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Top 10 Most Significant Search & Social Marketing Stories of 2011

Guillaume Bouchard
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2011 has been the year of revolutions and webolutions. Here’s a list of the 10 most significant, earth-shattering digital trends to have rocked the online marketing world this past year.

10. Death of Digg

rip-digg-2004-2011While the site hasn’t been completely erased from cyberspace, long gone are the days when a Digg front page could crash your servers. There have been countless theories as to why Digg failed, from the unpopular changes made to the UI, Digg’s attempt at democratizing the front page by limiting power users’ influence, to its founder, Kevin Rose resigning… The reality is these all had an effect on Digg’s demise.

While Digg will go down as a pioneer in the social news movement, Digg buried itself when it decided it would ignore what its users wanted and launched a buggy, poor performing system known as Digg 4. Traffic from Digg has fallen by 97 percent year on year and by 86 percent since Digg 4 went live.

Twitter, StumbleUpon, and Reddit hold most of the share of the social news community now. StumbleUpon has 9,642,000 Total Unique Visitors with a +424.8 percent yearly change; Reddit has 3,025,000 Total Unique Visitors and -9.3 percent yearly change, according to comScore.

Sayonara, Digg. If there is one thing you have taught us, it’s that if you don’t listen to your users, they’ll abandon you and your broken axle.

Image Source: Manka Bros

9. Google Gets Premium

google-premium-dollar-billThings are getting a little less free over at Google.

Effective January 1, 2012, websites that use the Google Maps API (think travel firms, hotel chains) will be charged $4 per 1,000 views. Maps will allow up to 25,000 map views per day for free before implementing the charge. While Google says the change is only expected to affect 0.35 percent of users, paid services seem to be on the rise at the search engine behemoth.

This year, Google also introduced Google Analytics Premium services and it seems that in both cases they are going after the heaviest users of their services to get something from them.

Image Source: Gb2b 

8. 1st Digital Revolution (Arab Spring)

arab-springWael Ghonim, the Google marketing executive who frontlined the Egyptian revolution, said: “If you want to liberate a country, give them the Internet.”

In a historical turn of events, public outcry surged in the Middle East this year, and three longstanding dictatorships were brought down thanks to people’s ability to communicate and share information through social media networks.

Web 2.0 played a vital role in organizing and coordinating protests in the Middle East, demonstrating the powerful role of online communication channels in spreading freedom of information, in turn changing the political landscape.

Image Source: Miller McCune 

7. Facebook Timeline & Gestures

introducing-timeline-facebook

Mark Zuckerberg made his big announcement about Facebook Timeline at the f8 conference in September. The feature promises to revolutionize what users (and brands) can do with the Facebook platform. Giving users the ability to create a chronological story of their lives in one place, Timeline looks to be a great opportunity for brands to reach out to the social platform’s 800 million+ active users and tell their story in a novel and engaging way.

Facebook Gestures is another big feature announced at f8 that will encroach on the ubiquitous “Like” button. Internal research at the company showed that especially among younger Facebook users, the Like button was an implicit endorsement of content, which made many people afraid to use it.

With Gestures users can share specific feelings about the content. Facebook suspects that people will be more inclined to click a button that says they’ve “Read” an article, “Listened” to a song or “Watched” a video, rather than “Liked” it.

No news yet as to when we’ll be able to “Dislike” content.

6. Google+

google-plus-acquaintancesIn the battle for the future of the web, Google wasn’t going to sit back and let Facebook hog all the social pie. Google one-upped (quite literally) the major players in the social space by rolling out the +1 button. Placed directly next to search results links, by clicking +1, users can endorse the content and websites they find interesting, useful, fun, which then gets shared with their Google+ circles, and the rest of the web.

Forty million+ users later, the launch of Google+ has probably been the biggest news to social media marketing in 2011 and to search in many respects. A +1 has a direct influence on search results implying that social is an integral part of search.

Google Analytics has made social engagement trackable by reporting tweets, Facebook Likes and shares, and of course, +1s.

But all the hype surrounding the +1 launch, followed by a long wait for brands to be able to create pages may have hindered the network's growth. Google+ has been slowly losing users but time will tell what the future has in store for the platform.

