Only 4 days into the New Year and predictions are flying around the internet about how 2013 will be the year that Mobile, HTML5, Social, and QR Codes finally make it big. Although I'd love to add my own 2 cents in on each of those topics I would prefer to stay a little more grounded right now and talk about how search engine optimization techniques (SEO) already changed in 2012 while you weren't watching.
If you are interested in surviving through this year then the SEO changes from 2012 will shape everything you do on your website in 2013.
Before I can tell you how it's changed, I want to quickly refresh your memory about SEO in general. There are 2 types of SEO that you need to know about: On-Page and Off-Page.
On-Page SEO refers to anything you do to your website that will attract customers and make them happy to spend money with you. Off-Page SEO refers to anything you do on other websites that helps bring people to your website, for example, sharing your latest blog post on Facebook.
On-Page SEO is tedious and very time consuming. The labor costs for on-page SEO is very high, especially if you read through and tried to implement all of the SEO techniques I've mentioned in my library of Nuggets. The payoff of those labor costs won't be realized for months. If you're just starting out it might take up to 2 years for you to learn the delicate balance between attracting visitors via SEO and then converting them into customers.
Until 2012, Off-Page SEO was a faster way to profitability. You could hire a cheap SEO company to flood the internet with information about your product or service and create thousands of links back to your website through automated means. With off-page SEO it was a numbers game, and many people learned very well how to game Google, that is, until Google finally figured out how to fold their hand and walk away from the game table. In March of 2012 Google closed the door on many off-page SEO game players and forced everyone to rethink on-page SEO.
Naturally we still have online paid/banner advertising, but those costs are on the rise too, which in turn have forced many businesses to rethink their short term ad budgets and how they compare to the profitable returns from a long term on-page SEO budget.
As I said, on-page SEO is tedious and time consuming, and that's because you need to continually create new content for your website then tell the world about that new content. "Creating content" could be a new blog post, or a new photo gallery of custom jewelry, or it could be engagement news about one of your customers. According to HubSpot.com "companies who create, optimize and promote their blogs get 55% more traffic and 70% more leads than those who don't."
No matter what the content, once you've got it on your site you need to share it out to the world. This means setting up those social share buttons on your website. At the time of this writing the popular buttons that see daily include LinkedIn, Tumblr, Pinterest, Google Currents, Google+, Twitter, Facebook, and Stumble Upon. It's through those buttons that your visitors will share what they like to their friends, and maybe those friends will visit your website too.
The key word in that last sentence was "maybe;" and maybe one of those friends has a blog and maybe they will write something about your website. This is still a numbers game, but now the numbers are a lot smaller. Google once gave little visibility to websites with small linked numbers, they referred to them as PageRank 0 or 1, but now it seems that Google appreciates these smaller numbers because they prove true organic quality.
Authority status is another game changer that I noticed in 2012. Following Google's directions to prove your identity will lead to increased visibility of all your blog posts in search results. In order for this to work you first need a blog, and second need to be willing to put your name on your blog.
The digital world has become a race for people to create new content and share new experiences. We are inundated daily by photos, videos, and stories that people create then share. In order to sell something online you need to learn exactly what photos, video, and stories your target audience wants to see. For that you need to learn how to read your Analytics.
I've seen jewelers who paid a lot of money to off-page SEO companies and paid advertising firms without ever reading their analytic performance reports. For them it was all about the immediate cash money they made daily without any consideration for the long term viability of their efforts. If the recent recession taught us anything it's that you can't just throw money at online efforts without knowing what the return is.
Through analytics you can figure out what works, and what doesn't. You can quickly change your strategy when something doesn't work for you. You need to continually refine your content creation until you attract more of the right target market that willing to buy more of what you're selling.
So here we are in 2013 with the realization that website SEO isn't about SEO at all anymore, rather, it's about the overall strategy of unified online marketing. SEO is supposed to bring people to your website, but in the real world when we talk about bring people to your store we call it "marketing" not "SEO." All these years people were chasing their tails trying to figure out the next best thing in SEO that would game the search engines and bring larger numbers of visitors, when what we should have been doing is learning how to market ourselves correctly in the digital world to the right audience.