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SEO in 2013: 12 Top Industry Experts Provide Their Predictions

Submitted by on December 21, 2012 – 1:29 pm One Comment |

Today’s guest post is from OMN regular Ned Poulter, who is a familiar face on the SEO scene across the UK. Ned is a prolific blogger and currently works as SEO manager at Quirk London.

It’s that time of year again, we’re hanging up the decorations, frantically looking for last minute present purchases and getting suitably well-oiled at a multitude of Christmas parties. But just before we sing in the New Year, I thought it would be a great opportunity to take some time to reflect on 2012, and also make some predictions on where the SEO industry is likely to go in 2013.

In order to get a broader point of view, I have also asked 12 of the top SEOs in the industry to contribute their thoughts too. Here is the definitive guide to SEO in 2013:

Ned Poulter - SEO

Ned Poulter – SEO Manager at Quirk London

2013 is, in my opinion, going to be a big year of change for SEO. If 2011/12 were SEO’s teenage years, then in 2013 it’s going to uni, and in a big way it’s going to grow up, expand its reach into a number of other disciplines, and also separate the men from the boys.

There’s no doubt about it, SEO is getting harder, there’s little automation or poor quality spammy link building that has shown results in 2012, in fact after the Penguin update we’ve seen this work actually generating negative effects in terms of SERP presence.

For me, there are 4 main areas that I envisage major developments in SEO in 2013:

PR & Authorship – It has been said by many SEOs and PRs over the last two years, but SEO and PR have often been like cousins, much alike, but with a few (fairly major) differences. SEOs and PRs are very different job roles, despite what you read, but that doesn’t mean that SEOs cannot utilise the great skills that PRs harness to improve their efforts.

What’s more, Google is looking to shake the burden of links as its biggest ranking factor. One way that they’ve positioned themselves to do this is by using Google+ to give a value to individual user profiles; prepare for this so-called AuthorRank to take greater precedent in 2013.

CRO (Conversion Rate Optimisation) – SEO and CRO are mutually beneficial fields; if SEO is about increasing the amount of natural visits to a website, then CRO is the process of helping to guide these users through the site.

The agencies that are bringing these skills in-house and beginning to offer CRO as a service are going to capitalise on the historically ‘beaten down’ budgets attributed to just SEO on it’s own.

Video – Since the launch of the television, video has historically been a format in which the world over has consumed for entertainment, and due to its popularity has served as a major advertising platform.

The rise of video streaming services like: YouTube, Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and Hulu have changed the way, and more importantly the platforms, which people interact with this content. By creating a presence on these platforms, brands can utilise this to their advantage and ensure that they are included in this shift in video consumption culture.

Mobile/responsive design – I’ve coupled these together due to the ongoing prediction that the new year is ‘the year of mobile’ (at least over the last 5 years).

While I believe mobile usage is maturing, I think that as savvy online marketers responsive design is the area that we need to spend our time. Too many times have I been approached by prospective clients looking for expensive development of apps that are often device specific (OS, Android, Windows) when 85% of the time all they really need to consider is genuine responsive design so that no matter what device is used to access the content, this content is accessible.

Gus Ferguson - Content Marketing

Gus Ferguson – Director & Co-Founder at Quad. Organiser of OMN London and The Content Creation Collective

The number of organic listings on page one will continue to decrease until there are only a couple left for commercial search terms.

SEOs and online marketers in general will panic, possibly riot, and then get down to the task of working out and optimising for new traffic channels in order to reduce their reliance on Google.

‘Traffic loyalty’ will become a huge topic as it will become clear that repeat traffic is key to success.

Publishers have always understood that traffic loyalty is vital and in 2013 brands will stop trying to work out how to become publishers and realise that they are already publishers, they’re just not very good at it yet. 2013 will be the year of the content strategist.

Authored onsite content and diversity of onsite authors will become massive as marketers clock on to the traffic and authority that comes from influencers promoting their branded content. Watch out for brand columnists.

Writers with strong G+ profiles (and other social profiles) will be in high demand. Agencies and brands will be doing everything that they can to build their connections with these influencers… or use Quad which has already done it ;)

Kevin Gibbons

Kevin Gibbons – Managing Director Blueglass UK

2012 has been a crazy year for changes in search – and it’s been really interesting to see how everyone’s adapting to this. Post-penguin, we’re now all in a situation where it’s no longer a debate about whether or not content is the right way to go – Google has made it the only option!

There’s a lot you can read into where Google are still going with this – and in my opinion the two big predications I have are:

Google Authorship has only just started – there’s a lot more to come in 2013. I made some predictions in this presentation – but to summarise, Google+ is not a Facebook killer, it’s a channel for authenticating authors – I’d recommend reading the patents to see where Google are going with Agent Rank. That means Google wants to credit content based on who wrote it – not just what it’s about or where it’s from.

