An Epic Year for SEO

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SEO is a special field of endeavor.  We don’t just get gifts for the same holidays as everyone else.  We get them all year long.  And while some people might consider them anything but gifts, I see them as some of the best gifts I’ve ever gotten.

So rather than my typical technical article, or one of my more opinionated rants, this week’s article, my last for SEJ in 2010, is going to be something different altogether.  It’s going to be a list of some of the gifts we SEO’s have received throughout the year…

Above All Else, We Are Blessed

While the overall economy continued to stagnate and struggle in fits and starts, early indications showed that our industry was about to experience an epic year as far as an influx of new business, and more business from existing clients.  At least from an anecdotal perspective those indications came true.  Personally, I’m more than grateful to report that 2010 was an epic year for business growth.

And if the formation of Blueglass Interactive this summer, and the expansion of AimClear just recently, is any indication, some companies are definitely looking to take advantage of that and find ways to better serve their clients as our industry continually offers new challenges and new opportunities.

The Coffee Got Stronger

Google kicked things off this year by pumping up the Caffeine.  Whether it’s all about a faster index for it’s own sake, or was really just the foundation for other gifts throughout the year, this was the first significant change Google made in 2010 that meant the SEO industry would have to do more evaluating and testing, and change our ways and recommendations.

Save Our Ship

The May Day update, quick on the heels of the roll out of Caffeine, was, as far as I’m concerned, a vindication of my ‘from the beginning’ belief that quality content, based on highly refined topical focus, is and will remain, for ages to come, a critical factor in SEO.  The days of thin content and weak internal linking tactics became numbered with the May Day Roll out, and I’m truly grateful for that gift.

A Moving Target

Mobile Search gained a lot of ground this year.  For one of my bigger clients, mobile accounted for a full 20% of their site visits, an exponential growth year over year.  If you’re like me, you saw the opportunity writing on the wall, and got up to speed on how to optimize for mobile.

Just Add Hot Water

Google Instant was clearly an outcropping of Caffeine.  So I think of it kind of like Sanka – that coffee-wanna-be that you spoon into your mug, and just add hot water, to end up with a supposedly better solution for the masses.  Well, whether it’s better for the masses or not I can’t truly say, because I’m not one of the masses. So where’s the gift to SEO in this, you ask?  For me, it’s all the people in our industry who suddenly tried to figure a way to optimize for Instant search.  Yeah, you keep doing that – let that shiny object distract you.  My clients and I thank you for it.

Yahoos like Cherries in their Kool-Aid

Yahoo finally bailed out of the search business with the Bing roll out this year, and for that I’m very happy.  Although it was more like learning you’ve got a gift in your Christmas stocking, only to learn it’s coal.  Because Yahoo’s reach is very different than Bing’s, which means paid ads you optimize for Bing, at least in some markets, are not going to get the same quality results when they’re displayed on Yahoo properties.  But hey, I’m just an SEO audit guy, so honestly, I don’t need to worry too much about that.  And MY work did get a lot easier with the integration.

The Great (Bing) Pretender

Google first tried to steal the thunder from Bing by adding custom backgrounds.  The very next day after they rolled it out, they quickly quashed it, though you can still go there if you really think you need your own image when you’re searching.  (Yeah, okay, right…)  In 2010 though, Google somehow actually recognized that one of the best features at Bing is the previews.  Of course, they failed miserably in the implementation.  Instead of elegant, it’s borked – klugey, clunky, and downright annoying.  But hey, it’s one more shiny object many SEOs are scrambling to expend otherwise critical real SEO efforts on, so yeah, I’m very pleased with this “gift”.

And uh, someone forgot to tell Google about Google Instant Preview.  I mean – the fact that Flash doesn’t show up there.

Location Location Location

Google literally changed the SEO game in an epic way when they migrated maps results to the front page of the SERPs for local and moved the 7 pack (which I now lovingly call “the floater”) to the right side, ABOVE the AdWords.  This one change alone has opened up a massive new opportunity for SEO professionals to broaden their service offerings, and to help that many more business owners who will struggle on their own to figure out this SEO thing.

The Belle of the Ball

While  many of us speculated it’s a factor now, Bing and Google have now both confirmed that Social signals matter to SEO.  Which means that if you’re an SEO professional, you either need to get up to speed on Social, or at the very least, collaborate with someone who is.  Because it’s the sites that are the stand-outs in Social that will benefit from this new facet of the ever changing business we’re in.

It’s Not All Roses

Sadly, we also lost a couple of our own this year as well.  Jaamit and G-Man both had a significant impact on a lot of people in our industry, and both will be truly missed.

An Even Brighter Future

Yes, by all indications, 2010 truly has been an epic year for SEO.  With all of these changes, we may be more pressed than ever to stay ahead of the curve, yet it means our futures are further secured than ever before…

A Chance To Become Famous

What epic changes do you think are on the horizon?  Share your thoughts in a comment here – and if I think you’re right about that, or even if I think you’re way off base, I’ll write about it in an upcoming article, and provide credit to your contribution to the dialogue. And until we meet here again in 2011, I sincerely hope you have a very happy, magical New Year!


