In yesterday's post I used Google and Bing to find articles about predictions for SEO. Today I am going to summarize the findings.
I decided to try another search before moving ahead. This time I tried a simpler search, "seo 2013". There were, as you might expect, some results that were not predictions (like an SEO Conference). Another notable result was that Bing gave me 8 results this time - I'll speculate that the more specific the search query the more results you get from Bing. Bing also had much fewer results that were about predictions than Google did, interpreting my search as a more general topic than trending or predictions.
The overall results confirmed the data I already gathered for the original search. It did yield another good article though that both search engines indexed - it was the only article indexed by both in the top results for "seo 2013". The article is from Search Engine Journal and it does a fairly good job matching my summarized findings from the search results.
In general, five major concepts stood out as a common theme. I did combine and simplify concepts in order to keep things in general categories. I will explain my reasoning and categorization for each. There was very little difference between what the Google results had to say vs. what the Bing results had to say with one exception, the top mentioned concept:
#1 - Content
This is of course a very broad concept. I combined "fresh content", "content marketing", and "quality content" into this one category, and I suppose that is why it takes the lead. These concepts are slightly different, but to me they are really all the same as far as a search engine is concerned: what *value* are you bringing to the world? What are you all about? Search engines are looking to have valuable information in their results. That's the gist of any prediction about content. Content is king. Google results mentioned content 70% of the time for our original search while Bing results only mentioned it 25%. The rest of the results were very similarly accounted for.
#2 - Authorship
This is the very hot new topic and I won't by shy about mentioning that I predicted this over two years ago during the whole nymwars debate of 2011. A big part of authorship is validating a person online and holding them accountable over time for what they say and do. This is about personal reputation, or personal brand. Google wants to harness these real curators of the web - the bloggers, the trusted sources of information, the thought-leaders and the real, reputable people who advocate popular things. Authorship helps Google fight spam.
#3 - Algorithm Improvements
Any mention of a continuation of Panda updates, Penguin, algorithm changes or reductions of spam went into this category and I think it's fairly self-explanatory. In my anecdotal experience Google does a really great job trying to stay on top of the spam arms race which Bing sometimes seems to struggle with.
#4 - Co-Citation
Anything mentioning a weakening/devaluing of anchor text, contextual content, relevancy or co-citation was lumped into this category. Essentially, this is just a broadening of the *context and concept* of a link. Instead of just the text in the link, what about the context that link is within? What is the entire page about? And in terms of links, are two pages similar? Discussing similar topics? Do they mention each other without an actual clickable link? This broadening of examination of relevancy takes a lot of processing power, and it's Google's next step in the search for quality on the web.
#5 - Social Signals
This one was essentially tied with co-citation in terms of mentions, but since it's not as bold of a prediction I'll rank it fifth. It's fairly easy to realize how a popular social figure with a lot of followers could promote a website to a large audience creating traffic and more buzz around that site. This could have an indirect impact on SEO by spreading awareness and brand and creating more links to the site. But what about a direct influence? If you think authorship is important to search engines then it's not a big leap to understand that popular social players online would also make good signals to watch in terms of website advocacy and promotion.
Best of the Rest
Responsive design and local/personalized search were the next two biggest mentions, along with quite a few mentioning the increasing difficulty of SEO Analytics going forward (although it could be these guys are just trying to promote their SEO Analytics Toolsets, eh?). I grouped the Semantic Web, Microdata and Knowledge Graph Optimization all together as they are similar concepts, and these were mentioned almost as frequently as responsive design.
My predictions are mostly in line with these. The only one I would add to this list, which did not seem to be as mentioned very often, was customer response metrics. Perhaps it is because it is more difficult for a search engine to gain access to customer's response to the search results. Matt Cutts has outright said that a metric like bounce rate is not a search ranking signal. This has been debated before, but to me at some point search engines need to understand how customers respond to the content that they are being given in relation to the search they made. Along with authorship, I don't see another more powerful tool against spam that aligns perfectly with searcher interest. For me, this is something I predict will become a factor, if not in 2013, then soon after.