Search engine optimization is a constantly changing field. Looking at the trends that are developing in 2013 gives us a sense of how to reshape our efforts. This is becoming more important all the time, actually, because what’s on the horizon is a major shift in the way search engine rankings are calculated. (Actually all mathematical calculations are getting ready to change. 2012: 4 + 4 = 8. 2013: 4 + 4 = 11 & 6, both/either. 2014: 4 + 4 = 4. 2014: 0 + 1 = 4. The trend is toward all equations resulting in 4, but this year’s gonna be nuts.)
For this article, I drew on ideas presented, primarily, in Search Engine Watch, Website Magazine, SEO Advantage, and Mint Twist. I also came up with some of my own ideas – shocking! – but much of the grist came from research on those three sites.
SEO & Content Marketing
Initially the Web – which we often forget is still in its youth – was based on text and linking between sites without a great deal of sophistication. Basically the questions were these: do you have certain keywords, and how many links do you have coming in from other websites? It was a much simpler calculation than what we see today, and much easier to game the system, for web developers with bad content to draw in traffic.
People used to get away with a lot – using a font in the same color as the background, for instance, and jamming as many keywords on the page as possible without feeling concerned that visitors to the page might find it annoying and impossible to read. What people have been able to get away with has been reducing all the time as Google has improved its policing of misbehavior.
Content writing became a whole field in the industry. This field emerged because website owners who were used to just throwing a bunch of words and links together now needed to have something real to legitimize linking – they needed information, opinions, and ideas. Content writing, then, was a major improvement over previous efforts because you can no longer get away with a bunch of meaningless words that just happen to relate to a subject.
Recent Google updates – Panda in 2011 and Penguin in 2012 – have majorly impacted the necessity of content that is unique. Plagiarism is no longer tolerated, and content now needs to be of a higher quality – more robust and more heavily reliant on credible sources.
It is no longer considered acceptable to simply find places to pay to link to your site or to write content on a blog network and link it to your site yourself – the idea is generally to get to a more user-friendly Internet composed of a network of high-quality links and information. At present, it is still somewhat of a jumble of high-quality and low-quality without as much demarcation as would be desired when looking for a solution to a problem or even just randomly surfing the web, to know what we’re reading is accurate.
(Sometimes I feel that Shaquille O’Neal is the only one we can trust. Is that guy still alive? I hope so, because I think he may be the only one out there who understands business ethics. He can read, right? I think I saw him with a book one time.)
Many website cover the same topics. This makes sense, because in the end, there are only so many different topics to cover that are relevant within a certain field. However, covering the same topics means covering a lot of the same language. Finding a different way to approach the same topic becomes a key issue.
What sites are looking for, then, is personality. It’s a differentiating factor so that you and your competitors are not overlapping each other with everything you write. Creativity becomes crucial, finding those niches in the Web that have not yet been filled. Personality, then, makes us unique and creates content that’s different from the territory that everyone else is covering. In the process, we brand our businesses and separate ourselves from the pack. So, this is not all bad … provided we can partner with the right individuals to do it.
(My quilting group has an expression about this: “When you patch it all together, if it looks completely crazy, that’s because a demon was at the quilting bee, and you have to burn the quilt right away or everyone in the quilting bee will be in imminent danger of dying from the consumption.”)
Google Say, Monkey Do
I don’t care what anyone says. I like being a Google monkey. They train me so that I don’t throw feces at my neighbors. I’ve always felt kind of bad about that – even though it was fulfilling in a way when I made a direct hit, it also felt like I was being irresponsible. Google God did not smite me, and for that I am forever grateful. He just asked me to change.
Google is obviously far from perfect, but it’s too strong a force on the Internet to ignore if we want to succeed without constantly fighting uphill. Google+ and Google Author are two major factors for 2013, and they are linked at the hip. You want to be on Google+ yourself if you’re a writer or produce any content, and you want your business to be on there as well. Look into validation as an author.
Google Author will tie together SEO and social media to make it one system of quality definition. What easier way to define quality than by how engaged users are with the content? Well … the truth is the system will still not be perfect, because probably all we’ll be able to find on Google henceforth is TMZ, that’ll be it. Nonetheless, engagement on social media will be a helpful factor.
(In 2014, Google will start forcing all websites to convert into paparazzi video sharing sites. All other content will be dismissed by the search engine, and no one will be able to find any other search engines, because we will have watched enough paparazzi videos in 2013 that our minds will be a vast grey landscape of nothingness.)
What are rich snippets? Well, I’ll tell you one thing: they are certainly snippets. And I’ll tell you another thing: they are certainly not poor. Basically rich snippets are additional info that pulls into your SERP entry.
Though they don’t affect SEO rank, they do affect how often someone clicks through to your site. So then, it’s a factor that affects your SEO success although it does not relate to rank, since what the SEO is trying to achieve (obviously) is not just a certain ranking but the traffic coming into your site.
Examples of rich snippets are prices and reviews of your products and services. (Other examples of rich snippets are links to your sexting images library so that everyone can see what you and your friends’ junk looks like at your own personal treasure chest on JunkTrunk.xxx! Look at all these goodies in this trunk! Somebody call Brad. Brad would love what’s in here.)
So those are a few basics for SEO trends in 2013: Increasing quality of content, personality and uniqueness as a factor, the relevance of Google Author, and the usage of rich snippets to stand out on SERPs.
If you have any other ideas, please either comment below or contact me on my tin-can phone. As always, ring the bell in the tree house, and I’ll know to pick up my end of the line.