This year marked huge developments in the evolution of SEO. From new search engine features to huge algorithms, it’s clear the new decade has big things to come. Here’s our look back at the top SEO milestones of 2011.
1. Panda: The Great Wakeup Call of 2011
You probably didn’t sleep through the dramatic Google algorithm changes that started in February. If you played your cards wrong, you may have even seen your rankings plummet almost overnight as the search engine redoubled its efforts in an ongoing battle against spam and content farms.
If there was ever any question that high quality content is critical to success, this update–which reportedly affected 12 percent of search results–put it to rest. Previously, sites were able to win by simply scooping up search results through sheer number of pages, so long as the quality was just good enough. Now site quality as a whole takes precedence. This means that even having some pages aimed primarily at scooping up search terms (or simply having a ton of ecommerce pages without much useful content) can hurt you.
2. The Rise of Social Search
In case you haven’t heard, search is getting social. Beyond indexing pages and updates from platforms like Facebook, social media cues are becoming increasingly integrated with search results. Google has been quick to merge Google+ with search results via the +1 feature and branded pages. Bing meanwhile had already joined forces with Facebook to integrate results that social media contacts “Like” into search–and may be about to launch a platform of its own. As this happens, engaging human users is quickly becoming a key metric in good search results.
3. (More) Localization
While 2010 was the year local went big, the importance of local search has hardly quieted down in 2011. At the end of last year, Google took up the trend in a big way, displaying around-the-corner results not just for searches with geographic modifiers (“Minneapolis dry cleaner”) but also regular results (“dry cleaner”).
2011 marked another interesting year in local search. New developments include the “Hotpot” recommendation system (quickly followed by Google’s acquisition of Zagat’s existing ratings). The last few months have seen plenty of work to better integrate paid search and the local market (and it has paid off: local paid search revenues are up 30 percent).
As a result of these changes, and the rise of on-the-go mobile searching, users are becoming more savvy to local searching. According to Google, more than 20 percent of searches are currently local in nature and the number is on the rise.
4. The “Freshness” Update
Keeping content current has always been important, but the rewards just got a lot bigger. Word is, blogs and RSS feeds updated with fresh content will be supplying Google with a third of its content. So far the freshness update appears to mainly serve to keep the most current news items at the top of the page, but it certainly can’t hurt to keep churning out quality content into 2012.