Top 4 Strategic SEO Trends to Watch for in 2013

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Last year saw another whirlwind of changes and developments in search technology, with 65 updates to Google’s algorithm in August and September alone. Developing sites that perform well consumes so much energy that it can be easy to get caught up in the tactical day-to-day changes each time search engines do something new. Companies that will continue to secure top SERPs are those who look at the digital landscape from a birds-eye view and understand the main driver behind Google’s never-ending changes: serving the best possible results to searchers. Since today’s Internet savvy surfer seeks information from a growing number of devices and locations, a constant stream of algorithm updates is necessary and understandable. With that in mind, here are my thoughts and predictions for what SEO trends and developments we can expect in 2013 — and how to help ensure that your organization does not get lost in the shuffle.

1. Quality is the new SEO

Can a machine actually read an article and have the capacity to make a subjective judgment on whether or not the article was “good” or not?  It’s a bit scary, but the answer is a definite maybe. While we are far from turning our national defense systems over to Skynet, search engines are rapidly advancing towards the goal of understanding if your content is actually good. In 2013, search engines will continue to improve their ability to judge the value of a site’s content.

Google has become expert at determining what differentiates a great website from a mediocre one, and specifies over 20 stylistic, topical and structural guidelines for content creators to follow. The rankings of sites that engage in tactics that violate these guidelines will be removed, thereby allowing sites that meet the guidelines to rise up in the rankings.

So how do you differentiate your site from those of your competitors? All else being equal, the only way to do it is with good content. It is critical that your team has the right process in place to build relevant, compelling and engaging content on a consistent basis. To do so, you may want to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you have an editorial process?
  • Do you know the difference between an expert and a writer?
  • Does your content have grammatical or spelling errors?
  • Are you providing new substantial insights?
  • Is your content good enough to be published in a magazine?

2. Social plays an important role

Social is going to increasingly impact your rankings. In 2013 we will see a greater balance between the weight of factual and social search influences. Engines will consume massive amounts of data about its user’s social presence, including geography, influence, friends and interests.

To that end, Google has started to build social signals into search algorithms, and Facebook announced plans to develop a robust search feature using their wealth of social data. Facebook has constructed an interconnected graph of 1 billion human interrelationships, likes and preferences. Privacy issues aside, this is a strategic asset that will impact the future of searches.

It is clear that consumers don’t want just the facts, but are increasingly drawn to the opinions and experiences of their peers. So it’s no surprise that high rankings in Google can correlate very strongly with social signals from activity on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. We’ve only just begun to see how this plays out.

3. Mobile Friendly is Not an Option

It is a necessity. With many sites seeing double-digit yearly increases in mobile traffic, a site that does not conform to the requirements of mobile devices will lose a growing percentage of search traffic. Search engines will be looking for the same elements in a mobile site that they do for a standard website: keywords, title tags, links and quality content. But remember, mobile query strings are, on average, 25 percent shorter than desktop searches. With limited visual space and condensed search tactics, it will be critical to include research, development, optimization and measurement that is strictly focused on the mobile experience.

Beyond keyword and linking tactics, consider the mobile user experience and, more importantly, mobile user expectations. Two thirds of smartphone users cited that slow to load websites are one of their biggest frustrations, with 64 percent expecting a site to load within four seconds. Large images and excessive use of flash or animated content will slow the load time of your mobile site and should be avoided.

4. The Knowledge Graph

In 2013, we will see Google attempt to answer more complex questions directly in the SERPs with the Google knowledge graph. The simplest way to understand a ‘knowledge graph’ is to examine the top right side of your screen on Google after searching for “Harrison Ford”. You will see a panel detailing Ford’s vital statistics followed by his most popular movies, as well as a list of what “People also search for” that shows suggestions for related searches based on searches of others with similar interests.

Still in its infancy, Google’s knowledge graph reservoir is a collection of roughly 18 billion facts on 570 million “objects” presented in a manner that intuitively provides several panels of answers surrounding information commonly associated with your search query. By understanding how to leverage the primary sources of trusted information for the Knowledge Graph, brands can optimize their presence and leverage opportunities for exposure. Wikipedia, one of the top sources of information for Knowledge Graph search, is a great place to start. Develop a high quality, informational Wikipedia page on your brand and validate the page by linking to trusted sources. Notice how this impacts the results on the right hand panel of search results. Take note of the related sources that are displayed to get ideas about how to impact that information.

