The 2012 Quality Evolution of SEO & SEM, Internet & Online Marketing from Ottawa

SEO and SEM in 2012

Google Carved Out the SEO & SEM Search-Scape with a Laser Focus on Quality

As 2012 winds down and the mercury drops in our nation’s capital, Ottawa, the world of SEO and internet marketing continues to evolve across the far reaches of cyberspace. This year, the major search engines continued to tighten up on quality control, and social media platforms figured out how to make money through online marketing and advertising.

We Canadians love our Tim Horton’s coffee, our NHL hockey, except when Gary Bettman locks out the best players on the planet and goes on vacation, and of course, our Internet; in fact, 88% of us here in Ottawa, 16 years or older use the Internet for personal use 2010 Internet Use Survey (StatsCan).

Google Panda and Penguin

Like our coffee and our hockey, we want the good stuff on the net that will keep us going through the long winter months… not the mindless fluff. So it’s generally good news to most of Canada paying attention to the policies and trends of the evolving web that, in 2012, Google has continued to refine it’s affectionate sounding Panda and Penguin algorithm updates, which seek to reward websites with quality content, while penalizing sites with tons of sketchy links, farmed in dark corners of the globe by black hatters with flashy promises of quick number one search engine rankings (warning: check the expiry date on these).

Google Gets Vocal

Google has taken other steps to increase the quality of the web by communicating more effectively with webmasters. The search giant is now generally revealing what its algorithm is looking for to determine a website’s quality score, while alerting site owners when they are going astray. In the first two months of 2012, Google sent more messages to webmasters warning them of possible violations that could hurt their site’s ranking through its Webmaster Tools than it did in all of 2011, and almost more than it has in all previous years combined, since it’s inception in 1996 SEO Year in Review (Search Engine Land).

These kinds of alerts are invaluable to help keep your site on a course for greater rankings and traffic. Webmaster Tools can also help to ensure that new content for your site is indexed quickly and accurately, and can now link to Google Analytics to provide SEO performance metrics, such as average position (ranking), clicks, and impressions.

Bing on the Rise

Bing was also fighting to get a grip on the quality of the sites that it served up in 2012 in an effort to gain a greater share of the core search market. In August, Bing’s search share rose to nearly 16% (WebProNews) and it’s Search Alliance with Yahoo accounted for over 25% of the search market.

Bing has its own version of Webmaster Tools to assist with indexing and measuring SEO performance on the Bing and Yahoo Search Engines (which replaced Yahoo Site Explorer in 2012). Bing actually introduced an important element of its toolset to disavow links earlier than Google’s Link Disavow Tool which came out in October 2012.

The tier one search engines, Google, Bing and Yahoo account for over 95% of the search market. They want to clean up the web, and empower webmasters to do their part. Previous to 2012, sites could artificially bolster their search engine rankings by building and amassing scores of links leading back to their site, regardless of their site’s actually quality, or even relevance to a search query. This led to all kinds of link farming and exchange schemes across the net, commonly known as black hat SEO, which is all about gaming the system to artificially and temporarily boost rankings, rather than by working hard to provide good quality content on a site that people actually find valuable.

Disavow Links

Now that Google’s Penguin has some teeth, sites that previously ranked well using black hat principles are tanking, often to the surprise and chagrin of the site owners, who may have hired an SEO to build links and improve rankings, without paying too much attention to how they were doing so. Google and Bing recognize that many site owners may not have been directly involved, or are at fault for the link profile associated with their site, and therefore may need some help to clean things up and give their site a fair shake in the search engines; hence, the disavow tools that came on the scene in 2012, which allow site owners to indicate that particular links, or links from certain domains should no longer be considered by a search engine.

Caution must be exercised with these powerful tools… you wouldn’t want to disavow links that are legitimately contributing to your site’s rankings. Google recommends that you do everything possible to remove an offending link yourself, such as contacting the site’s webmaster, or tracking down fake social media profiles that may be associated with your site. Regularly monitoring your site’s performance and link profile will also help alert you to the ominous signs of negative SEO.

