At the end of every year, digital strategists sit back and wonder, “What more will be changing in the next 12 months?” In 2011, Google Panda and Google+, among other things, drastically changed the Internet landscape. 2012 was no different; we saw many online marketing trends that molded the way we optimized sites and enhanced user experiences. Here are some of the important digital marketing trends from 2012:
As Google continues to try and deliver the best content for every search, they roll out changes to their algorithm that reward white-hat practices and penalize those trying to cheat the system. Penguin came out in April, instantly destroying the rankings of some sites. This update targeted sites that engaged in deceitful practices such as keyword stuffing, buying links, creating large amounts of duplicate content, and more. After the update, site owners had to clean up their sites, whether that meant creating new content, using Google’s disavow tool to freshen their link profile, or making the content sound more natural. Penguin also served as a reminder to sites that there’s no easy way to automatically move up in the rankings; consistently adhering to best practices and creating original content and links will prove most beneficial in the long run.
Between smartphones and the rise of tablets such as the iPad and Kindle Fire, shopping on mobile devices is at an all-time high. This trend shows no signs of stopping, as tablets drop in price and more consumers start using them. Sites that aren’t optimized for mobile will feel the pain of losing sales to competitors with optimized sites. One important technology that should be considered is responsive design; as more devices hit the market, screen sizes will continue to vary, so designing a site that can adjust to differing sizes is vital. If a redesign is not on the horizon for your site, never fear; there are many quick ways to make your site more mobile-friendly. One example is to remove all Flash and frames, which will help the site’s performance in mobile browsers. That said, it has become increasingly clear that fully developed mobile sites appear to be the future for many online retailers.
Social media has been growing in importance for many years, and 2012 was no different. Pinterest was the hot new network of the year, allowing brands to share their favorite products from around the web with consumers. Google+ integrated its local features into the network, making reviews and a strong presence on their site important. The Open Graph protocol also took hold this year, allowing developers to turn web pages into objects on sites like Facebook. Many experts also concluded that social signals drive SEO rankings and site authority, forcing social media managers to consider keywords when posting content and making social one of the biggest SEO trends from 2012. Similarly, pages that are compelling enough to be shared throughout social media perform better in ranking and authority measures, which will be discussed later. Furthermore, unsatisfied customers continue to view social media as the best place to express their dissatisfaction, giving brands one more reason to constantly monitor social media and respond quickly and positively.
Google introduced its authorship markup in 2011, allowing website contributors to have their face appear next to results in searches. By using the “rel=author” tag, authors can direct searchers to more of their content and display more of their stories in original searches. Additionally, authors with highly read content will benefit from improved rankings in Google searches, making the tag extremely important. The authorship tag also reinforces the importance of consistently creating strong content. Authorship has turned your online reputation into your personal reputation. Authors can no longer hide behind a screen name; it is important to post cleanly and honestly, as everything you post becomes easier to find. To maintain a trusted presence online, your reputation needs to stay clean, and authorship will benefit those who add to the Internet in a positive way.
Authority comes in many flavors. Website owners should focus on two specific types: domain and page. Both are crucial to ranking well in search engines. Domain authority covers your entire site domain, and is based on all the links directing to any page in your site. Page authority, on the other hand, measures an individual page, determining how a certain page of your site ranks when concerning specific keywords. To keep both strong, your pages should have relevant, informative links to internal and external pages, as well as original on-page content. As previously mentioned, pages with a lot of social traction will also gain authority, making social media an important factor in authority measurement. Making your pages easily shareable and intriguing enough to share remains a crucial aspect of gaining authority. If your pages rank with high authority, your domain authority will take care of itself.
As the year wraps up, site owners should take a look back at the previous 12 months and consider whether they kept up with all of the Internet marketing trends from 2012. Is the site cleaned up in the face of Penguin? Will it work well on mobile devices? Are the social signals performing correctly? Is authorship being used? How’s the page and domain authority look? All of these factors have reshaped the way we optimize sites, and 2013 is sure to bring more changes, as the SEO industry is an agile one that never stops moving.