Wow! What a year it’s been in SEO 2012, we’ve had the crackdown on link networks, EMD’s, Panda, Penguin, and Piranha.
Ok, I made the last one up, but there should have been Piranha update right?
It got me thinking, what on earth is Google going to throw at us in 2013? How can they top that? I had no idea, so I thought I’d ask some of my favourite SEO’s instead. I’d just like to thank everybody who contributed to this (especially Shelli who also did all the awesome graphics), almost everybody contacted was more than happy to be involved, some of these replies could be post on their own and I’m humbled the amount of time people have put into this. So thank you guys (and gals!)
The question I posed was simply what they believe is going to happen to the industry in 2013. How do they think Google will be changing, which factors will take a hit and which will be moving up the food chain in terms of importance.
Contributors page links
“I really hope that in 2013 SEOs will look after what the USER really wants. You know, I’ve been in SEO for almost 2 years, and what we miss is the opportunity to really have a bond with our users. I have the feeling that we tend to ignore their needs for Google’s sake. Google is not reliable. Google is a company, wants to make money and all. So, why the fuck we blame for every update? It’s a game, you wanna be part of it? you accept. BUT what you can do is to create an awesome site for the user, so you can screw Google, Bing or my uncle Tom because you create a real bond with the user.
SEO to me is to bring traffic to your site. Hey, attention here: I didn’t say “bring traffic from Google”, but simply “bring traffic”. SEO means optimize the site, from a navigational point of view, with awesome content (awesome = what the user needs), and of course some technical stuff that we as nerds can do, promoting our site through contests, reviews, and so you have all the links you want.
I know SEO means Search Engine Optimization, and it’s ok. At the end we optimize for search engine as well, but we have to look to the user. But it’s EXTREMELY constraining to work just following Google’s moods and updates. Let’s do something cool, let’s complain less. To me 2013 is gonna be like this. To work with my company to achieve best results for the user. The rest will follow. I’m sure.”
“In 2013 I think we will continue to bow to Google. There were times I entertained notions of another taking the throne, but Rand makes a really good point here:
I paraphrase..G just gets more strong as more time passes. It would require “another” form of information retrieval (the jump from the yellow pages to the web) to outdo G.
So, I believe we will still be hugging up on furry animal tracking next year. I think as SEOs/marketers, there will be less discussion of overall strategy and more exploration of individual niche/respective client tactics. In my opinion, we’re seeing so much flux because G can do such.
Our industry gets tunnel vision.
How many people out there don’t understand the difference between Google, a search engine of the web and the web?
They’re not ‘dumb’ people, just not well versed regarding their chosen vehicle of information retrieval. ‘Google it’ is branded in the minds of consumers. Therefore, G has time to mess around with results. Consumers are after sought products/services, not ‘justified’ SERPs. As long as consumers are buying through their search services, advertisers are happy. If advertisers are happy, G makes money.
We need to spend less time ‘understanding’ the Minotaur’s maze, which is Google’s fickle, fourteen-year-old love-life-like algorithm, and more time tracing consumer behavior. Here are a few things on my mind in the coming year:
pay more attention to visual design and intrigue
I saw a great presentation by Jenny Lam at Mozcon. Her brand is very keen on visual presentation, design, and ‘little things’ which make impressions on consumers. I noticed the Oatmeal does a great job making his content visually appealing. I understand his comic medium lends itself to such visual devotion; however, all brands can take notes on his visual detail.
get to know CRO
Nick Eubanks is author to some keen posts and an advocate of CRO. I also enjoyed reading Yoast’s distinction of search listing and marketing. There needs to be particular study done on each client’s consumer base. Moreover, there is more study to be done on such in regard to each online inlet (ex, twitter, affiliate sites, ppc ads, and so on). CRO and A/B testing has limitless potential and needs ongoing attention.
Communication – Not Optimization
I’ve noted this before in my content conversation with Eubanks -optimization is theoretical. You can never truly optimize anything because we’re always in a state of flux. Consumer desire is not stagnant. Therefore, it’s much better to address communication, whether one or two-way with your consumers, not vying for random and ever-changing online ad boards. Don’t shoot for presence, but permeation.. communicate to your market – get in their heads, allow them in your brand’s. Let them know your brand offers value and wants to engage consumers for feedback and brand evolution. Brands that do that win.”
“What do I think is coming in 2013?
Well, we’ll see continued roll-outs of Panda & Penguin, which is just about the most uninteresting predication anyone could make about SEO. Of course Google is going to keep cleaning up its SERPs, and of course the SEO industry – hype-prone as it is – will go in to a fit every time an update is rolled out.
More interestingly, I think Google is going to do more with structured data (schema.org markup specifically) and I think we’ll see the roll-out of services that rely on websites marking up their pages with schema.org structured data. Think along the lines of replacing product feeds with hProduct structured data on websites, to name but one possible avenue. It won’t just be search engines doing this; expect to see some new web services arise that tap in to the growing structured data ecosystem.
I also think Google will be looking at more uses for its identity platform (Google+) so keep your eye out for more uses of rel=author and rel=publisher. Don’t be surprised if there’ll be another rel-tag or two rolled out to enable additional use cases and encourage more widespread adoption.
This too, by the way, relates to the structured data trend I mentioned before. It’s all about adding semantic value to your site – i.e. telling Google what things mean and what their relationships are. That is a general trend across the whole web, with search engines leading the way.
Finally, I think some of the antitrust battles Google is waging internationally will come to a head, and we could see some changes to how SERPs are structured as Google makes an effort to deflect some of the impending antitrust litigation. Failing that, expect to see some lawsuits being filed, which will be the starting shot for at least a decade of legal wrangling (during which Google will just carry on pushing its AdWords and proprietary platforms to the centre stage of its SERPs) until finally many years from now a weak settlement will be reached that basically changes nothing, and Google will have pocketed countless additional billions of ad revenue.”
“I think 2012 was the year of the Penguins, low quality link building tactics have taken a hell of a beating, and the industry has made a paradigm shift towards a “link earning” model with content marketing. There is also increased awareness in the importance of spreading your risk by utilising other traffic sources more such as PPC, Social Media and email.
