SEO in 2013: 7 Surprisingly Simple Factors That Will Take The Lead

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Surprising SEO FactorsThis time of year is suitable for retrospection. We’re able to take a good look at how things played out in 2012, and get an idea of the trends and patterns that are most likely to dominate the coming year.

2012 was rough for SEO experts due to radical changes in Google’s algorithms, including many updates to Panda, as well as the the introduction of Penguin. While content quality and inbound links continue to play major roles in organic rankings, let’s take a look at the other factors that will govern SEO in 2013.

2012: The Year of Pandas and Penguins, Creating Value, and the Emergence of Guest Posting

Before we dive into predictions for SEO next year, let’s recap the major patterns of 2012.

  • Though originally released in 2011, Google’s Panda algorithm went through multiple updates that kicked many low-quality websites out of the SERPs; tens of thousands of websites were affected.
  • Google released its Penguin algorithm in April 2012, which changed the face of the industry, forcing many SEOs to adapt their tactics and strategies. Many companies that had engaged in Penguin-unfriendly SEO tactics were dropped from the search results due to Penguin, and companies that continued to engage in these tactics saw their rankings disappear, often without any warning.
  • Google got much smarter, to the extent that it appears to be able to distinguish between content that adds real value and content that has been posted solely for SEO purposes. “Value” became an important subconscious factor — one that will dictate how Google perceives websites.
  • Guest blogging emerged to become a very popular method of building credible links. Tactics and methods for acquiring guest blog links surfaced across the industry.
  • Negative SEO became a hot topic of debate, to the extent that Google responded by launching the Disavow Link tool, which empowers webmasters to specify backlinks that should be discarded or discounted by Google when it evaluates links to their website.
  • Of the exploited SEO methods that were ousted and devalued, anchor text over-use was the most prominent. Remnants of websites that used “paid links” were kicked out too.

2013: The 7 Factors That Will Determine Your Survival in SEO

If it were up to me, I’d simply focus on creating value for the reader — because ultimately, that should be the goal of any website. However, increasing competition may require you to employ strategic practices in a pragmatic approach to assist your rise to the top of the SERPs. Here are the tactics and strategies that will dominate the SEO landscape in 2013.

1. Quality of Content

Ultimately, it all comes down to the quality and value of the content on your website. Google has been very explicit this year about good-quality content, and we expect this trend to carry over into next year in full force. By content quality, the metrics are:

  • uniqueness of the content/topic
  • resourcefulness and information richness (i.e., no thin content)

2. Content Marketing

Content marketing is being touted as the next big thing. Experts have called it the new SEO. To an extent, this is true. As a general rule, content marketing attracts backlinks, and adds value for the user/reader. It is more challenging, because you have to generate more content of high quality, circulate it, and make sure your content gets published widely with ample social signals to generate substantial SEO value.

Since Google takes valuable content seriously, a solid content marketing strategy will be the key to climbing to the next level in SEO.

3. AuthorRank

AuthorRank has emerged as a vital metric in deciding SERPs, although studies about its value are still ongoing. One thing that we can be sure of in 2013 is that AuthorRank will add credibility and value to your website, and it will be vitally important for every webmaster.

4. Social Signals

After much debate and discussion, social signals have largely been accepted as valid ranking factors. In the next year (and probably in the years to follow), social signals will play a growing role. Shares, retweets, mentions, and perhaps most importantly, +1s are trophies every webmaster should be amassing.

5. Mobile/Responsive Design

Although this does not directly influence the ranking of a page, it will play a role in your fortunes. Google was one of the first companies to become aware of this trend in web browsing due to the growing presence of tablets and smartphones. Responsive design may not be an explicit SEO factor, but in terms of usability, it is likely to be a highly influential element to consider in 2013.

6. Localization

Google’s growing preference for local websites and information has become evident in many searches. It’s safe to assume 2013 we’ll witness an increase in this preference. Websites that apply local SEO will enjoy higher rankings and visibility. This includes map data, listings, citations, and reviews on local information sites.

7. Media

Images and videos have become staples on the Internet. We’ve consistently seen that relevant results that include videos get ranked higher than text-only content. The further emergence of media content is an important development you can expect next year. It’s becoming essential to add relevant non-textual media to text content, because this adds value and makes the content more resourceful.

