It’s been a year, one calendar year since I joined Distilled. My first task was to write a post for SEOmoz as the rest of the Distilled office (all in London then) was going to be out on holiday (the Brits and their bank holidays … geez). So I geared up to write my first blog post on SEOmoz, as my others were always YOUmoz posts.
In light of the fact that I have the honor of posting one year later, I wanted to review what has changed in SEO. We always talk back and forth about how things change so much and yet stay the same. The basics are still the basics, good architecture, content and links are the name of the game. Some take that as the industry never really changes — maybe we all make it up how things “change”, but I disagree. And this has been a rather tumultuous year for SEO.
Now most of what I mention will be Google based. We do have a tendency to be very Google focused in SEO as most sites see a majority of their search traffic come from Google. If you know of any other changes in SEO I might have missed, please let me know in the comments and I’ll credit you.
Please note that these are in no particular order … not by date, not by importance, just my rambling.
The most recent of the Google updates, there has been much written on this on Distilled, SEOmoz, Search Engine Land, SERoundtable and many more. I am not going to babble on, but in short this update went after low quality sites using major advertising and little original content. We called it the Farmer update, Google called it the Panda Update, and soon after came the Scraper update … targeting scraper sites.
The Mayday update was the first after I started, it was the beginning of this wonderful mess (I said wonderful … ) of an SEO year. If you think back, this update is very similar to the most recent update (Panda) in that it went for thin content sites … only this time it went after those that were ranking for long tail terms. This sent many sites into panic and reset so many marketing campaigns and site designs. The spotlight was shifted to not only creating good content, but creating the right amount of content at the highest quality that will gain links.
Around the same time as Mayday, Google released the Caffeine Index. This provided Google a way of offering fresher content, faster. The update helped get content found and indexed faster and lead to the future of SERPs pages that included social and integrated local results (which we will discuss later).
Google Instant is an area of pride for Distilled. Rob Ousbey first posted about it before Google announced it (sorry guys!) and then just this last week, Justin Briggs noted the addition of the term “scam” to the blacklist of Instant results. We know that pornographic terms and many others do not show Google Instant results, but now scam doesn’t either.
(But “scams” does *shrugs*)
Those were the major changes to the algorithm and updates, but one other thing that has occurred in the last 12 months was the announcement that site speed was a factor in ranking. A minor factor, but something that Google wanted us to pay attention to.
Loss of US Market Share for Google
All Google, all the time. I know what you all are thinking right now. But this year did bring a bit of bad news to the Googlers in California. We have seen smaller drops over the last few years, but we have really started to see Google lose market share over the last year. The next 12 months should be interesting with Bing’s push to close that gap.
Bing/Yahoo Final Change
Speaking of Bing, one major change was of course the completion of the Yahoo/Bing merger … well search merging. All the paid accounts completed their merges and Yahoo’s results became Bing’s results. Sad day, but it’s not like Yahoo was always its own search engine anyway. *kicks dirt*
Multi-lingual Site Changes
2010 was the year for many companies to start thinking about taking their online strategy global. International SEO is one of the more advanced topics and something I personally have talked much about this year. But there was one big change to how international multi-lingual sites might operate. We all know that translating content is necessary to target certain users, but the same content just translated can pose problems for ranking and indexing. Google is trying to help with the rel alternate tag allowing sites to denote the same content in a different languages. This is not however the saviour to all of your international issues. This just helps with templetized content being translated on the same site … getting into targeting different countries, now that is still somewhat challenging.
Once Caffeine took effect, it swung open the doors for a wide variety of changes to what content was shown on SERPs pages and how … on Google that is. We have gone from 10 blue links and descriptions to Products, Maps, Integrated Local, Brand Refinements, Faceted Search, and user input. The most recent user input is of course the +1 button, in addition to the ability to flag and hide sites from your search results.
But the biggest change has been in preferred results from your social circle. This has been tested in many forms the “posts from your friends” at the end of results to avatars showing below search results noting which of your friends recommended the page. Things are getting real and it’s getting harder to game results that are totally dependent on a user’s actions and social circle.
Others of Note
There have been many other changes including those from players in the SEO world, many movers and shakers, and much news from the other sides of online marketing like social and paid. But I would be talking forever if I included all of those.
However, there were a few more that impact SEO directly and I thought they were worth mentioning.
- Keyword Tool Change – Google updated their Keyword Tool, making it more relevant (or less in other’s eyes) by numbers but still not fully accurate.
- New Analytics Interface – Brand new and still in beta (sign up here), but will definitely impact how SEOs do some of their work.
- Weighted Sort – A personal favorite, but there was the release of weighted sort within Google Analytics. Just awesome.
Year in Review Takeaways
This wasn’t an earth shattering post for most, and I hate to leave you just reminiscing about what happened in the last year. We are all about teaching and learning at Distilled/SEOmoz (I’m sure some of you will school me with big things I missed on this list), so here is what I think we can all learn and take back to projects after this last year.
- Put Users First - plain and simple, if you keep them in focus you won’t go wrong by Google or Bing.
- Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff – Small changes in ranking, site speed, or any future algo changes should be taken with a grain of salt. Follow the first lesson and these changes should have little effect on you.
- Keep Your Ear to the Ground – But after that last note, I do recommend always knowing what is going on in the industry and with your own site. You should know at all times how your site is performing so that when the boss comes calling about not ranking for a keyword (personalized results FTW!), you can back things up with hard data and related industry trends.
- Create Good Sites, Good Content, and Get People Talking – Marketing. It’s all about marketing. Do it right the first time and don’t cut corners. Integrate your whole marketing plan and you will have many opportunities to get “real estate” on a SERPs page.