Early 2013 we will probably continue to see the same emphasis on content marketing as a key element to your online strategy. The people who are going to excel are those who realise just churning out thousands of words every week isn’t what’s going to win you those elusive page 1 rankings.
The big thing for me next year is going to be User Experience (UX) creating websites that deserve to be on the first page of Google. 2013 is going to mean lots of testing, lots of customer feedback and getting back to producing sites that you will want to use, share and link to.
There are a lot of certainties that I can predict for next year:
- Someone’s going to get outed for buying/selling links
- Someone’s going to get themselves in a hot mess using the Disavow tool
- Google’s going to continue to push the prominence of paid advertising in their results
- We’ll have more Panda and Penguin updates making low quality websites harder to rank
I think a lot of SEO’s are already agreed on the fact that authorship (author rank) is going to become an important part of Google’s algorithm in the not too distant future, will that happen in 2013(?) I don’t know but it’s coming.
Social Media factors will be taken more into account as Google gather more data on the social graph and finally page relevance and Lexical Co-occurrence are becoming more important for link building, more so than anchor text.”
“Now, I don’t consider myself an SEO psychic, so it’s hard to say exactly what will be coming down the Google pipe in 2013. However, I think Rand got it right in his latest WBF
Google is getting smarter year over year, and I don’t foresee that changing any time soon. Where Google used to leave it up to webmasters to dictate what they were going to rank for (through use of the meta keywords tag, keyword stuffing on page, and in the title tag, and keyword-rich anchor text), they are starting to take signals from OTHER sources to determine how trustworthy and valuable a site is, and I don’t think that will change in 2013.
SEOs no longer get to directly tell Google what’s what; the algorithm is getting far too sophisticated for that. I think that more emphasis will be placed on having trustworthy and relevant backlinks, strong social signals, and co-citation like Rand said will become even more important in the coming year. Sites will need to be trustworthy by association.
No more crappy backlinks from the dirty depths of the Internet- I think this will leave SEOs clambering for more quality content and quality relationships in 2013.”
“I don’t think we’re going to see anything totally surprising out of the industry in the next year. We all freaked out a little bit with Penguin, etc. But, it isn’t something that should have been a surprise. There are a few things we can count on each year, and I don’t see any reason that 2013 will be much different. I’d say we can count on…
1) More Ads
Google’s going to continue to experiment with Google Shopping prominence, size, colors, etc. I sat in on an explanation of Google Shopping by the Google rep for the agency I used to work out.
The explanation was pretty terrifying.
The basic message was that natural search results for product based queries were getting spammed, and paid ads ended up giving users a better experience. (The thought of course being that if you’re paying to show up there, you obviously “deserve” to be there, because if you weren’t converting users into customers you would lose money and stop bidding.)
Now, I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that moving to more paid ads is better for Google’s bottom line too. So, no big surprises there – look for Google Shopping to be more prominent and expanded into showing more offers like free shipping, percent off, etc. I’d be a little surprised if they got into coupons as well, but it would certainly be interesting. For one, it would make coupon sites less relevant, assuming consumers believed that they were getting offers that were just as good on Google directly.
Outside of Google Shopping, I think by the end of 2013 we’ll see some more expansion in the same vein as google.com/flights and google.com/advisor/uscredit It’s hard to guess exactly how much they’re willing to do, especially because I think more Google Shopping is a safe bet.
It will be interesting to see if they juggle both at once, given they’re in separate sectors. Naturally, the areas they expand into will be high dollar markets. It also works out that these high dollar markets get spammed pretty hard. “Spam” is used loosely, there. Do a search for “college degree” keywords. How much value add is there behind most of the affilite sites that show up on the first page or two? These sites exist purely to collect leads, and there aren’t many that are doing a good job on content.
Sure, they load the site up with content in an articles section or blog because.. well. SEO. But the actual *use* of the site typically gets you nothing. Same goes for credit card affiliate sites. What info are they providing that Google isn’t giving you on their own page? Why would it make sense for Google to send someone to *your* thin website as a middle man for Amex, instead of letting Amex/a bank/whoever upload their card data directly to Google and allowing people to compare cards in a trusted environment?
Google’s going to continue to squeeze in areas where the “job” consists only of aggregating and presenting information. If your site doesn’t offer anything beyond info provided by whatever good/service you’re promoting with a library of related content that’s essentially just there for SEO purposes, I’d put some thought into what you’re really offering.
A guide on stuff to do in Seattle doesn’t mean I’m going to compare hotel prices with you. Actual pictures of what the hotel is like (Not the professional, make everything look perfect shots that are bound to be on the hotel’s site) and legitimate feedback from people who stayed there are what I’d want to see. Your blog might get you links, but it’s not going to fix a thin offering that can be replaced over the course of a weekend by a few coders.
Building a better offering is hard to do, and I get that, but I think some people in the industry are drinking their own content marketing kool-aid and believing that articles and infographics can stand in for a business offering or service.
2) More Spam Fighting
I think we can all pretty safely agree that Google is only going to get better at fighting spam, not worse. Google will continue to try and put less weight behind links that are easy to get, and can be automatically built at scale.
I’m not sure if we’ll see it in 2013 or not, but eventually Google will need to put attention towards article marketing v2, aka “Guest Posting”.
All Google did was move artificial links from spun content on sites no one ever read to “unique” but completely rehashed content on mid quality blogs. Instead of buying 100 crappy article links for $30, you now would need to shell out $12,000 to outsource the creation and placement of 100 guest posts. I certainly agree that these guest posts are better than the old linking articles. But – let’s not lose site of the fact that at the end of the day, the articles being pumped out for guest posting, in the majority of cases, are not going to be “great content”. If it was really that good – you’d publish it on your own website.
What we’ve got now is armies of writers rehashing and mashing up original content into new articles to then be shopped around for placement in exchange for embedding a link. You “pay” the owner with free content, and in exchange they “sell” you a link from their site. We’re still artificially creating links for the purpose of ranking higher – the method has just evolved, and the barrier to entry has gotten higher.
What this also means is that the mid-long tail is opened up to the people with high authority sites. It’s a bit harder now to launch a new EMD, link spam the hell out of it, and blow by sub-pages of more established (and, let’s face it – better) sites.
