The S in SEO now stands for Social

2012 was a rough year for SEO specialists. While “Content is King” has been the mantra of White-Hat SEO experts for years, it was still fairly common for black-hat/grey-hat SEO tactics to produce decent rankings. That was before radical changes to Google’s algorithms and its roll-out of Penguin took quite a few people by surprise.

Google’s updates saw an end to many of the over-exploited SEO tactics such as paid links & anchor text over-use. Google became much smarter, apparently able to distinguish between content that “adds real value” to the visitor and content posted solely for SEO purposes. Google, it seems, is taking the idea of “valuable content” seriously. And it can only be a matter of time before the other search engines follow suit.

Of course, the traditional view that good-quality content and inbound links are good for rankings still rings true, and they play an important role in organic search engine rankings, but we’re going to see many more nuanced factors impacting your position on SERPs.

So what should your SEO strategy for the coming year include? Here’s some of the things we’re thinking about:

Unique and information-rich content marketing.

Content marketing is the new black or, as some are saying, the new SEO. Content marketing, when done properly, should add value for the reader and naturally generate backlinks. The difficulty is that businesses have to find a way to generate  high quality content, distribute it widely, with enough social signals to create SEO value… and do it regularly. This is why a solid content marketing strategy will be essential to  your SEO.

Social Signals

Shares, mentions, retweets and Google’s very-own +1s are the golden nuggets everyone will be looking for. While Facebook blocks Google’s access to wall posts, evidence suggests that getting your Facebook page mentioned in retweets and other social signals, especially by those with a decent AuthorRank (see below), is a recognised form of link-building & can affect your ranking, making Social signals another one of the ranking factors to include in your SEO strategy. Despite many writing it off, Google+ is also looking more relevant than ever.

AuthorRank

What’s AuthorRank? I hear you cry… well it’s a Google thing that, basically, assigns authority to specific content creators and it’s probably going to shake things up in a way  few have been expecting. According to the Patent, AuthorRank involves:

The identity of individual agents responsible for content can be used to influence search ratings.

Basically that means that content creators who demonstrate influence in their field will carry more weight than those who don’t. Although evidence of its value is still pending, it’s clear that AuthorRank will become a one of the metrics influencing SERPs. There’s already been a marked increase in Guest Bloggers over recent months, showing that some are already attempting to capitalise on AuthorRank by adding credibility and value to their websites.

Pictures & Video

If you’ve ever used Facebook or Twitter you’ll know how the behaviour pattern works – if it’s got an image or a video you’re much more likely to pay attention. Text-only content flies past, unread but posts with relevant, non-textual media get the clicks, comments & shares. Adding images, sound and/or video to your text-based content adds value, and makes the content “more resourceful”, as well as more likely to generate those much wanted social signals. This applies to all social platforms, including Google+ and Twitter.

These are just a few of the trends we think should be influencing your SEO strategy in the future. If you’d like to know more, get in touch.

Penguin Image used under CC courtesy Cnystrom