How Accurate Were My 2012 SEO Predictions?

Back at the start of 2012 I predicted 13 things that would happen in the world of SEO over the next 12 months, looking back on these let’s see how many of these came true.

1. Social Signals Gain Importance

Back in 2011 when Eric Schmidt announced that “The social signal, the people you ‘hang with’ is actually a ranking signal” but has this actually manifested itself into anything with a little more value throughout 2012? 

Well I’m not too sure. While there has been tests undertaken to see how well social signals correlate to high rankings, this is certainly not conclusive or likely to be the cause of the high rankings alone. 

Then during Matt Cutt’s keynote at SMX Advanced in 2012, he said that while social signals are important they are still nowhere near as important as links. Watch the full video below for what Matt Cutts has to say about social signals compared to links. 

 

 

So all in all, I don’t think that the social signals have really increased that much in importance throughout 2012 purely for their standard SEO benefit.

That said, in my opinion, I believe that social signals are an extremely important factor for long term success for the simple reason that the more social mentions and shares that you get then the more real people are being exposed to your brand online and this can only be a good thing as these are the type of people who are going to be linking to your website on from their blogs and other communities they take part in online. 

 

2. High Quality Content is Imperative for SEO Success

I think this goes without saying that this is one of the areas that has grown the most throughout 2012 within the SEO community. With further roll outs of the Panda update  throughout the year to an almost monthly update then high quality content cannot be more important.

There have even been company specifically re-branding theirself as content marketing companies opposed to traditional SEO companies. Companies such as Blue Glass UK after they acquired Kev Gibbons company Quatro in November 2012. 

I have seen first hand on many occasions how important quality content is for increasing rankings for both non-competitive and competitive keywords. Write content –> let Google index the new content –> see increased rankings as a result. 

John Doherty did a post a post back in October 2012 on SEOmoz which looked at what type of content gets links in 2012 in which one of the interesting pieces of correlated data was that the longer the content, the more links were generated. While this isn’t a specific guide to say that longer content will always generate more links, but it is an interesting correlation non the less. 

 

 

3. Rich Media Becomes More Important

This one kind of follows on from the previous mention about high quality content, as high quality content to me is going beyond the traditional couple of hundred words on a page to explain the topic. Instead it is about creating high quality content in whatever format is best to get the message or information across to the user.

Another interesting piece of data within the post what type of content gets links in 2012 was that posts with images generate more linking root domains compared to those without. The graph of this data is shown below;

 

So overall I would say that rich media has become a lot more important throughout 2012 than it has been in the past. More people are producing a wider range of content with Infographics becoming a favourite in the SEO world. While Matt Cutts has announced that;

 

“I would not be surprised if at some point in the future we did not start to discount these infographic-type links to a degree. The link is often embedded in the infographic in a way that people don’t realize, vs. a true endorsement of your site.” 

 

Personally, I believe this was just a bit of a bluff. People love infographics and they communicate data in a way that is very easy to digest and understand. So while there may be some tweaks into targeting lower quality infographics in the future, this is not specific to infographics but more in line with targeting lower quality content overall. What I took from Matt’s statement was that you shouldn’t be producing low quality infographics purely for links but you should be producing high quality ones because they are genuinely useful for people.

 

4. Google Providing Answers Directly Within Search Results

 Well…where to even begin with this one. There has been so many changes within the search results with Google directly answering questions that there is quite a bit to cover here! 

Back in June 2012 Google launched Knowledge Graph to the world which started to answer questions directly within the search results for an enormous amount of queries which ultimately lead to less traffic being received for the websites where this information was scraped.  

 

 

Since then there has been more and more of this type of content showing up directly within the search results including when you search for “things to do in Paris” which shows a huge list of different points of interest in Paris;

 

 

I would hate to think how much of an impact this has had for companies such as Lonely Planet and Trip Advisor as they are some good sources of this type of information, but I imagine they are getting much less traffic now these types of queries are being answered directly within the search results. 

Here is another example of this huge bar when searching for “Bruce Willis Films”;

 

 

I’m guessing IMDB has had a bit of a hammering from the loss in traffic from this too.

This has been such a huge change within the search results for 2012 I dread to think of the impact this has had on some of these businesses. If anyone has any statistics about websites where their traffic has been hit hard from these introductions then let me know as it would be great to see some actual numbers. 

 

5.  Google Gets Slap On Wrist

 Finally….finally…well almost. Lots and lots of things happening in this space with Google being sued for countless different issues around the globe. Just to name a few but Google are being investigated for their tax avoidance schemes they have set up and actually appeared in front of the Public Accounts Committee in November (which was a rather amusing viewing if you saw it!). 

Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land also wrote a letter to the FTC about how search engines need to disclose more in relation to paid inclusion although nothing has been received back unfortunately. 

 And lets not forget about Barry Adams’ amusingly titled Google’s 2012 Clusterfuck Countdown which lists a huge amount of issues where Google is simply being held accountable for different things and generally messing up with things they are doing. 

 

6. Mobile SEO Gains Traction

At the start of the year I predicted that Google would announce some kind of meta tag that would help them understand what the mobile version of a website is and what is the equivalent version on the desktop websites.

And I couldn’t have been more spot on with this. In June 2012 Google announced exactly this information which is outlined in their official mobile website guidelines.  

Google recommends;

When building a website that targets smartphones, Google supports three different configurations:

  1. Sites that use responsive web design, i.e. sites that serve all devices on the same set of URLs, with each URL serving the same HTML to all devices and using just CSS to change how the page is rendered on the device. This is Google’s recommended configuration.

