2012 has brought with it numerous Google search engine ranking algorithm changes, perhaps the largest being a project that goes by the code name “Penguin” focusing on fighting webspam, over-optimized sites, and other lower quality websites. However as we are soon getting ready to roll into a new year, we always like to write about what changes we think we will see in 2013 and how it will affect the SEO industry. Keep in mind these are only our best guesses based on what we’ve seen over the last several years and may not actually reflect what will come in 2013 (we’re online marketers not fortune tellers for a reason).
Projected Change 1: Quality Trumps All:
This is an easy one to guess, but we predict Google will continue to put quality as the number one ranking factor for any website. This means low quality links, outsourced SEO, and low quality content all will be a thing of the past. 2011 and 2012 were big years for the SEO industry as the Panda and Penguin updates forced SEO companies to put quality first, and we think 2013 will come with another round of quality related updates from Google, whether they are just extensions/updates of Panda and Penguin or entirely new updates is yet to be seen.
Projected Change 2: A Continued Shift To Paid Search:
Not sure if this will come in 2013 or beyond, but we are predicting much of search will consist of paid inclusion. Currently Google has 3 paid slots above organic results, 5-8 on the right, and 3 on the bottom. We have seen Google continue to expand their Adwords program and we predict we will see less organic results (possibly 5-7 per page) and more paid results showing up to help Google continue to expand their revenue streams. Additionally we’ve seen things like Google Shopping turn to a more monetized model and we believe Google will continue to expand their paid advertising solutions to incorporate other functions that may currently be free.
Projected Change 3: Big Business > Small Business:
We don’t like this one anymore than the next guy, but we’ve seen Google continue to favor larger, stronger websites over smaller websites. While PageRank isn’t a perfect measure of quality or strength, we’ve seen sites with higher PageRank continue to outrank those of lower PageRank with relevancy not necessarily the number one determining factor. This means small businesses need to get smarter with their online marketing (which we have been doing for our clients) and give off the impression to Google of being a bigger business with a stronger website than most small businesses. This will continue to help small businesses outrank larger businesses in organic results.
Projected Change 4: A Shift In On Site Factors:
Since Google launched as a search engine, they’ve looked at things like meta keywords, titles, headings, and other on page elements for ranking. In 2013 we think we will see a continued shift away from the importance of these on page elements and more importance on the actual content. Google is getting better and better at reading content with their computers and are now starting to be able to actually truly understand the content that is read by a computer. This means that Google can potentially start to read content without looking at things like headings and titles and understand the true meaning of the content, then rank it accordingly. This means the roles of SEO companies will shift from optimization work to a more content focused approach (which we have been doing for our clients for nearly a year now).
Projected Change 5: Well Rounded Marketing Campaigns:
With all the changes that have taken place on Google, through legislation, and other means, it’s becoming more and more important to not have all your eggs in one basket and have a well rounded online marketing campaign. This means using conversion optimization to get the most out of your website, having a professionally built website in the first place, using SEO and SEM together depending on the industry to see a good ROI both short and long term, incorporating email marketing and lead nurturing to get the most out of leads, and other forms of online marketing to keep things diversified. We constantly make recommendations to our clients on how to improve their online marketing campaigns, and you should make sure you pay attention to what your online marketing firm is telling you about the state of online marketing.
While these 4 changes may or may not happen in 2013, we’re fairly confident they are coming in the near future and are preparing all our clients accordingly. If you’re currently engaged in an SEO or online marketing campaign, make sure your service provider is constantly monitoring changes in the industry and making the necessary adjustments to make sure you get the best ROI possible from your online marketing campaign. This doesn’t just mean thinking forward at the end of the year, but thinking forward every single day of the year.