Agile marketing – this is a term I expect to hear a lot more of in 2013. The brands which are slow to move are finally finding that they’re losing out. That means that SEO strategies are needing to be much more nimble and adaptable in order to compete at the top. So I think will see a lot of teams ditching the silos – and really looking at the bigger picture as an overall digital strategy.

Pete Handley - SEO

Pete Handley – SEO Director at TheMediaFlow

Google flexing their muscles, enforcing API terms like we’ve seen from Raven and their rank checking dilemma/issues, cracking down on link building, poor content, too many ads above folds – more of the same as 2012, but further refining those processes and what gets caught up in those kinds of filters. Lots of things could be targeted as part of this, remains to be seen what specific things that they will decide to clamp down on and how that will impact things. Will it be Infographics and Guest Posts as everyone has been saying? Quite possibly, I suspect it will be down to how you’ve gone about these techniques, as not all IG promotion is done the same, and Guest Posting differs wildly depending on who is doing it.

The amount of placed content I see that *only* links to the location that you are looking to promote seems like such an obvious footprint to me – less “real” guest posting and more an evolution of the article marketing we saw a few years ago.

We’ll continue to get less data (I have one site in my Google Analytics profile that has nearly 90% not provided data) from some areas of Google, but I’d like to think that Google might start to make Webmaster Tools search query data more accurate and useful. Rich Snippets usage driven by Authorship, Schema or the New Data Highlighter will continue to grow and will start having more measureable impact on click through.

I could be wrong though; that’s the fun of SEO :-D

Danny Denhard - SEO

Danny Denhard – Lead SEO at Vouchercodes.co.uk & blogger at Dannydenhard.com

SEO will continue to grow. It will develop in many different areas, most of which are not traditionally associated with SEO. As SEO diversifies, as will other areas of the business ensuring SEO grows alongside it – it is whether the SEO’s take the lead of the expanding areas. Management and ownership will be important for SEO’s next year.

SEO is online marketing with a different label; if budgets are flexible I think campaigns will include both paid and earned campaigns incorporating social media and content marketing.

What is exciting is responsive and interactive content will be important types of content that online marketers and SEO’s will be closely associated with.

Video is still relatively expensive, but allows much more freedom and expression, so I predict we will see more in 2013.

Disciplines like content marketing will always be associated with SEO, but managed wisely I think it will be broken down and managed by different departments.

There are many roles within SEO, a number of which did not exist eighteen or even twelve months ago. I predict roles and disciplines becoming more specific and tailored roles being made within online marketing teams.

My role is ever changing so I expect my role to be very content and project focused.

What is essential in 2013 is helping to develop knowledge to much wider teams and empowering the right people.

Paul Rogers - SEO

Paul Rogers, Head of Digital Marketing at GPMD

I think the biggest thing for SEO in 2013 will be continued iterations of the penguin update and more focus on trust signals, with authorship and social medial being the primary areas addressed.

Authorship has been on the cards for a long time now, and the most interesting thing for more is going to be the measurement of authorship, and how context is built into it.

In the event that authorship does go mainstream, Google will obviously be looking to promote content written by high profile authors within a given sector, but I’m intrigued as to how that value will be transferable to other topics. I think that it will all become much clearer early next year.

Penguin, in my opinion has been the biggest thing to hit SEO for a long time, with plenty of businesses and SEO agencies being affected both positively and negatively over the course of this year. Next year I think we’ll see continuations of the update, with low quality editorial links and completely irrelevant links being more heavily targeted.

Gareth Hoyle - SEO

Gareth Hoyle – Director at Manual Link Building

2013 in SEO is going to be interesting to say the least

As Google analyses the link graph in a lot more detail – I think there are still a few more unknown surprises in store – no matter what colour hat you wear.

I feel that anybody working in business development or sales needs to understand the risks attached to the client and the clients current URL portfolios before committing to results.

I do not think links are going away; I think Google will try and place more emphasis on AuthorRank in an attempt to get some momentum behind Google+ as they continue to fight a losing battle in the social space.

Expect Google to encroach into more competitive and lucrative verticals, a la credit cards, and roll out flight search into the UK.

Oh to be an SEO!!

Neil Walker - SEO

Neil Walker – Director at Quaero Media

You may have read a few posts about the future of SEO, or what we may expect in 2013, or the good old question is SEO Dead? From my view, it comes down to what SEO is; then it’s about gaining coverage by your website appearing when specific search terms are typed into a Search Engine (Non Paid).

This definition by itself is quite whimsical, but what I am trying to explain is it doesn’t mean SEO is ranking top ten for a specific keyword; it means ranking for as many potential search terms or search avenues as possible.

