By popular request, my thoughts about SEO in 2012.
Social Media becomes SEO
I usually mull over posts like this for a few days adding and removing pieces, reshuffling etc. This particular post has been in draft since about christmas – The below “Social Media becomes SEO” section was written prior to Google’s announcement this morning (Wed 11th Jan) which has been hailed as “most radical transformation ever” – I’ve left what I’ve written unchanged.
For a little while Google had access to the twitter hose pipe, which meant tweets could be dynamically included in rankings, and used as a ranking metric. I’ve done a lot of testing in the past 12 months with large volumes of tweets and retweets (between 200-400 tweets in each test) and at the time I did the test, there was absolutely no affect on rankings whatsoever. Just a few months prior, when Google still had access to the hose pipe, another popular SEO website asked readers to help with testing retweets for rankings, and found them to be quite effective.
Facebook has had a slim effect on SEO because profiles can’t be indexed, and there is no clear crawl path through profiles.
Also last year Google launched its own new social network, Google Plus. From a user interface point of view Google Plus is highly integrated with other google products, such as Gmail and Search. Google seems to have become frustrated with the failure of google buzz, and not having its own social network, and seems to be throwing absolutely everything into the success of Google Plus.
It stands to reason Google will use the data from its newest product to influence search, as this is a search metric Google has been desperately seeking.
I’m not going to share my own tests at this stage, but suffice to say I’ve been looking very heavily into Google Plus for SEO.
The SEO Puzzle
In the old days it used to be a matter of how many times you listed your keywords on your page, and how many backlinks you had with those keywords. These days SEO seems to be more about ticking a bunch of boxes, and not always how many ticks you put in each box.
Its almost as if the rankings are based on a points system. 10 links might give you 1 point, 100 links might give you 2 points, 1000 links might give you 3 points. But having SEO friendly URL’s might give you a point, having a robots.txt file might give you 1 point, having an RSS feed might give you 1 point, Adding the site to webmaster tools might give you 1 point and having keyword optimised images might give you 1 point. Existing for 1 year might give you1 point, existing for three years might give you 2 points, existing for 10 years might give you 3 points. And etc…
The reason this seo puzzle theory has come about is because I’ve been in numerous industries where I’ve had 10,000 backlinks, and keyword density to be proud of, but I can’t seem to leap-frog a website with 100 links, and very average keyword density. There doesn’t always seem to be rhyme nor reason behind the search results, which leaves me wondering if the SEO puzzle theory has legs.
Back to Basics
Over the past few years the basic SEO techniques seem to have lost power, leaving us SEO’s feeling a little powerless to affect improvements. In the past 6 months or so things seem to have gone “back to basics” and many of the old techniques, done right, are working well. Possibly this is just the result of Google loosening up the time based part of the algorithm to allow more dynamic changes within search.
One possibly explanation could be that instead of working with one algorithm, google has multiple algorithms to serve each portion of the search results. For example there is obvious a natural SERP algorithm, and a PPC algorithm, and now there is probably also a Social algorithm, probably separate Image algorithms and Video algorithms too. Each individual algorithm then becomes less important to the full serps, so they can slacken off a bit.
Roundup from 2011:
Split Testing – yes – still happening
User Voting – has evolved into social search
Synonym Match – not so much, but still a factor
Exact match domain names – agree with my 2011 seo guide
Other TLD’s – 50:50 on this one…
Roundup from 2010:
Time – very important
User Experience – very important
Reverse Page Rank – certainly some data to suppor the idea
Variation – yes, still important
Contant – Yes, as always
Ramp – Yes, still the case.
PR Sculpting – Lost to the pages of history