2012 was an interesting year for the digital marketing industry with the continued rise of Facebook despite a shakey IPO and a concerted, but perhaps doomed fightback from Microsoft’s Bing. And let’s not forget the interesting new platform of Google+, who celebrated its first birthday in June this year. It may not have caught the public’s attention but certainly promises to be very influential in the future of search.
The continued impact of Google’s Penguin and Panda has certainly re-shaped the search and SEO industry. Brands of all shapes and sizes have had to learn how to adapt to more ‘white-hat’ tactics to ensure they won’t be penalised by Google’s algorithm updates which targets webspam.
Pleasingly, for most honest SEOs, the decrease for some sites has actually opened up opportunities for those who have played by the rules in the past.
So with Penguins and Pandas aside, what can we expect to see introduced in 2013? Here’s what we think will shape the industry over the next 12 months:
1. Structured Data
Google and other search engines are pulling more structured data into search results pages. Therefore it will be vital for digital marketers to mark-up their data in search friendly ways such as using schema.org; microformats; or microdata. The advantage of structured data is that it allows users to refine their searches using concepts rather than just individual keywords or phrases.
2. Social signals as a ranking factor
Studies are starting to show that more widely shared content tends to rank better on search engines. At the moment most believe the relationship isn’t casual but that may not be the case forever. Understanding the measurement of social signals is imperative. Ultimately there are many reasons to embrace social media in your marketing endeavors. Embrace it because it makes sense to your business, not because it has significant ranking powers, but because it is vital for your SEO efforts.
3. Siri & APIs for discovery
The methods which people ‘discover’ content online is moving away from traditional search and navigation. Users are now finding content with apps on a great variety of devices, often away from traditional search interfaces. The key will be giving these people the ability to access your database and eventually convert them into customers. APIs of course allow data from one site to flow outside of it, be it through an app or a mashup with another Internet service. All businesses should have one and I expect this to be part of most digital marketing strategies in 2013.
4. Mobile Search and Responsive Web Design:
More and more searches are being completed on mobile devices. In fact, Google has now stated that its preferred solution to mobile is for people to use responsive design, where the same page is re-ordered and shaped to work on mobile and tablet, rather than serving different URLs. I suspect many businesses are clued up to this now and that most site redesigns in 2013 will come with responsive layout as part of most specs.
5. Shifting line in ‘acceptable links’
Google isn’t the enemy – they’re the referee. 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 valuable. You need to fully understand where your existing links are coming from and have a sensible risk assessment for the future.
Kelvin Newman, Director of Strategy at SiteVisibility.