  2. Sites that dynamically serve all devices on the same set of URLs, but each URL serves different HTML (and CSS) depending on whether the user agent is a desktop or a mobile device.

  3. Sites that have a separate mobile and desktop sites.

 

This is a really good improvement that Google have made as it ensures there are no duplicate content issues when displaying different content to people on different devices along with removing the potential for penalties when re-directing users based on the ‘User-Agent’ in the header. 

 

7. Less Importance on Number of Back Links

Need I say anything more than the word, Penguin? Back in April 2012 Google let another one of their black and white animals out of the bag with the Penguin update

The quantity and quality of backlinks used to be extremely important, and while they are still and extremely important area to focus on it needs to be treated carefully. With the Penguin update actively penalising websites with a high quantity of low quality backlinks then we need to ensure that the links being built are good quality to avoid being placed into this category. 

Previously low quality backlinks simply didn’t pass much/any value at all but this update followed by Google announcing that they are sending out warnings to webmasters which state they have got lots of low quality links pointing at their website and they need to do something which is insane

After which Google then announced a Disavow tool in October 2012 which is even more ludicrous as it expects webmasters to do Google’s job for them. Absolute non-sense. 

 

8. Only Google Reviews Are Used

No surprise again here with Google deciding to screw over everyone else who previously provided reviews to their products. Instead now Google have built up enough of their own reviews of their own to not have to worry about external reviews. In additional to this Google purchased Zagat back in September 2011 and have begun to integrate these reviews into Google’s services as well now. 

 

 

Then below shows a screenshot of how Google’s own reviews and their Zagat reviews on the Places pages;

 

 

The only place where it appears that external reviews are even being mentioned at the moment (specifically for a couple of hotel searches) is right at the bottom of the Places page (below both Google’s own reviews and the Zagat reviews) which shows;

 

 

The same is happening when reviews are included within the Knowledge Graph when that appears for different searches. Whereby there are only Zagat reviews and Google owned reviews which are being displayed. 

Honestly though, this should come as no surprise as this is what Google do when rolling out all of their own products and services, they utilise key partners initially until they can build up enough of their own properties first then simply get rid of the people they were previously working with. 

 

9. Bing Gains Market Share

Back at the start of 2012 I predicted that Bing’s search engine market share would grow to around 20% and while it has grown this year it hasn’t quite grown by that amount. Below is the search engine market share data for the past three years sourced from ComScore;

 

 

As you can see in the above chart, Bing’s market share has actually been steadily increasing over the past few years which is always a good sign in my opinion as it brings a bit more competition to the search engine scene. Google is still massively ahead of the rest though and will continue to be in this position for quite some time. 

Below is a pie chart for the search engine market share in October 2012 which shows Bing as 16% of the search engine market. Which is actually still a very good increase for Bing as previously they were at 15% of the market. So at least they are growing;

 

 

During 2012 Bing also launched a campaign targeted at Google called, Scroogled which was a nice way to make people realise that there are other alternatives to Google. Hopefully we will see more of these campaigns from Bing in 2013.  

 

10. Google Gets More Personal

It was looking like there was going to be a lot more personalisation happening throughout 2012 and there has certainly been more updates of the authorship algorithm which allows more people to get their photo listed within the search results next to their own content.

There has been Search Plus Your World launched in January 2012 which has received a lot of criticism since launching but it emphasises how Google is really pushing the personalised search with linking it up with their Google+ social network which is going to be a massive focus in 2013. 

 

 

 

11. The Death of SEO

:-)  

 

12. Authorship Becomes Essential For Content

With authorship being pushed quite a bit by Google as it links in with Google+  this has certainly become a more important area to focus on simply because with the added image listed within the SERPs this helps drive additional organic traffic through to your website. 

The markup hasn’t become essential though for content writers, while it is certainly an area that a lot of people are focusing on it isn’t essential. Currently there doesn’t appear to be any evidence to suggest that if a piece of content is written by an influential person on a non-influential website that this ‘Person Rank’ is passing any additional value or trust towards that website. 

Maybe Google will announce something like this next year possibly, but for 2012 while authorship is important to help you stand out in the search results it doesn’t appear to be doing anything more than that at present.  

 

13. Twitter Launches Analytics Platform

Well…it was a bit of wishful thinking :-) Maybe next year! 

 

 

Summary

Overall though I think some of the predictions I made at the beginning of the year were actually quite accurate;

  1. Social Signals Gain Importance: Certainly still important but haven’t quite had the direct impact that was predicted
  2. High Quality Content is Imperative for SEO Success: More Panda updates, traditional SEO companies re-branding theirself as content marketing agencies and evidence to suggest that longer content generates more links
  3. Rich Media Becomes More Important: Certainly more people focusing on richer content and I can see this being the trend for the longer term
  4. Google Providing Answers Directly Within Search Results: An unbelievable amount of changes in this area
  5. Google Gets Slap On Wrist: Multiple slaps on the wrist
  6. Mobile SEO Gains Traction: Some nice changes to avoid duplicate content and potential penalties for redirects
  7. Less Importance on Number of Back Links: Penguin
  8. Only Google Reviews Are Used: Only Google’s own reviews and Zagat reviews being used now
  9. Bing Gains Market Share: By 1% point, not quite the 5% points predicted but it still gained
  10. Google Gets More Personal: Search Plus Your World
  11. The Death of SEO: :-)  
  12. Authorship Becomes Essential For Content: Certainly not essential but it can help stand out in the search results
  13. Twitter Launches Analytics Platform: We can only hope this will come next year!

 

Out of the 13 SEO predictions for 2012 I am quite happy with the fact that 9 of these have come true. Now time to have a think about what could happen in 2013…

 

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