Google is moving fast and algorithms improve rapidly. It’s not easy keeping up with the latest in SEO, so I asked the top SEOs of our industry what we should do more of in 2012, and what we should stop doing. Enjoy these 2012 SEO tips!
This interview is now updated with a 2013 edition, check it out here.
- Rand Fishkin (CEO, SEOmoz)
- Dr. Peter J. Meyers (President of User Effect)
- Will Critchlow (Founder, distilled)
- Danny Dover (SEO Consultant and Author, DannyDover.com)
- Bas van den Beld (Speaker, blogger and owner State of Search)
- Ann Smarty (Owner at MyBlogGuest)
- Jeremy Schoemaker (Shoemoney)
- Aaron Wall (Founder, SEObook)
- Neil Patel (Co-founder Crazy Egg and blogging at Quick Sprout)
- Justin Briggs (SEO Manager at Big Fish Games and blogger)
- Tom Critchlow (VP of Operations NYC, distilled)
- Gianluca Fiorelli (SEO Consultant, ItaliaSEO and blogger)
- Stephan Spencer (Author, SEO and Internet marketer, Stephan Spencer)
- Marcus Tandler (Partner at Tandler.Doerje.Partner and blogger)
- Dennis Goedegebuure (VP Internet Marketing at Geeknet and blogger)
- Scott Polk (VP of Internet Marketing, ObsidianEdge Marketing)
- Trond Lyngbø (SEO Strategist, Metronet and writer at Search Engine Land)
- Russ Jones (CTO, Virante)
1. What Is Your Best SEO Tips For 2012?
Move outside of classic, old-school SEO. If you’re sticking to keyword research and targeting with a dose of site accessibility and link building, you’re almost certainly going to lose out to someone who’s broadened to include content marketing, viral product incentives, email, social media, conversion rate optimization and branding as part of their online marketing efforts. The power of combining tactics and reaping the benefits of overlapping marketing practices is insanely awesome.
Dr. Peter J. Meyers
Consolidate, consolidate, consolidate. I think the big lesson of Panda is that more isn’t always better. More indexed pages cost Google money and often dilute your most important content. Canonicalize true duplicates, tame near-duplicates, and burn thin content to the ground. If you syndicate, make sure you bring something unique to the table, and if you’re a thin affiliate, fatten up.
More than ever, I believe code is the new content. I think we will see interactive data visualisations getting bundles of links and shares.
SEO has grown beyond simply building links, writing comments and optimizing tags. It now involves the entire website experience. Don’t focus entirely on doing traditional SEO, instead diversify in other marketing channels (e-mail, CRO, social, PPC). I think the winners will be the ones who excel at online education. I predict that industry will grow much bigger in 2012.
Bas van den Beld
1. Watch out for personalization and make your content shareable. Things are getting personal. Google is making Google+ the center of it all to make everything as personal as possible. This means that we will be seeing a lot more personal elements, for example in the SERPS. This means you should make your content as shareable as possible. Get people to share and they will spread it to their network. It will show up in their personalized SERPS.
2. Optimize your snippets. Google is putting a lot of emphasis on snippets. Optimize all your snippets, not just the meta description, but also the rel-author, the reviews, everything.
If your focus has always been content and quality, there will hardly be anything to change for you next year. Maybe you should try playing with some fresh content and thus tracking hot trends for that. But other than that, just keep on!
Jeremy “Shoemoney” Schoemaker
For 2012 I suggest that people should build websites that people want to link to.
Google continues to bias the algorithms toward brands. As Google promotes brands then in many cases you might find using one of those promoted platforms offers a higher ROI than building out sites from scratch. If you look in the SERPs across a wide selection of keywords you will see that many people are building business models based on being the eHow of Facebook or the eHow of Youtube. In addition to that low level sort of stuff, one can list their products for sale on sites like eBay, Amazon or Etsy.
Stop building links too quickly. If you grow at too fast of a pace, you’ll find that it becomes really hard to achieve top rankings. In 2012, slow and steady will actually win the race. Don’t go after quantity, go after quality links.
I’d keep a look out for the growth of entity specific search algorithms, with a focus on building a brand, building out AgentRank/AuthorRank, and citations for “real world” items, such as specific products, locations, movies, songs, etc. I think increased brand detection, rel author, the social graph, and schema are early stages of this style of ranking algorithms. Search engines are moving beyond page and domain level algorithms and becoming increasingly sophisticated at understanding entities / objects.
