5 Things that are In Store for SEO in 2013 and Beyond

globe-and-seo2011 and 2012 have been incredibly important years in the world of search engine optimization and for search design trends in general. In an effort to make the web closer to something
semantic and highly responsive to the real needs of human readers, Google has performed some major overhauls to the way it ranks the websites it has indexed by its web crawlers.

These overhauls will be ongoing and will continue to develop further in 2013; creating a web popularity landscape that depends not just on classical SEO tactics but also numerous other factors involving social media, website design and friendliness to the latest browsing systems such as mobile web viewing.

Let’s go over some of these key trends that will almost certainly be really big in this new year.

1. Humanized Ranking Metrics

With Google’s repeated massively damaging blows to black hat SEO during all of 2011 and 2012, the days of effective link farming, content stuffing, keyword stuffing and other “nefarious” optimization tactics that don’t actually reflect site popularity are over. This trend will only continue and whatever black hat optimization tricks that are still working for some sites will only continue to deteriorate in their effectiveness.

Instead, Google is steadily working its way towards creating a more humanized ranking index that, in addition to reflecting other metrics which we’ll soon get to, also takes a lot of its value analysis from real time social media and human user metrics of actual popularity amongst readers.

The end result is expected to be a more “real time” search results profile for queries and an increasing amount of weight given to data collected from Twitter, Facebook, other social platforms and, of course, Google’s own array of social media tools. An important aspect of this will involve site owners connecting their content to each of these social platforms and also integrating themselves more with Google’s own network of content tracking. (despite the obvious bias in Google’s favor here)

2. Quality over Quantity

This almost certain 2013 trend is great news for a lot of content weary bloggers and site owners. Instead of giving heavy emphasis to massively content stuffed websites, Google and other search engines will continue to focus more on ensuring that their best ranked content is judged more by its quality, relevancy and freshness.

Updates like some of Panda’s iterations were a particularly good demonstration of this and played a part in giving precedence to sites whose content was most relevant and valuable for a given search, even if the sites themselves were not major content producers like some competitors might have been.

Based on this trend, site administrators should work towards really filling information needs with high quality posts without rushing to fill out as much new content as they can as quickly as possible.

3. Mobile Search

The mobile browsing landscape is only continuing to grow and soon it will completely overtake conventional web search. This means that adapting to the technical and practical details of this changing environment is a crucial step for SEO conscious site owners in 2013.

Speaking on a purely technical level, more emphasis has to be given to making websites more mobile friendly and designing them so that they are fully responsive not only to different PC browsers and screen sizes but also to thousands of different mobile platforms, from tablets to a whole array of smart phone types and operating systems.

Additionally, from other optimization standpoints, work to get your sites and their content more oriented towards mobile friendly content delivery. This could mean post design, text layout and presentation media such as video or audio

Another interesting feature of this emerging mobile search trend is the fact that a lot more of it takes place through a complex series of social network connections, bringing us to our next point.

4. Increasing Social Media Importance

We already partly covered the incredible importance of social media weight in our first major trend point, but it bears mentioning in more detail.

In 2013, you will absolutely need to develop your website’s social platform presence and integration as much as possible.

As more and more of the data about what’s trending on their platforms gets collected by social media sites, more of it will also become available for review by Google. This in turn will make such metrics more important in deciding search rank value. Ultimately Google is working to provide the most human relevant search experience possible to its users and the fundamentally human guided nature of social media popularity makes it a vital base of information for Google to achieve its goal.

Help this process along as much as possible by developing your popularity in the social media platforms and building up a base of dedicated fans that keep coming back to and repeatedly sharing what you have to offer further down the social chain. Not only will this eventually improve your essential human ranking value in the new search landscape, it will also achieve the vital site popularity building step of making you less dependent on search rank and SEO for the long run.