3) Expanding Link Market
Building links is harder. The folks still buying their links are now pickier than ever, and only want great links. Naturally, the increased demand is driving paid link prices up. I don’t think there’s ever been a better time to have a high page rank/domain authority site in a high dollar market. Even if you can’t rank ahead of the big players, and even if Google is squeezing you out with more of their own products, you can still bank pretty hard off of catering to SEOs and agencies. (Ross just talked about this more, here )
4) (Hopefully) Better Businesses
I’m hoping over the course of 2013 we, as an industry, will mature a little and quit advocating more content as the answer to everything. Like I mentioned in my hotel example, I want more *useful* content. Don’t just throw writers at the problem and have them write Top X lists until your ranking woes go away. Build something that’s worth sharing, ranking, finding, and “buying” – whatever that last one might mean in your particular case.
5) (Hopefully) Better Conferences
I left a comment here that more or less sums up what I’m talking about: http://disq.us/8bti04 I think conferences organizers need to do a better job of making sure there are actual points to each presentation. I also think that people who pay to go to conferences need to demand better. I don’t care how funny your stock photos are, or how good the designer is who got paid to put your presentation together for you – your presentation needs to have an actionable purpose. Not to rag on Rand by using the same example again, but this is fluff.
My one sentence “Build something that’s worth sharing, ranking, finding, and “buying” – whatever that last one might mean in your particular case.” can stand in for that entire presentation.
I’m hoping we stop letting speakers get away with turning one sentence into 30 minutes and 70 slides that all say the same thing.
6) (Sadly) More Outing
As building good links and ranking gets harder and more expensive, I think we’re going to see more people reporting/outing their competitors. With spammy linking supposedly dead post-Penguin, people being beat by it will be more butt-hurt than ever, Expect more public whining.
Those are the general things I think (or hope) we’re going to see. For some quick hit predictions in terms of tactics, I’d say…
- Anchor Text – more or less stays the same in terms of importance
- Guest Blogging – bloats and degrades in quality until Google has to take a swipe at it (May take until 2014)
- Fake Personas – way more important than ever (especially for people who want to play in more than one niche)”
“It’s hard to predict exactly what Google will do, but “more of the same” seems pretty certain.
1. Continue tightening the screws on artificial-seeming link acquisition. There are still some embarrassing ‘outings’ to come, I’m sure, and that always gets the big G riled up.
2. Further crowd the SERPs with local and niche-specific search results, like shopping. They test this like crazy, and nothing they’ve done so far implies that they’ve seen CTRs fall. As long as it builds revenue, they’ll keep going.
3. Drop at least 60% of keyword search data into ‘not provided’. I was going to write 80%. That still might be more realistic. But I’m hoping they don’t go farther than 60.
4. Make Google Now their central Android search platform, instead of the search box.
Let’s see how many of those I get right…”
“2013 is going to be the year of social signals!”
Despite the growth of social and it’s possibilities of being integrated into search, I still don’t see it being incorporated as a factor any faster than it is today. Social can only help you prove authority, not relevance. At the same time, there are too many industries online in which social doesn’t play a factor in anyway, and since incorporating it into the algorithm would be universal, it just wouldn’t work for a lot of different verticals.
I do however think that Google is going to take care of all those churn & burn 2 month sites in an upcoming update. It’s crazy how some are getting away with ranking for about 4 weeks after being only a couple weeks old, dying, then starting over.”
“Here’s the thing: Google already kicked the hornet’s nest in a big way with the Penguin update.
That update alone had people scrambling to change their ways, adjust their processes and embrace this big, slippery animal called “Content Marketing” in hopes that they could somehow salvage their crippled attempts at winning the Google game.
I think they’ll do more shock and awe. 2013 will be another year of scare tactics, another monumental Penguin update that hits some well-established players enough to send ripples through the community. Keep us all worried sick while they fix their broken algorithm one step at a time.SEO’s wil tremble in fear at the very mention of the phrase “anchor text”.
Beyond that, I think Google will make a point of:
- Dialling up their emphasis on text surrounding links. Nobody has EVER linked the way Google wants to reward (natural anchor text is a myth). It will be more important than ever for your links to have some sort of context. This could demolish the value of sketchy tactics like forum profile links, general directories and so on, which I feel Google is currently trying to eliminate the effectiveness of (because they haven’t).
- Cracking down on guest post byline abuse, leveraging authorship to both increase value of strong authors and obliterate mass-produced garbage. Maybe they won’t get to this by next year, but it’s coming like a big wet fish to the face.
- Turning Chrome into a secure browser (https://), hiding more data and driving more people to paid ads
- Introducing a support team for Local Listings (this one is more of a wishlist, though I do think by now Google must have heard the deafening roar of dissatisfaction from people forced to try and make sense of duplicate listings, rogue data and hijacked accounts)
- Further differentiate the results seen when making a query from a mobile device adding emphasis to sites that are mobile optimized and increasing the emphasis on local results
- Authorship is only going to get more important. Google wants (read:needs) people to complete their Google Plus profiles and start using authorship for reasons that range from making their incredibly broken reviews system work to making sense of entities and the semantic web. I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that a future algo update will, even if only briefly, make the prominence of authors so in-your-face that people complain about it. Not just photos of authors by posts, but a Knowledge-Graphesque side bar that suggests authoritative authors in the field you just queried.
- Keywords in title tags will get less important. It seems like it’s high time. This remains one of the last great spammy vestiges where merely popping in your keyword phrases pays some kind of dividend just because they’re there. The result is SERP results with few compelling calls to action and a huge lack of diversity that makes some queries confusing. It’ll still be a factor, but a diminished one.
- A manual action crusade against link sellers. We’ve seen them make examples of big players, but once again, every year the SEO industry needs a reminding of who makes the rules. I think we’ll see Google’s manual spam team start to play a bigger role and get more of a PR push – it’s easier to fear humans than an imperfect algorithm.”
“From a strategy stand point:
In 2012 everyone jumped on the content marketing bandwagon, I think 2013 will be the year of content strategy. Any website can hire a firm to produce a somewhat industry related infographic or have a writer to create some topically relevant blog posts every now and then – but very few businesses have the determination to create unified content on a consistent basis that fulfills user needs, answers their questions and generates conversions. I think there is going to be a much larger focus on content that helps businesses reach their goals and less content for the sake of content.
