2011 was a pivotal year for SEO, so much happened which has changed the way we think about SEO. The most important message I took from 2011 was to be proactive, if you are shying away from issues or chasing the algorithm you will never get ahead of your competition or worse, you could get hit by a Panda size update! With that in mind here at 4 key areas where you can keep ahead in 2012:Content
If you read any SEO hand books or advice from around the web the phase you will have phase “Content is king” over and over again and that’s simply because it is. Ten years ago people said this but you could ‘trick’ your way around the search engines and rank highly but today's search engines are much more sophisticated and can filter poor content with relative ease.
It is crucial to high search engine rankings to create pages which have the purpose of being the “Best on the web” (another popular SEO phase!). Although this sounds daunting it really isn't, just ensure you put real effort into making each page and consider your unique value. For example the majority of e-commerce website simply use the standard manufactures image and description, it is obvious why they do this but then this leads to search engines asking questions like ‘Why does this page deserve to be highly ranked? It is exactly the same as all their competitors’.
TIP - Start with your top 10 products (or content pages) and add a unique review of the product (or service, place, food etc), perhaps a few images you have taken from different angles and allow users to provide content (such as reviews) – you will quickly see your page stand out when customers compare them to your competitors, it will convert more and the search engines will rank the pages higher.
Take a look at the Amazon page for an Kindle to the right (click for bigger image) - yes it has the manufactures description and specification but it also has unique (high quality) images, reviews from around the web, a comparison of Kindle types, their own description, Kindle accessories, customer reviews, customer images and customer videos. This is why you will find Amazon in so many search results, they offer customers the best product information!
Last year Google released upon the SEO world an algorithm change labelled Panda and the repercussions were devastating to companies and industries alike (the non-proactive ones anyway!). The idea behind the Panda update was to penalise websites (not just web pages) for thin content, duplicate content and high advert to content ratio – basically low value web pages which have been created with the sole intention of driving traffic rather than providing the searchers with an answer, a product or a service.
Google are taking the Panda update very serious (they updated it 10 times in 2011 since its release!) which means you should take it seriously too. This is why I suggest it is a good time to consolidate.
TIP - If you have duplicate web pages, thin web pages or even the same (or similar) websites running on multiple direct match URLs now is the time to consider pulling them all together and make an awesome page (or website) from them.
Exact match domains names are quickly losing their power fast, duplicate content is being hit hard and thin web pages don’t rank as easily so you are essentially splitting your link profile and run the risk of getting your whole site penalised – I think the balance has now turned and the pro’s of this type of practice don’t outweigh the con’s anymore!
Social was always high on my agenda for SEO in 2012 but with the release of Google’s ‘Search Plus Your World’ it shoots up in terms of importance.
If you didn't notice last year (and a lot of people outside of the industry didn't!) Google released a social network called Google+. It is their latest attempt to challenge Facebook and Twitter in this increasingly popular space on the web. When Google announced their social network along with a Plus One button for website owners to use people where a little confused about its relevance, but now it has all come together.
When your searched for a query you got results from around the web but now, when you are signed into Google, you get results from the web along with content from your Google+ network (you will even see your privately shared content). Look at the example below when I searched for a recent news story – you can see the 2nd listing has been put up because I follow Pete Cashmore from Mashable.
Search results have been personalised in one way or another since 2005 (your location, often visited sites etc) but this really is a game changer. The social results from Google + are so integrated into the results page that they play a massive part in what the users sees.
TIP - If you hadn't already planned to do so it is time to get a Google + page and build up your network, in fact it’s time to do this for Twitter and Facebook too because I would expect their data to follow in Search Plus Your World too at some point in time.
The standard 10 result search engine page is dead, it is very rare that I make a search now and only 10 websites come up in plain text. Videos, images, places, maps, products, social and reviews to name a few have all entered the search engine results page.
TIP - -It is time to start searching for your key terms and see what elements are coming into play on your pages. If maps and local results are showing get yourself a Places page and optimise it, if you seeing multimedia start making videos and posting some pics, if you see nothing you are the luckiest of them all – you have a great chance to stand out by implementing the above.
Talking about standing out in search engine results Schema.org, a new mark-up language supported by all major search engines, is a great place to start.
TIP - Ask your webmaster or digital agency to mark up your content or products and you will soon see your star ratings, prices, events and more complimenting your standard title and description which will really make you stand out from the crowd (increasing your click through rate).
Take the below for example – one with a Schema.org review, star rating and price and one without – I know which I would click first!
2012 is the year to make sure you think of all the SEO factors. Looking for another link when you have thousands or stuffing another keyword into a page isn't going to have the impact of doing social or high quality content for the first time!
Happy SEOing in 2012 everyone,
Rikki Lear - Digital 22