In essence, by developing a fan base at least partly through your social presence, you’ll be forcing the search engines to pay attention to you. Another way of looking at this is that building a deep human popularity amongst many fans and other influential websites will create a domain authority for your pages that no search engine can ignore.

Additionally, bear in mind practical technical steps that will improve your social media friendliness; things like creating multiple profiles across several popular media platforms, connecting them fully to your website through social media buttons and making it easy for people to log on through their Facebook or other social networking accounts.

5. Conversion Rate Optimization

However Google works, it has to also pay attention to reality on the digital ground. In terms of CRO, this has an enormous potential importance for 2013 because it means that a major factor in higher ranking may soon be how well sites get visitors to perform useful actions.

In essence, while many sites may have numerous visitors, the ones that optimize their pages for the best human engagement are those that actually get the readers not only to visit but also do things like buy products, click more links or opt in to a mailing list with their email addresses.

Since successfully doing all this is an obvious indicator that people are getting real personal value from a website, it’s very likely that Google will pay more attention to it in 2013.

For your own site, focus as much as possible on delivering high quality and getting maximal action or purchase conversion rates from whatever visitors you do have. Doing this is even more important than focusing on raw visitor numbers.

Matthew Ellis has written for the marketing and tech industries for many years as a freelance author. He also owns a small business that deals within those realms. When he’s not working, you can find him covering Acquirent’s sales jobs in Chicago.

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    • When you say sit promotion what the heck does that mean?

      I know SEO front and back and I’ve never heard that term ever.

      Please tell us what you mean by that phrase!?

  • There are things that you can’t ignore as a marketer. Even if you have established your own strategy, built on certain type of SEO, We, as marketers should always adapt to changes. Actually, changes are the biggest commission loopholes in our industry. I am going to follow your posts, since you keep yourself updated. Thank you for relevant information
    Yariv Peled
    The Wealthy Musician

  • Integrating social sites with mundane product websites is a bit more challenging because of a popularity contest you need to have with your competitors.

    • Moemedi, you have to get out of that mindset. As long as you think that it’s going to be tough, you’ll never compete with the big boys.

      All you have to do is get started. If you have a mundane product site, that’s totally fine.

      You’d be surprised to know how few of your competitors are really doing social media correctly.

  • I have read for some time that social media will be more significant in Google ranking along with quality content. I was not aware however that wensite mobile compatibility would be so relevant. Since mobile sites will have to be compatible with so many different mobile devises is there a universal format or particular file extension(.mobi for example)that needs to be adhered to. Thinking of writing it myself!

  • You are right, the days of link farms are over. They are now being replaced with sweat shops throughout the 3rd world where webmasters pay to have high volume “human” feedback / input about their websites.
    Google’s quest to control / tame / dictate search engine etiquette is an exercise in futility.

  • Of course, some of these aspects don’t suit all business, so where are they going to place in Google’s grand scheme of things?

    Humanized Ranking Metrics

    In other words, Google will actively start blackmailing webmasters into using Google+

    Quality over Quantity

    Google hasn’t cared about this much yet, placing low quality tube pages above other content. How on Earth does a tube page with a 50 word description of copy/paste outrank a page with 500 words, video, images and feedback from visitors?

    Increasing Social Media Importance

    As I work in adult media and business, this option is extremely limited. Social media is still quite Victorian when it comes to these things, as is Google.

    I’m not refuting the points in the article, I’m just pointing out that this is just another example of Google playing the Mafia boss, deciding who is “worthy” of business based on their own ideals and opinions of what a good site is. They are using a “one size fits all” mentality and crushing sites that will not – or cannot – comply with their demands.

    2013 will see more demands sent down from above, we’ll be ordered to comply or risk angering the almighty Google, and all while Google manipulates search results to increase their own business (Google shopping for example).

    My own prediction is that Google needs to tread very cautiously this year, because more and more webmasters are becoming increasingly angry at their domination and control of our businesses and sites. If Bing continues their vocal attack against Google (a justified one) then we could see the tables turn this year.