As Google continues to experiment with structuring its information to improve the searcher’s experience, marketers and IT professionals alike will need to craft content that performs well and motivates searchers to go beyond the results page to read the full story.

Bottom line, developing relevant and valuable content for your audience will be the key to your success. Content that serves a purpose beyond a purchase or sale — that enables a user to solve a problem — will be a key factor in determining who succeeds in search and social and who falls from ranking grace.

What are some of your SEO predictions for 2013?

John Mihalik
John Mihalik has over 20 years of experience in the software engineering industry. He has extensive experience building large scale enterprise and consumer facing technology... Read Full Bio
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  • Lars

    This looks like a list for 2012 😉 Quality has been extremely important for ages, mobile and social too.

    However, I do agree. It will probably be even more than before. And also that Google+ will be (even more) important.

    • John Mihalik

      Thanks Lars! Yeah, I do agree Google+ will continue to be more important.

  • Roye

    Nice article. Great insights on Google’s knowledge graph

  • Serj

    Strong article. I hope you’re right. Particularly I liked the idea ow a wiki page for our brand. I’ll make sure to run it by my colleges.

  • Andy

    Hey, i dont really want to call bullshit. But i’m calling bullshit.

    I’m ranking so much trash right now, never been so easy to spam.

    Just another article from the Google PR minions.

    • John Mihalik

      Haha! Yeah, I think we still see a lot of spammy content ranking still. However the trend is less and less. I think the point is that the amount of time and attention we spend decompiling search results could be better spent just focusing on quality. It’s the long term investment for sure. But I imagine there will always be some short cuts. 🙂

  • Felipe Bazon

    Congrats for the great article. Even though some topics have been a priority for us SEOs for a few summers now, the way you emphasized it brought light to very important strategies to succeed in search for 2013 and beyond.

  • Imran Anwar

    Nice turn but social is still a great signal to rank well in search engines, but i think Matt will kick out more spamy link network this year and totally natural content will take their positions. thanks for writing for us.

  • Catherine Gannon

    This is an excellent summary – my own experience is that, like all forms of marketing, it’s about consistent effort, thought, challenging assumptions, testing and always thinking like the user. There are no shortcuts.

  • Sean Hecking

    John – All good thoughts. I agree there is a shift to quality vs. quantity in SEO. Sites that focus on getting quality articles posted rather than short posts on a specific keyword will be better off in the long run. I’m hearing the new guideline for writers is now 1500-1800 words. AuthorRank is a must have for articles in my option. It’s one of the few ways Google can verify the original source of content. My guess would be if that author establishes themselves as an expert in a space, that too will carry some weight in the SERPs.

  • Mohsin Mallik

    Hello John, I Just had a question here. Total newbie question but a very important one for me. You have mentioned, “Do you know the difference between an expert and a writer?”. I did not really get it. How can I differentiate between a writer and an expert writer?

    • John Mihalik

      Hey Moshin – It’s a great question. An “expert” is someone who is simply a subject matter expert in whatever area you are looking for content in. What I meant by “writer” in this context is someone who is primarily skilled in writing. It may sound odd, but ideally you want experts to author for you not writers since experts actually know the material and their writing can always be improved or edited.

      Good solid expertise and and advice tends to come through and connects with people. Whereas a good writer not skilled in the subject matter can (with some research) certainly fill an article with words, but tends to be a bit shallow. So if you are really looking for quality, find an expert.

  • Colin

    Structured data markup is my big aim is 2013 as well

  • sitar shop

    Thank you very much for this post. It’s a reality now we need to follow a new rules.

  • Sumit Dass

    Hello John,

    can you suggest me Off page activities on a daily basis, how many of us? what else should do
    which did improve my ranking in search engine. please suggest me ?

    Thanks in Advance

    • Sandy Brown

      Some of our Off-Page Optimization activities include:
      • Article Creation with Highly Skilled Article Writers and Submissions
      • Press Release Distribution
      • Directory Submissions
      • Link Exchange
      • Blog Creation and Posting
      • Classifieds Posting
      • Social Bookmarking
      • Social Networking
      • Forum Posting
      • Blog Commenting
      And remind that all the contents must be unique.You can use many free seo tools like “Curation Software” and By design, CurationSoft is simple to use. Search by keyword, choose your content, drag and drop, add your commentary and post. Results are generated lightning fast and you’ll find it’s actually fun to use CurationSoft. Stop dreading everyday sharing and posting.