Two weeks from today marks the New Year (assuming the world doesn’t end on Friday). And while the Web has changed dramatically over the last half-decade, there remain a handful of constants that seem as if they will always, in 2013 and beyond, play an important role for Web professionals in developing an Internet strategy, regardless of the industry they operate in. One of those areas is search engine optimization.
However, just because SEO is still going to be necessary in 2013, that doesn’t mean it’s going to be the same old song-and-dance that Internet marketers are used to. This year saw the emergence of new trends into mainstream SEO practices (at least as “mainstream” as they can be) that will continue well into 2013 and beyond. Let’s take a look at seven of the most important SEO trends for the upcoming year.
It’s starting to feel as if mobile has been an “emerging trend” since the iPhone was released five years ago. But now that hundreds of millions of smartphone users are being added every year and there is increased diversification in the growing tablet market. Thus mobile search is no longer a novelty that only the most highly trafficked sites will have to optimize for. Blogs and websites must be prepared for mobile searches and mobile capabilities, as their owners will start to see more-and-more of their traffic coming from these devices; this can include practices like including mobile-specific Web formatting.
Google+ and Google Authorship
Look, there’s no use in skirting around the fact that Google is the undisputed leader in the search engine market, and as such, it has the ability to force the hands of Internet marketers to appeal to it to improve their overall SEO efforts. In 2013, expect that pandering to be done through Google+ and the Google Authorship program (where authors identify a page or post as their own work by linking it to their G+ accounts), both of which are likely going to become more important in the search engine’s rankings. What this means is that if you’re not on Google+, either as a brand or an individual (especially if you write a lot of content/blog posts), it’s time to seize the opportunity.
Title Tags and Headings
These pieces of data have always been one of the most basic and important aspects of SEO. What is different now is the information that Google (and probably other search engines) is going to look for when indexing title tags and headings on articles. In 2013, the focus will be on titles and article headings that specifically relate to content or keyword-based content. When applicable, publishers should always break up their content into different sections and have each one CLEARLY address a specific topic.
It seems a bit obvious to say that search engines are on the lookout for “quality content,” which can include traditional content like blog posts, but also links or site design. But what that really means in 2013 is that publishers are not going to get anywhere repurposing, reusing or aggressively distributing the same material over and over again. A large quantity of content is basically useless lengthy, detailed, specific and, perhaps most importantly, unique. It’s time for Web pros to put their creative hats on, because they’re going to have to produce a lot of new, quality content in 2013 if they want to stay competitive.
Tag management is the practice of adding metadata keywords assigned to a piece of information or content on the Web that describe the item and make it easier to find when users search for it. The next step for marketers will be to concentrate their efforts on managing multichannel tags, and thanks to a relatively recent expansion, there are several great tag management services out there that can help them do just that, including BrightTag, Tealium and TagMan.
The Human Touch
For some reason, Google has often been criticized for being too inhuman. Its one-size-fits-all algorithm was susceptible to black hat SEO tactics like keyword stuffing or low-quality content farms for far too long, but as the Web progresses and becomes more social, Google and other search engines are finally able to completely disregard those cheap techniques in favor of a more human element that will determine how websites and pages rank in their search results. Humanized rankings are going to be far more prevalent over the next year, incorporating more quality content and social media data to deliver results in real-time (or closer to it, at least). So, if you were relying heavily on taking advantage of Google’s impersonal algorithm, it’s time to devise a new strategy.
Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)
Conversion rates are no longer just important to your bottom line. There are plenty of websites out there that are well-optimized for certain niches in search engines, but don’t offer the kind of quality product or service needed to actually make a conversion, meaning some of the higher-ranking sites for these keywords are actually useless for searchers. By relying more on conversion rates than search traffic when ranking websites, search engines will be able to provide more quality (there’s that word again) products or services to interested users. If you need some help getting started with CRO, take a look at Website Magazine’s Master List of Conversion Optimization Software.
2013 is right around the corner, and that means now is a great time to re-orient your Web strategy, reconsider your SEO practices and make the next year the most successful yet for your Web business.