2011 was a year of very dramatic change in the world of SEO, with the most notable change coming from Google’s Panda updates, which significantly changed how the search engine processes and ranks web pages. Since Google typically sends most sites in the US about 80 percent of their search traffic, this algorithm change had a pretty dramatic impact.
While most of the dust has settled on that update, we expect more changes to come that will significantly affect SEO strategies. So, what exactly is it we expect to see in 2012?
1. Mobile surfing will overtake desktop surfing.
Mobile usage continues to grow at an astounding rate, and tablets are definitely contributing to the growth. Whether it be a mobile site (built in html 5) or a mobile app, having a mobile strategy will become critical to our success as marketers. That said, mobile SEO is really not very different from traditional SEO.
2. Voice Search will change search behavior.
With the release of SIRI voice, search will finally take off. Searchers want answers, not a bunch of results they have to navigate through. Since SIRI gets its answers from multiple sources, making sure you are present in each of those sources can ensure that SIRI recommends your site. A small study by The Arora Report followed 40 iPhone users and their Siri vs. Google usage. All 40 users saw no need to use Google ever again. 27 of them hadn’t used Google since they got their iPhone, and the other 13 only used it twice. Of course this was not a comprehensive study, but it is pretty suggestive of where things are going.
3. A rise in Infographic Spam.
Infographics can become a great way to acquire organic backlinks—the kind the engines love. As a result, we will see a rise in infographic spam. Everything from “how to drink a cup of coffee” to “how to tie your shoelaces” will now become infographics.
4. “No Keyword” will become your single largest keyword sending you organic traffic
On October 18th, 2011 Google made a change to how it handles searches from logged in users. By default, they will now be directed to www.google.com. This means that your analytics will not capture any referral data from logged in searches. Obviously, marketers are upset as we will get even less data to work with going forward. While Google estimated this would affect approximately 10% of all searches, the reality for most websites is that approximately 20% of our organic traffic is now affected. Fortunately there is a workaround.
5. Click-through-rate (CTR) will continue to decline.
A top rank in Google used to get 42% CTR in 2006. By 2010, this had fallen to 34.35%, and now in 2011, it has fallen still further to 18.2%. In 2012, I expect CTR for top ranks to drop even more. There are many reasons for this, but the reality is that the value of a top organic ranking is decreasing and will continue to decrease. SEO will morph from just being about rankings to also acquiring established websites, which already have good traffic.
6. SERP Layout changes.
From previews to scrolling results to ads at the bottom of the page, Google constantly experiments with their search results pages. Keeping in mind the exploding mobile usage, I think we may see more testing on scrolling results. As you scroll down, more results load, and page one basically becomes infinite results.
7. More rich snippets in search results.
As marketers fight for organic click through, rich snippet usage will become more prominent as they help your site stand out in the search results. Google has also updated their algorithm to automatically create snippets from your webpage.
8. PR for SEO will decline.
Press releases have always been a great way to acquire some high authority back links to your website. However, more and more media sites are now hoarding links and generally don’t link back to your site. If an online publication does link back through a press release, they do it using a 302, which doesn’t pass any link juice to your site. Although PR will still be useful, it will not be as effective as an SEO strategy, which will result in a decline in PR for SEO.
9. Localization, Personalization and Socialization.
With Google and Intuit teaming up to offer free websites to small businesses, more localization will be applied to your search queries. The results you see in NY will differ from the results someone else sees in LA. Social signals will count more as a ranking factor. The more popular your content gets on social media the better its ability to rank organically.
10. Exact Match Domains will get devalued.
Search queries typically fall into one of three types – Navigational, Informational or Transactional. Since many times the engine doesn’t fully understand your intent, exact match domains tend to rank highly for queries that match the domain. As the engines get smarter at decoding your intent, I expect to see exact match domains being dropped from the first page of serps, unless they also have the content and links to back it up.
11. Freshness and Authorship.
Content is still king. As Google moves to serving up better content to its user, freshness and authorship of the content will begin to play a key role in ranking. When was this content produced? Who produced it? What else have they created?