10 SEO Trends You Can’t Ignore If You Want High Rankings

seo trends

The age of SEO being simple is over. Your responsibilities have been massively upgraded by a flood of new SEO trends. So, how do you keep up?

I thought I’d give you what I see as the ten most important changes you should not ignore if you want high rankings, hopefully allowing you to keep up with this fast-paced SEO world.

Panda/Farmer/Scraper

Google makes a lot of changes to its algorithm, but most people don’t notice the changes. However, you probably almost immediately noticed changes when Google rolled out its Panda/Farmer/Scraper update.

In fact, Google said that the change actually would impact about 12% of search results in the U.S. It negatively impacted low-quality pages and content farm sites and awarded those sites that provided high-quality content.

For example, Mahalo.com ranked for 33,875 keywords before the update. It plunged to just 9,740 keywords after. That’s a decrease of more than 70%. It’s important to see that the keywords were like these: Zealand air, digg or tax check. Before the update, Mahalo.com ranked in the top ten SERs for those keywords. They fell out of the top 100 results.

The Scraper update, which came a little later in the year, targeted scraper sites. Matt Cutts said, “We’re evaluating multiple changes that should help drive spam levels even lower, including one change that primarily affects sites that copy others’ content and sites with low levels of original content.”

This update was more targeted with a little bit over 2% of query changes in some way, but only half a percent of search results would change, so people probably wouldn’t notice. The change is meant to show searchers the original content rather than the scraped or copied content.

Google’s new search index: Caffeine

Caffeine is an SEO change that Google said would provide the largest collection of web content they’ve ever offered, allowing 50 percent fresher results for web searches.

This was not an algorithm change, but a rebuild on the way they index. Here’s the image they used to illustrate it:

google caffeine

It’s really about going from their old index to their new one. Their old index had several layers. Some layers were refreshed at a faster rate than others. The main layer would update every couple of weeks, but older layers of the old index involved Google having to analyze the entire web, leading to a significant delay between when a page was discovered and when it was made available to searchers.

Caffeine now allows Google to analyze the web in small batches and update on a regular basis, so a new page can be added straight to the index sooner. Searchers are then finding fresher information faster than before.

Unexpected SERP changes

The interesting change that Caffeine introduced was a wider range of content shown on Google SERPs. Before Caffeine, you had the standard 10 blue links, looking like this:

before caffeine

After Caffeine, you now have this:

after caffeine

What’s interesting is that you can change your search focus in any number of ways. For instance, change your location, and you’ll get a different set of searches. And what you also don’t see are the results that would show up from people in my social media circle.

In fact, Google has tested this social aspect in many ways, including avatars of your friends appearing below the pages they recommended. These changes are making it harder and harder to game SEO strictly with optimized content since results are being based on a user’s action and his or her social circle – things that are out of your control.

Mayday

The Mayday update of Google, which occurred back in 2010, wasn’t a ranking change, but a crawling or indexing change. This update probably means that sites getting less traffic are still indexed, but some of those pages might not rank as high as before. In an interview, Google’s Matt Cutts said that this change is going after long tail traffic.

This change positively impacted very large sites, particularly e-commerce sites, which have item pages that don’t have a lot of links going to them, are several clicks away from the home page and may not have a lot of valuable content on them.

These product pages don’t get a lot of external links, and the content is usually pulled from a database, so this change is helping these pages rank well for these long tail queries.

Google Instant

This change, implemented back in September 2010, allows users to see relevant search results as they type. If you see the search you are looking for, you can quickly click it. The user benefit of Google Instant is saved time. In fact, Google tested and discovered that the average user saves two to five seconds per search.

How does this affect SEO? It seems searchers will probably give more value to the top five rankings, those which are seen by the searcher, as the results instantly change. But long tail search is more important as people will continue to type until they see what they want.

The latest data comes from HitWise. It shows that search queries five to eight words long went down 2%, while one-word queries actually went up.

hitwise data

My own experience is that I tend to discover pages that I wouldn’t normally discover because as I watch the Google suggestions change, I may see something I wasn’t expecting and click through. What’s your experience been like?