When I talk about as many search terms as possible, it relates partly to the “Content Marketing Revolution”. Some see content marketing as an extension of SEO some as just SEO, or some as its own genre of marketing and the answer is all three.

Online optimisers have written content to drive traffic since the beginning. It always been a part of creative link building or gaining long tail traffic, even lead generation, it all fits together. But it’s not just SEO’s who have done “content marketing” in the past, creative writers/film producers / bloggers have produced content which has done this and PR teams have gain this same success.

When I talk about Search Avenues this mean the potential coverage in a SERP (Non Paid) i.e. Web, News, Images, Products, Social, Local these are all part of SEO even more so in the past few years as Universal Search has evolved.

So will SEO continue to grow as it has done previously? No, it will continue to evolve as it has done previously ;)

I think the online marketing world has started simply coming together i.e. You can’t manipulate links as easily as in the past; you can’t settle with just adding content to a website; mobile usage has rocketed in the past two years; the Social Local Mobile revolution is more prevalent than ever. So what we are now seeing is a merge between many sectors i.e. PR, Web Development, Social Media, Content Writing.

When you look at the above it become simple, PR can promote a brand off line and online, and you can gain great links. Pushing your social channels gives you a bigger starting block for the content you push out and, of course, having a website which has evolved to the technology is essential.

My role in 2013? Having carried out ten years in SEO and overseeing content, PPC and development Teams I left agency work, and in the past 9 months I set up my own consultancy where I now work with a PR agency, work on Social and Content strategy for a large brand, carry out some in-house work looking at Development, SEO, PPC, and Lead generation so I personally see my role not changing only expanding.

Louis Venter – CEO at MediaVision

Louis Venter - SEO
Will SEO continue to grow as it has done in previously years?

I personally think it’ll grow faster, paid search revenues are on the rise globally, and with that market gaining in competitiveness, investment into SEO will continue to grow.

The “SEO is dead” rhetoric misses an important point, which is we all know SEO dies, but as one tactic dies, another branch grows, and if you focus on sustainable long term results then it remains one of the lowest CPA tactics to gain new customers.

What areas of online marketing will be most closely associated with SEO? (content marketing, video, social, other…?)

I think social is the obvious choice but I don’t see social as a series of platforms. To me social is the message and relationships that you need to leverage within your SEO and while using the platforms for amplification is important the quality of the story is key. SEOs need to be better marketers, yes it’s important to know what the engines are doing but it’s more important to understand what the searcher is thinking and to me social adds a lot of that to the mix.

Any changes you foresee happening in your role over the next 12 months…

Just scale really, we are growing rapidly and ensuring the structures are in place to maintain the results we currently achieve while incorporating new ideas into the agency is going to be key for us over the next 12 months. The best thing about our industry is the pace that it moves which makes it pretty much impossible to get bored.

Alex Moss - SEO

Alex Moss – Co-Founder & Technical Director at 3 Door Digital

2013, in my view, will be the year of mobile optimisation.

Although it’s been something on everyone’s list over the past year or two, the use of mobile for search and conversion is rocketing to a point that both an SEO and a client can’t ignore. We already look at responsive design as an essential element in any client website but in 2013 we will focus not just on design but mobile specific content and CRO.

Mobile is just another example of how SEO as a whole is evolving into something that reaches all aspects of online from the initial search to conversion of a returning customer. The gap between offline, social media and onsite is becoming smaller and we have a responsibility to ensure they all compliment each other. When it comes to my own role and responsibility of technical strategy, I will have to ensure more integration into responsive and social (via Facebook’s open graph and Twitter cards as examples) are concrete. Making sure the functionality for all of this within WordPress is a priority of mine for 2013.

Mike Essex - SEO

Mike Essex – Online Marketing Manager at Koozai

Although I think that more people will be performing online marketing, I think we’ll see less people referring to themselves as “SEO’s” (I also feel like I can’t quite use the term as much anymore: www.koozai.com/blog/search-marketing/am-i-still-an-seo-if/).

That’s partly down to SEO now encompassing so many disciplines that it’s impossible for one person to do them all well.

This means that online marketing agencies are hiring for different skillsets e.g. hiring a PR person to do outreach, whereas before they may have hired an “SEO” to do link building.

We’re all still working towards the same goals, but ultimately the strongest teams will be those who recruit people with specialisms that work together to improve SEO efforts, rather than a jack of all trades.

For agencies, this approach to hiring also allows them to expand the toolset they have in order to do SEO.

So, now’s the time to start thinking about PR, video and responsive design.

If you aren’t doing either in 2013 then you are missing huge opportunities in high profile brand / link building, content and mobile accessibility respectively. These aspects also help SEO – with PR giving you links that have real long term value, video giving you more types of content for people to share and link to, and responsive design being the preferred method Google suggest for serving up mobile content.