  • Thanks for the share, “Less is more” is the future of SEO and start focusing on quality vs. quantity…

  • I worked in news for several years, so this should be good news for me, but I feel sorry for small website owners that every website apparently now needs to be its own news organization.

  • I can see that search rankings have to be judged on relevance but what of those companies that use websites as a shop window not an endless stream of dynamic information. Isnt there a danger here of generating content for the sake of it, rather than because it is relevant?

  • Hi, thanks for the informative post, some good Points there if nothing new or surprising. Obviously the really interesting bit would be, how can we as webmasters actually go about implementing these points in the most efficient and painless manner? Which new tools are out there which may help us? Personally I am a bit lost here, while all my techniques were really successful until Penguin, nowadays there is more of a fear I feel about trying new things and that they might actually have negative effects on our Websites. Any suggestions?

  • Thanks for sharing this. When I talked about Social Media platforms being an important part of Google’s algorithm four years ago, people laughed at me. Now that it is happening, I questioned them back and they have nothing to say. Anyhow, I’ve already practiced the social media part, now to see how google values it.

  • I fired my SEO support over a year ago and began following this method out of pure common since. I began blogging on topics relevant to my business knowledge and Google has always rewarded me in return for my efforts. Links seem to really aid my web popularity as well as rank. It will however be hard to compete with larger construction companies this year with a larger fan base.

  • I think it’s important to spread the word and let every company know that it’s important to include social network links wherever possible to all of their advertising and marketing tools.

    Social networking is becoming increasingly more important, and just to have a presence there and to update social networking pages even only now and then will have a huge impact on them in the future.

    It’s a small amount of effort that is predicted to make a huge difference!

  • Hello and thanks for this informative article. I have been aware of Online Marketing since 2009. Unfortunately I didn’t take this as seriously as I should.
    I have jumped in with both feet and cramming my brain with as much of this knowledge as possible. As I learn, I write. I will write on this topic and link here.
    Thank you!

  • It’s been happening for nearly 12 months and from what I can see is on the increase. What? I hear you say…. People who have been full on Google supporters for many years now promoting Yahoo and Bing as viable alternatives.
    For example well known and widely respected Google Guru Monte Huebsch today sent the following email to this 200,000+ business database.

    Hi All,

    Google is a powerful and effective tool BUT it is always a good idea to have competition and choice. Yahoo is making a comeback. With an ex-Googler Marissa Meyer as the new CEO, changes have already started:

    Flickr is back BIGGER and BETTER
    Yahoo mail now works consistently across iPhone™, iPad™, Android™ and Desktop
    Yahoo PPC is 1/2 to 1/4 the cost of Google PPC and the quality is as good or better
    Yahoo is a “strong” portal site with quality traffic
    Display ads on Yahoo work well too
    Give Yahoo a go and see if you can reduce your click cost and get less expensive conversions and sales.

    Here’s the video:

    aka the Google Guru

  • Would tend to agree with BlokeToys & KoolShops.

    Many have begun putting down the Kool-Aid, are rubbing their eyes and awakening to the reality of the Gorg and how it has permeated, nay, invaded, and is attempting to dominate our lives.

    From the Search Bubble paradigm to forcing businesses to ‘use’ yet another sub-used social failure (social network? social ‘hub’ for Gorg properties? call it whatever, a rose by any other name…) to drastically impacting organic search in order to drive business to PPC to the Google Shopping fiasco just in time for Christmas. Go Go Gorg!

    Hey, Gorg, there are many ‘Davids’ out there!

    Much like you were once a ‘David’ which slew the then popular SEs, so we shall smite you back into submission. Over a decade ago, webmasters all over the world began helping you grow by showing clients, friends, family the wonders the Gorg once brought. ‘Behold the Gorg’

    Now, the Gorg bites the hand that feeds it, that’s fed it for so long. Bad Gorg, bad.

