and our clients over the last few years as we tend to work with SMBs. The 360 interior view would be a nice addition for some clients.

  • Great post. Strategies change time by time and you need to follow all new strategies.Otherwise Google hit your website. All your work will gone.

  • Thanks for the post!
    Since Matt Cutts said that Guest blogging is dead, link building has become much harder than before.

  • It’s hard to be so late in the game and all these changes are happening. I’m sure backlinking still has its place but it has become scary as to where to go and what to link from. My best sites are ones that more or less just focused on content. The links eventually came naturally. You just have to be willing to put in the time and not give up.

  • David,

    You’re right on the money here. We all know the saying “Content is King”, and it can be hard to get full buy-in from execs or decision makers to publish as much as you need to these days for content marketing. I instead tell people that “Value is valued”. If you’re adding value to those pages and helping people, traffic will come and people will link.

    You’re still valuing the link of course, but you’re accepting it as a result of your action, not as the start of your outreach plan.

    Thanks for the comment.

  • Thank you for opening my eyes to having a mobile friendly website and a 360 interior view.

  • Diwan Pujari

    Thanks Michael Bartholow nice post sharing . Google become complected then friendship keep on great post thnaksssss

  • Thanks… I also have a website and after the change of algo by Google, really confused what to do now.

  • Thanks for the useful tips and its help me to updated my plan of website and projects.

  • I am always looking forward to meet some new testimonials for SEO. And, these three ways are eventually great to make strategy for my website and positively proceed it.

  • Surely quality domains matter, right? I mean, if had quality content, then surely they could drive the pizza traffic of the web? No?

    I suppose building a more honest web is a good thing, so quality should rule the search engines.

  • Thanks for the knowledge on SEO. I’m just getting started on my site, and realize what I was about to do wrong!

  • Thanks for the details complete paradigm of SEO got changed after google updates ,So its really better to be on safe side and follow google guidelines and the points you have explained

  • Great Méthod thank you 🙂

  • This is really an eye opener
    Been doing my site SEO wrongly in the past, but surely this is the method to put me back on track
    Hopefully not yet late for my new site to get the real reward of SEO

  • I have read many backlinking strategies. and I agree that you need to adapt.

  • Is it easier to dump a website which have bad linking strategy in the past and create a new one with the correct backlink strategy or to cure bad link strategy by creating another relevant backlink?

  • Great post! Will be implementing these strategies on my site bloggertipstricks

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