Site speed as a ranking signal

Another change made by Google was geared toward their evaluation of a site’s speed. When searchers are able to conduct more searches because of speed, they tend to be happier. Google did some experiments showing that slowing down the search results page just by 400 milliseconds actually decreased the number of searches by 0.2% to 0.6%.

While site speed is a new signal, it doesn’t carry as much weight as the relevance of a page, but the cost of slower performance increases over time and persists…that’s why it pays to minimize site load. You have to ask yourself if that new feature you want added to your site is going to be worth having the slower page load.

You can use the Page Speed tool to test your site’s load speed so you can then make changes based on best practices.

Here’s my Quick Sprout blog in Page Speed.

google page speed

This took about five seconds to process. Notice in the red vertical rectangle all of my recommendations from high priority to experimental. The top horizontal rectangle also recommends changes based upon a mobile report. And if you click the link in the bottom horizontal rectangle, you get this page:

google page speed report

Looks like I got my work cut out for me!

You can also go to the Site Performance page inside Webmaster Tools to measure the speed of your site. It evaluates the speed based on how people experience it around the world, the trend over the last few months and some suggestions on how to make the pages load faster.

Bing Gaining on Google

Just because Google takes up 67% of all searches doesn’t mean you should ignore Bing, especially since search that is powered by Bing has actually risen.

comscore data

But often these changes don’t reflect what is going on your site, so it’s important to keep an eye on these developments while working hard to optimize your site based on your results.

For instance, one site I know gets 93% of its search engine traffic from Google, and according to Google Analytics, Yahoo traffic accounts for about 7.1%, Bing for 5.7% and MSN for 4.7 %. That hasn’t really changed despite the increase of market share by Bing.

Yahoo/Bing merger

The merger was completed awhile ago, and SEO, at least in my book, is still the same for both Bing and Google. I create original content with targeted, relevant keywords, which both search engines love.

It does seem that Bing puts a high value on external links as Google does, but I noticed that it’s important to make sure you don’t have crawl errors in your code errors that might prevent Bing from indexing your site.

It’s also been reported that when it comes to Bing, your domain name should have keywords in it. In addition, title tags with appropriate keywords, content with keyword density and internal links that are optimized are equally important.

Socialization of search

I’ve talked about how social media will affect your SEO before, but it seems that as Google continues to make changes based on users’ actions and their social circles, your social network reach and the sharing you do in those networks will have a huge impact on your search traffic.

Don’t believe me? Almost 132 SEO and social media experts predicted that social signals at the page level and domain level would have a greater impact on search engine rankings than traditional SEO factors. Here’s the SEOmoz chart:

seomoz ranking factors

But it’s more than just having links shared on Twitter or Facebook; it’s becoming evident that a huge social reach will be key to competitive SEO work. In other words, if you are an SEO, you should be paying more attention to social media and to the ways in which to grow your social media circles for yourself and your clients.

The importance of brand link

It seems that search volume is starting to have an impact on brand links. What are brand links? They are links for companies such as Nike or Apple. Do a generic search for “tablets,” and you will see this:

search brand links

If you have a high search volume for your brand, then you will likely appear in that red box. Google said that they were trying to help users who were not familiar with a brand to become aware of that brand. They wanted users to be able to find popular brands.

Can you optimize your site for brand links? It’s really hard to tell at this stage of the game, but some have suggested that Google is perhaps taking notice of the head terms that are being associated with a brand. For example, if Google sees that “tablet” and “Kindle Fire” are keywords with heavy search volume, then the brand link may be influenced.

This may not be the only factor influencing brand links. Mentions in the news could be having the same impact. If your brand is getting a lot of social mentions, then you could end up in the brand link spot.

Conclusion

In the last year alone, there have been huge changes to the SEO landscape. It’s really hard to keep up, but hopefully I’ve given you some ideas about what you should pay attention to.

By the way, these ten trends aren’t in the order of importance, but you could start at the top and just work your way through these trends to get a measure of where your site is at. Then with those results, you could determine your highest priorities.

