2012 was an interesting year for search – and for both paid and organic search. We saw a number of significant changes to the Google interface, some major changes to the Google algorithms particularly around web spam detection and filtration – and also some significant product changes as Google looks to monetise previously unprofitable “organic” safehavens.
2013 thus looks to be another interesting year – and if some of the stories I hear coming out of people in the now are to be believed we are in for a very bumpy ride. Further to that I think the issue of SEO accountability will come to the fore more than ever as Google and the web browsers close the noose on parsing query data and with it leave us with some interesting decisions as to how effective our organic search campaigns actually are.
I therefore asked a couple of fellow experts in SEO to discuss 2012, what we can expect in 2013 and whether there is any hope for a challenger of note to Google in the near future. To help me I asked newly crowned Holistic Search European SEO personality of the year Aleyda Solis, BlueGlass Managing Direct Kevin Gibbons, 3 Door Digital Co-Founder (and partner in crime) Alex Moss, Martin Mcdonald and Media Skunk Works owner Paul Reilly. In total we set our experts four questions – which we will be covering over the next couple of days
OUr initial questioning was with regards to the past year – and our experts feelings on what they thought had the biggest impact on Search and SEO in 2012.
1) What do you think had the biggest impact on Search/SEO in 2012 and why?
Aleyda Solis – Seer Interactive: Penguin. Not only for the amount of sites affected by the updates but how this also made us to take content marketing & #RCS much more into consideration.
Kevin Gibbons – BlueGlass: In terms of updates – the biggest single change to make an impact has to be penguin. This really shook things up for everyone – we’ve all known for a long time that quality content and building an online brand was the best way forward, but now Google have left us with little choice!
Alex Moss – 3 Door Digital: Authorship and Author Rank evoution. This is because now people are finding it more important to credit who wrote content, and not who they wrote it for. Let’s use the example that Matt Cutts writes a guest blog post on Holistic Search If he does, he should not only be attributed properly (via the correct rel=”author” markup) but should also affect the way Google interprets the site’s authority. Another example would be if a journalist works for Newspaper #1 and leaves for Newspaper #2, then the journalist should still be attributed to his/her old content not just by name but by his/her present authority.
This evolution will really help not just author but also the sites they write for which will compliment content marketing as a whole.
Pete Handley – The Media Flow: I would say the biggest impact to the SEO industry in 2012 was almost certainly Penguin and Googles clampdown on unnatural link patterns that were affecting websites visibility. Whilst it’s not changed in the same way for all SERPs, sites with large backlink profiles with money exact match keyword anchors and minimal brand usage are likely to find it difficult to rank for competitive terms.
Lots of techniques that led to issues for sites here still work, dependent on the niche, but this has changed a lot of the way this is done by agencies. Those that have been slow to react will likely struggle further in 2013.
Bas Van Den Beld – State of Search: That would be all the Google Updates which scared the crap out of most agencies. Something which in my opinion is like a ‘cleaning up’ of the SERPS which was a long time due. It needed to be done. The bad thing for the ‘bad’ SEOs was that it all came at once, relatively speaking that is, and they didn’t get to prepare.
It has a big impact because it requires a different, in my view more professional, take on SEO. It’s not JUST technical anymore and it is definitely not a ‘game’ anymore, but real business and about real people. You have to start thinking (if you are good you’re already doing that) not about rankings but about the people you are targeting and their surroundings
Andy Betts : It has to be Panda and Penguin. Not just because of the impact it had on sites because of the significance of the shift in the market from quick win tactics to longer term gain. The way people reacted and the psychology of reaction really was interesting for me. Google really forced the had of many SEO’s and signified the convergence of search, social and content marketing. It was fascinating to see how brands and organizations reacted and who adapted in terms of re-brands, refocus and adoption of content marketing best practices. I actually wrote a piece on this on SEW in November last year – http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2227499/SEO-Content-Confusion-Clarity
James Marlowe – Forward 3D: Overlooked by many initiallly but for me probably the venice update. actual local alteration of the serps rather than, or alongside, delivery of Local results was a huge shift. Very difficult to track but vital to clicks and mortar businesses. If you look at how much certain tool like Linkdex have invested in tracking this you get the idea!
Peter Young – Mediacom: Personally I would have to say it would be a close run thing between Venice, the increase in Not Provided cut-through and Penguin. I personally have found the localisation issues caused by Venice to be one of the more interesting facets to modern day SEO – and this was something Google did not do particularly well prior to May this year. However there is no doubting that with Penguin, Google have started to get things right when it comes to detecting and penalising link spam, not just on its direct impact on the SERPs but perhaps more importantly its impact on the SEO industry as a whole (as we have seen the growth of the “content” marketing sector in volume since the latter part of 2012 heavily driven by the impact Penguin had.
So – over to you guys – What do you think had the biggest impact on the industry during 2012.
Coming next: Whats coming in 2013