Focus on user engagement. I think marketers will get a lot more aware of user retention and loyalty and that Google will publicly discuss how they reward these metrics by measuring brand loyalty and search history. Whether it’s that exact metric or not, I think we’ll finally see a slight weakening of link-based metrics and more emphasis put on social/user metrics.
I would strongly suggest in implementing the rel=author and rel=publisher tags, hence using Google+.
In fact, I consider that the “author rank” is going to be one of the most important factors for Google in order to discriminate authoritative
It is my firm conviction that SEO and Social Media are going to merge in many aspects, and those rel are going to be tool Google will use (alongside others signals) to do that merge.
As a consequence, that means that sites will need to finally embrace what we call “Inbound Marketing”, spending less time with old classic tactics (which will still have their importance though, even if reduced IMO) and strategically planning a real content marketing plan, which will need to focus on the users needs, and without forgetting where their users spend time: on search (SEO) and social networks (SMO).
To conclude, my best tip is: SEOs, if you want to rank well in the years to come, you must become Inbounders; use data and code like SEO, communicate like Social Media Specialists and plan content as Content strategists.
One important new area of focus is enhancing your Google listings via rich snippets. Focus in particular on marking up videos. Very few companies are taking advantage of this. I expect that Google will, over time, introduce additional types of rich snippets, in particular, ones that will help promote Google+. Think about such things as Google Hangouts and public Circles showing up as rich snippets in the search results.
Become a Brand (or at least look like one…). Be Social (just don´t spam and annoy people). For any given term, Google doesn´t really want to rank those sites the best, which do the best SEO – Google wants to rank sites, which are the best result for the user – Be one of those sites, be the best result for the user for all the keywords you´re targeting!
Link & anchor text diversity. Any backlink profile of your site needs to be natural and diverse. This has already been important in 2011, but will be getting more important as algorithms become smarter. This includes having a natural follow vs no-follow ratio in backlinks.
Concentrate on Social Signals that the search engines look at from trusted sources. The NSTIC is going to change things – Google and Bing will give more weight to signals from trusted sources … Google Plus/Profiles, etc.
All traffic is not equal. Small businesses realize this. Instead of targeting high volume keywords, they will focus more on local SEO strategies that not only attract customers into stores, but also ensure they’ll spend money. Conversion, and not just traffic, will be king.
SEO experts will help businesses discover ‘customer intent’ as they search the Web, to target long tail keywords that address customers’ needs, and do it while communicating their values and USP. They will measure ROI and long term profitability over visitor counts, or search rankings.
Paradoxically, this lowers expenses, since higher quality traffic means better conversion to sales, lesser competition, and reduced advertising costs.
A twist that further boosts local SEO effectiveness is ‘social optimization’. Location-based targeting that focuses on prospective customers where they already gather online, and communicates with them using the right tone and approach, gets explosively more powerful when combined with ‘social marketing’, where friends vote up a product through Facebook likes, or a friend’s ‘customer reviews’ show up on search engine results pages or social media platforms.
Those will be the ‘big wins’ in 2012 and beyond, I think. We’ll see this being the year when ‘search’ and ‘social’ meld together into a future of Social Search.
Start using metrics to make decisions religiously. Half the battle is being efficient with your marketing dollars. You should know how valuable every link is that you attempt to acquire, how much closer it brings you to overcoming your competitor, and how much it costs relative to the potential traffic it will bring in.
Multi-site strategy. There is absolutely no reason all your eggs should be in the same basket. The only algo-update-proof SEO strategy for your site is to have more sites.
2. What SEO Techniques Should We Stop Using In 2012?
Folks have talked a lot about Google’s webspam team negating the value of a lot of “article marketing” link sources. If I were a betting man, I’d say the next large-scale link spam devaluation algo they’ll launch will be in that realm (and thus, I’d avoid the practice). I did a whiteboard friday earlier this year noting that article marketing is mostly a scam, even though there are times when it can work. I expect to see those “working instances” drop even further.
Of course, that’s not to say that good practices in similar fields like guest blogging, white hat comment marketing and the like aren’t still great techniques.
Dr. Peter J. Meyers
Stop buying exact-match domains just to rank for long-tail keywords. One or two are fine, and domain keywords still matter, but Google is turning down the volume, and the days where you could register 100 domains and link them all to yourself are gone. You’re wasting time and money on a tactic that will eventually crash and burn.