What SEO trends did I miss in the last year that you think are very important?

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Comments

  1. I am completely agree with your full article and Now I am focusing on my site speed because I think it will have more importance. One more thing you missed is authorship … Thanks for this article.

  2. One more thing I want to add is that, Bounce rate, Pageviews per visit and Average time spent will also have great impact on SERPs. Thats what I think. :)

  3. Great article,good points to improve SEO,I will implement in my site.

  4. Lately it seems to me that the key to seo is to not do any seo. It’s like the cute girl in highschool who only wanted to date guys who were jerks.

    Not saying you shouldn’t try, just gotta have game!

    • That is funny, interesting way of looking at it.

      You definitely should have “game,” or more so a game plan. However the difference is you should be trying, very hard.

  5. I’m really enjoying the changes Google made with their Freshness update, which is encouraging companies to focus on creating fresh content — as a business owner who publishes a marketing blog a couple of times a week, it’s really helping my organic traffic, though it probably really hurts companies who have an online brochure site or update their site infrequently.

    I wonder how long it will be before the browsing data for GooglePlus members become Google’s favored ranking criteria…

    • I agree, it is great for those of us who are frequently updating.

      Interesting thought, I am sure google will continue changing and updating. In time we will see what they come up with.

  6. I across nearly 100 sites I work with, have yet to have a webpage where Bing/Yahoo make up more than 15% of the organic search traffic. This is true of even for sites where my rankings are significantly better in Bing. Are there certain niches/countries that are just totally dominated?

    I just don’t see how Google could possibly have less than 80 or 85% of the market share right now.

  7. Many good points mentioned.

    As Google’s algorithm becomes more sophisticated, I’ve seen a trend in more traditional marketing techniques applied to digital marketing strategies such as branding and offline marketing activities to supplement the digital.

  8. I have noticed that the Google changes have worked for the most part. The searches are more relevant and the content seems to be better. I like that they are rewarding content and not spam. That is how it should be.

  9. Excellent Tips with good infographics which easily makes things clear to understand.
    nowadays, i heard regularly that their website/blog traffic was down…things are changing day by day. lots of competition out here to stay on TOP. someone with unique content also get punished and put them back, as they are missing from above points. Each owner/SEO should must follow that SEO is not a process of single step, it requires lots of things to be considered. And with time and updates they should also change their tactics as well.

    Neil, Thanks for the great points to share.

  10. Theres no question the SEO world is changing and its getting harder. My only advice is to continue to produce quality content and you will be ok.

  11. Very informative blog post on SEO. Every SEO professional need understand the latest trends going on with google. The other thing I noticed you did not mention about “canonical tag” in this blog post.

  12. Thanks for the great read Neil. I always enjoy your insights and predictions.

  13. Glad Duncan mentioned the “Freshness” update it is something I was going to point out along with unique useful content with blog marketing.

    Another big trend is localization. If you search a keyword without a geo tag Google and Bing are showing localized results.

  14. Great Info.

    Does anyone know if single page websites rank well? Even if they are long and loaded with quality content?

    Thanks.

  15. I really enjoyed this article and I strongly believe that the few things I’ve learnt from it will help improve my SEO. Thanks Neil for the great content.

  16. Scholarship Grants Online :

    Building an engaging community in Google+, Google Business and YouTube has also a great impact on SEO and searches in the year 2012 and beyond.

  17. SEO is changing and just like everything else around us. SEOs, Business owners, website owners, and everyone else, we need to adapt to these changes. What worked yesterday, doesn’t necessarily mean it will work in the future. Keeping on top of these trends is what you pay your SEO for, to ensure that your website doesn’t get left in the dark ages.
    I think the most important one from the list is the social factor, something that cant afford to be ignored. Its benefits are not just SEO, but overall brand awareness and building a stronger relationship with your audience and customers.

