Google brought on the table over 40 major updates during 2012, for Pinguin, Panda and in general. We could say it wasn't a conservative year for the SEO community. The trends are going on a loop, turning towards practicies used during 90's when the content quality was the one important factor in rankings.
Most of the updates are beneficial for SEO consultants:
The list could go on...but as 2013 started, Google already came with the first update Panda#24, it looks like the trend is stable. Many more will come.
So let's see some of the SEO trends we should keep interest in for 2013:
The last addition to the Google+ account is the Communities feature which is similar to Facebiik's Groups feature. This tells us Google gives more importance to the socially search results. We have the circles, the hangouts and now we have the Communities, where we can invite our friends and followers to share interests and content with. The social direction is pretty clear, and makes it easier for Google to categorize you through your social affiliation. I think it's safer to "trust" someone when he/she' is part of a large community.
And then is continuously growing author-rank. Google was pushing further the author for the last years and it feels to me this year will be a decisive year for it. It already shows in search results. It's the avatar you can see attached to some search results. The writer becomes the author and the authority and reputation of the author is measured by the +1s achieved by the content you write and the number of people who have you in circles. Google’s Authorship Team recently said, “As part of the Google Authorship pilot program, we’re experimenting with different ways to identify and highlight authors in search, such as having people implement authorship markup or signing up on our authorship page.” You can check the stats of your authorship snippets in Webmaster Tools under the "Labs tab".
As I was just saying earlier the wind is shifted towards social. In a Google Webmaster video from 2010, Matt Cutts mentioned that data from social sites, such as followers of a brand for example, is being used to influence rankings in the same way that Google’s PageRank did in years past.The big ones, they all go towards mixing social media with business. A few days ago Pinterest just launched their Web Analytics. To access it you need a business page on Pinterest. It will be a short time until they will somehow implement paid advertising. Facebook has officially bought Microsoft's Atlas advertising platform. In a statement, the company said Atlas would give advertisers a better idea of how their campaigns were doing and would "help advertisers compare their Facebook campaigns to the rest of their ad spending across the web on desktop and mobile.
So if it wasn't clear for everyone before, I think there is no doubt that social media is a distinct powerful tool for any SEO strategy. Look at the graph from Searchmetrics to see how clear is for Google. So let's socialize. Data from Searchmetrics:
There is the possibility for a website to end up with a lot of unnatural links or unwanted links in their portfolios, and they might have been notified by Google about a "manual spam action". The new disavowed feature from Webmaster Tools brought us the power to get rid of those spammy links by as simple as identifying them and telling Google to disavow them.The industry has shifted from the simple and overused link building activity to the more complex and natural process of "link earning". Keep in mind that I'm talking about backlinks here (links from external sources towards your website) and not about internal links (links on your website, that connect different internal pages between them). By the way, check out my detailed post about internal linking best practices.
The research shows results of up to 66% of smart phones used in online searches. The Internet usage is expected to double by 2015 and the mobile and tablet will most probably go higher than that. Actually, the mobile search optimization is in my opinion far behind the mobile usage and it is this year when mobile search SEO it's going to "explode". Slide from Business Insider:
Facebook Edge Rank
EdgeRank is an algorithm that was developed by Facebook in order to govern the number of Facebook fans that will see what you post on your page. The fans are those who liked your page. So not all of them will see your posts anymore just a percentage of them determined by your Edge Rank. It is obvious to me that this action leads to increase in Facebook ads usage (paid ads). There is a website that takes it up close and personal and gives you a lot of Facebook data if you need it: https://www.edgerankchecker.com/
Landing pages as marketing tools are still successfully used and a good strategies to optimize them are still used to increase these page's authority. Also, internal website pages need to be optimized separately, the SEO strategy should be built for the website as a working mechanism. Every component needs to work with each other, meaning that internal link building should be strategically analized and rebuilt after getting results and reports from analytics. A SEO campaign is a continuous work in progress. Just keep in mind the main word here: progress! A high positive ROI (Return of Investment) should be always included in the goals of every SEO campaign.
The last but definitely not the least important is the Local aspect of a SEO strategy. For local businesses, this should be at the base of the SEO campaign. As mobile search becomes more mainstream, the searching process is more locally directed. There are a lot of local listings also, each one of them with their own mobile app offering local results for the mobile users. So businesses should claim their local profiles on as many of these listings as necessary, considering the relevance for their niche.
Update: As of November 2013, Google updated their Google+ profile with a personalized one. Read my post about How to claim your Google+ Custom profile if you didn't do so yet.
Co-occurrence and Ranking Signals
As you've probably seen already in search results, sometimes companies come up in search related to some particular keywords. Those keywords are tied up with the respective company or brand. That brand has a major relevance to that particular keyword that they are almost equivalent. This combination of brand-word relevance is considered "co-occurrence".
The new saying out there is: "stop link building and start link earning". So as we've seen so far, Google is relying less and less on link building for ranking signals.
Google is not blind to unnatural, fake or farmed backlinks, 'shady' content and keyword stuffing and it's quickly demoting those sites from search. The ranking system has shifted towards earned ranks more than to built/bought ranks. It's all about the readers getting a better experience in their online search process by providing them quality results and high value content.
Video Infographics and Content Re-Purposing
After creating all this high quality content that we were talking about, it is time to spread and share it as much as possible. We do that by rep-urposing that content for use across multiple platforms and using multiple media formats. We turn an article into a blog post, press release, podcast, video clip, story, or infograpfics.
Inspired from the seo.com article: http://www.seo.com/blog/seo-tips-for-2013-author-rank-cooccurrence-and-more/
All these being said, I'll see you on social media, on the blogging communities, and working on hardly earned links!