It’s that time of the year again where we can finally take a back seat and reflect on an exciting and eventful year within search. It’s fair to say that 2012 has taught us to relearn what we thought we already knew. Google once again kept us on our toes with its various search algorithm updates in the form of black & white animals as well as various SERPs updates – and ‘oh boy’ it’s been a year! The beauty of our industry is that it’s constantly changing – challenging the status-quo. What has clearly become evident is that the industry as a whole is currently undergoing drastic changes demanding the holistic integration of search, social, PR & content.
I have been busy getting in touch with some of our Linkdex friends to find out what their predictions for 2013 are – one thing is guaranteed: 2013 promises to be yet another busy year for all of us! I hope this post helps to shed some light on what to expect in the new year.
Greg Jarboe is the president and co-founder of SEO-PR combining SEO and PR to optimize and promote websites. His innovative approach enables clients and agencies to write effective press releases, white papers and ezine-newsletter content that generate leads and publicity. Furthermore Greg is the author of “YouTube And Video Marketing: An Hour A Day“ and he also contributes to Search Engine Watch and ReelSEO.
Greg predicts the following three key trends:
In 2013, more marketing leaders will look at their content marketing resources and ask if they are being deployed in the most effective way. I believe we’ll see more companies adding titles like Chief Content Officer (CCO), Content Marketing Director, and Content Strategists to their organizational charts.”
2013 will be the year in which content marketers truly embrace visual content. From YouTube and Pinterest to Instagram and SlideShare, visual appeal will rule content creation and curation. In an era of content overload, users will be looking for a fresh face and innovative presentation.”
In 2013, we’re going to move away from thinking about websites and start thinking about content cornerstones — collections of content created and curated to provide information on a topic. And this content needs to be structured in chunks that can appear on smartphones, tablets, and laptops.”
Dixon Jones is one of the most respected internet marketing veterans within the industry as well as being the marketing director of Majestic SEO – the world’s largest link intelligence database. Apart from that Dixon further keeps himself busy as director of Receptional, an independent marketing consultancy specializing in SEO, PPC, link building, social media, design and CMS as well as blogging.
I believe that Google are finding the automated scraping of the SERPs incredibly expensive and will take drastic steps in 2013 to address the balance. As many SEOs know, but choose to ignore, using automated means to crawl Google’s search engine results pages which actually violates Google’s terms of service. The irony that Google had to scrape the whole web to get the content in the first place is not lost on me, but I think that makes little odds to Google. Here is what I predict: When “Keyword not supported” gets to around 80% of “real” users (in Google’s view) then they will have crossed a Rubicon.
This will mean most people are already logged in to Google, YouTube or one of many other Google properties or software systems (or operating systems. Google will then – probably in Europe first – flick a switch so that searching without being logged in gives near meaningless or randomised results. Google will choose Europe first under the guise of conforming to EU privacy and Cookie laws – putting them over as the good guys once again. In truth, of course, this means that the EU’s cookie legislation has exactly the OPPOSITE effect to the one intended – as it gives Google more of a monopoly, not less. With this strategy in play, rank checker will be meaningless and Google will be able to track pretty much every action of every user.”
Jo Turnbull is a freelance SEO consultant and founder of SEO Jo Blogs a consultancy offering SEO, paid search and social media services to its clients. If she is not busy helping brands with their online marketing efforts she’s probably busy travelling the world interviewing search professionals or busy organising the next Search London meet-up – that offers great networking opportunities for search professionals in London. Jo is also part of the State of Search blogging team.
At the end of November I held a Search London event about “SEO in 2013″. We all agreed that 2012 has been a busy year with the Penguin update in April and the subsequent updates, which resulted in many sites losing rankings. The last few months, these sites have had to contact individual site owners to try and remove these links so they could see their rankings (and traffic) return back to levels seen before the Penguin hit.
So what does 2013 install for SEO? Content is going to be even more important. The phrase “content is king” is not dead and will be used constantly. Instead of focusing on link building, each company will have their own content strategy. By focusing on great content, users will tell others about that site and traffic and links will follow. This is not just my view, but many others in the search industry. To be honest, when I first started in SEO, I questioned some of the link building techniques such as the article syndication and the directory syndication as to whether they would really have a positive effect on a client’s rankings. Now we have seen that those who did not naturally build links have been penalised. Google have updated their algorithm and are rewarding those with great content who are not necessarily writing them for the purpose of links. SEO in 2013 will also see Google Authorship become even more significant and the person who has written the content will have more weighting than what site the link is coming from.”
