At the beginning of the year, we took a look back at 2012 and made a few predictions about what the online marketing landscape would look like throughout 2013. Now, as the year draws to a close, it’s time to look back at those predictions and see what we got right, where we went wrong, and what we couldn’t have predicted with a crystal ball, quantum mathematics, and our own personal Nostradamus tied up in the server room.
Here’s Ash Buckles taking us through the list of predictions:
Now let’s examine them one at a time.
1. Author Rank
Authorship proved to be extremely important for online marketers. By including authorship in your content marketing strategy, you could start making your content stand out from others, increase exposure, drive more clicks, and receive higher rankings. Google showed that they really want authors to claim their content, and they’re willing to reward you for doing so.
Google continues to target sites with low quality content and shady practices (keyword stuffing, link farming, etc.), and so they have started giving more weight to things other than keyword based links. We said that co-occurrence of terms may be one of those factors, meaning that Google might simply use terms and concepts on your page to deliver results without relying on exact match. The Hummingbird update certainly has some relevance here, too.
3. Facebook EdgeRank
We predicted that because only 16% of a page’s fans will ever see updates because of the way EdgeRank works companies would need to either branch out to other social platforms or pay to boost their posts. This was true for a while, but, just recently, Facebook announced some changes to its EdgeRank algorithm that are meant to help users see “more relevant news and what their friends have to say about it.” Theoretically, this should lead to more articles and fewer memes. As marketers, it means we have a chance to reach more people if we produce quality content.
4. Google+ Communities
2013 showed us how influencer marketing can be extremely important. This means reaching out to the people in the industry who can sway opinion and sentiment. Google+ communities were (and are) a simple way to connect people with interest to people with influence.
5. Link Earning
Google continued to crack down on sites with questionable linking practices all year long, whether it was through manual penalties or by devaluing the links these companies had built over the years. 2013 was the year it became clear that link earning was the way of the future, and marketers needed to see links as a method of driving traffic rather than “collecting votes.”
6. Link Removal
We suggested that the link disavow tool is something that every marketer should be aware of and know how to use. Matt Cutts seems to agree, because in a recent video he suggests that there is a time and a place to use the tool, and you don’t have to wait for a manual action to put it to use.
“So if you’ve done the work to keep an active look on your backlinks and you see something strange going on, you don’t have to wait around,” Cutts said. “Feel free to just go ahead and pre-emotively say, you know what this is a weird domain, I have nothing to do with it, and no idea what this particular bot is doing in terms of making links, so go ahead and do disavows even on a domain level.”
7. Local SEO
This was a year to bring the focus back to the local market. Local search has some of the lowest cost per acquisition (CPA) and it is a way to reach out to a very valuable audience and start building a community of supporters.
Mobile usage was predicted to grow amazingly fast, but even we didn’t realize exactly how fast. In his Pubcon 2013 keynote speech, Matt Cutts revealed that mobile is happening faster than anyone expected. Already 40% of YouTube videos are served across mobile devices. He also suggested that companies should be focusing on creating mobile-friendly websites, because Google will not send traffic your way (rank you highly) if you have a Flash-heavy or slow-loading site.
9. & 10. Page and Site SEO
While optimized landing pages remain a critical part of conversion optimization, SEO strategies needed to take a more holistic, site-wide approach. As Google continues to focus on deep learning and interpreting relationships, the big picture became more important than focusing on single keywords.
11. Social Signals
We’ve known for a long time that social signals play a part in how websites rank, but this year it became clear that “social signals” meant more than just the number of “Likes” and “+1s” on an article. Google is looking at a wide range of signals and using them as a sign of authority.
12. & 13. Repurposed Content and Video Infographics
These predictions boil down to the growing importance of content marketing. Whether you’re turning a blog into a whitepaper or an infographic into a video, there was a lot of talk this year about how you can make your content go further. Even with the growing prominence of this strategy, though, there is still a lot of room for it to get better.
What (Arguably) No One Saw Coming
Every year there just has to be one or two surprises – a sucker punch or two that keep things interesting. 2013 was no different, and some of the biggies included:
Google Makes All Search Data Secure
While there were some hints along the way that Google was going to take away some of the metrics that marketers had come to rely on, the sudden shift to 100% Keyword (Not Provided) changed everything. Google made a bold move and cut off our keyword data. In 2011, the search engine began encrypting searches by users who were logged into their Google accounts. Over the next two years the number of encrypted searched just kept going up until they finally took it all away, encrypting every search on every browser.
While there are still ways to gather data on organic keyword rankings, it is a lot more difficult. The change did cause some initial panic, but in the end it just went to support the notion that was developing all along, i.e. SEO needs to be about driving traffic rather than keyword rankings.
I admit I was surprised to go back and see that the video did not mention any specific predictions about Google updates. 2013 saw both Penguin 2.0 and 2.1 hit, but the most notable change didn’t have anything to do with their normal black and white critters.
Hummingbird was more than just an update to the algorithm that penalized shady practices. This change was more of an update to target better natural language translation. Google is looking to provide results that answer questions and address topics, not just keywords. This update was a big step toward that goal.
The PageRank tool bar was broken, and Google announced that they did not have any plans to fix or update it this year. Many marketers and businesses had grown to depend on the PageRank meter but it will continue to provide outdated data for a while longer.
Or, that’s what we thought, anyway. Just in time to round out the end of the year, it looks like PageRank has received an update of sorts. However, it may not be everything that webmasters had hoped.
Google is always modifying and tweaking its presentation. This year, the organic results were pushed even further down the front page as the search engine began giving more space to paid ads, including the most recent change which started putting Product Listing Ads (PLAs) above the normal text ads in the main column.
It isn’t all about paid inclusion, though. Google also announced the In-depth Articles section, which is a great opportunity for marketers to provide more quality content for broader searches.
Any Predictions for Next Year?
Of course there are. But that will have to wait for another post.