It’s that time of year when everyone who works in SEO tries to predict what’s going to happen over the next 12 months. We’re lucky that nobody ever refers to what we said last year, because we were almost always wrong in the past. Still, we plug on regardless. Here’s what we think is going to happen in 2013, and this time, we’ve made a real effort…
Increased importance of context & engagement
Believe it or not, a prospective B2B client’s provider has been mass distributing articles on, ahem, adult websites. I thought this had died out in April, when Google updated its algorithm (again) and said “these links = bad”.
Over the next 12 months, more and more clients are going to see zero or worse return from these “SEO” suppliers who put on a good face only to run off with their clients’ money and mass-distribute articles on adult websites. And we’ll finally (hopefully) see the end of their shady practices.
What we’re already seeing is a collective flocking towards ‘content marketing’ (of which more later), but the real focus should be on context and engagement. For too long, Google has allowed rankings to be artificially inflated thanks to links: links from anywhere, saying anything. It still does, if you look at some of the rubbish in the SERPs these days, but it’s fading quickly thanks to the zero returns clients are seeing.
I can foresee a greater shift towards context first of all. It’s not necessarily what the anchor text of the link says, it’s what the context of the link says. Google is already looking at the words around your links, and the context of the page, and this will grow in focus.
Equally, with authorship nudging its way in (again, more later), engagement is going to be huge. How are people engaging with that link, that page, and that website? Are they clicking on it? Are they sharing the page? Are they commenting on it? All of these signals are available, in one form or another, and it would make sense for Google to include them in Author Rank calculations.
Put context & engagement together, and you’re half way to getting a decent link.
You’re also halfway to seeing off the so-called “Social Marketing Gurus” who charge mega-amounts of money without tying anything back to conversions or business generated. Once SEOs really get their heads around the power of engagement (and therefore, social), and once search engines start to properly harness this social data, the possibilities are endless. The whole ‘Social Media Marketing’ industry will probably implode.
Say what you like about SEOs, but they’re a resourceful bunch. If it ain’t working, they bin it and move on to the next tactic that does work. Whereas most of us have depended on content for years, those Penguin and Panda updates have forced everyone else into content marketing, without really knowing what ‘content’ is, or how they should use it.
Funnily enough, though, SEOs are actually best placed to get the most out of content marketing. It’s a case of getting the content in the first place.
My hope is that we’ll see more SEO providers asking questions like “who are your customers” and “who are your peers”, and then working with clients to develop profiles, build content inventories and strategies to get the most out of that content.
Authorship & Author Rank
I see Authorship as a gift to authors from Google. It’s a lovely little thing, and I hope to God that SEOs don’t find a way to abuse it and spam it.
In short, it’s a way of “claiming your content” officially. By doing so, you get an Author Rank – a score that defines how good you are by looking at engagement with your article (e.g. time on page) and the popularity of the article (e.g. tweets, shares, etc.)
The result – according to Google’s patent – would be higher rankings for anything written by that author. But we’re not there yet. The first signs of Authorship in the SERPs are there – if you view an article for more than 2 minutes, and return back to the SERPs, Google will display further articles by that author (irrespective of the website).
This is the first step towards a web where people are more important than websites. I hope that by the end of 2013, a powerful author can set up a new website, and outrank content on established websites immediately. We may end up in a situation where these authors can charge significant amounts for a blog entry, and we have an “author market” with power authors touting their ranking potential.
The verticalisation of SEO
A long-shot, this, because no SEO provider, however large or small, would want to turn away business for fear of not being an expert. However, the combination of content marketing & authorship could bring about what I call a ‘verticalisation’ of the SEO industry. I know there’s no such word. But bear with…
One of the theories around authorship & author rank is that you will be defined as an expert in a certain field.
Author Rank could be boosted by your authority in certain verticals.
With content marketing, it pays to be an expert in your field. After a few months writing about a certain industry, you do start to get under the skin of your client. Therefore, you could end up with SEO providers who are HR experts, others who are travel experts, and some who are experts in bathroom fittings.
It would make even more sense, therefore, for someone seeking SEO services to go along to the same provider as their competitors. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, but it could be a recipe for success.
Equally, I don’t see the three letters “SEO” sticking around for much longer. Some say ‘Inbound Marketing’, some say ‘digital marketing’, some say ‘Context, Relevence, Authority and Popularity’, but the acronym doesn’t really work.
Updates in April & October
We all know that Google runs its major updates in April & October, so this isn’t a massive surprise. We could try naming them, too. They seem to begin with ‘P’, so how’s about:
- “Google Parrot” – an algorithm update that cracks down on repeated, annoying (duplicate) content
- “Google Pony” – an algorithm update that cracks down on crap (Cockney rhyming slang joke for you there)
- “Google Porcupine” – an algorithm update that makes the SEO community a little prickly (I’m struggling now)
We’ll probably see a crackdown on the abuse of guest blogging, and about 75% of the myblogguest.com community will suffer because they’ve been putting rubbish links on rubbish, irrelevant sites that accept any old rubbish. It goes back to context & engagement.
Many argue that we’re heading towards a results page that is even further dominated by Google’s paid ads (well, they do make a lot of money). Already, we’re seeing Google Shopping move towards a paid model, making it a “big boys first” service in which whoever pays most, appears first.
Will we ever see that with organic search? Not soon, is my opinion. Google has invested far too much in its algorithm to switch to a paid model soon, but in a few years, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that you are asked to pay for Googlebot to crawl your site. You may even be asked to pay a little extra for some decent rankings. Who knows.
Equally, it’s not just Google these days. About twenty people in the UK still use Bing, so please don’t forget them this Christmas.
There are others who put their trust in Siri (no really, they do) and Google itself has voice search. With the rapid uptake of tablets, especially this Christmas, we’ll start to see a shift, particularly in B2C, towards optimising for the app store, and optimising apps themselves.
Tablets create isolated little worlds, in which you discover much less than you ever did on the Internet. Yes, you can open up your browser, but people are doing this less and less because they already have an app for everything. For example, why open the Amazon browser when you have the Amazon app. Same goes for ebay. Why search for it when you know you can find it in an app?
Multiple channels, growing in importance… it might even get exciting.
Clever Little Design
Well, in the last year we’ve managed to triple our SEO revenue, and we’re even looking to recruit a fourth member to our burgeoning team. We have some great new clients lined up, and a growing list of fantastic clients who do some brilliant things, like winning awards and all that. One just got onto the BBC today for doing just that.
So we’re moving to some swanky new offices (after all, it’s getting a little cosy in here), and we’re putting pastries in the meeting room. That’s how serious we are. Pastries. You’re allowed two if you choose to work with us!
We’re always adapting our SEO offer, but the premise remains the same: we’ll help our clients mould their online proposition so that they are the best, most amazing, most authoritative business in their industry, and we’ll help them generate more business as a result.