Kelvin Newman is SiteVisibility’s creative director specializing in SEO research & development, innovation and exploring new new business models for search agencies. He’s a well respected industry thought leader who regularly produces search and digital marketing whitepapers for the recruitment, e-commerce and publishing sectors. Kelvin also diligently contributes to State of Search and eConsultancy. On top of that he’s also responsible for BrightonSEO (which attracted 2000 search professionals within the UK earlier this year) and the recent Content Marketing Show.
Shifting line in ‘acceptable links’: Google isn’t the enemy – they’re the referee. And to stretch that metaphor to breaking point this year we’ve seen them cracking down on diving but I don’t think it’ll be long before we get video referees and goal line technology? Too far? Probably…. But I think the changes we’ve seen are only the beginning.
Google has rightly been cracking down on what it decided to be manipulative link-building practices. As these parameters change what in the past may have been acceptable may no longer be valuable, and I think they’re only going to get clever-er. You need to fully understand where your existing links are coming from and have a sensible risk assessment for the future.
This isn’t just a change in tactics though, it’s a change in mindset, it’s less about what can I do today that will get me a link tomorrow, but what can we do today that means we’ll accrue links for years to come. Some within the SEO community aren’t in a place to offer advice that will help solve this problem, others are heading in that direction and broadening our skill-sets.”
Julie Joyce is a very well-known SEO specialist and project manager for Str0ud LLC and Link Fish Media. She has been working in the industry for 12 years offering her clients an extensive range of skills and expert knowledge on issues such as programming, technical writing, quality assurance testing, SEM, SEO, PPC, SEO project management and link building. Additionally, she is a regular contributor of Search Engine Land and a founding member of the SEO Chicks blog.
As much as the link building industry has been shaken up over the past year, I think we’ll see it get much, much harder to compete for the links that matter. I think that since genuine user engagement is difficult to fake, we’ll see that become more of a factor in how well someone does online. I doubt we’ll be trying to build links on sites that have very few positive social signals, and if we do, I doubt those links will be nearly as important as links on the sites that are doing an amazing job socially. I think paid links will still work, and will still work well…but I think we’ll have to get better at choosing what we buy. I don’t see anything happening that would honestly prevent webmasters from accepting some form of payment for a link, and I don’t see ultra-competitive industries abandoning link buying in order to create amazing content. I think the need for link builders who can successfully buy links that fly totally under the radar will be huge. Some industries will always be willing to risk it.
Guest posts worry me a bit as I love them and think they’re fantastic for exposure, but they are becoming one of the most recent methods to get spammed up. With authorship becoming more important, I think it will become more difficult to do well with guest posts, and I think/hope that the truly good content creators will easily stand out.
What do I not expect to see still working in a few years? Ignoring the necessary connection between on and off page. Link builders have traditionally been viewed as off page types who can just do what they need to do without giving any input on things like site structure and content, but I don’t see this continuing. Just a few years ago we could rank any site with links and links only. That isn’t the case now for the most part but it can still be done. In a few years, I doubt that will be possible.”
Kevin Gibbons entered the internet marketing world in 2003 and by 2006 he founded SEOptimise, a search agency with offices in both Oxford and London. His latest venture was Quaturo an agency specializing in content marketing. In November 2012 Quaturo was acquired by BlueGlass - a leading digital agency – to represent BlueGlass UK. Kevin is constantly on the move sharing his expertise as a speaker at the industry’s leading conferences. Apart from that he regularly contibutes to eConsultancy, Search Engine Watch and Search Engine Land.
My prediction for 2013 is that marketing in general will have to become much more integrated and agile.
The problem we’ve had with search in the past is that there was a huge gap between what Google said the algorithm did and what it actually did. Everyone knew all along we should be creating great content and building online brands, this isn’t new – but in 2012, we’ve seen that gap close to the point that the only way to achieve sustainable results is to finally do what Google has been telling us all along!
The conversation is now changing more strategically, as opposed to tactically – and the lines are merging closely between, not just search and social, but more importantly PR and branding. This means you can’t operate in silos anymore - brands need their whole team to be looking at an overall marketing plan from all angles, otherwise they risk missing the bigger picture.
In order to maximize the impact your efforts have, you need to ensure you’re aware of where search is heading. The clear shift in 2012 - which in my opinion has only just started to have an impact – is Google Authorship. If you look into the patents on Agent Rank, the predictions I would have for 2013 would be:
Andrew Girdwood is LBi’s media innovations director – and a self confessed digital and search marketing geek. He has great interest in the latest technology developments to amplify his digital marketing efforts. He is often referred to as Mister Search UK. He has a great appetite for new technologies and behaviour trends – a true industry thought leader.
