Whether you own a small business looking to provide local services or a huge B2B company aiming to supply other large-scale companies, you probably want the same thing for your website. Visibility.

Ranking for target keywords on Google and other search engines has been a huge “must” for businesses ever since websites replaced the yellow pages. But what has held in the past for search engine optimization (SEO) best practice is seeing a major change in the first half of 2014. What’s behind the shift, you ask? SOCIAL MEDIA!

If you have worked with HMA, then you know we pride ourselves on optimizing sites around what we call the Three Pillars of SEO. For a long time, these pillars have been composed of on-page elements (such as structuring content around keywords you intend to rank for), off-page networking (i.e. link juice from quality sites) and “under-the-hood” factors (your “back-end” SEO meta-data).

In 2014, the industry has seen a stark shift in terms of the correlation between high-ranking sites and their social media presence. Over the course of about two years, Google has increasingly been nodding in the direction of sites that command a strong social media presence. After all, what good is content if it is not particularly engaging to the reader? And further, what better way for Google to gauge content quality than by referencing its reach and performance across social media channels?

So what do the three pillars look like in 2014? Think CONTENT, LINKS, and a great big pillar of SOCIAL MEDIA. Content is still king – don’t be mistaken there. But through links to said great content, your company’s products (and most importantly, stories!) can be shared across the web and through social media channels. Together, these three aspects are the best way to lay a firm foundation for great visibility and site performance.

Our advice to businesses looking to rank high for target keywords in 2014? Forget the “keyword focus” and contemplate your message. Think about the stories behind your products – the people who make them, the processes it takes to distribute them, and the customers who rely on them. When thought of this way, it’s easy to see how “good selling” is truly reliant upon “good telling.” Without stories, there isn’t much potential for engaging content. And without engaging content, you can surely forget about your rankings!