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February 8, 2013

4 SEO Lessons from 2012 That You Need to Know

2012 was by far the most tumultuous 365 days in SEO history. We were greeted in early spring with the Earth-shattering Penguin update.

And as soon as the SEO world caught its collective breath, Google hit yet again with it’s jarring EMD update.

Add a dozen Panda and Penguin refreshes into the mix and we have ourselves a year that would break the most hardened stockbroker.

If you look at 2012 as a year to regroup and relearn, 2013 is poised to be your best year year yet. If not…then you probably won’t be doing SEO in 2013.

Here are 2012’s most important lessons, and how to apply them to your SEO campaigns.

Love the Longtail

The next time you’re in yoga class repeat this mantra during one of your downward dogs: “the long tail is your friend”.

The days of gunning for a single keyword — and pinning all of your hopes, dreams and desires on ranking for it — are long gone.

Remember that Google Penguin is at its core an over-optimization penalty. And you can’t over-optimize if you’re posting quality content that targets dozens of longtails instead of a single keyword.

Savvy SEOs know that approximately 50% of all traffic is long-tail… and you can significantly decrease your risk of a slap if you go for the long-tail half.

2013 Takeaway: Post quality content to your site that targets often-ignored long tail keywords. Not only will this help protect you against over-optimization penalties, but you’ll find that the competition level for these keywords are laughable.

White Hat is Back (In a Big Way)

To quote LL Cool Jay: “Don’t call it a comeback…I’ve been here for years”.

White hat has roared back as the SEO approach thanks to a Penguin update that brought blackhats to their knees.

If you’re still trying to game the system with spun content, blog networks and other shady link building techniques you’re going to be in a world of hurt in 2013.

That’s not to say you should passively post “quality content” on your site and pray to the SEO gods for authority backlinks.

You still need to be proactive in your approach. But that means replacing paid links with guest posting and web 2.0s with infographic campaigns.

Sure, white hat approaches do take more time, energy and even money to implement. But in today’s SEO world they work better — and last longer — than shady stuff.

2013 Takeaway: Blackhat flat out doesn’t work. If you want to carve out a permanent spot on Google’s front page you need to step your white hat game up.

Relevancy in the New PR

This little gem was dropped in an October 15th interview with a former member of the Google Search Quality Team.

Despite one of the few pieces of advice we’ve ever seen from a current or former Google employee, SEOs still continue to obsess over PageRank — an outdated metric that weakly correlates with link quality (just ask all the Penguin victims with high PR sites).

But I can tell you from extensive testing that a link from a closely related site — even a PR0 or PR1 — moves sites significantly more than random PR6 sites.

2013 Takeaway: Forget PR and set your link building crosshairs on related sites.

Become a Real Internet Marketer

Marketers — people that can produce buzzworthy content that people naturally link to and share — are going to absolutely dominate in 2013.

SEO nerds that live in their little bubble and try to rank their 125 sites using automated software are toast.

In fact, many big brands have largely abandoned traditional SEO in favor of old school marketing and outreach.


Because this approach naturally produces high-quality related links, social shares and targeted traffic… not to mention the fact that you’re essentially bulletproof against future updates because you’re doing things by the book.

Now’s the time to step out of your comfort zone, forge relationships, build a brand and market the hell out of your site.

2013 Takeaway: Practice real marketing so that you’ll be able to get links and social shares in any SEO environment.

Article by Brian Dean. Looking for backlinks that actually work? Then get your free report “Epic Backlinks for SEO Domination” at You’ll see my secret stash of quality backlinks that work like gangbusters.

45 Responses to “4 SEO Lessons from 2012 That You Need to Know

    avatar Blaine Dunning says:

    Being new to all this, what do you think Google has in mind for 2013? Are they always going to try to make it hard on people trying to get ranked without using adwords?

    avatar Brian Dean says:

    Good question, Blaine. It’s obviously hard to say but I do think it’s going to get harder before it gets easier.

    I predict they’ll put more of an emphasis on link relevancy this year.

    avatar Shilpi Roy says:

    Longtail keywords is a great suggestion. This post reminds me of a saying “Don’t make resolutions, change your game entirely for 2013.”

    avatar Brian Dean says:

    You’ve got it: Shilpi. Actually, the game changed almost a year ago after Google Penguin. But many people in SEO have been slow to catch up to the new reality.

    avatar Wayne says:

    Great article, I have been at the brunt of all of these changes trying to rank highly for my main search term house signs, but now will take notice of your advice. For years our website ranked on the 1st page of google and now even after updating my site adding more content I am left back on page 4 or 5. Help!!!!

    avatar Brian Dean says:

    Looks like you’re moving in the right direction. Keep posting quality content and build quality links and you’ll come back.

    Very interesting points especially on related sites. However, a challenge to us all is to persuade clients not to over focus on a main hobby horse term. Strong willed ‘I know best’ clients can make for a short engagement ….

    avatar Brian Dean says:

    I can relate to that, Dave. I try to make the case that the point of a high rank is traffic.

    And oftentimes long tails can get them more traffic (and more money).

    avatar James Isles says:

    Great round up thank you. This just confirms what I now advise my clients about SEO. It’s still vitally important that you get the on page work up to scratch though.

    avatar Brian Dean says:

    Thanks James : )

    Good point about on-page. I forgot to include something about that.

    In general, it’s the same as it’s always been: tell Google what your page is about without pushing the envelope.

    avatar Teddy says:

    Great informative article, i believe that longtail is the new trend and is crucial to any website especially after those google changes. Since I started using longtail my website MyHealthyOutlet is getting ranked higher and higher everyday.

    avatar Brian Dean says:

    Glad to hear the lontail is working out for you Teddy!

    avatar Tom says:

    Really great article and how Google is “filtering” our search results: My Website appears nowhere when searching for “my disney store” on Google. However using BING it is the very first result of the search – why is Google make life so difficult for us all !!!

    avatar Brian Dean says:

    I actually don’t hate on Google. They’re just trying to make the search results better.