From a link quality stand point:
I have a feeling this might be a recurring theme in this round up.. I think low quality guest posts and sponsored posts are going to get devalued. There are too many crappy links from thin content sites that are manipulating rankings. Matt Cutts has brought up guest posting twice in recent videos, so you know Google is taking a good look at them. I wouldn’t be surprised if a penguin update in early 2013 caused big ranking losses for sites that have rankings primarily due to links from random and unrelated blogs.”
“I think that we’ll see people get smarter about the links that they build in 2013. Many low-level spammy sites that existed as either overly broad directories or lists of links have already been abandoned and hopefully 2013 will be the year when everyone realizes that they really do need to be careful when they’re building links.
I think we’ll see people monitoring their links more heavily and asking more questions of the people building those links. I think social signals will continue to become more important and that we’ll have to start using a more all-encompassing marketing mindset. If you want to do well in 2013 I doubt you’ll be able to just build links, or just have a good social media plan. You’ll have to do it all.”
I fully believe it will be weighted less heavily over the next couple years, particularly for homepages that neglect branded links to balance out the exact match links. I think link metrics like phrases used alongside the link will be applied in a similar fashion to anchor text. Brands get preference and in my opinion, they also get more leeway (on-page & off-site), so we focus heavily on branded homepage links, and reserve exact/partial match anchor text for internal site pages, which is much more natural.
Guest blogging has been overrun by the article submission crowd and the majority of the outsourced guest blogging solutions rely on poor quality sites, often on blog networks that are only slightly better quality than the previous generation of article submission sites. It’s rampant enough that it’s begging to be addressed by an update.
In my mind, the two options to filter these links out are to find a way to track author bylines with keyword-heavy anchor text to the author’s homepage, or to ramp up on AuthorRank. If I was Google, I’d prefer to rely on AuthorRank over trying to filter out bylines. Either way, I hope they’ll address junk guest blogging in 2013 but not sure if I’d put my money on it. Guest posting with mostly branded anchor text posted on good quality sites that aren’t guest blogging farms will be fine.
I hope to see some positive changes in the local SEO scene.
2012 has felt like a disaster for local, from disappearing Google listings to disappearing Google comments to the complete uselessness of Apple Maps & Siri, and those are just the ones that have frustrated me personally. Hat tip to Mike Blumenthal because I’ve relied on his coverage and reporting to sort out multiple local SEO issues in the past few months. I’d like to think that 2013 can only be better for local search.”
“The Ones that Might Happen
1. The Growth of Authorship
Authorship will become a really big deal and will be a key metric in both link building + content marketing strategies. We see Google already testing analytics for this. I suspect metrics around authorship and how to use it will be integrated into lots of strategies in 2013. (Paid articles based on Authorship rank anyone?)
2. Link Building Strategies for Big Brands will increasingly become about Great PR
I really loved Rands WBF on “Anchor Text is Dying” and Bill Slawski’s reply “Not All Anchor Text is Equal and other Co-Citation Observations“. I think Google is getting better at how they evaluate a websites link profile. It’s impossible to do the things Google wants you to do e.g. earn natural mentions, create brand signals etc etc and focus on acquiring links for “blue widgets”. Part of earning natural links is you can’t control how you are linked to. You can’t be assured they will link to you with the exact anchor text. I think Bill Slawski’s post highlights how complex this has become. For big brands, more of the focus will be on earned PR, rather than methods of getting X number of links with “blue widgets”. By that I don’t mean traditional PR, I mean creating relevant s**t targeted at your market and pitched to the right places.
3. Google release a big Penguin update (maybe a different name) that takes aim at links from tactics like infographics & guest blog posts. Anything done to excess will eventually be dealt with by Google :). (you could say Pengiun already addressed some of this, but I mean more direct).
4. The impact of social signals will continue to be over estimated, in terms of their influence on search rankings (excluding authorship)
The Less Obvious
1. Two well know SEO agencies (who predominately do link building) will rebrand themselves as content marketing agencies.
2. Some well know SEO’s will change their titles as they feel silo’d by the term SEO and want to have more impact across the funnel. They may even get a shiny new Twitter profile to make them look more snazzy.
3. Google will get itself into more trouble by pimping out it’s own properties (Google shopping anyone), continues to swallow up organic results with paid and push Google+ down everyone’s throat.
The Down Right Crazy
1. I will go to some SEO conferences in 2013
3. Mike King with leave SEO to become a battle rapper on URLTV )
4. No one in the SEO industry will wear a plaid shirt in 2013
5. and the SEO industry will be happy to just describe themselves as SEO’s”
“The single motivating factor for Google in 2013 will be maximising profit, removing free services and making life impossible for the little guys in markets they enter.
We saw this in 2012 when Google made product search a paid channel, removed around 50% of all organic Analytics data with not provided and added their own “sponsored” car insurance comparison service in to the results.
So expect to see more focus on paid search and on Google trying to sneak their own web properties in to the results with more “sponsored” boxes that only they can use. Expect Google to buy more services – especially in the affiliate space – and then compete directly with big brands.
From an SEO view expect Google to generally clamp down on quick win tactics so that SEO continues to become a long term game that only bigger brands (or very smart and nimble brands) can play. For those who want to succeed without big budgets then it’ll all be about making your business seem like a known brand (which doesn’t require massive budgets) by using integrated marketing. That means having a presence in SEO, Social, PR and Content and uniting that together to scream at Google “we are a brand, rank us!”
Basically competing in 2013 will be about who has the biggest and most creative brain not who has the biggest team or the most shiny tools, and that’s very interesting.”
“I see 2013 will be no easy for SEO!
Remember what Matt Cutts said earlier the SEO is going to be harder in the coming days… I am not one of those guys who completely trust Matt in whatever he says but as far as this is concern, I can trust him… Google is going to be tough in the coming year and will start to think more like a human brain.
Obviously it’s difficult to predict what exactly is going to come but I see few things that are going to have more importance in 2013 than others.
1. Co citation
In 2012 we saw Google killing people who were ranking with exact match key phrases and preferred the one who were linking for natural anchor text that may or may not include keywords in them… thus my guess is that Google is going to contemplate more on co-citations and so should we.