I’ve noticed the web spam team using article marketing more and more as their go to example of low quality link building. I have to assume that means they are talking about it a lot in their meetings…
I recommend you stop basing your day-to-day efforts on “change over time” metrics and start to move toward cohort (preferably tied to an event like sign ups) based metrics. That said, keep the “change over time” graphs for your boss, cohorts are confusing and “up and to the right” graphs are much simpler to showcase your work.
Bas van den Beld
Stop looking at things from your own perspective and start looking from a users perspective.
You should have stopped them long before 2012 but if you haven’t yet, here they are:
- Wasting your time on directory submissions (there are just a couple of them still worth the time and the money, like BOTH and Directory Journal);
- Wasting your time on article marketing (better try guest blogging instead);
- Wasting your time on on-site optimization myths (like focusing on keyword density and trying to nofollow all your external links);
- Wasting your time on trying to cheat rather than investing in quality and long-term approach!
Jeremy “Shoemoney” Schoemaker:
I suggest that people should stop building websites for search engines and start building websites for people.
Anything which has a high upfront cost structure without either building brand signals or offering immediate returns is suspect at this point. You not only have latent algorithmic risks from things like the Panda update, but also the fact that Google will scrape & re-purpose as much as they can to launch their own thin arbitrage sites (hotel finder, Google Advisor, product search, flight search, Google places, YouTube, etc.) and preferentially place those at or near the top of the search results.
Look at what Google has done in these verticals. Unless you are in a micro-niche that they view as a waste of time they will eventually try the same in your vertical.
In many cases the parasite will kill the host. Look how many of the yellow page companies have been through bankruptcy.
SEOs should stop using article spinning and directory submission services. Sure you may see a bit of an increase in rankings, but it doesn’t really help that much. Instead you should focus on building high quality links.
From a search quality perspective, I’d tread more carefully with off-topic, inaccurate, and low quality infographics. It’s certainly on Google’s radar. I’m a big fan of infographics, but they’ve worked too well, which has lead to a lot sites and SEO shops just pumping out bad infographics. This will certainly cause a relevancy problem for Google (if it isn’t already), by ranking sites not on their quality, but on their ability to get a lot of infographic links. A number of lower quality affiliate sites and lead gen sites are able to acquire links from hundreds of domains by putting up an infographic on their domain. We’ve seen something similar with widgets back in 2008. I’m not critizing the technique, because I’ve used off-topic linkbait, but you have to be careful when balancing the link profile and creating something defensible.
Article marketing. I doubt many people are still using it anyway but if you are I really think you should stop!
I don’t think SEOs should really stop using any old classic techniques in 2012, for the simple reason that they probably will work still. But surely, as I said before, SEOs should start to spend less time and energy with them. I am thinking especially of techniques like Article Marketing, that has been reduced in spinning articles in hundreds of article marketing sites, which mostly have been penalized by Panda (therefore does not drive that much traffic), and whose links are really bad quality once. Better to spend the time invested in article marketing in creating more quality content for your site and then promoting it with inbound marketing actions.
Stop focusing on exact match keyword-rich domain names.
Stay away from (exact match) keyword links – be glad about every link you´re getting, but don´t obsess about the anchor text.
Antiquated Link Building, Article Marketing, You really need to think about the future and plan strategies around where you think the search engines will be heading. It is time to stop chasing the dragon and be proactive.
Social signals synergizing with search is powerful because it builds trust. We rely more on word of mouth and a friend’s recommendation, over a faceless company’s marketing campaign.
But a disturbing trend is emerging, as companies and professionals endorse black-hat SEO tactics like selling Google+ likes, posting fake customer reviews, and building dozens of dodgy profiles across online communities in an attempt to cheat and lie their way to the top of search rankings. I don’t like how this evolves.
Attempting to “build trust” through lying is just wrong! It has got to stop. I’ve always advised against black hat SEO. As a consultant, it’s important for me to know how these tactics work, but I would never suggest thinking that you can outsmart Google. That could end up a disaster.
A better strategy would be to embrace SEOnomics, rooted in economical leverage of SEO through understanding the psychology of your prospects. That’s the kind that will pay off handsomely in the long run.
Renting text links. Yes, they can still work, but there is hardly a single link out there that you can’t acquire on a permanent basis for less than 1 year’s pay. Yes, it will take more leg work, but at the end of the year you will have a great link profile that you don’t have to keep paying for every month.
What are your best SEO tips?!
What do you think will be more important in 2012, and what should we stop doing? Feel free to post your best SEO tips. Follow me on twitter, RSS and Google+ if you want more SEO tips in 2012. Happy New Year!
Updated: Added answers from Russ Jones.