Lately I have been getting a lot of emails from people asking how SEO has changed in 2012. When this happens more than once a day I usually think it’s time to write a post so I can help everyone at once, and of course all the other people who had this question! SEO has changed a lot in the last few years and yes, the fundamentals have changed. That being said it’s not like Google decides on January 1st 2012 the great 2012 algorithm change goes live, many of these changes have been happening over time and Google’s just turning the dial a bit more.
SEO has changed because search engines like Google get better at making it harder to game the system. When I started doing SEO in 1995 all I had to do was repeat a keyword more than my competitors. Next came the era of getting backlinks from forums and comments, people went nuts, built software to do it, wrote books about it, and it worked…for a while. This era lasted quite a while and built a lot of SEO companies and affiliate marketers.
Then came social media, the Panda update, and a few more tweaks that have made what is now the Google of 2012. It’s been an exciting journey and in the end I honestly think that we all win. Web users do have a chance to see results without the clutter of annoying content farms and scam sites, and all the annoyingly stupid things people would do to outrank you, now leave them high and dry. So what are three ways SEO has changed in 2012, here they are, but remember many of these started long before now:
- Link Diversity Is More Important Than Ever – search engines learned about a gazillion comment links and forum profile links you were using to rank well for, and they tuned their powers down, way down. Google knows that real sites have backlinks from all kinds of difference places and in all different forms. Image links, social media links, blog article links, are all great examples. There really is no game to this, do something cool or build something that people like and this link profile will come with the territory.
- Limit Your Ads Above The Fold – it’s official, Google announced that too many ads above-the-fold on your site could hurt your rankings. Luckily this isn’t a huge change for those offending and in the end it really does improve the user experience.
- Well-Written, Unique, Content – this one has been continually layered-in and tuned-up and really can’t be emphasized enough. The days of content spinning and duplicate content helping you rank are long over. Well-written, unique content is king.
- Get Social – you should have some nice backlinks from Social Media, let’s face it, Google knows that real brands are active on Social Media.
- Don’t Build For Search, Build For People – this could be counted as step #5 or just summarized as all of the above. The moral of the story is that building sites for search engines really doesn’t work any more, you need to build sites for real people that they like, use, and recommend.
So don’t worry, the sky isn’t falling, and SEO isn’t getting harder. People just need to do what they should have been doing all along, building great sites, engaging their visitors, and creating lasting brands.