If you want your business to flourish in 2014 you need to understand what has changed and what is new in SEO. I have come across these great articles that can both offer you insights into ways to augment the traffic to your website, which is especially important to locally based businesses, and explain to you how to do it (if you opt for SEO in-house).

Should you hire an agency?

What seems to interest many businesses is whether or not they should hire an SEO agency. Surely there are many other ways to improve your business without SEO but let us suppose that by reading this article you’re interested in it, but you have a limited budget.

The truth is that you do not necessarily need an agency, and you do not need it for three reasons:  you will/can save money; you will have full control and you will know what to expect and what results you can have with the money invested; and if you put those three reasons together you can have better long-term results.

What do you need to bring SEO in-house and why might you still need an agency, you can read here.

Why SEO?

Another important thing you need to know is how Hummingbird, the new Google algorithm, can help you and what are the benefits of the change. The significant help from the Hummingbird comes from conversational speech (though conversational speech is not new, it is more of a progression due to the Knowledge Graph). This means that search engine truly comprehends, or let’s say, is trying to truly comprehend what you are searching for-understanding pronouns, questions, shortcut reference and recognizing continued search. You feel like talking to another human being. A great example is when Google is asked: How old is Barack Obama, and then asked: How tall is he, recognizing that “he” is in fact Barack Obama. Google also understood “old” as “age” and “tall” as “height” and provided wanted answers.

This is especially good and important for marketers, because with Hummingbird it is not about the particular keyword, it is about a query as a whole. Folks at Search Engine Land did their best to “demystify” Hummingbird, so I recommend reading their article on FAQ about new algorithm and using the info to your advantage.

How to use it to your benefit?

Another interesting article that digs deep into SEO should also be of your interest. Traditional SEO most certainly is not dead, and you need links from other websites as much as you needed it in the past. In order to figure out how to earn them we must know what makes other people link to us. 2,562 individuals, whom 795 are qualified for the study, were asked this question: Why do you link to other websites. According to the received answers, the author comes up with two main categories: entertainment value and emotions; and promotional purposes and commercial gain. This second category represents a problem because it is susceptible to manipulation, right? I suggest reading the art of link earning because further throughout the text the author explains 8 reasons why the link exists and in which context, focusing on the benefits you will have from such linking.

Do not forget to optimize your website

The other important thing you need to pay attention to is Schema MarkUp, and know why it is necessary for you to use it.

Schema is your ticket to all three search engines: Yahoo, Bing and Google. With Schema you can mark up your pages and make it easier for people to find you on all major search engines. This is what every local business needs, and how to apply this virtual business card you can see here.Together with Hummingbird, Schema will help promote your business significantly.

What if you’re running a small business and you target a local market? 

Given that local SEO has the highest ROI according to many, big or small, every business needs to keep track of changes in local search engine optimization because this is how you find your target audience. Here are four things big businesses, and small alike, need to take into account in 2014:

The importance of Google+ account (you will have extra points from Google if you frequently use Google+)

Why is it better, for both users and search engine, if you summarize what you do, that is, the content of your website? The users will better understand what your business is about, and Google is favouring summarized data.

Why do you need to be more active in your local community or why do you need to get citations from local organizations and associations (meaning Yellow Pages are not good enough)?

And why should you consider having a mobile website with responsive framework? (Is your mobile site helping or harming your sales?)

Finally, there is a question of physical address; so, in 2014 you need to optimize your address in the city where your business is located first, and then “attack” other cities, because 97% of consumers use online media to shop locally.