The above are some of the major trends or patterns that I believe will play a key role in SEO for 2013. What other factors do you think may influence SEO?

Further Reading:

Image Credit: Shutterstock / ollyy

Jayson DeMers
Jayson DeMers is the founder & CEO of AudienceBloom, a Seattle-based content marketing & social media agency. You can contact him on LinkedIn, Google+, or... Read Full Bio
Jayson DeMers
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  • I think 2013 is going to separate the men from the boys. I think the challenge comes into convincing people (aka clients) that the process of building links is not what it once was 3 years ago. Things have changed quite a bit and more resource is required to get from point A to point B when it comes to good solid SEO. You can’t just spin articles or put together useless content because that doesn’t work. There needs to be substance behind every move.

    • I’m in total agreement with this – it takes longer to produce a high quality result and that is exactly what search engines are demanding. We have to convince clients that there are no magic beans and short cuts – it’s about high quality graft.

      • I agreed with you Rob! There is no short cut to success and for SEO it is very true!

  • Nice piece Jayson. My vote is on authorank and Google+ as primary signals going forward. Video content, especially on YouTube, will continue to be discovered in the blended SERPs and drive higher than average CTR. Semantic markup could become another tactic in 2013 that could provide SEOs that practice a competitive advantage. Thanks for sharing. @eBizROI

    • I agree with the semantic markup withthe help of LSI, LSA wich is LSO.

  • brett

    A great article, although I disagree that Google’s search results have gotten any better. Actually, I (and thousands of other people – just look at all the forums and comments across the web) think the search results are worse than before all the updates. I have tried to see the good side in what Google tells us their aim is, but I just dont see it for myself… I now use Bing for all my searches and and I’m very satisfied with the results they return. Google’s relevence on the web is now beginning to crumble I believe, and I predict a day not to far into the future when people will be saying ‘Remember when we used to use Google to find things on the web?… Hehehe’… It’s no longer about search results with Google, but about how much money the can make their shareholders… The cracks in the facade are getting bigger every day…

    • Steve

      I totally agree with Brett. Google in its effort of taking into account all the latest user behavior on social media, reviews, etc is comprising in its core logic. Because of it, the search results are skewed. Bing returns much more useful information. The reason nobody yet complaining is that 98% of the searches are all about basic information – Phone numbers, addresses, meanings, reviews, prices, etc. So the first five results are good enough no matter what the search engine is to give the user the basic information he is looking for. And very few people need to go beyond the 5th result to get what they are looking for.

  • PusPus

    oh man, responsive design is a headache for those who built our own algorithms and not use frameworks where you can get everything already done.

  • Quite correct, Jayson! And I am pleased that you mentioned content marketing. This is one of the most promising methods of marketing that can be used this year. Despite what critics and naysayers claim, content will always be king. Thanks.

  • Well, this is the year where any search marketer can gauge if the client or prospect is in for the long-run or short-term. I still have prospects who persist on the idea of having anchor text-driven crap spread across free article submission sites directories to get better rankings… oh well, how the tables have turned. Thanks Google for making me close better clients with the long-term in mind. btw, the article’s is so bookmarked for use later in discussion/negotiations with clients, thanks!

  • Right Said, I am also planning to do Content Marketing for my websites and blogs. In future of SEO, no other techniques are effective than content marketing.

    Content should be unique and informative.

  • great read. Will keep these points in mind through the development of my company site

  • Great article. Social signals and Author ranks is really most important factors for SEO in 2013

  • Thanks for sharing with us your insights, Jayson. As for me, I believe that a strong drive for SEO this year is about local reviews and citations for local SEO. As Google try with their efforts to deliver the most relevant content for you based on your location (as a user), having a strong reputation and connectivity with a community will be to your best advantage.

  • Erick Kirks

    Great article, Jayson. I agree with all of your predictions, and it follows exactly our process for educating our potential and existing clients for strategic planning this year. As we all know, the typical SMB is a little behind the trends (especially lately as things in the SEO world are changing so rapidly) and many still think article marketing is the holy grail. I have to laugh when I see some “SEO expert” still pushing out old ideas even though it creates a challenge to educate the poor business owners who cling on to this outdated advice. Thanks for sharing a valuable article to help us shed light on today’s new and important factors.