With time I guess it would mean less that how many times you are using keywords on your web page or how many links you have earned with the same keyworded anchor text rather more important would be the quantity and quality of signals from other websites that are pointing back to you, or talking about your website or your brand.
This is happening in 2012 to an extent but I see this is going to be more powerful in the coming days!
We all know that social is already an essential but still it is a choice for some niches. I think Google is going to focus more on social in 2013 and social will dramatically impact the rankings in SERPs against the key phrases.
Although in 2012 many of the industry leaders announced “social” as the next big thing but there is not much being done about it lately!
Smart buyers usually see how people are reacting to the brand before they roll the dice! I think Google will consider the same (although I see a few complications in it but still…) and brand’s reputation on social media platforms will impact search engines rankings.
It is important in 2012 as well but Google is still a toddler, learning to play with data humanly. I guess Google is pretty much ready with Authorship so they might highly count it as a ranking factor in the coming year.
I think links pointing to you will still be important but there will be number of diverse signals which will come in to play, collectively affecting SERP rankings, and authorship data seems an important one of them.
Obviously there will be more things like Content, which I think will continue to be most valuable and significant for Google and other search engines but above are few more thing that are being underrated by many right now in my opinion!”
“Personally, I don’t think anchor text will ever be devalued to the extent that some believe. In my very humble opinion I simply feel that it is too important a driver in contextual relevance in a layer that sits between content and links. Not to mention much of the informational and evergreen content within Google’s index is old in comparison, 10+ years in some cases. These pieces of content have large link profiles full of anchor text – but not commercial anchor text, relevant anchor text.
I do think 2013 will bring with it many more changes to the importance of context (most obvious statement of 2012). As G works harder to support more natural and semantic search, we are going to see changes in SERP’s based not only on personalization and individual search history but intent.
I think Google is building it’s knowledge graph as a stepping stone towards being able to understand the specific intent of the query, whether it be informational, transactional, navigational, etc.
I believe a shift in SERP’s to support intent, beyond just large brands, will support a better ‘search experience’ which seems to be a concept that Google is moving towards and only makes sense in terms of search evolution. Big brands still dominate search, but I don’t think this is an absolute. I believe there is room for smaller players to compete in large verticals if they provide the best solution and experience for a query.
In terms of where we’re heading as an industry, the line in the sand is becoming more apparent with each passing week.
Gone are the days of operating a marketing company with the absence of a developed personality. One of the oldest adages in sales in that people buy from people they like – and you cannot like someone if you don’t know who they are. Having an about page is not enough anymore, you need to highlight the specific backgrounds and competencies of your team, show the personality of your business, and provide visibility into you process and approach.
I realize there are still shysters selling ‘3,000 links for $50’ but their target audience is getting smarter, fast. With the shear volume of intelligent media being published now, the days are truly numbered for the snake oil salesmen and link-selling profit factories. Quality has always been important, the difference now is that it is becoming a standard operating procedure. Quality work isn’t enough anymore, if you are head to head with another high quality provider, you need to be legitimately better to win the business. The good news is that this is holding our industry to a higher standard and the future is clear; adapt or die.”
“I think we’ll continue to see Google adding new features to Webmaster Tools and trying to communicate more with webmasters. Whether you agree with what they say or not, they do a lot more communication than they used to and I can only see them doing more.
We’ll see Google turn down the dial on the power of anchor text. It has always been a bug bear of mine that they put so much weight on it in the first place because real internet users do not link using exact match anchor text. The only people that do that are SEOs!
I think we’ll see another big iteration of Penguin in January / February time which may seek to penalise even more based on too much anchor text. I’d like to say they will actively pursue paid links too but aside from public link networks, I’m not sure how they’d do this algorithmically.
I think Google will connect Google+ for individuals to Google+ local so that employees can associate themselves with officially with companies. This helps Google do a bit more associated between entities and people. I also think that they will add more Google+ features for businesses to try and get better pickup.”
“While 2012 was a big hit to a lot of site owners, it was also a long time coming. Sites were able to get away with several low grade and obvious tactics. It was inevitable that sites who half assed things would be targeted and I see no reason for that trend to stop.
Even with the Penguin and Panda updates, there are still tons of sites ranking well with questionable methods. This is especially prevalent in hyper competitive markets like online gambling and financial niches.
I think Google will continue to work on their algorithm in an attempt to make even hyper competitive niches a level playing field. Wether that will be done through another huge update or just by tweaking the current algorithm, I couldn’t say.
I also expect a shift in what signals will influence rankings (links or otherwise). However, I could never even begin to predict wether that will be in 2013 or several years from now. However, it seems inevitable that rankings will eventually be based on a very broad range of signals. This would make manipulation much harder, since gaming one signal would have limited effect on all the others.”
“In 2013, I think Google SERPs will change nearly as much as they did last year.
In general, I imagine we will see a rich snippets maturity in the search results where more and more SERPs (and the websites thereon) will utilize markup, creating a more dynamic SRP environment and a receding positive effect to the initial “get CTR by adding your picture!” that we saw so frequently this year. Instead, it will become a best practice like a decent title tag, not a “step ahead of the game” thing it was previously.
It seems possible that we will see an impact from AuthorRank, but I am still not convinced Google can do that accurately without the Twitter firehose, and it probably will take them a significant amount of time to reach a good confidence interval with the other, incomplete data available to them. However, we’ve known about the possibility for a while now, so perhaps it’s possible something like this could show it’s face without Twitter in 2013.”
“What are Google going to throw at us in 2013?
- I presume that Google will eventually get around to ignoring or devaluing infographics, guest posts and whatever seems to be the tactic of the day. Personally if I was Google any content with “guest-post” in the url would stop passing any link weight. In terms of infographics if the keyword used as anchor text is not featured in the domain I would also stop passing any link weight. That might stop a few of them being made
- I predicted that Google would do this last year… “Google will decide that there should be no privacy differences from a signed in user to a non signed in user – Basically hiding/removing all keyword data. That noise is a million SEO’s editing their CV’s for a new PPC job.” Maybe 2013 will be the year we lose all keyword data and get to use keyword trends as the only keyword tool
- I think there’ll be a few more Schema based case studies next year and predict that SEO’s will get off their arses and actually get round to implementing it.
