Generating links of any significant value has become increasingly difficult over the last few years, with so much focus on backlinks remaining a solid ranking factor in search engine algorithms still, it results in billions of mass produced spam links every day and more and more online communities, blogs and forums are tightening up the prevention of spam by introducing plugins, stripping tags and really limiting the opportunities that contributors can obtain a link back from the site – the reality is, unless you’re a large brand with an equally large customer base already for email marketing and an equally large social media following to continually push your products/services to, the likelihood of naturally acquiring backlinks for a small to medium sized business is going to prove difficult.
More and more emphasis will be placed on coming up with innovative and creative ways to generate links naturally further still in 2012, and whilst links remain to be a strong ranking factor in search, with many businesses in the same sector competing for the top positions, and Google making further progress in improving their algorithm and combat against spam – those that will really stand out from the rest will be those that have the ability to create genuine, unique, quality and naturally linkworthy content.
Social Weight & Signals
With social signals now affecting ranking in search engines towards the end of 2011, it can only be expected to see these play more of a role in ranking sites throughout 2012. Already, there are companies selling hundreds of ‘Likes’, ‘ReTweets’ and ‘+1s’ however in a bid to manipulate search engines into thinking that these pages are authoritative and trustworthy so it will be interesting to see how the likes of Google tackles this later in the year.
If you have a business presence online and you haven’t got to grips with social media yet, now is the time to do so if you want your customers to find you online. We may even begin to see the power of links decline whilst the power of social rises when ranking web pages fairly online during 2012.
Rich Snippet Markup
The implementation of rich snippet markup on websites using scheme.org microdata has grown significantly during 2011. What this does, is display more relevant information in search engine results against listings for certain types of content, such as events, reviews and authorship. Whilst the implementation of rich snippet markup does not currently bear any direct affect on the ranking of pages, it is likely only a matter of time before this is factored in to Google’s algorithm.
Using rich snippet markup on your website tells search engines much more about your content, this allows them to make a better judgement on whether your content is more suitable for any given search query. The more information you provide and the more relevant your content appears to be to a search engine, the chances are, that in time, your content will be favoured over competitors – via any means possible.
Whilst Google still hold the vast majority of search engine market share, it is essential for any website to predominantly focus on ranking well on their search engine(s) and doing anything possible to influence the chances. Welcome Google Plus.
Whilst not frequently used by the mainstream outside of the tech/digital sphere, Google are frequently stepping up their efforts to combine their search platform with their social platform. This includes the public ‘voting’ of web pages on the web via the use of a +1 button – you would be a fool not to utilise Google+ and ensure that you are doing everything you can to encourage the social interaction and sharing of your content via Google+ as it is the perfect leverage for Google to use their own social platform as a direct social signal (one of many) for ranking web pages plus allows them to incentivise the entire web to use Google+ in a bid for Google to compete with Facebook on the social front.
More Creative and Inspiring Ideas
As with anything on the web, it’s only a matter of time before an idea is exploited, over-killed and eventually abused until the method is devalued / frowned upon by many. 2011 was the year of guest blogging and infographics, both methods of link building / link baiting have undergone considerable attention from the masses – both of which appear to be reducing in quality from month to month.
2012 will no doubt see a new idea, a new way of creating buzz around a topic. It might be a new social media website, it may be a tool/app, it may be the next evolved step from guest blogging and infographics to build links… But whatever it is, it will happen, it will arrive and it will become the next ‘big’ thing… At least for a short period of time on the web.
Geoff Jackson is the Director of Search & Technology at Clubnet Search Marketing, a UK based search marketing agency. Geoff manages a team of SEO consultants/executives, designers/developers and copywriters and has an extensive background in ecommerce development and optimisation.