  18. Information is key, and you provide good information. Thanks Neil and to all who provide their comments.

  19. Such great and detailed information!

  20. Most of these tips we heard about. I guess the site speed one is helpful.

  21. Must need to keep pace with the latest trend online in order not to be left behind. Are you still sleeping Neil, you do a lot of research, and works..I sleep very little since I started this thing online, how much more with you. Great idea, great mind and great works, Neil. Many thanks.

  22. 2 huge issues brought up by these trends…

    1) How soon will the SEO field morph into a “Web Optimization” field, where search engines are only one piece to consider, ie, making websites searchable, shareable, convertable, etc, etc

    Matt Cutts already says that SEO will be more like ‘Resume polishing’ in 5 years… http://bit.ly/s5wKuF

    2) How will these trends affect small, in-town businesses. You know, the ones who used to rely on the Yellow Pages. Now they may have a static website…*maybe* the basic, basic SEO package, but no new content or link building.

    I mean if Bubba’s Landscaping wants to reach local customers is his only hope navigating Google Places? And will the rewards go solely to the 1 business who invests enough to make it into Google Instant?

    • Yes, I think number 1 will be more like what Matt said.

      As for number 2, that is the whole purpose of making search more local. This way small businesses can compete.

  23. Hi Neil,
    Off late i have seen after the bing yahoo merger my backlinks are not getting indexed. Also there has been a drop in my backlink count. Do you have any suggestions

  24. I think now you are focusing more on “seo” , i have already read about many post regarding seo in your blog and all are informative. I really want to concentrate on Panda now, because it is now more active.

  25. Really enjoyed this. Lots to learn and keep up to speed on. Thanks for writing (and sharing on Facebook).

  26. Nice Neil,

    From my point of view you have a big box of ideas for bloggers and SEO’s which you had approved already. We all know very well now we need to do lot of things for get good PR in search engine after Google Panda updated.

    You mentioned very well for all SEO what and why we should do these all things for our work.

  27. as always a nice post with great insights on new trends in SEO. Thanks for sharing.

  28. Caffeine is an interesting concept and a step in the right direction for the end user. The thing that makes me think Yahoo/Bing are behind the times is how it’s recommended to have the keywords in your actual domain name. Keywords are one thing, name branding is another, but you should be able to get results with both if your site is relevant.

  29. This is really a revolution. Now the SEO gurus will have to make new formulas and find a new way to keep business alive. I think I have a lot of work to do to keep my site visible.

  30. Great read! I have seen others comment on here regarding locality as a ranking factor. There was an article written about 18 months ago titled “The Yelpification of Google” that talked about how local SEO would be taking over the SERP’s and for the most part it has on most queries.

    Cheers

  31. Hi Neil,

    Very well summation of all latest trends and recent updated which are impacting SEO, along with what you said I would like to stress more on tuning your site architecture and working more on your site on-page SEO elements along with usability. Most of the above points what you mentioned are like external factors which are not in control of a website owner except site loading speed etc.

    It’s always preferable to have to work on making your website considering a usability first. With the advent of Google instant and social merger it’s more important to work on unique and creative elements instead of only looking for external influential factors. If a online user really liked your site, he/she will act as a catalyst which in turn make you as Authority Brand which Google consider a lot these days :-)

    Thanks for your valuable and insightful blog article as always…keep sharing.

  32. You have to focus on quality content if you really want to rank high on search engines. Use ethical seo techniques only then you could succeed, Google is really working hard to demote low quality and spamming sites.

  33. I went to a small meeting of some ‘old school’ SEO’s not too long ago, and asked how they felt Social Media would affect search in the future. They very briefly responded saying its just not that important and would take up too much of their time vs. traditional link building.

    Made me smile inside knowing we’ll have a serious leg up on them…

  34. it is really hard to keep abreast with all the changes in seo but the points mentioned in this post definitely cover up the latest seo trends.

  35. I am new to SEO am this all Greek to me :) back to the start again, really need to get it!!

  36. Thanks for sharing Neil and I really love the Caffeine update.

  37. Thanks. I am reviewing your product.

  38. Hi Neil,

    This is a great post detailing some SEO stuff. I really understand the way you analyse it. Thanks for sharing.