- Google will probably get round to adding more Google+ crap into the SERPs. Not for any particular reason beyond that they can.
- Some sort of storm over the disavow tool and how it was used to screw over legitimate sites. I can’t see this one ending well.
- More Google owned results in niches where they can make a shit load of money.
- An increased number of results from news, local, shopping in the SERPs.
- One massive Google algorithm update to do with anchor text.
- Distinction between a paid advert and an organic result is slightly tweaked, again.
- More ‘people also search for’ / ‘points of interest’ because Google have to pretend they are at least trying to improve their search results
Which factors will take a hit?
Anchor text, page titles, header tags, blah. The easier something can be ‘manipulated’ the more likely it will be dampened either now or in the future. So if you want to avoid being hit try and get some decent trust metrics to your site.
What will be moving up the food chain in terms of importance?
In terms of individual metrics I’m not really sure. I suppose trust/authority metrics (via links and social) as well as AuthorRank could be deemed as more important? I’ve been reading a lot of positive things about Schema so I guess that might have a positive effect too.
If I was Google I’d look at the websites that have a large variety of links from other relevant sources that their competitors don’t have. As Ross mentions in his excellent post on Authority Bloat It’s about creating a resource that can’t be replicated by competitors both in terms of content and links.
I don’t think we’ve seen the end of large algorithm updates and because of this I think that sites aiming to minimise risk, create something valuable within the market and not actively building links will be the beneficiaries.
One of the things I’m looking forward to next year is the guest post/infographic dampening (genocide). There will be so many SEO’s ranting about how they were doing the ‘right things’ and ‘how can Google do this?!’ This is the game that we play, roll with the punches”
“The rise of content marketing is already upon us and content publication is going to grow rapidly in 2013. The last 18 months has seen an explosion of quality content available from big publishers with resources to invest in site content and the bar is constantly being raised.
It is getting difficult to stand out and innovative, creative content ideas are essential to ensure the content is shared and even seen.
In combination with content I expect even more emphasis for pure on-page technical excellence. In the absence of link schemes and networks I predict that the technical and the creative will combine to create the new SEO.
SEO agencies will begin to develop their creative departments and those that don’t have the resource to hire creative talent will start to fall behind. The smart ones will start to collaborate with other small agencies within classic marketing and design. I expect to see more of the large SEO agencies evolve from SEO into creative online marketing agencies.
Link building and outreach is now pretty much a PR exercise with relationship building at the forefront. I can’t believe another year can go by without the PR community finally realising the power they could have in the industry.
Author rank, I believe, will rise in influence over the next 12 months with individuals having more power to influence and thus become valuable commodities in themselves. Investing in your personal social media accounts has more importance now than ever as the demand for online influencers rises.
Overall I think the keyword for SEO in 2013 is creativity.”
“What do you think is going to be important for SEO in 2013?
SEO will have to reinvent itself or slowly degenerate. Already in 2012 we have seen what I’d like to call Peak SEO. The interest in SEO is still strong but it’s not growing anymore. Many people are already fleeing the SEO industry and rebranding themselves as content, inbound and digital marketers because these terms sound more zeitgeisty nowadays.
While it’s important to embrace new techniques and do not limit your SEO efforts to the old school techniques trying to be someone else most SEO practitioners are not is not the solution. It’s just giving up.
SEO is about optimization not marketing so the minute you change the focus on solely marketing, no matter what kind of marketing, you are basically changing your trade. Then you compete with millions of marketers of all kinds.
It’s rather about giving SEO a new meaning. I tried to do that for several years and in a way I was successful. The kind of SEO real experts are promoting these days is completely different from the wacky gray-area nonsense that has been the norm for years.
Still most SEO practitioners limit their scope by using outdated terminology like “link building”. Even modern link building techniques like blogger outreach fail to scale and are ultimately just a workaround. They are not natural.
Google is already rumored to crack down on guest blogging links and it would be no surprise. Any techniques to artificially build links is bound to “expire” in the long term. Only completely organic links will survive.
Matt Cutts has suggested to rename SEO “Search Experience Optimization” and he wasn’t the first one to say so. Search is only one part of the online game though, becoming less significant. Social media is still growing more important while search is stagnant. That’s why Google is panicking and trying to force everybody to use Google+.
So in 2013 it will be about regrouping and trying not to throw the baby put with the bathwater. We don’t want to get rid of SEO like the ever present “SEO is dead” prophets repeatedly proclaim.
Just look at the energy market or the car industry. They have Peak Oil and they try to cope with it by investing huge money in renewable energy and producing electric cars. We need similar steps in the SEO industry: do not dismantle it and try to sell something else (e.g marketing) but to optimize in a more holistic way combining UX, CRO, content, social media, video, mobile etc.
On the other hand there also boundaries to what SEO should encompass. It’s not my job as an SEO to practice display advertising, email marketing, behavioral targeting and similar intrusive strategies. In my opinion SEO was always about pull techniques and not push ones. It wasn’t about advertising but about giving the people what they want already. SEO always was “inbound”.
Maybe finally people will embrace the concept of findability as SEO is a too narrow acronym by now. I’d love to see that. SEO is not marketing though no matter how much you want it to.
Imagine a society without money, SEO would still exist while marketing would not. Marketing is about the market. Optimization is a more fundamental approach. It starts long before the actual sales process. You don’t have to market or sell something to optimize it.
What might Google have in store next year?
Google will keep on competing with SEO. As Google controls the playing field SEO practicioners will have to adapt. Google wants the people to click ads. SEO specialists have to optimize for organic results. There will be even less organic results to optimize for.
Google will keep on replacing organic SERPs with ads, hidden ads (paid inclusion vertical search engines) and scraped content from third party sites (Google knowledge graph). At the end of the day there will be only some informational long tail queries left to do SEO for where huge brands will dominate along Google.
Google may make organic search pay to play as well or at least require webmasters to register and to identify with authorship markup. So in case you are have no unique ID Google can tie to a person your site might get dropped in the search results or hidden altogether. Also they will attempt to replace hypertext links with proprietary Google+ and +1 connections.
You can throw away domains and rebrand any day but you can’t change your real life identity that easily. Google knows that and thus tries to make authorship appealing. Most people don’t use it so Google may resort to their typical monopolistic practices and force website owners to use it.
