Search Engine Optimization December 27th, 2012
The last couple years have been an exciting and nerve-wracking time for SEOs. The Panda and Penguin updates drastically changed many SEO strategies for both on-page and off-page optimization. Lots of people in the Internet marketing business have been having great discussions about what to expect from 2013, so it’s only appropriate that I chime in with my own predictions!
Some of the final particularly abusive on-page optimization practices have died out in the last year with the over-optimization penalties that were handed out. On-page is still important, but you have to meet content thresholds and provide a decent user experience for the most part.
So what am I going to be pushing forward in 2013? There are three things I am particularly going to be focusing on:
Certainly not completely new, I’ve been keeping an eye on the page speed statistics in Google Webmaster Tools and now in Google Analytics with great interest. I’ve made a point to address some of the worst cases, but it’s time to start implementing specific best practices across all the sites I’m working with.
Page speed has become an important factor for SEO directly in the last year, but it’s common sense that optimizing page load speed is a great step to be taking for users as well. My team will be looking closely at merging scripts and CSS files, minifying them, optimizing images, making sure that caching is properly implemented and other methods for reducing page load times.
With the rapid growth of mobile the topic of mobile SEO has become more important. There are various strategies suggested for mobile SEO, from canonizing mobile pages to their desktop sibling, creating a rather different mobile experience optimized separately, or using responsive design to tailor one page to multiple devices.
Keeping abreast of mobile SEO is going to be important through 2013 as mobile continues to take off. Personally, I think responsive design is the future, but it’s also the most difficult to implement being both new and fairly advanced web design. Local optimization off-page for mobile search is also going to continue to gain in importance.
2012 saw rich snippets gaining in popularity and businesses from small to large are taking notice. The early adopters have gained from massive improvements in click-through-rate on their organic listings that stand out from their competitors in the SERPs.
The available data types that are actually showing in the SERPs are fairly limited right now compared to the full lists defined by schema.org and competing formats. I fully expect that we’ll soon see even more types of data showing up in search results.
Another part of this prediction is a tightening up of the rules and review of rich snippet use. Currently, rich snippets are the new “wild west” of SEO, with some sites blatantly abusing certain types of markup. As more sites start adopting rich snippet markup it will mean that the search engines will have to do more to verify the data being communicated is properly implemented and used.
Link building, citations and other off-page Internet marketing efforts continue to change year over year. Guest blogging has been getting so popular that guest blog spam issues are starting to get out of control in some niches. Links continue to be an extremely important part of SEO, but the types of link building that are not devalued or penalized is a steadily narrowing category.
This has already been happening in various forms for years, but is now completely supplanting traditional paid link schemes. Where shady SEOs used to go out and buy links as a major strategy, things have now shifted towards purchasing the link with the content. We’re likely going to see more carefully hidden content networks continue to sell links, but with content tailored to the type of link more than ever before. The market is there, so it’s only natural that people will step up to take advantage of the opportunity. This issue leads into the next prediction.
Google Authorship is already a great thing for sites to take advantage of. The author profile and picture showing up with in search results really stands out and is one of the most adopted types of rich snippets. Giving more of a boost to content linked to a verified and active author seems like a logical step for Google to take considering the continued issues with spam content. A further extension of this would be analyzing the G+ profiles of authors for realistic activity for a further boost. Together this also helps Google achieve a much needed boost in G+ usage.
Opening the door to unnatural link penalties and the ability to disavow links has created quite the situation for Google to manage. It’s a safe bet that SEOs and webmasters are going to continue to deal with issues of unfair penalization, figuring out what links are causing penalties and how to get them removed or disavowed to Google’s satisfaction.
Hand-in-hand with mobile optimization is the increasing importance of Google Places and citation building. With more people making searches from their phones and the ability to provide hyper-local results more small businesses are going to find that they need an active and optimized Places listing. For competitive areas and industries the need for consistent citation building is only going to continue to snow-ball.