2012 was by far the most tumultuous 365 days in SEO history. We were greeted in early spring with the Earth-shattering Penguin update. And as soon as the SEO world caught its collective breath, Google hit yet again with it’s jarring EMD update. Add a dozen Panda and Penguin refreshes into the mix and we have ourselves a year that would break the most hardened stockbroker. If you look at 2012 as a year to regroup and relearn, 2013 is poised to be your best year year yet. If not…then you probably won’t be doing SEO in 2013.
Here are 2012′s most important lessons, and how to apply them to your SEO campaigns.
Love the Longtail
The next time you’re in yoga class repeat this mantra during one of your downward dogs: “the long tail is your friend”. The days of gunning for a single keyword — and pinning all of your hopes, dreams and desires on ranking for it — are long gone. Remember that Google Penguin is at its core an over-optimization penalty. And you can’t over-optimize if you’re posting quality content that targets dozens of longtails instead of a single keyword.
Savvy SEOs know that approximately 50% of all traffic is long-tail… and you can significantly decrease your risk of a slap if you go for the long-tail half. 2013 Takeaway: Post quality content to your site that targets often-ignored long tail keywords. Not only will this help protect you against over-optimization penalties, but you’ll find that the competition level for these keywords are laughable.
White Hat is Back (In a Big Way)
To quote LL Cool Jay: “Don’t call it a comeback…I’ve been here for years”. White hat has roared back as the SEO approach thanks to a Penguin update that brought blackhats to their knees. If you’re still trying to game the system with spun content, blog networks and other shady link building techniques you’re going to be in a world of hurt in 2013. That’s not to say you should passively post “quality content” on your site and pray to the SEO gods for authority backlinks.
You still need to be proactive in your approach. But that means replacing paid links with guest posting and web 2.0s with infographic campaigns. Sure, white hat approaches do take more time, energy and even money to implement. But in today’s SEO world they work better — and last longer — than shady stuff. 2013 Takeaway: Blackhat flat out doesn’t work. If you want to carve out a permanent spot on Google’s front page you need to step your white hat game up.
Relevancy in the New PR
This little gem was dropped in an October 15th interview with a former member of the Google Search Quality Team. Despite one of the few pieces of advice we’ve ever seen from a current or former Google employee, SEOs still continue to obsess over PageRank — an outdated metric that weakly correlates with link quality (just ask all the Penguin victims with high PR sites).
But I can tell you from extensive testing that a link from a closely related site — even a PR0 or PR1 — moves sites significantly more than random PR6 sites. 2013 Takeaway: Forget PR and set your link building crosshairs on related sites.
Become a Real Internet Marketer
Marketers — people that can produce buzzworthy content that people naturally link to and share — are going to absolutely dominate in 2013. SEO nerds that live in their little bubble and try to rank their 125 sites using automated software are toast. In fact, many big brands have largely abandoned traditional SEO in favor of old school marketing and outreach.
Because this approach naturally produces high-quality related links, social shares and targeted traffic… not to mention the fact that you’re essentially bulletproof against future updates because you’re doing things by the book.