First of all a very Happy New Year to all my readers! May this New Year bring in a lot of SEO and Internet marketing success for all of you!
It’s that time of the year again when we are reflecting and reviewing what the previous year has left us with and predictions are raining about on every other blog on what 2011 is about to reveal. As I have already been guilty of not posting in this blog so often, I thought I would jump on to the bandwagon and share a few interesting and slightly futuristic thoughts on how SEO is likely to change in 2011.
As most of us can already predict one of the key factors would be Social Media – it has already started playing a major role in most planned internet marketing strategies and now if we try to look a little deeper on how specifically it would affect SEO there are two definitive predictions that I would like to make :
- Social Links – Yes, we know search engine algorithms and specifically Google’s have been highly dependent on backlinks and we SEO’s have tried every possible form of manipulation to drive links to our websites, genuine or not. ( While personally I do not really work towards “manipulating” links for my websites and neither recommend it, as a part of the SEO community, I feel I will have to equally accept the responsibilities for good, bad and ugly acts). Now that the search engines have started drinking from the live hose of some of the major social platforms like Twitter, they are surely going to leverage it to improve their results. The primary reasons being, using data from social media would actually mean they would be using data generated by actual human mass intelligence, which is highly difficult to manipulate due to the “mass” factor.
Given the situation I would not be surprised if social media links starts to get more importance compared to links from other websites and blogs. Contextual in-content links will still hold their fort but blogrolls, footer links, link exchanges( I think this is already almost dead) etc are going to get diminishing importance in Google’s algorithm.
Also, in terms of social links, it would not just be the link count that would matter, a lot of other factors would also come into play, the user contributing the link and his profile would be of paramount importance. For example, if this article gets tweeted by Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan – my New Year dream!! Lol ) it would get far more importance with the search engines compared to if it gets tweeted by someone who doesn’t have the authority of Danny or by someone who might be an equally big authority in some other industry but not in SEO. Parsing a user’s timeline, followers-following ratio, number of likes & shares their posts get in Facebook, the communities they are fan of etc give a very clear signal to the search engine about a user’s profile and level of authority he/she has on that particular domain and accordingly that can be factored in while evaluating links placed by them in the social platforms.
From a SEO’s perspective it would mean that the days of hitting up the search rankings with those small links from mushrooming directories, link exchanges, buying links etc are coming to an end and this might be the actual beginning of links generated by virtue of quality content. Search engines have always been preaching this but for most small businesses ( who cannot afford to spend money on creative link builders or do it themselves) it has mostly been an utopian situation till now.
This New Year, let’s generate a lot of good and useful content that people would love to read and share – links and rankings would automatically follow.
- Social Mentions – Yes, I believe it would not just be links, even brand mentions would matter and count in your search rankings. All the contributing factors as discussed on the point above for Social Links would hold good for this too and even if there is no link it would add to the search engine’s perception of your website and brand. Of course, context would probably be the biggest factor in contributing keyword/ topical relevance to your website when it would come to social mentions.
For both social mentions and social links there is also the indirect advantage of getting a lot of genuine links from various blogs and websites as your content gets syndicated.
- Location: More and more users are surfing internet from mobile devices, we have already seen a big leap in the local search space and things would continue to improve. My prediction in this case would be that regional directory listings and location based tags are going to be factored in location based search queries (not just local search results but also the way web results are ranked). We already know that search results today are customized as per our location; this would probably see a lot more improvement based on these location tags. For example, if someone searches for “Pubs in Kolkata” besides the local results, if there are some pubs that has been tagged by users from Kolkata those websites are probably going to be ranked higher compared to other Kolkata pubs that has not been tagged. While I do think this is very likely, a piece of the puzzle that I am not able to work out till now is from where is Google going to collect this data? Facebook places? Foursquare or someone else?
I am sure there are lot more new things would happen in SEO this year, with new and evolving technology and additional data sources opening up for the search engines, algo’s would get more complex and it would be a tougher time for SEOS – however, all these are likely to lead to a better web with lot of useful and relevant content and accurate information at finger tips.