Search Engine Marketing – 2011 In Review

As we jump into 2012, it’s always good to look back at what 2011 brought us. This past year was a game changer for SEO in many ways! Let’s look at some of the changes, announcements, and new developments that we saw this past year in the world of SEO.

1. Google’s Panda Update – First released in February, Google surprised us all with the Panda Update, an algorithm change that has drastically altered the search landscape. Intended to target low quality “link farm” sites such as eHow, many other sites ended up being affected by the change—specifically, those sites that contained low quality in-bound links as well as poor quality and duplicate content. Google’s Panda has received several updates since the original rollout in February 2011, and the effect went global in April 2011. To help the sites that were affected by the updates, Google published an advisory on its blog, giving some direction for self-evaluation of a website’s quality. This update has forced many to evaluate not only the quality of the content on their sites, but also to re-evaluate their linking strategies.

2. Google+ – In July, Google launched their version of a social networking site: Google+. Met with much skepticism after other failed attempts in the social landscape, Google+ seems to be weathering the storm with a sharp increase in the number of users. However, recent reports have shown a sharp drop in actual usage of the site. Time will tell how Google+ will change social networking and search results based on a user’s Google+ interests.

3. Google “makes search more secure” with their (not provided) organic traffic – In October, Google made an announcement that they would be “making search more secure.” To give a brief recap of the announcement, Google said that they would be excluding organic search data from all “signed-in users,” in an effort to implement stronger security standards. Essentially, if you are a Google user and perform Google searches while signed-in, then the referral keyword data would be excluded from the analytics data of the sites you are visiting. In other words, Google Analytics will be unable to track the keywords that visitors are using to find your site, if the visitor is signed-in while performing a search. Instead, a new “(not provided)” keyword will show up and data for all signed-in users will be lumped into this category.

4. Google+ Pages – In November, Google launched the much-anticipated Google+ Page, a nice addition to the already quite popular (40 million users and growing) Google+ social network platform. The Google+ Page has allowed businesses and brands to create their own customized page, grow a following, and communicate directly with fans. We continue to see great local SEO value from this new platform, and as it continues to grow, we think it is very smart for businesses to create their own Google+ Page to secure brand identity and interact with customers and clients.

5. New & Improved SEO Assessments – As the landscape of SEO and the Internet is constantly changing, the way we assess a site’s needs has also shifted. Taking a more technical approach, we revamped our SEO assessment halfway through 2011 to reflect some of these changes. One of the most exciting changes is our on-page SEO analysis. By reviewing all the parts of on-page SEO, such as proper keyword targeting throughout Title Tags, META data, URLs, and content, we can quickly identify areas of need. We also review off-site SEO in the form of Link Network Metrics, and the newly added Domain Brand Metrics. These key pieces of analysis give us insight into how Google could be viewing not only your domain, but also your brand.

We’re excited with the continual evolution in search marketing, and 2012 will no doubt be an exciting year for search. Let us know what you think lies ahead in the comments.

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