To be honest it about time to prepare for a time after Google even in case Google still dominates for years as they do not earn money from organic search results and directly compete with you as an SEO. So you should be able to cut out the middleman and become independent of Google.
Direct traffic and visitors from other websites should be increasingly cared for instead of Google. You have to optimize for people not Google.”
“1. Google Authorship Will Grow in Importance
From what we have seen already, I think that Google Authorship is going to be more important. Building up an Authorship profile will establish more value with the content you create and possibly pass more value through the links in your content.
2. Plus Ones Will Have More Influence
Google is going to continue to integrate (force) Google Plus into people’s lives however they can. As this happens plus ones on G+ will have a stronger impact on search results.
3. Google Will Increasingly Promote Its Properties
Google will continue to purchase content sites as it has done recently (Frommers, Zagat) and then give these sites partiality or integrate/display their content into search results, reducing the need for users to leave Google (or Google properties)
4. Google Will Acquire Social Media Sites
Google will look to acquire mid sized social media sites and force their users to switch over to Google Plus. Google has invested a lot in G+ and a lot is riding on it’s sucess (Authorship, +1’s) to improve search, but they are having very limited traction. The only community to really use (not embrace…) G+ is the SEO community, they have had no significant gain in users. There are only so many ways to put a square peg in a round hole. One of those is acquire social media sites and force their users to transition to G+ – hey they can have their own circle!
5. Crack Down on Image Links
Google will start to pass less value through image links. Matt Cutts has said that they don’t like things that deceive users into linking. SEO’s have been able to get good links with good anchor text through images and alt text. It would be pretty easy to dial down the value passed through alt text.
6. Increased Market Share for Bing
Bing will grow its market share by 10% or so as Microsoft integrates Bing into its products and services and continues heavy advertising. Some of this will come from Google pissing people off, making them want to partner with Microsoft/Bing rather than Google for search in their products. Sadly, I don’t think Duck Duck Go will see much improvement in market share.”
“2013 is going to be another interesting year.
I think Google is probably going to concentrate on the link graph although I would like to see them do more about rewarding content quality (helping to surface those that actually care enough to put decent stuff out there) and also caring a little more about domain diversity in SERPs – but those are just my two gripes.
In my opinion, we are going to see Google’s ability to detect and “organise” all kinds of links in your profile increase exponentially. By the Spring, they will have 6 months of data from our community following the launch of the disavow tool back in October as many of us will have been merrily telling Google what we think is a shitty link. So I think we will see a couple of big updates or iterations of Penguin next year once they’ve gathered all of this data and put it to use.
I also think we are going to be a lot closer to quality and trust winning every time when it comes to links rather than pure volume that seems to still be a trump card in certain sectors. Will rel-author become a real factor next year? Perhaps, although I think a full roll-out is quite a long way off yet since I’m not sure (as a mechanism) that the big picture has really been considered by our friends at Mountain View. How can you really determine someone’s authority as an author anyway? Quite a lot of the factors they could consider are quite open to gaming as I see it but it is likely we’ll see rel-author’s influence in the link graph increase even if they just test it out on us or throw it out there on a Friday before a bank holiday weekend.
Footprints (and avoiding them) is where we’ll be concentrating next year – that’s not an admission of guilt by any stretch of the imagination but I will say we are…erm, pretty proactive in some markets – “link attraction” is kind of a pipe-dream in a lot of sectors. I also think though that even the most “innocent” of activities are going to be flagged mistakenly or not by Google over the coming 12 to 18 months as they test and roll out a load more changes so be prepared and think carefully about everything you are planning.”
“Despite the complex algorithmic updates that have been continuously rolled out this year (and the last), many marketing practices have also emerged and became go-to-strategies to remedy the impact that these changes have made in the search optimization game.
For instance, content marketing became a craze after Penguin, user-experience optimization, social signals, CRO and dwell time have been important factors after Panda, and improving author portfolio and social following after Google’s introduction to AuthorRank.
Anyway, I think for next year, Google will give a little more weight on co-occurrence and unlinked brand mentions, particularly from authoritative sources (from trusted websites and/or influential social networking accounts).
SERPs are currently favoring strong brands, in many cases (and I’m seeing it a lot lately in other verticals after the EMD update). For instance, I’ve been observing this query for over a year now, and these 3 big guys just showed up recently (Forbes, Entrepreneur and Huffington Post).
If this is the future trend (which I know is already happening for ages, whether digital or traditional) of SEO, then it only indicates how significant online branding will be next year.
Building more noise about a brand to generate buzz/mentions, launching online PR campaigns, and basically other means that help communicate a brand’s message to its audience will be more important than ever to be able to compete with those who already have strong brand presence (mind, market and search share).”
“I thought I’d take a higher-level tack to answer this question. Previously I’ve gone for predictions of the form “the next signal to go will be”.
This time round, I thought I’d look more at the direction Google is taking. Having introduced the first true machine learning into the algorithm with Panda – and having given up the “explainability” of a human-written algorithm as a result, I think we’ll see Google become more of a black box to its own engineers. I predict that 2013 will see more instances where Google engineers themselves can’t explain why a particular site is or isn’t ranking. Of course, this will be hard to see from the outside as they rarely talk about specific cases.
What this does look like from the outside:
- More algorithms built on machine learning with broad marketing definitions (“cracks down on poor content”)
- More cases of legitimate and reasonably high-profile sites being caught up unfairly for longer than we would expect – as the machine-learnt solution takes longer to unpick
- Increasing efforts to prevent others from reverse-engineering what’s going on (increasing efforts against rank tracking, SERP monitoring etc, loss of even more keyword data etc.).”
“What a question!
In 2013, the following factors will take a hit:
- Exact anchor text. Even more than it already is, too much will be a liability for sites. I’m already seeing examples of this;
- Google will take more severe action against hacked sites and the sites doing the hacking. Think of spaces like [payday loans];
- Directories will cease to be a viable linkbuilding option except for very few trusted ones, such as BBB and DMOZ (and yes, it’s still possible to get a link from DMOZ);
- Author authority will actually become a factor in rankings, instead of just speculation”
“My 2013 predictions are broken down into a list of 3 losers, 3 winners, and 1 grand champion.