It’s also going to hopefully become a key realisation that a website has to be awesome, or you may as well not do SEO. Awful sites just won’t attract the types of great links and social shares that will be needed to compete in 2013.

Kevin Wiles - SEO

Kevin Wiles – Freelance SEO Consultant at Kevin Wiles Ltd

I think SEO will continue to grow and more updates from Google will be rolled out to help target low quality sites. I have always thought Bing will continue to take more dominance in the search market area, I think this is going to happen in 2013 with Google rolling out more penalties and updates I think more small businesses will look to Bing as the new favourite.

Content will also continue to be a big player in SEO although for me this has always being the case, I have a feeling stuff which has being over done like Infographics and Guest Posts will be hit by Google and new content types will no doubt be rolled out.

Do I think an SEO’ers role will change? No I never have SEO has always being about optimising a website for the user and providing a great website with content relevant to any given term. As long as this has always being your focus then no I don’t think an SEO’ers role will change.”

The brilliant thing about making predictions is that we see who was right and who was wrong in a years time, so we’d love to hear you thoughts too:

• Do you agree with the predictions made above?
• Is there anything that you feel has been missed out/not touched upon?
• If you had to focus on just one tactic for SEO in 2013, what would it be?

One Comment »

  • Very thought-provoking article and could not help but get involved. I resonate with most comments above, and some of my predictions are similar – yes authorship, yes content marketing, yes effort, yes creativity, no easy links any more, no keywords on page 1 any more for non paying small businesses, less search traffic, the main traffic for small business will continue to be referral traffic and we’ll have to turn our focus on how to increase our direct traffic rather than fighting a losing battle with the SERPS rankings.

    For those who need lots of traffic the adjustments will be different to those who need more sales. If a website is advertising other people’s content in my view will have harder times in 2012 than websites who promote their own services and products, because a lot more effort and creativity will be needed to be spent than in the past. What I mean is that the odd article here and there and good contacts to build links with just won’t be enough. A lot more content will have to be generated hence the need for own blogs on brand’s websites and also a large variety of content will have to be spread laterally – to guest blogs and other’s sites, so both quantity + originality, uniqueness, having something new and interesting to discuss as opposed to spinning the same article in several different ways or using the same marketing campaign intensely.

    Small and big business will perceive the changes very differently and small businesses will have to become fireballs of creative marketing producing sparkles in all different directions as opposed to sitting down all day analysing their keywords and refining them. I do think that 2013 will be the death of the keywords for small business and anyone else who refuses to pay to google.

    I see 2013 as a time of closing the gap between SEO and marketing, and marketing becoming the main route for SEO. As intensity of keywords and anchor terms is not something that google likes from those who don’t pay, we’ll have to use a wider variety of them, and often not use them at all, to make it all look natural and not manipulative. That will be a choice the brand owners will have to make, as that will make the marketing campaigns washed down in many words which may or may not be every copywrighter’s cup of tea.

    Small businesses that cannot be bothered with constantly changing tac to please google may opt out for other marketing strategies entirely outside, whereas other small businesses which produce creative marketing campaigns that manages to engage people may win customer’s affection and trust and generate more revenue than if they were on page 1 in SERPS. Keywords on page 1 means more impressions but does not necessarily mean more sales and this fact will be bankable in 2013.

    I think there will be a lot of random websites featuring on page 1 as more google updates will continue lowering the SERPS ranking of keywords that belong to businesses who have worked hard to create content on the web that is optimised for keywords. I don’t mean content on their website, but content in their e-marketing.

    There will be a lot more surprises and websites and brand owners will have to keep abreast of these developments and adjust their tactics according, for example at present it is still good to build quality links but not good to use keywords as anchors, but in the next few months that may change entirely and link building may become unrewarded entirely if not punished.

    We’ll have to get active on G+ and start sharing with each other. There is not enough sharing on facebook due to some weaknesses at present – if a page likes another page – the owner does not see it and they cannot reciprocate, if a page shares a post of another page, the owner cannot see it and cannot reciprocate, if a page wants to put a person’s name in their status update – the person cannot see their name as it is not a link, if a page shares posts made by a new liker, the person cannot see that unless they go to the page, and in these ways the sharing is broken as sharing should be a two-way process, equal, reciprocal. Again that is relevant only for small business or may be not.

    Effort will be the fashion for 2013, and whoever makes effort will succeed if it is in the right direction – towards excellence in customer service and building trust and away from automation and attempting to be all things to all people. Translation: repeat customers, direct traffic.

    If we sum up two prominent trends: Google local (sell to own community) + G+ (authorship)- it seems to me that Google wants to become a market and not a search engine, so it may drop the prices of adwords so everyone who sells can have a go, and other search engines may become more prominent. I think this will be at the end of 2013 and beyond.

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