Negative SEO (Search Engine Watch) generally refers to one site buying or building low quality links and pointing them at competitor to diminish their rankings. Just dropping a few spots in the SERPs can have a seriously negative impact on the ability of a business (especially a small business) to garner quality web traffic.

Internet & Online Marketing Developments in 2012

LinkedIn Stock Way UP

LinkedIn is a rising star on the social media marketing and PPC scene. 2012 saw its membership rise to 190 million plus members in over 200 countries with the majority of its members consisting of business professionals and decision makers, powering the site to act as a recruitment engine. 2012 saw LinkIn stock (LNKD) increase an astounding 80% in share price over the course of the year.

Pinterest and Instagram

These two social media applications gained a lot of interest and momentum in 2012 and are certainly worth paying attention to in 2013. Pinterest, which lets users collect and ‘pin’ images, saw it’s North American user base grow from 1.27 million in 2011 to 29 million in 2012. Instagram, a photo sharing social app with creative filters, was acquired for what amounted to $747 million by Facebook (initially $1 billion, but a good chunk was in Facebook stock), saw a twenty-fold increase in traffic over last year. Where there is traffic, there is usually money, both of which are predicated to increase for Pinterest and Instagram in 2013, provided they can avoid potential pitfalls around privacy and content ownership.

This past week Instagram announced new terms of service in which it states that it now has the right to sell your photos. Early rumblings on Google Plus and other social networks indicate strong potential for a significant backlash over this issue. Even if the Facebook mothership can quell this storm (they just announced a retraction back the original TOS), the Instagram brand has already taken a hit.

Twitter Promoted Tweets Generating Revenue

2012 saw Twitter’s user base grow to 500 million, making it the second most popular social media platform on the planet and the number one app for real time transmission of unfolding events, such as the U.S. Presidential Election. Not only is Twitter popular and timely, it knows how to make money! Twitter is expected to make $260 million in 2012, compared to $140 million in 2011 from its “Promoted Tweets” and the forecast for revenue growth in 2013 is up, up, up.

Facebook Mobile Ads Now Making Money

In October of 2012, Facebook hit 1 Billion users, making it the most popular social media platform on the planet. But with half of its user base on mobile, the looming question has been, will Facebook be able to make money on its mobile ads? Looks like Mark Zukerberg and his crew are figuring out how to bring in the dough. At the end of the third quarter, Facebook ad revenues grew 36% (Mashable) year over year to $1.08 billion, with $139 million (14% coming from mobile). Facebook is now making about $3 million per day from mobile advertising; however, the full impact of having ads increasingly pumped into our personal news feeds has yet to be measured. Watch for more Facebook controversy around personal privacy vs. generating ad revenue in 2013.

Google Adwords Dominates PPC Market

Google still rules the search engine marketing world with its flagship PPC advertising application Adwords, which generated about $14 billion in revenue in the third quarter of this year (that’s almost 24 times the historic powerball jackpot of $587.5 million that was drawn this past November). The Adwords platform itself saw a several enrichments to product listings, location targeting, offer extensions, mobile app extensions, video integration, and enhanced sitelinks, aimed at increasing the ROI potential of the PPC industry leader.

SEO & SEM in 2013

Most of this is actually good news for those SEO & SEM professionals out there who understand that methodology is as important as business results when it comes to internet and online marketing. The search-scape for 2013 looks increasingly competitive, as the major search engines tighten up quality control, and popular social media platforms seek to increase revenue, forcing businesses to fight harder for their web traffic.

Winning with honour is not only satisfying, but also sustaining… which is perhaps why the Samurai class was so dominant for many centuries in feudal Japan, and why Samurai Marketing in Ottawa is a good ally to help you fight for sustainable web traffic to drive your business. Contact us to book a professional SEO consult!

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