  39. Web Design India :

    Google Panda, No one can underestimate it now. It has made huge changes in SERP of many big sites and we need to careful about this Panda in coming years too.

  40. Hey Neil,

    i do agree with you all above points but little bit confuse about long tail keywords which will not generate traffic. One reason is Google instant which helps or will not help but in e commerce industry i think this is still helpful… what do you think???

  41. I have definitely noticed them pushing there other verticals into web results. for example if you search a “product” keyword you will get there shopping vertical or if you search for a service you could get local listings from maps.

  42. Thanks a lot Neil. Every morning i open my laptop i use to check my mails with a hope if a good RSS source will help me out to gain something new about SEO or Social media. The day i get RSS feed with your new post is the best day for me. I am really impressed by quick sprout, unique kissmatrices service and Crazyegg Company.

  43. If content is King, then anchor linking is Queen.

    Great content will only get you so far — getting anchor links on other high quality sites is just as important.

  44. You have pointed out all the points with measure updates in last one. Specially Panda and caffeine has brought lots of change the way result in SERP being displayed and the way we can achieve ranking.

  45. Neil, you have shared the useful information by google in SEO that took place in 2011, will there be any problem if our site have many nofollow backlinks.

  46. Awesome post Neil,
    I was wondering if your infographics has any effect on your blog’s visibility in the current Google environments?

  47. The Google update on SERP force us to do SEO more cleverly if we want stay make money online. Thanks for the article.

  48. Awesome!!! I’m a beginner in SEO. This article is full of valuable tips. I really like the style in you described. Please, keep posting. Thanks

  49. I think there’s something that may be important but have so far not seen anyone talking about it: google suggest.

    With it google created kind of a circle: it recommends something because people search for it, but at the same time people search more for it because it is suggested. It’s like strong keywords with good amount of searchers will keep getting stronger.

    It’s my perception as a user, that most of the time I end up searching for one of the suggestions.

    But I don’t know if it’s just me, and it’s not a trend with the other users.

  50. Delias Coupons :

    What I’ve experienced is that the indexing rate for new blogs is miserably low. I have an authority at which the content gets indexed in a few seconds after I hit publish where as for my new blogs its been 2 weeks and not even all of the 10 pages are indexed.

    This is something the big G really needs to work on…

    :/

  51. Now Google Instant helps to target most search able keywords and definitely help you to convert in your business..

  52. After the Panda update I think many people had to redefine their seo strategy. I think it has caused people to moved more toward social, while that can help I don’t think it is the complete solution.

  53. Google has so many great tools to increase site speed and keyword analysis. One of my favorite programs is Market Samurai. It has really improved my SEO and niche sites as well as income streams.

  54. Thanks for this really insightful article. I would be interested to know your opinion on keeping your product data fresh on an ecommerce site do you think that by regularly updating the product pages that this will have an impact on how google ranks them in the google shopping page? I have been trying to fathom this out and its a little difficult if your products do not change that much but I am beginning to think this definately has an impact the search results in this area and would be interested to hear your opinion.

    thanks

    tracy

  55. Very informative post as well as your other articles. I just had you bookmarked. Thanks and keep on writing great articles =)

  56. Google panda and caffeine update really affected a lot,so the users need to follow the google guidelines to maintain the site to have good rankings

  57. Wow its took me sometime to read all post and comments. Really well done Neil. Very useful information that why i got find your link one of top UK seo companies website : )

  58. Really nice article! What about keyword influence on the domain and the importance of domain extension.. ;)…

  59. The Panda Farmer update did hurt a lot of people, But I know a few that it really helped out. SEO can be tricky, sometimes you should just hire someone to help if you don’t know what you are doing.

  60. The Panda Farmer update is very cleaver that catch the duplicate contents.This update of the Google is more appropriable. Thanks for sharing this great blog with us.

  61. I’ve got better rankings for some keywords on Bing but my traffic from them hasn’t risen or ever been high from Bing. Wierd!

    Google’s just keeps on growing.

