Since the advent of Hummingbird it’s become obvious onsite SEO requires re-finessing if you want to give your pages the best chance of ranking in 2014. However I would also add you need to be careful you don’t throw the baby out with the bath water since many of the factors important in 2013 are also a ranking requirement today.
Query Centred Content
Hummingbird formalised Google’s approach to semantic search. Keywords are out, and query based phrases are in. Google will no longer return results exclusively based on matching keywords but will look for pages that best answer the searchers query. This means writing with more diversity and in a customer centred way. If you write naturally, you will almost certainly cover what the searcher is looking for.
On page length I still regard 300 words as a minimum but 400-600 words work well for pages and blog posts as long as your content is well structured.
Socialise Your Content
If you have picked the right Content Management System (WordPress) it should be easy to make sure your content is easy to share on social networking sites – especially Facebook. Different approaches work well for different sectors. For some a share button is enough. For others displaying social media activity on their website or blog works well but the latter if only effective if the numbers or level of activity is impressive.
Titles still matter. However it’s more likely you will see sites ranking in the top 10 that don’t contain the relevant keyword in the title although they may contain synonyms. Titles should still be less than 65 characters in length but if you don’t meet this requirement your site or page may still rank well. Also remember titles help you get the click so write for your audience too.
Every page should have one and only one H1 tag. Google still uses the content of this tag to help determine the topic of the page. As with page titles think in terms of trying to craft a title based on the searchers likely query. H2 and H3 tags can be used to break up long pages. This is for readers and search engines: their interests are increasingly aligned.
Image Names and ALT tags
Who would have thought something as innocuous as an ALT tag could be so important? Well it is. Every image should be accompanied by an ALT tag and serious thought needs to go into crafting the applicable description. If you have previously crammed your ALT tags with keywords you may want to revisit them especially for pages moving in the wrong direction.
Navigation and Site Hierarchy
Google is increasingly factoring in to ranking how visitors react to your content. Reducing bounce rates and encouraging visitors to stay on your site isn’t just about content per se but also about how easy you make it for visitors to find what they are looking for. Intuitive navigation is essential and should be tested by customers after revisions have been made. Related to this internal linking and anchor text continue to play the important role. But be warned. Anchor text must be natural (diverse).
There’s a huge number of housekeeping factors that continue to influence onsite SEO in 2014. Everything from page load speed to choice of host and use of no follow tags has a role to play. Since many small business sites don’t monitor broken links, page load speed and the like, my recommendation is that you audit the bulk of these at least twice a year and if you can, assess broken links monthly.