    1 replace GA with an open source analytics solution

    2 use other third party email services like Zoho Mail or Inbox.com

    3 use another search engine such as blekko.com, duckduckgo.com or Ixquick or a local search engine for local results

    4 use other PPC/CPC/affiliate ad networks

    5 stopping giving the Gorg all your data

    6 bring the beast to its knees

    Tread softly Gorg for the revolution has begun. Does the name ‘Altavista’ ring a bell? We built you. We will deconstruct you.

    • i agree with All the things that Google is saying are actually common sense, unfortunately some people tried to play the system. Google is trying to put credit where it is due. I think we all learned a big lesson this year, nothing worth doing is easy.

  • Matt Cutts has repeatedly said in 2012 that Google does not (yet) include social media factors in ranking websites. They do not feature in the algorithm. There seems to be a disconnect here between the SEO market and Google when it comes to evaluating the important and affect of social media on business good practice/profits. More than half of SEO agencies (and probably companies) now employ a Social Media expert. I personally have not seen a return on social media campaigns despite reading hundreds of (successful) isolated case studies. Is this a case of the industry jumping on the band wagon of new strategies without evaluating the reurns? Getting thousands of social media hits are not sales.

  • All the things that Google is saying are actually common sense, unfortunately some people tried to play the system. Google is trying to put credit where it is due. I think we all learned a big lesson this year, nothing worth doing is easy.

  • Very well written post on what is to be the future of SEO and SEM. One point that you touched on was that Google will be putting a lot of weight on social media this year. I believe that to be true because they have not got the response they need from G+, and now FB is getting into search more. Google knows it’s time to step up. Thanks for the post!

  • Though everyone seems to be very positive that social media links are inevitable part of Google’s Algorithms,, my question remains, how many social networks is a business to be connected with? The people in facebook are also the same people in Google+, the same people in twitter, and the same people in every new social networks that are emerging every second, so of what use is it for a website owner to belong to all these networks, expect to burn off their time and energy in keeping track of these networks?

  • […] Matt Ellis explored these questions in his article on “5 Things that are In Store for SEO in 2013 and Beyond“. […]

  • I don’t know if Google uses social media in it’s algorithm or not. I run a small website with a specific niche market, I have done my own SEO mainly through what I have learnt through people like you. Within my niche I am number one for all relevant keywords: What I have noticed since I set up my company facebook (about 9 months ago) is that I have managed to get interested people who follow every single thing I say and do to my website and this has improved my sales tremendously and considering I sell houses in Spain (a down market) I must say I cannot complain.

  • I know about it, but I don’t know why my site doesn’t rank on Google. I think it ranks if the site has been up 2 years. Right ??? I dont know, I’m so frustated…

    And one more thing, I don’t have any backlinks from google. How do you get Google to show backlinks? Do you know?

  • More than half of SEO agencies (and probably companies) now employ a Social Media expert. I personally have not seen a return on social media campaigns despite reading hundreds of (successful) isolated case studies. Is this a case of the industry jumping on the band wagon of new strategies without evaluating the returns? Getting thousands of social media hits are not sales.

  • Simply, admirable what you have done here. It is pleasing to look you express from the heart and your clarity on this significant content can be easily looked. Remarkable post and will look forward to your future update.

  • Nice post.

    Not taking the time to create custom product descriptions is a big one. Reviewing analytics data and incorporating frequently searched queries into your descriptions and searchable fields is key.

    Especially in gift markets, I find creating a custom product name is a good idea. Once a consumer can search your product by exact name/sku with competitors it can be a losing battle, to compete on cost

  • quality is indeed important right now especially after Penguin 4.0 updates this month

  • now you can’t just depend only on backlinks for ranking a keyword. I also use social signals for my site (specially with Google+) and the result is quite great.

  • Nice post.

    Not taking the time to create custom product descriptions is a big one. Reviewing analytics data and incorporating frequently searched queries into your descriptions and searchable fields is key.

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