    And if you play their game you can still do very, very well.

    avatar jennifer says:

    Really great tips. Relevant, share-able content seems to be king in 2013. 🙂

    avatar Brian Dean says:

    That’s right! SEO in 2013=content marketing.

    avatar Adam says:

    Probably because you post your link on a blog site completely unrelated to your website, therefore showing that you haven’t understood the article.

    avatar Luqman Qadir says:

    Dear Brian,

    It’s another great article indeed with loads of lessons for both the seo’s as well as the general audience

    You have rightly said about the “Long Tail” – I remember one of the very important meeting in Amsterdam with a leading “gambling client” some years ago and I remember there main keyword that we had ranked “2” on “roulette” was attracting way less business than “play roulette online” and let’s increase that percentage to somewhere around 70% or higher 🙂

    @Tom – If you are in the UK, I may look in to your website and may advice and that too for free. I can be reached on or via phone.

    Thanks once again brian and have a good one!

    Kind regards,
    Luqman Qadir

    avatar Brian Dean says:

    Awesome anecdote Luqman. Many people think — as you said — the long tail converts better.

    That makes sense because people that type a ton of words into Google usually know the topic better (ie. “insurance” vs. “term life insurance quotes) and are more likely to buy.

    avatar Miriam says:

    Thanks for the tips. I spend 2-3 hours a day just building links, updating my site and blog. I definitely do get tempted sometimes when I see people advertise that they can get me to the top page in Google for just $99. You are just reinforcing what I keep telling myself – do it the right way and in the end I’ll win.

    avatar Brian Dean says:

    You’re doing it right Miriam. Just keep grinding and you’ll get there…and stay there : ).

    avatar 4 SEO Lessons from 2012 That You Need to Know | The IT Chronicle says:

    […] Post from: SiteProNews: Webmaster News & Resources4 SEO Lessons from 2012 That You Need to Know […]

    avatar M.Akram says:

    Thanks for great information.Please need some prectical tips for creating quality backlinks.
    plz. send me some tips in this regard if possible

    avatar Brian Dean says:

    Thanks! The best tip I can give you is to a) post outstanding content and b) share it with everyone you can.

    […] 2012 was by far the most tumultuous 365 days in SEO history. We were greeted in early spring with the Earth-shattering Penguin update. And as soon as the SEO world caught its collective breath, Goo  […]

    avatar Rizal Ical says:

    i think i will try it!

    avatar Brian Dean says:

    Great. I hope it works for you, Rizal!

    avatar Barb says:

    The best way to ward off algorithm updates and not get slapped by them, use SEO companies that employ only pure organic white hat optimization. It works every time, my clients don’t do a Google dance and I’m not pulling my hair out or peeing my pants every time G does a Panda or Penquin.

    Relevancy is what ranks. If content is not relevant, it won’t rank.

    I had a conference call yesterday, the second one, with a company who can’t be found at all on the SERPs. Like the first time we spoke, I told the CEO exactly why he’s not there and why his company will never be there. Badly written irrelevant content with garbage SEO software thrown on top gets you a great position in the deep dark abyss where his company website continues to reside.

    I can put his company website right on the first page without SEO software. You don’t need it when you know what you’re doing and ALL my clients are on the first page for their keywords and primary markets.

    His in-house SEO folks (what they’ve been telling him is atrocious) don’t get it and neither does he. But his competition sure does and is why they’re on the first page for their keywords and his company can’t be found at all.

    To make a long story short, the next time we talk, and we will, he’ll PAY me first to not take my advice.

    avatar Brian Dean says:

    Fantastic points Barb. I’ve had clients that dragged their feet on white hat SEO. It’s a tough sell for businesses that were “raised” on shady SEO.

    avatar Kathleen Gee says:

    Hi Brian,

    Thanks for the tips. I’ve been hoping that Google would eventually figure out how to penalize the black hat operators…it can only help those of us who encourage our clients to rank by creating unique and useful content.

    It’s just tough to make this case to clients sometimes, when their site has about 1,000 quality inbound links, and their higher-ranking competition has 10,000 spam links. But I hope quality will win out over quantity.

    Naturally, as a PR firm, our first love is a newsworthy SEO press release, but we also encourage high-quality blogging and infographics as well.

    avatar Brian Dean says:

    They’ve definitely figured out and in my opinion the black hat game is up.

    It’s looking like quality and relevant links are set to dominate from here on out.

    And PR is one of the best ways to get links like that. That’s why lots of big brands have given up on SEO and turned to PR instead.

    avatar Nina says:

    Let us hope that the white hat SEO which we are all working very hard to at will be a real fair play ground for every marketer who follows the letters of the Google’s law

    avatar Brian Dean says:

    It should. There will always be exceptions but that’s the way Google’s moving.

    avatar Alan says:

    We small retailer/wholesalers (women’s fashions) are not big enough to have highly knowledgeable web pros massage our sites—Sooo what the hell is a long tail?

    avatar Brian Dean says:

    A long tail is a keyword that doesn’t get a lot of search volume.

    avatar Calcio says:

    I’m working on the long tail for about 6 months and I’m getting the results now. Long tail plus relevant content is the key on this Penguin era.

    avatar Brian Dean says:

    Glad to hear that. You’re right: gunning for one keyword doesn’t work as well in this post-Penguin world.

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    avatar Priyanka says:

    Thanks for great information. it’s really useful.

    avatar Prabha Yadav says:

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