  • Guest blogging, as part of your larger content marketing campaign, is great for just about every website but I urge site owners to use their power with care in 2013! Just because you can guest blog doesn’t mean you should. The last thing we want is for guest blogging to turn into the new link exchange. Make sure you’re blogging for sites where it actually makes sense and reaches the right audience.

  • Good article, very clear and concise. Thanks for posting, I found it helpful,

  • Great post! Very direct and to the point. A lot of valuable information that I’m sure many of us strategist will integrate into our plans this year – personally and client focused.

  • Very nice post Jayson, its very useful for me. Thank You

  • Azhar

    Interesting Article ! Thank you.

  • Thank you Jason, your information contains core principles of SEO for 2013. I will also agree to disagree with statements such as “content marketing” is the next big SEO. Which as we all know most seo service providers will actually agree with content marketing. But we also need to strongly remind the readers of the subject matter that; your onsite optimization cannot be classified as content marketing (so I think that we should at least understand the fine line there. Then everything that is based in user experience and adding value off site can be classified as content marketing, regardless of the content type if it engages and helps the user to fulfill their search intent.

  • I understand google not recognizing thin content but does anyone know how I might fare by having an article that includes an image slideshow and just a couple links to the band and the venue. Would that be considered thin content or would that be okay since there is a large amount of photos?


  • Brian

    This is incredibly useful. Anybody launching a new site this year should take note of all of this information. SEO is like a roller coaster every year, it’s up to us to keep with it!

  • Hi Jayson,

    SEO is really changing and it is important to catch up with it and improve on the new tactics such social networking , Google Plus & Authorship and other such handles.

  • C’mon

    Oh Cmon.. don’t give/spread credits about author rank, because it is a useless metric.. well it will remain such unless we dance as google plays and we get to register a stupid G+ account (as if we didn’t had enough social networks that WE DO LIKE and are registered to).

  • That’s a good one from your blog, in 2013 i was so confused what will the next tactic in this year, its a great ideas to improve our SEO strategy.

  • This list is a definitely a good start at evaluating the SEO landscape for 2013.

    I would support Content Marketing as being the most influential factor in 2013. With the constant maturation of search engines and the push to element low-quality search results the value of quality content has skyrocketed. This is causing SEOs to venture into the realm of PR. In 2013 the lines between SEO, digital PR and inbound marketing are going to continue to blur and I am sure we will see some cool hybrid companies arise that will thrive in the new landscape.

  • I believe google is doing the best for readers not webmaster, SEO will fall later on, it will not be called search engine optimazation anymore but search engine experience.

  • Very Good post Jayson!! uniqueness and richness of the content is playing a vital role to improve ranking in search engines.

  • Hi Jayson, thanks for this post!

    For me is SEO not so really changing… But it is important to catch up with it and improve on the new (?) tactics: My vote is on the “good old way” of unique content, good content combined with authorank and Google+ as primary signals going forward.

  • I agree on the non-textual content like videos and I wanted to ask: what difference will it make for SEO if the video is embedded from your YouTube channel/playlist or if it’s hosted on your site?
    How can an eCommerce site get around the unique content issue, after all if somebody if looking to buy an item he just wants to find the item to buy and not just reading about it.
    Amazon and Ebay have good product descriptions but not really unique content or blogs that I’m aware of.
    What are your views on this?

    • Joseph

      Hello Johnny. I have an eCommerce variety store website. I had the same question myself and finally came up with a strategy that is starting to work for me. In addition to writing detailed product descriptions, I have also been creating interesting and informative articles related to my products. For example, I sell oddities and have an article titled “Animal Oddities”. I also sell health and fitness products and have an article titled “How To Stay Healthy”. Not only am I able to bring in more traffic, but I also have had happy customers thanking me for getting valuable information while shopping. It is nice to have not just a shopping site, but an informational shopping site. Just keep it relevant, informative and unique.

  • Sarah

    I’ve always believed that real, valuable content (and the presentation and organization thereof) is the key to successful SEO. As search engine algorithms continue to improve, content and user experience will matter more than peripheral and technical SEO. I’m glad that things are moving in this direction.

