2012 was a big year of change in SEO. Once again Google led the industry shake ups by changing their search algorithm and announcing long term changes that forced the SEO firms to change the way we do business going forward into 2013.
The SEO world was turned on its ear when Google’s Matt Cutts mentioned at SXSW in March 2012 that Google was working on an search over-optimization penalty. For months SEO professionals bickered and discussed the meaning of the comment and the consequences if enacted, but it quickly became evident that Google was serious in its attempt to make the GoogleBot smarter.
2012 saw many changes by Google intended to weed out low quality but highly optimized sites and help high quality sites achieve ranking success. The top six 2012 Google changes for SEO include:
- Link Building – In their effort to make Google search smarter, Google Penguin updates adjusted the spam filters to block links from low-quality networks resulting in high ranking pages tumbling off the first page of Google. Suddenly, SEO firms were left scrambling for ways to build more organic, relevant, quality links and rid themselves of harmful unnatural, paid links that had worked for high SERPs in the past.
- Exact-Match Domain – In September 2012, Google released an Exact-Match Domain Update (EMD) that hurt the rankings of websites with keywords in their domain. Even though this update was only to affect low quality EMDs, it appeared to have a much wider effect than intended, resulting in a large-scale devaluation of EMDs.
- Google Search Plus Your World – In January, Google went live with Search Plus Your World to give logged in Google users a more personalized search experience. Now the SERPs give priority to people connected to the user by placing their site higher on the search page.
- Google+ Local – Google Places, a staple of local SEO, was merged with Google+ to make Google+ Local. This update forces small businesses and users onto Google+ to increase traffic, audience, visibility and interaction on Google+.
- Google Authorship – Google took a major step in implementing its authorship plan by announcing a link between a Google+ profile and content produced by that person. This link builds a content producer’s authority on a subject, provides a valuable link to their content and customizes search results with the author’s profile picture.
- Social Signals – This year saw Social Signals integrated into search more heavily than ever before. How much weight social media interaction will ultimately be given in search algorithms remains to be seen but Google has continued to stress its importance.
As we start a new year, we look back on the changes Google brought to SEO in 2012 to develop our SEO strategy for 2013. Google has shown a priority on helping high quality sites, with natural links, fresh content and social interaction reach the top of the SERPs. All SEO professionals need to continue to move our clients in that direction to be successful.
Gary Remy leads Bizopia as CEO, helping Houston small businesses get found on the web through SEO, Web Design and Social Media Optimization. Stay in touch with Bizopia on Facebook, following on Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn or Pinterest.