In late 2011 (and continuing in 2012) Google made so many changes that affect the SERPs (search engine results page) that I believe 2012 will see the end of pure linkbuilding, in favour of social, PR and brand awareness tactics.
So, where did linkbuilding fit into SEO in 2011?
In 2011 and before, Linkbuilding (the process of getting other websites to link to your website) was central to any plan to climb the SERPs. Broadly speaking the site with the most and/or best links going to it would come top.
The end game of any SEO activity is to get more (and better quality) traffic to the website. If everyone who searches for your keyword sees the same results, then it follows that having the most links and being as position no. 1 is where you’ll get the most traffic.
So it was key to any SEO strategy to work on increasing that number of links, employing a wide range of methods to do so.
Why is this changing in 2012?
Everyone doesn’t see the same results anymore. Google (and to a lesser extent the other search engines) are tailoring the search results to the individual user:
- You’ll get different results based on your geographic location – just search for “take away” and you’ll get results local to you
- If you’re logged into Google (for mail, checkout, Google+, adwords etc etc) then Google uses their knowledge of everywhere else you’ve been whilst logged in to that account to bring you better results. So if you always buy your books from Blackwells rather than Waterstones or Amazon – you’ll start to see Blackwells appearing first.
- If you’re a Google+ user it gets even more tailored. Google is now pulling in search results on what your Google+ connections like. So if your connections rave about a certain bar, and you search for local bars – you’re likely to see that bar – and see that your friends rate it.
They’re also allowing the user to manipulate the results they see manually:
- On the left hand side of the search results you’ll see lots of options for changing what you see:
- Everything / Images / Maps / Videos / News / Shopping / More – this segments the results based on what Google has classified them as
- Under the “more searches” link you can then select how recent you want the content to be, or a whole range of other criteria – including Reading Level!
AND they’re pushing more things into the search results page, so often the 1st “SEO” result can be down as far as position 5:
- Google Product Search is frequently in there
- News items
- Social media – tweets etc
- Maps & Places listings
- this list is sure to grow in 2012
So SEO strategies need to change to take into account ALL these influences on where you appear, and therefore how much traffic comes to your website. Not just how many links you have coming to your site compared to the other people trying to get top on that keyword.
What will an SEO strategy look like by the end of 2012?
Now that is a big question! And it all depends on 3 things:
- What else does Google have in store for us? How far down this road are we going?
- What else are they going to pull onto the search page?
- What percentage of people are going to be logged into Google by the end of the year?
At the moment, we’d suggest considering the following, of course different areas will be of greater or lesser importance to you depending on how your site is already doing:
- Look at everything Google is pulling into the search results, and be on as much of it as you can.
If you’re ecommerce make sure you’re on Product Search (aka Google Base), if you’re a restaurant or takeaway or shop – make sure you’re on Google Places etc etc
By covering all these angles you increase the ways you can appear, and reduce the risk from future algorythm updates.
- Make sure the keywords on your website are great.
All the above affects where you come on a given search results page – it doesn’t affect how relevant Google thinks you are for the keyword. So making sure you have the right keywords on the site is still massively important.
You should also review this at least every 6 months – by looking at which keywords are actually bringing you quality traffic (that’s traffic that buys, or sticks around for a bit).
- Engage in Social Media.
Social Media is probably going to be the key to getting good search traffic this year. That’s because it helps in so many ways (as well as driving traffic itself):
- The no. of times a page has been shared, and the no. of followers a site has affect your SEO positions
- Social Media results appear in the search results pages
- It makes people aware of your website, and people will be the key in 2012
- Get onto Google+.
Even if it doesn’t turn into a huge social media engine, it’s looking like Google are going to make it the hub of a LOT of what they do – so get your business page sorted.
- Invest in building brand awareness.
Personalised search results means you need people to be aware of your site and to visit – so PR is going to be important, as is blogging (and social media) and advertising.
- Keep your content Fresh
Google is also getting increasingly keen on new content – so don’t let your website get stale.
- Reevaluate Linkbuilding
If you don’t have any links – then it might still be worth doing some.
So the objective is changing from needing Google to think your website is the best result – to needing PEOPLE to think you’re the best result. AND covering all the bases, news, base etc etc.
It will be challenging, but it’s also going to be really exciting.Pre-order eCommerce MasterPlan by 30th August 2012 to save 30%. You'll pay £13.99 (RRP £19.99) and UK P&P is Free! Order Now!