SEO 2012 – What The Future Holds for Social and Search Optimization

by mjtaylor on January 2, 2012

SEO Predictions For 2011 Reviewed

Before I share my prediction for SEO trends in 2012, it seems reasonable to review my Top 5 SEO Predictions for 2011 – a thread I wrote for v7N – and see if I made the mark for the past year.

1. Mobile Search SEO will become as important as standard web site search optimization. If the prediction of CNN/Fortune’s Seth Weintraub is correct — that ½ billion smartphones will be sold this coming year –  smartphones will surpass computers as a way to access the Internet in 2011.

Smartphones have apparently not yet surpassed PCs as the preferred way to access the Internet, but the trend continues in that direction and the use of mobile for social networking strengthens that momentum. Mobile access is predicted to outpace desktop access by 2014:

2. Social Networking to Explode. Since Google and Bing confirmed that Twitter and Facebook have an impact on rankings, social media activity is set to increase exponentially.
Not only did the use of social media grow, but social networking held the International stage  as a central player in the Arab Spring.  Google also made a creditable entry (at last) into the social market with Google+. The introduction of Business Pages on Google+ added SEO value to the mix.
3. Google Places and Reviews will continue to grow in importance. Google Places will continue to find their way into SERPs and savvy webmasters and SEOs will go beyond optimizing their Google Places for client sites; the search-smartest of webmasters will have their site marked up with rdfa “rich snippets” to make sure Google displays reviews in the SERPs where applicable.
In July, 2011, the landscape of Google Places changed significantly when the search giant stopped publishing 3rd party reviews. At the same time, reviews took a more prominent position – with a second button inviting visitors to create a Review.
4. Duplicate Content - this year’s Mayday algorithm update and the roll out of Caffeine – an update to Google’s infrastructure to make it more flexible – set the stage for more frequent updates to the algorithm. Google will continue to take aim on less valuable content. Expect more intense duplicate content filtering, and expect “self service” links to decrease in value. Focus on unique content of true value.

5. Content & Link Bait to Continue to Reign. Google will continue to get smarter and discern between legitimate link popularity and the sort that is faked by link wheels, 3 way linking and article spinning, to name a few. The ability to create and publish content (King) that attracts links (Queen) will grow in importance. Unsolicited links to fresh, unique content will continue to be the Royal Flush.
The Panda updates certainly took aim at what Google called “content farms” and late in the year Freshness got a boost in the algorithm. Content Rules.

My score: four out five isn’t too bad.

SEO Trends for 2012

SEO 2012
So what’s on the SEO Plate as 2012 unfolds?

      1. Google+ - which reached a top ten market share position in social networks in November just months after its introduction – will continue to play an increasing role in Social SEO.  The search giant’s social platform seems to have combined the best features of Twitter and Facebook and in some cases gone one better.Some Google+ innovations, such as privacy controls at the time of posting, were quickly adopted by Facebook. True social networking remains the province of Facebook, but professionals – especially in the technology fields and many of the arts, such as photography will continue to find Google+ a more robust alternative to Twitter.The introduction of Google+ “brand”  pages coincided with the new platform’s entrance into the top ten of social sites; some SEOs believe that Google+ will continue to grow – if only slightly – as long as site owners find  SEO and traffic value from  those pages. Vanity URLs (expec ted this year) should support the trend.  Brand pages have also found their way onto Google Results – a “controversial occupation” of search geography.Google+ shares will continue to be part of Google’s track toward personalized search. If you are logged in, you are more and more likely to see links and comments from your network contacts.
      2. Away From Keywords – toward traffic and conversion. When Google Analytics dropped the keyword referral data from view; it underscored an increasing trend away from tracking “ranking” for query strings. Clients still want it, but personalized search makes it an increasing less important metric. Traffic and conversion becomes more important.
      3. Quality Content Continues to Reign  -  The Freshness Factor and Panda’s assault on poor content sites means webmasters must continue to update their sites to reflect the latest trends and news in their industry.
      4. Bing will continue to grow in importance. Google lost 5% of its market share to MSN’s revamped search engine this year – and MSN’s ties with Yahoo and Facebook will continue to make the Bing presence larger in desktop search. Google’s increasing mobile presence (more than half of smartphones sold in 2011 were Androids) may mitigate some of that growth, though.
      5. Move over Rich Snippets:Rich Snippets will share the Semantic Web Stage with Schema, a Microdata markup for web pages that is recognized by Google, Bing and Yahoo.  Google continues to support Rich Snippets, but the trend is toward the more standardized Schema.
        • SeoMoz post on Schema with examples and discussion of mixing the languages and vocabulary of the diverse types of markup available:
      6. Anchor text decreases in value?  More than one SEO observed recently  that the anchor text of new links  seemed to immediately push down the rankings for the same query strings. Certainly it makes sense that Google, which has trouble identifying paid links and similar link spam, would see devaluing the anchor text as an easy way to undermine attempts to directly manipulate SERPs.  And it goes hand in hand with the this past year’s devaluation of keyword rich domain names.
      7. Speech Recognition.  This 7th prediction is not mine, but one I found here:

