2012 was a year that saw the SEO industry turn on its head. The Google algorithm updates Panda and Penguin hit with a bang. Suddenly a number of short cut SEO techniques which had been historically rewarded by Google, although outside the Webmaster Guidelines, were the source of penalties. While no one can be 100% sure what Google has in store for us this year, the SEO team here at FirstClick are prepared to make a few “official” predictions. Whether they be to inform, entertain or purely for bragging rights, here are some of our predictions for 2013.
Structured data is the new black
If you haven’t already implemented structured data as part of your information architecture model, then the time is now! This year we will see structured data having a greater influence in search engine results pages (SERPs), as schema markup becomes essential in order to grow organic traffic in competitive niches.
Implementing structured markup to your website allows search engines to clearly understand the data on web pages and use this to increase visibility in the SERPs. Having your content and data organised in such a fashion also reaffirms the site architecture and will help verify the quality of your website and protect your rankings if (and when) Google releases their next major algorithm update.
Bye bye anchor text – hello co-citation
The value of keyword orientated anchor text has been on a steady decline in recent times, but 2013 could be the year its influence as a ranking factor reaches the point of no return. Such devaluation will force businesses to place a higher importance on developing an organic online presence, built on the backbone of quality service and brand authority as opposed to over concentration on SEO as a siloed activity.
Another factor which will be attributed to the 2013 demise of anchor text is co occurrence / co-citation. Rand Fishkin from SeoMoz gave a great explanation of co citation in a recent whiteboard Friday post. Essentially, co citation is when you see certain websites ranking for keywords which they haven’t necessarily targeted. This may be because your site or brand has been mentioned numerous times in context with that keyword, but not linked to it. This demonstrates how Google is now using brand association as a ranking factor, and by the end of 2013 there should be numerous comprehensive studies quantifying its influence.
Increased focus on WPO (Website Performance Optimization)
As Google updates become more advanced, we can expect to see WPO having an increased influence on search traffic results. WPO analyses front and back end functionality and focuses on creating a holistically superior website in terms of performance and user experience (UX). We already know that loading time and page speed influence rankings, so with massive increases in mobile search these factors stand to become even more important as mobile devices are often subject to comparatively slower connection rates, which affect site speed and functionality. Consequently, websites with poor site speed performance could eventually be devalued by Google as they offer a lesser UX when viewed on a mobile device.
The decline of Facebook…
Facebook is undisputedly the largest and most influential social media platform on the planet, with over a billion registered users worldwide. But a recent report from SocialBakers found that Facebook user numbers fell in December by 600,000 in the UK and 1.4 million in the US. Although these numbers are relatively small, they must have Mr Zuckerburg slightly concerned when coupled with the fact that the company is yet to experience a significant growth in profits since going public in May 2012. The sheer size of Facebook means it is definitely not going away anytime soon, but 2013 could be a big year for “Facebook fatigue”.
Increase in personalised search
Last year Google rolled out their “Search, plus your world” (SPYW) feature which incorporates personal results (G+ posts & photos) in the SERPs. These personal results are only visible to you when you are logged in to your Google account and can be identified by the blue person icon next to the result. SPYW is only recently beginning to appear in Australian search results, and at present it is unclear whether this is because Google is rolling out the feature in instalments or A/B testing to assess the reaction of the Australian market. One thing is for sure though, search is about to get seriously personal.
If you think you’ve got a hot prediction for the year ahead, post it here!