Gift photo courtesy flashfire

Alan Bleiweiss
Alan Bleiweiss is a Forensic SEO audit consultant with audit client sites consisting of upwards of 50 million pages and tens of millions of visitors... Read Full Bio
Alan Bleiweiss
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  • WebPro Technologies

    Surely agree that SEOs have a very bright future ahead and I think that finally SEO has come of age and the industry will soon gain its true reputation because, as times advance and search engine algorithms become more sophisticated only those who have a true understanding of this art and science shall be able to do justice to the SEO projects.

    As I always tell my clients SEO is not Magic but Pure Logic.

    Wishing you and all a very bright, magical and a logical year ahead.

    • alanbleiweiss

      Well, I do believe it’s pure logic. The stuff that “common sense” is made of, in fact, and why common sense is not so common 🙂

  • Anonymous

    @Alan…I read your stuff every time I find it…and I like your “take” on all things SEO, eh!

    So…come on down 2011….we’re ready, eh!



  • Ian Williams

    My prediction…keyword-optimised anchor text to stop acting as a ranking factor

    • alanbleiweiss

      Ian – this is one that would be epic – life’s been moving in that direction – but completely eliminated? You’ll be in my 2011 article for sure!

      • Ian Williams

        Hi Alan,

        I just don’t see it as a realistic indicator of quality. Topic-relevance, sure, but not quality; they’re two different things and I expect/hope(?) Google to make a clearer distinction between the two in 2011.

        I think of sorting the web like sorting a massive library, e.g: I read a book called ‘The Hungry Caterpillar’ as a 3 year old…by title and superficial references its very relevant to someone interested in insects, but its hardly ‘Origin of the Species’ is it? 😉

        Relevance and quality should be treated distinct from one another – or, at least, searchers should have the option as to which the SERP is prioritised for! Ideas for sorting by quality could include factoring social signals in.

        Here’s to a good 2011!

      • alanbleiweiss

        I agree Ian. Quality has got to be a higher priority for search than it has been. It’s also why I think longer tail search is being used more than ever. Right now it’s the only way to sometimes get quality – matched to relevance.

  • Kris Roadruck

    Toolbar PageRank dies permanently (probably already did people just dont want to admit it until after the new year goes by without an update), SEOmoz’s MozRank & DomainAuthority becomes the new way to value link sales. Market adapts, Googles plot to foil link sales falls flat on its face, life goes on.

    • alanbleiweiss

      wow yeah? that WOULD be epic. Okay Kris – you’re the first to be included in my upcoming article on SEO for 2011!

  • DocSheldon

    Great piece, Alan! Kris is ALMOST right, IMO. I’ll take it a step further and say that PageRank (not just TBPR) will be a thing of the past. It will be replaced with a new ranking – call it RelevancyRank, for lack of a name) that’ll be determined by Google on-the-fly. It’ll only be valid for one particular search query, and a side effect will be that links will be greatly devalued (in the algorithm).
    I talked about it back in Oct. on my blog, and the indications just seem to be getting stronger since then.
    Lots of great gifts, for sure, Alan!

    • alanbleiweiss

      Well actually RelevancyRank, the unofficial or not yet declared name for it, is already the new PageRank Doc – what will be different in 2011?

      • DocSheldon

        Sorry, Alan, but I have to disagree. PR today is nothing but popularity, determined by “votes”. The algo injects a good bit of relevancy into the SERPs, but PR, IMO, doesn’t contribute any relevancy whatsoever.

      • alanbleiweiss

        So you’re saying topical focus, and topical relationships that previously drove SEO are no longer relevant? That they’ve been replaced by popularity? Dude, there’s no way that’s the case.

      • DocSheldon

        No, I’m just saying that topical focus and topical relationships that previously drove SEO were never part of PageRank, Alan.

        I think you may have missed my point. What I’m saying is that I’m predicting that PageRank is going away entirely. Links may still carry some (reduced) weight in the ranking algorithm, but will have nothing to do with PageRank, because one of these days, the post title, “PageRank is Dead” will be accurate. 😉

      • alanbleiweiss

        Actually that’s a misconception common in our industry, especially as touted by big name players. PageRank is “a technology that determined the “importance” of a webpage by looking at what other pages link to it, as well as other data” see, it’s that “as well as other data” aspect that everyone seems to ignore. PageRank does factor in topical focus. How relevant a page is to a search phrase can not and never was just about how many links point to a page. If it was, I could search for ice cream, and the most linked to sites having nothing to do with topic, would come up.

  • DanaLookadoo

    Liked, Stumbled, and even “bookmarked” on Delicious! 🙂

    I especially like one of the first gifts related to Caffeine: “the SEO industry would have to do more evaluating and testing, and change our ways and recommendations.”