        Speech recognition – Siri, the speech recognition ”assistant” on the latest iPhone, makes people talk with their phones and it’s extremely popular already. In 2012 we will see Apple’s competitors come up with similar tools so that we don’t need to talk to people or type in search queries anymore. Is this the end of SEO as some journalists assume (just like some suggest after every other major change in the search industry)?

        No, it just means different kinds of queries, maybe more colloquial or clumsy ones. Maybe more dialogue with your search engine, for example ”I want something to eat”. I can’t imagine people just saying one, two or three word queries in public without looking silly. So they will talk as they do with other people.

How do you see the trends in SEO for 2012? Do you agree or disagree with any of mine? Have any to offer of your own?


Jon Case January 2, 2012 at 8:20 pm

It’s always fun to predict and you seem to be pretty good at it. I too predict “all things Google” will become more-so and stronger. I’ll add that Yahoo and AOL search will continue to slide. Could Yahoo be gobbled up this year by someone aiming to eliminate it, or is it already too weak for the gobblers to worry about?

mjtaylor January 3, 2012 at 1:15 pm

Thanks, Jon! From you that is quite the compliment. Interesting question about Yahoo, but I would say, yes, it will continue to slide and doesn’t need to be acquired to be destroyed.

S. Emerson January 2, 2012 at 10:37 pm

Quality content will always be important. How else are you going to earn those organic backlinks from other’s sites and all the social marketing you do? You might get traffic from all your link building tactics but will you get that traffic to convert (if that is what you want them to do) or create a true following of supporters?

Little confused by this statement:

Google continues to support Rich Snippets, but the trend is toward the more standardized Schema.

They just did a bunch of Rich snippet videos on GoogleWebmasterHelp’s Youtube channel.

Thinking Google Plus has a way to go to become main stream like the other social networking places. Haven’t seem any non web people in my circles yet.

Heck, yesterday at the Safeway the young cashier I had isn’t even on Twitter which just goes to prove every social network facility has it’s niche users.

mjtaylor January 3, 2012 at 1:48 pm

Thanks for taking the time to stop by, and to leave a thought provoking and informative comment.

Sorry about the confusing statement: I really should have said, toward schema microdata mark up for rich snippets and away from “existing microformats or RDFa” mark up.

I agree with you about Google+ … I do have some non-tech friends on it, but they jumped on when it was introduced. I think the only true mainstream social site is Facebook.

Wes January 4, 2012 at 12:32 am

Hey MJ,
Those are some pretty great predictions!

I see a continued importance to focus on Mobile SEO, Schema Markup, Social Media, Quality Content and Branding (personal or otherwise).

mjtaylor January 4, 2012 at 1:52 pm

I do appreciate you coming by, Wes! Glad we are on the same page.

Umair Abid January 19, 2012 at 8:31 pm

Personalized searches will be a serious set back in SEO and i guess it is shaking the SEO from its roots. Google did take some steps to separate the personalized and unpersonalized searches but those changes disappeared. I guess now the success of SEO will be lying in being more social and networking rather.

mjtaylor January 19, 2012 at 8:40 pm

I think content does matter more than ever; you need something that someone wants to mention, and social networking is a way to let people know about your content. But I’m not sure I think personalization, which has been around a couple of years or so now, has really changed the game much. I’d be interested to know why you think so.

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