    Brand links seem unfair really. The big companies get more exposure in Google SERPS isn’t a fair playing field.

    Another good post dude

  62. Hi Neil – minor language thing (just because my sense is that you are a perfectionist):

    That sentence toward the end
    “Just because Google takes up 67% of all searches doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ignore Bing…”
    actually is a double negation and in fact you are recommending to ignore Bing – which obviously you don’t mean.

    You are welcome to delete this comment as well. Just wanted to point it out to you.

    Thanks for the great article!

  63. Wouldn’t know but a lot are saying Panda is a looming manifestation to the dark side to Google. Like the Disney scandals in the 90’s that undermined them as a family-themed institution, will these affect the way people do searches? A great article Neil, thanks.

  64. Well, do it really help to increase the speed if we use local server and/or local gateway ? Please advise me, thanks

  65. Neil,

    Can you please tell, Which hosting service you are using for your website.

  66. Thanks for the valuable insights into impacts of the various updates done by google to their search engine algorithms and other aspects.
    Personally I believe the cafein update that you described in the beginning of the article is going to bring a huge difference to how search works and how people go to a certain link provided in the search result. It is gradually becoming more biased towards media heavy sites, rather than following the concept of ‘Content is King’ int he true sense of a text heavy site.

  67. After reading this, I realize that I have many things to do for my blogs and websites. So, speed of the website is now considered one of the signals in ranking webpages in SERP. I tested the speed of one of my blog and it has a grade of 80/100. Still bad huh?

    But I think, the Google update that affected much of my blogs is the Panda. The traffic of most of my blogs dropped by 70 percent after the Panda was rolled out.

  68. Hi Neil,

    You cannot imagine how much money I have been spend to learn how to ranking my image… I never find one with so much good content like your post…

    Thanks good job:) I will back to learn more!

  69. WOW SO many interesting information to share with all of us, i will try to keep up to date in any new about algorithm that google have and work harder to fix a lot of problems that wont help me to get a good ranking

  70. Honestly, I do not quite understand about SEO. But after reading this in-depth analysis on SEO, especially related to Google, I start to understand. Thank you for this useful article.

  71. My site was suffering badly with speed in Google search results. This has now been fixed and rankings are improving.

  72. Post panda and penguin am giving more importance to Site Speed and diversified anchor texts. And it works.

  73. One of my sites has been penalized for a low site speed, and all that I got from installing one buggy wordpress plugin..

    When installing new plugins, be sure to check the site loading speed to avoid issues like this!

  74. hey neil,
    i found these 10 seo trends actually important. it’s just because of you. well done.

    Thank you.

    Matt

  75. I was pretty pleased to discover this great site. I need to to thank you for your time just for this wonderful read!! I definitely really liked every part of it and i also have you book-marked to look at new things in your site.

  76. Heya exceptional blog! Does running a blog similar to this take a great deal of work?
    I have absolutely no expertise in programming but I was hoping to
    start my own blog in the near future. Anyway, if you have any recommendations or
    techniques for new blog owners please share. I understand this
    is off topic but I just wanted to ask. Thank you!

  77. SEO is just a hard task to achieve what you are aiming to achieve. It will take time to be on the top and left your competitors behind.

  78. If your bounce rate is high this means that your website isn’t offering anything useful and Google takes that into account.

  79. Im beginner about of SEO Trends. Those information has meaningfull for me. Thanks Neil !

  80. Hey! Would you mind qualification I disclose your blog with my zynga group? There’s a lot of people that I reflect would especially have your gratify. Please allow me know. Cheers

  81. Great blog!

    The main thing is for people just starting out, they just get the hang of it and then bang! google brings out another update and people get frustrated and some give up.

    It’s a tough game to be in and have to keep going dtrong!

  82. Informative article, I like it.

  83. Your style is very unique compared to other folks I’ve read
    stuff from. Thank you for posting when you’ve got the opportunity,
    Guess I will just bookmark this blog.

  84. Hi, I want to subscribe for this blog to obtain latest updates, thus where can i do it please assist.

  85. Funny how this post still rings true years later…

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