I predict Google will devalue the following techniques and signals in the coming year:
- Low-Quality Guest Posts – Many SEOs have abused guest blogging, and now, various niches are overflowing with low-quality guest posts. Some of these posts have already been devalued by previous Panda and Penguin updates, but I expect low-quality posts to receive even more scrutiny in future updates.
- Low-Quality Infographics – As with guest blogging, you have nothing to fear if you’re creating high-quality content that provides genuine value for your audience. However, if you’re generating “crapgraphics” and/or manipulating people into linking to your graphics, 2013 might be a rough year for you.
- Anchor text – The Penguin update reduced the value of anchor text by creating negative consequences for over-optimization. This year, the rising importance of lexical co-occurrence, entity disambiguation, and other contextually sensitive signals will devalue anchor text even more.
Here are a few of the things I predict Google will emphasize in 2013:
- Mobile – Every year, more and more searches are performed on a mobile device, and that trend will continue in 2013. If you want to capitalize on this mobile search traffic, now would be a great time to embrace responsive web design.
- Knowledge Graph – It’s not a coincidence that the Knowledge Graph is consistently mentioned in Google’s “search quality highlights.” The Knowledge Graph is an important part of Google’s long-term strategy, and you can expect to see its role increase this year.
- Rich Snippets – Google’s organic search results continue to lose screen real estate, making it harder and harder to attract a searcher’s attention. Rich snippets help uniquely distinguish your site’s search listing, and they provide valuable information about your site’s content. In 2013, Google will continue to experiment with the functionality and appearance of rich snippets.
1 Grand Champion
My single most important prediction is that 2013 will be the year in which AuthorRank becomes Google’s most important algorithm.
Simply stated, AuthorRank is Google’s algorithm for calculating the value of an author online (where “value” can encapsulate any number of metrics such as authority, credibility, etc.).
Ultimately, Google will use AuthorRank to “organize the world’s information” in a more granular way. Instead of simply viewing the web graph as a collection of web pages and links, a much richer model will be established that incorporates the authors of web pages as well as the authors that share and comment on those web pages.
AuthorRank won’t meet its full potential in 2013, but it will take a giant leap forward. So if you want future success in Google, it’s time to start preparing.”
“2012 was a crazy year for SEO and I doubt that we’ll see nearly as dramatic a shift in the search landscape in 2013, as the truly blatant flaws in the algorithm have already been targeted for correction. I’m sure that we’re going to continue to see a quicker, more agile Google responding to tactics (and networks) that spring up and prove to be effective. I’d hate to be a guy trying to run a paid link network over the next year because it’s getting increasingly difficult to stay a step or two ahead of Google.
Private networks (really, truly private) are going to continue to work as long as they’re not overly utilized. Guest posting and infographics will continue to pass value as long as they’re published on high quality sites and don’t have blatant anchor text stuffed in them. A lot of folks will probably be disappointed when their bylined guest posts (all with the same bio) get devalued, but they should have taken an extra minute to avoid having such an obvious footprint — quality approaches to these tactics will continue to be effective.
Guest posts will be harder to come by (especially for people who don’t establish a strong author profile) as more and more people flock to this tactic. Having a strong prospecting process in place will be of increasing importance for those of us who rely on placed content.
Deep linking will continue to drive great results and will be utilized more frequently by SEOs who use more automated, unsavory methods of link building. They understand the importance of keeping a homepage from bearing the brunt of a penalty and will generally play smarter going forward.
Off-site anchor text will continue to be devalued. Google will instead look for overall trust flowing to a site and when it’s sufficient, they’ll accept the site’s internal anchor text as influential. Co-citations should also have more influence going forward (always should have, to be honest).
Brands are going to continue ascending in the SERPs, (not provided) numbers will likewise climb, and we’re going to have to endure (not actionable) presentations at every major conference about redefining the role of the SEO.”
“While I don’t expect either PageRank or Anchor Text to go away (they are part of what makes the Web different from other databases of documents), Google will continue to find ways to distinguish between editorially given links (votes for pages on the Web) and links intended to manipulate rankings.
Search engines will continue along a path that transforms them from a role of a reference librarian to a real time monitor of what’s happening in the world at any moment, which will make real time content including socially shared information, accessible much more quickly. I’m guessing that we will see third party comments on any website (either as comments that site owners can display, or in a toolbar version independent of the sites) from Google that will also enable those comments to be published on Google Plus as well. This comment system will carry with it a digitally signed authorship badge that can be used to influence the ranking of a page that it appears upon. Hopefully real time search results will also re-emerge in 2013 as well, with not only Google Plus results, but also results from other social networks and from sources such as blogs as well.
Facebook will finally start getting serious about search in 2013, making site search on Facebook an area they tackle first, and then possibly finding a way to personalize a web search experience based upon social interactions on Facebook. Both Google and Bing will continue to try to add new social and knowledge base signals into how they do search. Google’s implementation of boh will focus more upon informational signals, while Bings will lean more heavily towards transactional ideas – making it easier to buy products and tickets to events, and perform other tasks.
Apple Maps may take a number of steps such as acquisitions and hirings to enable it to catch up technology-wise with Google when it comes to maps, but may not be able to catch up in terms of years of data collected by Google when it comes to displaying geographic information in useful and meaningful ways. Ideas being developed for things like Google’s Project Glass may make their way into Android devices, and we may see things like Google Now and Google FieldTrip blossom and expand in usefulness, as well as other location-based applications developed for the Web. We will also likely see more parameterless search results from Google, where it tries to share more information with us based upon our context without us performing explicit queries. For example, if we email someone about meeting somewhere specificially, we might receive traffic information and relevant news for that location without having to ask for it.
Google has Q&A type sites in many countries across the globe, but has tried and failed twice with such a service in the United States. The third time may be the charm, and it might be integrated into Google Plus rather than exist as a stand alone service.
Google will also likely introduce syndication meta data for blogs and other sites in Web search, like it has for Google News, but it will be tied to Google Plus and authorship. If you publish something on the Web, and republish it on another site with permission, you may be able to add that syndication meta data to the original version to let the search engine know which is the original, and which is the syndicated copy.”
Post by Gaz Copeland