I think 2013 is going to be an interesting year for digital. A lot could happen and much of it depends on the rate of adoption with exciting technologies like Connected TV. Digital marketing may come to the TV directly but 2013 looks likely to be a year in which intermediary devices like gaming consoles and tablets will be important.
We’ll see a renewed focus on building relationships. We will see this from brands to their customers in the form of social CRM and increased efforts in Loyalty marketing. We will also see this in digital marketing as the growing affiliate sector steps up to unlock even more value from the long tail of niche publishers, from SEO and social.
Local will be popular in 2013 as big names like Google, Facebook, Yelp and Foursquare all up their game. We will see how well companies like Groupon do and whether players like Amazon can successfully move into the local daily deal space. Local bloggers and publishers will likely find themselves in the sweet spot of attention.
Lastly, programmatic buying, real-time bidding and the debate around metrics and attribution will go from being hot to volcanic.”
Bas van den Beld is the owner of State of Search the award winning blog on all things digital, search and social. State of Search has recently been voted “Best Search Blog” by the European Search Awards 2012! Bas is a web/search strategist, trainer and speaker always in the know of the industry’s latest happenings. He has a genuine passion for digital including internet marketing, social, and search marketing. Besides that he’s a well regarded speaker at leading search conferences such as SES, SMX and the A4U expos.
First off all let me state that ‘predicting’ something is dangerous and you shouldn’t believe all predictions you hear. After all, predictions are what they are: guesses, based on past behaviour, in our case mostly based on past behaviour from Google.
The essence of looking at the future for me, as an historian, is indeed looking at the past, but more importantly: looking at humans. What are they like, how do they interact, what are they sensitive for. And if you look at how humans are you can predict what humans want. In my opinion that is just what Google is doing as well: they are looking at the needs of people and are making changes based on that.
Thinking about that way of working it becomes ‘easier’ to predict where things are going because you have to take the same position as Google does: look at what the user wants. I think the user will want more and more comfort, which means that search results for example won’t ‘just’ be results anymore, they will be much more crafted towards what the user’s needs are. This is the personalisation trend we are already seeing: you and your surroundings have been ‘mapped’ by Google, making it easier to predict what you really want. Which means that irrelevant results will disappear more and more. You will see results you ‘trust’, whether it’s because it is a topic you are indeed reading more on or maybe it is recommended by someone you know or written by someone you consider an authority (author rank!).
Even though updates like Penguin and Panda seem to be about ‘just’ cleaning up the mess which some search results had become – I think it is more than that. It is part of making the ‘relevant’ results more visible. And that is a process which I believe will be continued in the next year. It will be less about rankings and more about relevant answers.
This means that the attitude of some needs to change. Yes, technical SEO is still important, very important even, but more importantly: stop fussing about ‘has there been an update yes or no’ and stop laying too much emphasis on the importance of rankings. Start to get to know your (target) audience better and with that make more relevant results, for your audience. I “predict” that that is where the future lies. Oh and yes, Google will keep on messing with the algorithm and stuff, just to keep us busy .”
Sam Hailstone is a senior SEO engineer at Razorfish, one of the world’s largest, most innovative and most influential digital agencies. His clients include brands such as Audi, Pfizer, Ralph Lauren, Kurt Geiger and Asda. His responsibilities include strategic support for existing clients, generating new business and managing the agency’s team of SEO analysts. Within his first year at Razorfish he was immediately promoted from SEO engineer to senior SEO engineer.
The biggest change in SEO that we will see in 2013 will be the down-weighting of anchor text-based ranking signals and up-weighting of more reliable signals which are less easy to manipulate. We have already seen the start of the move towards Google+ and rel=author which allow search engines to aggregate content value at an individual author level to create a new signal – let’s call it AuthorRank. It will be very interesting to see how people will try to manipulate this. We may also see Google reduce the importance of non-G+ social signals.
2012 was the year that SEO stopped being just SEO and became something bigger and this will continue into 2013. It is no longer enough to just optimise a website and build some links. Prospective clients expect to see all encompassing digital marketing strategies and this is demonstrated in the RFPs we have been seeing recently.
2013 will also bring further improvements in the fight against webspam. Panda and Penguin updates of recent times have been the most significant efforts by Google to combat spam and it’s hard to think that they will stop there, especially when so many spammy techniques can still be effective.
If I had more time I’d discuss the evolution of mobile, local and rich snippets – suffice to say 2013 will be an exciting year!”
I would like to THANK all the contributors for taking the time and providing their predictions for the year to come. I believe that through the collective sharing of our knowledge and expertise with each other we are able to bring the industry forward.