    SEO as an acronym will need to change or simply become a generic term for optimizing for users across a variety of search platforms, especially social networks. We now have to focus more on engagement!

    And as dollars and attention shift further online, I predict low unemployment rate for qualified professionals falls in our sector. 😉

    • alanbleiweiss

      Engagement Optimization? Hmmmmm… I’ll need to cover that in that upcoming article…

      • DanaLookadoo

        Semantic Engagement Optimization – it’s about words and how people think and speak and engaging with them to optimize their experience.

      • alanbleiweiss

        hmmm – most people get puzzled looks when we way SEO already – drop “semantic” on them? their heads will explode. 🙂

  • Jahnelle Pittman

    Fantastic article, Alan – you did a great job of pulling in all the “gifts” SEO have received this year. Tweeted, favorited, bookmarked… yeah, I like it…

    • alanbleiweiss

      Hi Jahnelle! How you been? 🙂 thanks – I’m honored that you liked the article…

  • @PaulSteinbrueck

    Alan, I agree that 2010 has been an epic year for SEO. A lot of people on the social media bandwagon have predicted a decline in the importance and value of SEO, but the future still looks bright to most of us doing SEO.

    This is not a particularly bold prediction, but I expect SEO to continue to go even more mainstream, becoming a part of every organization’s outreach/marketing strategy. We at OurChurch.Com specialize in SEO for churches, schools, and non-profits and we’re continue to see a surge of demand for SEO services from these types of organizations.

    • alanbleiweiss

      I agree Paul – this is going in one direction and one direction only for the foreseeable future.

  • Patricia Skinner

    Alan, what can I say, whenever I start to read your stuff I’m hooked to the end! I totally agree with you and Dana that engagement is the way forward. I look forward to learning and exploring new forms of engagement with you guys in 2011.

    • alanbleiweiss

      thank you Patricia – may we all be blessed with a wonderful 2011!

  • Dirk Tolken

    What would be good is if centralised analytics could include social measure of your web properties as well. Note: centralised. Even though social influences reach of content, it’s important that the false positives be weeded out and to give users the real meat in value. RelevancyRank would be critical and it would be interesting to see just how Google especially deals with social clutter. It’s in my opinion still good content that has to be your main strategy, that will create social reach, and that will ultimately give you more consistent ranking.

    • alanbleiweiss

      Interesting concept Dirk.

      Social measure in analytics – that’s a trick to achieve. Yet I just watched Matt Cutts’ latest video today where he mentioned Google evaluates 500 touch-points when they evaluate online reputation factors. So if they’ve been able to do that to any degree of success, analytics might be able to. Except I can’t envision it’s an easy task at all…

  • Johannes Korn

    My thought:

    I’m really excited to see what happens with Chrome Webapps and the like. They are essentially Websites but they work completely different from what you are used to and can provide a huge value to the user. And with the Store there is a huge incentive to built such apps. But the internal and external linking will work very differently from the way normal webapps and websites do and so is the content presentation. I think we will see a lot of this app-style stuff going on in 2011 and as they aren’t confined to iTunes and the Appstore anymore it will mean change and opportunity to SEO and the way search engines crawl and measure such content. At least I do hope so, because if they only have to rely on linkbuilding good web-applications without the budget to market it will get buried all the time.

    • alanbleiweiss


      I’m not so sure about Webapps. They’re for geeks, not the masses. So there will potentially be some growth there, but enough for corporate web sites, small business web sites, and the average joe blow web site to adapt? Probably not.

  • Seo Queen

    I think that video marketing will have a big role to play in SEO in the coming year and it can be the hottest thing for 2011

    • Mediahuset Nova

      thanks you for the information..

      now i will do more concentration on that…

    • alanbleiweiss

      Yes I think video will go to a new level as well

  • Ramsay Crooks

    Nice recap of 2010! We broke down the most important changes the big G did and agree with everything posted here. Yes, much has changed in search, and I expect it to only continue to change—mostly for the better. It will be even more important now to stay up to date with new online trends, even appealing web design, and SEO tactics than ever before. I predict local factors and Google attempting to control how it handles real time content with social sites of its own (HotPot) could foreshadow Google’s new future plans by integrating more community into search… and trying to do it without relying on the databases of Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, etc…

    • alanbleiweiss

      Ramsay, I agree that Google will attempt this, though I’m doubtful of their success – along with others in the comment section here, your prediction will definitely be covered in my upcoming article about 2011 trends. Thanks for sharing it!

  • John Mendel

    seo service are unique and by far my favorite to engage in for a search engine optimization campaign. There is something about being the underdog in a competitive arena that wreaks of challenge and reward like no other conquest one could embark on on-line.

  • Marty

    @Alan: It was an incredible year. Thanks for taking the time to write this post, and the nice shout out for aimClear. Cheers!

    • alanbleiweiss

      You’re welcome Marty – and my 2011 bring many blessings to you and the AimClear team!

  • Anonymous

    Really happy.. 2010 was an epic year for business growth.. I agree this one.. Thanks a lot..
    University Canada