Now that the New Year is properly underway, Hubspot offers some predictions for SEO in 2011:
- Social media will increase its influence in search-engine rankings
- Mobile devices will become more important in online marketing
- Social-media marketing itself will become more mainstream
The first point is obvious, but it is important to add a caveat: Social-networking websites like Facebook and Twitter, to varying degrees and in various search engines, are increasing in prominence. But wait a second before you start imagining a quick way to build thousands of backlinks.
First, not every social-media network’s links are “do-follow” (meaning that they pass “SEO credit” in search engines with the link). I do not have a source handy, but I read once that links on Reddit, for example, only count for search-engine growth when they receive at least five positive votes from users. And that is only one example. Caroline Middlebrook offers some thoughts and a list of SMM sites that are “do-follow.” The third point has indeed become increasingly true for those who have been paying attention — many companies are putting their Facebook URLs in commercials rather than corporate-website ones. (See eConsultancy for some interesting thoughts on the practice.)
The second point is relevant to marketing, but not SEO specifically (at least for now). The more that people use mobile devices rather than desktop or laptop computers, the more that marketing efforts will need to be tailored to the specific medium. But until search engines change their fundamental algorithms in ways that instantly differentiate between the type of medium that a person is using, SEO and SEM will remain the same (in all of their complicated, digital glory).
TechCrunch offers an interesting summary of Bing’s Search Summit at the end of last year:
- Most searchers in Bing are focused on product categories like music and consumer electronics
- Bing is developing “unique visual experiences” to accompany search results in these fields
- Bing will incorporate the number of Facebook “Likes” into its search algorithm
- Bing Maps will begin to show the interiors of venues including shopping malls
The idea of segmentation within the search industry is intriguing — to say the least. A standard practice in business when one company has an insurmountable portion of market share is for small competitors to carve a specific, focused niche for themselves. The idea is to do something small extremely well since a large behemoth of a corporation will be unable to be such detail-oriented.
But could that work in search market — could Bing compete with Google by focusing on a niche subset of search (as described in the first two points)? Bing, for example, could include additional data pertaining to music searches rather than just a list of websites and images. (Perhaps links to audio clips, online music-stores, and other things along with search results so that people do not need to make a few extra clicks?)
However, this was MySpace’s strategy to compete with a rapidly-rising Facebook — to focus on the music and arts industries. And the website cut half of its workforce last month. Bing may face even more difficulty against Google than MySpace has against Facebook. After the decline of sites like Friendster and LiveJournal, MySpace was something like a first-mover in the market — Facebook came later. However, Google has years of experience over Bing.
We’ll just have to wait to see what happens.
LinkedIn, also according to TechCrunch, now lets the administrators of Groups decide whether they want the forum discussions to be searchable and viewable by people who are neither members of the Groups nor LinkedIn itself.
Of course, there are pros and cons to each choice. It may come down to whether a group administrator wants to promote himself or the group. By opening the group to the public, the owner will expose himself, his business, and his abilities to a wider audience. After all, this is one of the benefits of owning or moderating a popular Internet forum in a given field.
However, it also opens up the group to potential spammers. (I cannot count of many LinkedIn messages I receive from people offering “sales” on backlink-building packages even though it is likely that such firms use black-hat SEO methods.) By keeping a group private, the owner would maintain increased quality-control over the group itself — for the benefit of the general membership.
It’s a tough call.