This time of year is suitable for retrospection. We’re able to take a good look at how things played out in 2012, and get an idea of the trends and patterns that are most likely to dominate the coming year.
2012 was rough for SEO experts due to radical changes in Google’s algorithms, including many updates to Panda, as well as the the introduction of Penguin. While content quality and inbound links continue to play major roles in organic rankings, let’s take a look at the other factors that will govern SEO in 2013.
2012: The Year of Pandas and Penguins, Creating Value, and the Emergence of Guest Posting
Before we dive into predictions for SEO next year, let’s recap the major patterns of 2012.
- Though originally released in 2011, Google’s Panda algorithm went through multiple updates that kicked many low-quality websites out of the SERPs; tens of thousands of websites were affected.
- Google released its Penguin algorithm in April 2012, which changed the face of the industry, forcing many SEOs to adapt their tactics and strategies. Many companies that had engaged in Penguin-unfriendly SEO tactics were dropped from the search results due to Penguin, and companies that continued to engage in these tactics saw their rankings disappear, often without any warning.
- Google got much smarter, to the extent that it appears to be able to distinguish between content that adds real value and content that has been posted solely for SEO purposes. “Value” became an important subconscious factor — one that will dictate how Google perceives websites.
- Guest blogging emerged to become a very popular method of building credible links.Tactics and methods for acquiring guest blog links surfaced across the industry.
- Negative SEO became a hot topic of debate, to the extent that Google responded by launching the Disavow Link tool, which empowers webmasters to specify backlinks that should be discarded or discounted by Google when it evaluates links to their website.
- Of the exploited SEO methods that were ousted and devalued, anchor text over-use was the most prominent. Remnants of websites that used “paid links” were kicked out too.
2013: The 7 Factors That Will Determine Your Survival in SEO
If it were up to me, I’d simply focus on creating value for the reader — because ultimately, that should be the goal of any website. However, increasing competition may require you to employ strategic practices in a pragmatic approach to assist your rise to the top of the SERPs. Here are the tactics and strategies that will dominate the SEO landscape in 2013.
1. Quality of Content
Ultimately, it all comes down to the quality and value of the content on your website. Google has been very explicit this year about good-quality content, and we expect this trend to carry over into next year in full force. By content quality, the metrics are:
- uniqueness of the content/topic
- resourcefulness and information richness (i.e., no thin content)
2. Content Marketing
Content marketing is being touted as the next big thing. Experts have called it the new SEO. To an extent, this is true. As a general rule, content marketing attracts backlinks, and adds value for the user/reader. It is more challenging, because you have to generate more content of high quality, circulate it, and make sure your content gets published widely with ample social signals to generate substantial SEO value.
Since Google takes valuable content seriously, a solid content marketing strategy will be the key to climbing to the next level in SEO.
AuthorRank has emerged as a vital metric in deciding SERPs, although studies about its value are still ongoing. One thing that we can be sure of in 2013 is that AuthorRank will add credibility and value to your website, and it will be vitally important for every webmaster.
4. Social Signals
After much debate and discussion, social signals have largely been accepted as valid ranking factors. In the next year (and probably in the years to follow), social signals will play a growing role. Shares, retweets, mentions, and perhaps most importantly, +1s are trophies every webmaster should be amassing.
5. Mobile/Responsive Design
Although this does not directly influence the ranking of a page, it will play a role in your fortunes. Google was one of the first companies to become aware of this trend in web browsing due to the growing presence of tablets and smartphones. Responsive design may not be an explicit SEO factor, but in terms of usability, it is likely to be a highly influential element to consider in 2013.
Google’s growing preference for local websites and information has become evident in many searches. It’s safe to assume 2013 we’ll witness an increase in this preference. Websites that apply local SEO will enjoy higher rankings and visibility. This includes map data, listings, citations, and reviews on local information sites.
Images and videos have become staples on the Internet. We’ve consistently seen that relevant results that include videos get ranked higher than text-only content. The further emergence of media content is an important development you can expect next year. It’s becoming essential to add relevant non-textual media to text content, because this adds value and makes the content more resourceful.
The above are some of the major trends or patterns that I believe will play a key role in SEO for 2013. What other factors do you think may influence SEO?