    It will be interesting to see how social media are factored into SEO in coming years. I hope the prevalence of social media doesn’t penalize sites that choose not to use it extensively.

  • “We’ve consistently seen that relevant results that include videos get ranked higher than text-only content. ”
    Can you explain what that means and show some evidence?

    This may be a little off topic but i get very irritated by pages that automatically show video/animation/slides anywhere near the text i’m trying to read.

  • Thank you for posting this. Some of these are really things I never thought of. I’m not really to up on the social media aspect but I guess it’s time to start.

  • Yes friend agree with your words, If we use this seven strategies in SEO than we will get positive results.

  • Sujit Dubey

    Sir, i want to ask one thing that which Social Media is more important in Google keyword ranking Facebook or Google plus , bit confused because somewhere i read that Google gives more importance to Google plus than Facebook but due to mass availability of users Facebook is very easy to grow your business and product your sell. But which one is more important for good SERP

  • Srikanth

    Thanks for sharing the information related to SEO in 2013.But i don’t understand the concept Author Rank. What is it? Can u explain it. Is really important or not.

  • Jayesh Pau

    Thank you for putting efforts to create lovely post, it will help to many webmasters, and sequences is important to execute project in right direction, content, content marketing, local SEO, images/video, author rank etc, awesome..:)..

  • Getting a Google Webmaster and Analytical account helped me alot. It shows everything Google picked up when it crawled your site….keywords, bounce rate, etc.

  • Nick

    I am not sure about social signals right now as even Google recently made it clear that “though it gives some points to social indicators but the impact is far less than what you think”. Is there any research on website which show some relationship between facebook and twitter likes to the raking in search engines, as I couldn’t find any clear case study. I believe search engines mainly google will be discounting its position if it start giving too much importance to what facebook or other social sites feel as, they are only indicator of popularity and popularity can’t be simply substituted for authority. Why should google penalize you by giving incentive to someone with more facebook likes, what if you are not aware about facebook, twitter and only concerned about your customers through your own website.

  • James

    2013 brought many clients complaining about dropping traffic as much as 60%. I agree that over use of anchor text was the culprit behind mmuch of this and websites need to be using a smaller percent of anchor words as compared to the past. Content marketing is well worth investing in, as it brings great traffic. Good luck everyone!

  • It will always be content marketing..that’s what the web is all about, good relevant up to date information and your article is a good example of that fact.

  • Martin

    Interesting information. I think videos and google plus will be the main factors over the coming years. I think google is key and websites should be designed for social media – Facebook and google plus mainly. The only certainty is that nobody knows what the next ‘bog thing’ will be. As you say, focus on good content and let everything else look after itself.

  • Sarthak Ganguly

    Hi, can you please elaborate the ‘Authorank’ factor? Is it always linked to the Google plus profile? The linked article went over my head. 🙁

    • mohammad umair

      Hi Sarthak
      The Authorrank factor is in a way related to the very first point of this post. Quality Content. If you are an expert who writes very credible content or run a successful blog then Google values you and your effort.

      It relates with your content and takes you as a trustworthy source of information for a particular domain or niche segment. This in turn elevates your rankings and thus making you more visible in Google search results.

      In a way you are taken as an authority based upon your type of content. So eventually if you end up working for a organisation then it benefits them and you as well.

      I hope this at least gives you a basic idea about Author Rank.

  • yogesh pant

    the year 2013 is going to see a major change in the SEO.
    Google wants its readers to read only valid and authorized content.
    In this regard, the algorithms are made more difficult so that only those providing quality content will sustain.
    Also, the proper addition of images and videos will help a lot as it help readers understand the article more easily.

  • Dorin

    The author rank feature is just Google making it so people can’t post stuff under different names or anonymous so that it can keep count of content publishers. Sure we see it as a good thing because quality authors will get noticed more, but it was like that before. If someone had a good article, people would find it, no matter how many spammers were on other websites.

    Either way, we have to comply! Thanks for the meaty article!

  • Aditya Bhushan

    Nice article . Informative content and a crispy quality article make a good value for Google bot and relative contents . Thanks for sharing it Jayson .