SEO Trends for 2011 from Rand Fishkin, Will Critchlow, Chris Baggott

2011 SEO Trends Rand Fishkin, Will Critchlow and Chis Baggott

Enjoy and let us know what’s missing in the comments!

I had the privilege to be on a very interesting Webinar on December 13th about SEO Trends for 2011 featuring Rand Fishkin of SEOMoz, Will Critchlow of Distilled and Chris Baggott of Compendium. I’ve compiled the main trends they highlighted in the post below. If I missed anything important – feel free to let me know!

Trend #1: Increasing Focus and Resources on Local Search

Marissa Mayer (Google VP) has been moved from the Search team to the Local and Maps division and this probably indicates a much bigger focus on this area. They’ll be spending a lot of energy on local search. Right now the results are worse than what you’ll get from Yelp or CitySearch but expect that to improve.

Page-specific link popularity (which is a huge factor in web search) is a small factor in Google Places. Having keywords in certain parts of the listing name and title element are very strong for SEO in Places – e.g. if you’re running a barber shop in Indiannapolis – it’s very important to have that in title of your Places page. There’s also a very positive correlation between using keywords in listing name but Google changed terms around mass-listing and they might consider that spam.

If you over-optimize your listings it might work in the short term but you may get hurt in the longer term. As they fix some of the “broken” aspects of Places, they may see some of these activities as spam and penalize this.

Trend #2: No Canonicalization of Search Results – Everyone Will See a Different SERP

Due to local search, personalization (based on your location or history) and other factors, every person or search will increasingly get different Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). Rand called this the end of canonicalization of search results. This means that rankings provided by ranking tools are a little less relevant but there’s nothing better at this point to replace (or improve) them.

Trend #3: Social Media Impacts Search Results

One of the things learned in 2010 is that search engines are directly using Twitter and Facebook in their ranking algorithms. They do calculations on author authority (e.g. who tweets something carries different weight). It could include niche-specific author authority but this is not clear at this point. If tweets can positively impact search rankings a lot of SEO’s will go that direction.

Rand and Danny Sullivan did an experiment where they asked bloggers to Tweet about one link and others directly linked to another link from their blogs. The Tweeted link ranked within 24 hours (with about 400 people Tweeting about it). The other link got about 12 links from blogs and hasn’t ranked yet.

Look out for other social networks to provide potential signals for search engines such as LinkedIn, Stumble Upon, Quora, Namesake, Hunch, Stack Platform (Stack Overflow), Groupon or others.

Trend #4: Social Platforms Become Verticals for SEO

A related but separate piece of this is that clients are increasingly asking SEO consultants to optimize their listings within a particular social network – for instance, iPhone App store, Yelp, LinkedIn or YouTube. Expect this trend to continue. Good news for SEO’s who want to expand their portfolios.

Trend #5: Continued Importance of Search despite growing use of Social

People ask, if Social Media usage is growing like crazy that must mean that search is decreasing – right? According to a couple of different studies by Pew Research and Forrestor, people are increasing their Social Media usage but Search usage is still the number one way for people to find new things or the top activity that people do online. In the Forrestor research, search decreased from 81% to 64% (2010 vs. 2004) as the most common way to find out about new web sites but it was still the #1 way. Forums, Blog Posts, Twitter and Radio Ads all increased as ways people find web sites (Twitter and Blog Posts are clearly new categories). All-in-all, despite the shifting sands, search continues to be a very strong market.

Trend #6: Increasing Focus on Fighting Spam

The thought from the group was that the spam team at Google has been working on other things recently but that Matt Cutts and team are “bringing the gang back together and you better take notice”, like when Wyatt Earp when he went looking for the outlaw gang. One of these days we’re going to see one of two things happen:
1) John Wayne rides into town and cleans house on a lot of the spammers
2) We’ll see some anemic efforts and that will give spammers heart to keep going! Rooting for them to do a great job but spam has definitely gotten worse these last 18 months.

Advice: If you’re a marketer, now might be a time to shift from turn and burn sites and to move into more white hat. If you’re doing black hat or grey hat on your brand sites, that might not be worth the risk – you may want to cut your risk and drop the black hat tactics.

Trend #7: Blogs as Very Signifiant Customer Acquisition Tools

The keyword long tail is growing longer and longer. This is good in a way as long tail has higher conversion rate and less competition. To catch this long tail traffic, blog are ideally suited for this. And in fact, for one example blog, almost 80% of blog traffic coming from first time visitor – it’s much more of an acquisition tool than engagement tool! That is more the case than expected by some. Fo example, even established bloggers like Chris Brogan have 70% first time visitors. SEOMoz has 40% new visitors and that’s still a big number (and it’s probably lower than most).

The key point: Don’t assume your blog is just for engaging your known or current customers. It’s a huge tool for acquisition and it especially helps in the growing long-tail.

The three went through more detail about these topics and also went through some very interesting case studies and information about their companies and SEO tools or services. You can access the replay here and I encourage you to do that if you’re interested in the topics above or in learning more about the Compendium, seomoz or Distill services.

I hope this stimulated some thinking on your part – leave your thoughts or ideas in the comments!