If we know anything about Search Engine Optimization and the digital marketing landscape is that it will change and the pace of that change is accelerating. 2010 brought key algorithmic and indexing revisions such as Google May Day and Caffeine. Social Media’s role has grown more prominent, especially in results pages, and Bing and Yahoo finally merged their search marketing offerings. Localization is now front and center in the race for relevancy within organic and Place results. Finally, Google launched Instant, which changed the speed and potentially the behavior of the searcher.
So what does this mean for 2011? Let’s take a look at 3 trends:
In the summer of 2010, Google began to utilize local business and company pages in their organic results, and later that Fall Google introduced Places as a replacement to their local business listings. This means that a searcher in Sacramento, California may get different page one results than a searcher in Hoboken, New Jersey, depending on the keyword.
In 2011, this type of refinement will continue through the further development of providing local results in addition to reviews and ratings in order to provide the most relevant and comprehensive information. In addition, Google’s concept of Contextual Discovery will marry localization with personalization in order to serve users with out searching. For instance, a user could walk into a restaurant and a menu would pop-up. Or, Google would acquire their location, conduct a search, and choose the best result for that user.
In 2010, personalization took a back seat to the battery of changes that Google implemented. However, Google has made it clear that it will look for opportunities to serve more relevant results based on user selection and preference. Although SearchWiki was retired, Google has implemented a results-starring system so that users can mark those results they feel are most relevant and useful. Behind the scenes, Google gathers data on click-through for popular websites and it is this information as well as those starred results that will continue to drive what websites rank in 2011 for individual users and overall.
As social networks and media continue on their meteoric rise, search engines have sought ways to utilize their voluminous data in order to tempt web users towards continuing to use search engines instead of visiting social sites to find information. Google and Bing developed partnerships to incorporate social data into their search results. In 2009 and 2010, Google surfaced this data in Social Search and Real-Time Search as well as through typical organic results, especially for hot topic or temporal keywords.
At the end of 2010, Google confirmed that links from social sites are indeed ranking signals, which previously was considered to not have any impact due to the use of no-follow tags on the links. This development confirms the importance of including SEO strategy into social community management and will continue to be important into 2011 for both social site optimization and link building.