As we near the end of the year, our team reflected on the changes seen in SEO, and put together the following recap of those with the biggest impact so far:
This year, the vastness of the Internet has reminded us that it still is, after all, a small world. Local search results and ad listings have risen in importance to searchers, thanks in large part to the development of smart phones and other platforms with fully-functional browsers and strong, accessible wireless connections. The major search engines have responded by launching tools and programs that explicitly promote local businesses and services: standouts include Google’s Places, Facebook Places, Localeze, Info USA, and Acxion. Less obvious but no less important has been a noticeable change in algorithms that favor local results and ads over others, based on a user’s IP address, language settings, and past history. Truly, 2010 was a big year for local, and as the Internet continues to become increasingly integrated into everyday life, it is almost a certainty that we will see this local trend continue in 2011.
“SEO is dead.” Google Instant makes SEO irrelevant. Google Instant makes SEO dead-on relevant. These are just some of the headlines that created a stir in the SEO community when Google Instant was launched on September 8, 2010. The new search enhancement tool shows results as you enter a query, allowing users to find the information they need much faster than ever before. Two months later the company launched Google Instant Previews, just another step on its never-ending quest towards instant search. This tool provides searchers with a snapshot of each website on the Google results page. Both Google Instant and Google Instant Previews will impact SEO but exactly how is still up for debate. We look forward to finding out more about the effects of these tools in the New Year.
YouTube isn’t exactly “traditional” in terms of search, but it is the second most used search engine behind Google. This is pretty convenient for Google, as they own YouTube. Video Search Engine Optimization continues to become more important as more users realize they can use YouTube as a source of useful and/or tutorial information. For some industries, it’s easier to rank well on the SERP with an online video strategy. Video SEO offers potential benefits for branding, and the competition for search results when compared to organic listings are typically much lower.
As well as some of our expectations for SEO in 2011:
Facebook Search Engine
The debate began earlier in 2010, but there are still players on both sides of the table taking sides – will Facebook roll out their own search engine that will take Google head on? Will it happen in 2011? Our prediction is that Facebook is going to continue to become a larger player and will continue to refine its integration with search in the coming year. Will it take over Google? Probably not in 2011 but it is something to keep a close eye on.
Google attempted to make search even faster and easier with the creation of Google Goggles. Instead of typing or speaking your search, you can simply take pictures of objects you’d like more information about. Currently, Google Goggles works well for landmarks, works of art, logos, contact information, products, barcodes and QR codes. Since text falls into this category, for example, if you are in another country and don’t know the language you can take a picture of an object and Google Goggles will translate the words or symbols for you. This cutting edge visual search application is currently only available for iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 devices through the Google Mobile App, as well as Android devices that are running Android 1.6 and above. This visual search app is bound to be a valuable resource once the final kinks are worked out.
Social and Search Becoming One
Location, Location, Location … and don’t forget location. Who doesn’t love a great local deal? Sure, Foursquare and Gowalla had their time in the spotlight in 2010, but localized marketing deals will go the way of Groupon and Facebook in 2011 (and of course, don’t forget about Living Social, which was recently funded by Amazon). Groupon will be the big winner in 2011, and we’re excited to see how the recently unveiled merchant store will stimulate their growth.
Location based technologies, such as Facebook Places and Google Hotpot (Google’s Yelp), will also be interesting to watch as marketers harness the power in local mobile apps. Facebook Places will expand in marketing usage and may overwhelm the smaller competitor Foursquare. On the other hand, Google Hotpot is Google’s best chance at entering the social arena right now as Google Places, Google Maps, and the Android allow Google to easily build a niche in the mobile phone consumer market.
In November 2010, the New York Times very publicly questioned Google’s search algorithm and results page after an Internet company used cyber bullying, negative customer reviews, and bad publicity to increase their search ranks. For the company, the negative marketing and SEO tactics seemed to work, but for Google, it was a blemish on their reputation.
In 2011, trust in search will expand to include a searcher’s social graph. A searcher’s social graph will more significantly influence purchasing decisions and will play a powerful part in both search engine and referral visitor traffic. What your friends like on Facebook and Twitter influence are already starting to have influence on search algorithms, but more importantly, the ability for search engines to show real-time referrals and recommendations from friends will help to reinforce trust in the search results.
What were some of your favorite changes in 2010? How do you think SEO will evolve in the coming year? We’d love to hear your thoughts!