The key trends in SEO for 2012 are:
- Panda and the quality content concepts behind it are likely to continue to be ever-increasing in their importance to successfully ranking in Google. It cannot be stressed highly enough that quality content, which is loved by users, is going to be one of the main elements of search engine success over the next year or two.
- Aside from quality, content will also have to be fresh, useful and shareable to social media to be successful in 2012 and beyond. If content investment is not yet prioritised in the online budget, it should be.
- One of our team members calls the sets of updates promoting brands to the top of SERPs “Branda”. This upwards shift in SERPs dominance of big brands for non-brand searches will continue. Some people claim favouritism for big companies, but it is likely to be down to increased engagement by brands with the web and an increased sophistication in the way they engage.
- Google’s core page layout has changed significantly over the last few years. The “10 Blue Links” remain but are perhaps less of a feature as other content modules, both search and monetised, have elbowed their way onto the page. Even with Google’s renowned uncluttered layout, for some searches, especially in the US, it is now not uncommon for the first of the 10 blue links not to be visible above the fold. It is likely, especially with the inclusion of social snippets that this trend will continue and that fewer websites will be seen above the fold.
- Facebook continues to go from strength-to-strength but has a capable competitor now in Google+, backed by search. We expect there to be an even bigger push for the lion’s share of end user ‘eyeball time’, with new features and new ways to engage. In line with this, we also expect there to be ingenious new ways of integrating social ads into the experience. Make no mistake, the social battlefield and the influence of social on search, both directly with the social graph, and indirectly between competing websites is only going to get bigger.
- A lot of people were hoping this day had come a lot sooner, but it seems with the adoption of HTML5 into certain aspects of Google’s content, that HTML5 is finally coming of age, again. It’s most significant advantage is that it can run natively on mobile devices. Look forward to increasingly interactive sites coming this way using HTML5.
- After a few false starts, it looks like Google has finally tapped the social zeitgeist with Google+ and their business offering, Business Pages. We expect because of the tie-up with Google and the technical construction of the content that a Google+ presence will be an invaluable aid to a successful SEO campaign. It is likely that Google+ will start influencing personalised results sooner rather than later. Please note, between the first draft of this document and publication, Google launched Search, Plus Your World, integrating results from your social circles as well as traditional search results.
- As mobile continues its stratospheric uptake, so we expect Google Places to continue to develop quickly, especially if it ties in closely with the social graph and personalisation. Expect a search for “good coffee shop” to yield Places results personalised with comments, observations and recommendations made by your social circle.
- Matt Cutts managed to worry everybody by talking about Google being interested in what can be seen on a page “Above the Fold”. And then they went and released the update mid-way through January 2012. This is likely to be a continuing developing area over the next couple of years, and is indicative of the development of Google’s crawling technology and their alignment with what they perceive the end-user as wanting from a “good website”. Make your content load fast and keep the juicy stuff above the fold.
- Freshness is a big topic and look towards Google, and others, trying to refine the freshness developments that took place towards the end of 2011. Expect more queries to deserve freshness and for the freshness of results to have a more accurate lifespan.
- It seems with the release of schema.org that rich snippets are another of those technical elements which are at last coming of age – and they seem to have been a long time coming. Expect the various rel=”” tags to gain in importance over the next 12-24 months as their usage becomes more widespread. As they tend to add code bloat, server speed and hosting infrastructure will be vital to successful implementation of the tags.
- Citations, even though they have disappeared from Places results, will remain as significant signals of relevance for local search.
- On-page factors which have not traditionally been seen as SEO factors will rise in importance. Elements like CRO, bounce rates, and user engagement may well all become more important metrics included in the ranking algorithm.
- Key to multi-national websites will be the implementation of the link rel and href.lang attribute. This will ease a site owner’s fear of duplicate content and provide more accurate website targeting to different end–users who may speak a common language. Getting the website structure and code right to cover these eventualities will become more important.
- Traffic analysis will be made immeasurably harder by the rise of “Not Provided” as the search query from securely logged in Google users. Early estimates have put the % of queries affected as high as 20%. This could even be a pre-cursor to the data being available to premium Google Analytics users. Some elements of the data may be available from Google Webmaster Tools, but it is not specifically identifiable and comparable.
- The iPhone changed the way we used mobile phones. Then came Siri. It is expected that voice search, and other types of augmented reality search will grow in importance in 2012. They’ve been here for a while already but expect them to take off this year – especially in Local search. You never know, this could even be the year that mobile barcodes / QR codes actually become more than a geek tool. Of course, these services still need to have trusted sources feeding them relevancy and authority signals, which are still expected to be drawn from your website and social graph.
- As mobile search gains pace, expect the user-experience to rise in importance for mobile sites to be successful in search.
- Links are dead, long live likes! This isn’t quite true (yet), but certainly expect ‘likes’ to strengthen their relevance signals to search engines. As these signals get stronger, expect ‘like’ spam schemes to become bigger and more commonplace before they are algorithmically taken down by Google’s spam combat expertise.
- +1 will become the equivalent of bookmarking a page and Google may merge Reader into G+ to create your own personalised shareable news feed.
- Facebook has extended its Open Graph in January 2012 to include more business related signals on people’s timeline pages. It will be interesting to note how this plays out into expanding the social graph.
The 4G mobile phone network is on its way, bringing with it faster data speeds and phones which are also capable video cameras. Expect a rise in “vlogging” over the coming 12-36 months which may, like in all the best sci-fi movies, eventually replace the written word.
Source from Bruce Clay Australia’s SEO Factors and Trends report – http://www.bruceclay.com/au/bruceclay_aus_seo_factors_trends_2012.pdf