5. Real-time Search

google-realtime-searchGoogle changes its search algorithm about 500 times a year, but this year’s changes were radical. Whereas traditional web search crawls indexed web pages periodically, returning results based on relevance to the search query, with real-time search, the search engine can track and deliver real-time results while users type in their search query.

Where is that real-time information coming from? News sites, blogs, social networks. What does that mean for SEO? Search is becoming more social. Make sure your Twitter and Google+ pages and campaigns are optimized so they can be read by the real-time search spiders.

4. Facebook Becomes Biggest Site for Display Ads on Earth

In its quarterly report in May, comScore announced that nearly 1.11 trillion display ads were delivered to U.S. Internet users during Q1 of this year. Facebook accounted for 346 billion impressions, nearly one-third of all display ad impressions delivered.

Make sure Facebook paid ads are part of your advertising strategy.

3. Google Panda Update

google-panda-content-farms-get-out-of-here

The Panda update that was first rolled out in February was essentially implemented to improve the relevancy of search results, helping quality sites with quality content rank high on the SERP, while penalizing sites with low-quality, spammy, duplicate content. The update was said to have impacted 12 percent of search results and not all of them were bad sites.

Several good websites were negatively impacted by the Panda update, likely because they had low quality links pointing to them. What this update really did was change SEO best practices forever.

For SEOs, it’s no longer just about how many backlinks, optimized title tags, and keywords you have. Google’s quality raters look at a website and judge its worthiness around the site's trustworthiness, credibility, and quality.

Image Source: Labnol

2. The Freshness update

google-freshness-update

The Freshness update, aimed at keeping website content “fresh” and “updated” has had an impact on 35 percent of all searches. Even bigger than the Panda update, over one-third of every query is now related to fresh content.

The update has diminished the strength of aged domains and given more authority to sites that generate regular and relevant content. Social networks, news sites, video portals, press releases, brand sites, and blogs that keep news and updates brand-spanking will have greater influence on the SERP.

Time stamping your content matters more than ever with the Freshness update as it shows Google the timeliness of your posts. The usual format is Year-Month-Date. Make sure to have time stamps for each crawled URL.

Image Source: The Next Gen Writer

1. Query Encryption Update (the Not Provided update)

query-encryption-not-provided-keywordsIn the name of privacy, Google launched its query encryption update, which limited the data SEOs can track in Google Analytics. Users logged into a Google account can now perform safe searches on a secure socket layer (SSL).

While encrypted search sounds fair, this has infuriated many in the SEO community in part because the update disrupts organic keyword referral data, returning "not provided" for some organic traffic, but mostly because Google will pass referrer data to AdWords advertisers.

If webmasters make their sites more secure via SSL, they will get to see referrer query data from signed in secure search users.

Image Source: Mez Ads

Honorable Mention: Steve Jobs Leaves Us

apple-steve-jobs-1955-2011The world lost a visionary when Apple co-founder Steve Jobs passed away on October 5, 2011. The man behind the innovation and success of Apple's products, Jobs managed to create one of the planet’s most successful and leading-edge tech companies, transforming the way we experience music, movies, and mobile communications in the digital age.

He leaves a remarkable legacy behind him and sets the bar high for what we can achieve.

RIP, Mr. Jobs

Digital Resolutions For 2012:

  • Create content that is magnetic, fresh, relevant, regularly updated, and time stamped. 
  • Clean up any unfavorable backlinks that may have diminished your site’s rankings after the Panda update. 
  • Devote some of your ad spending on Facebook paid ads. 
  • Reach out to target markets by boosting your presence and value on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. 
  • If you haven’t already, lose the Digg button and place your social media efforts on Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon, and Reddit.

xmas-rankerize-nviLastly, make creativity and innovation the core of all your marketing strategies. Like we did this holiday season to put a “fresh” twist on holiday cards! Rather than sending out generic print and e-cards, we decided to create something people can actually have fun with.

Search Engine Watch readers are the first to get exclusive access to our Xmas Rankerizer game, a fun and addictive online holiday game that of course, incorporates the essentials of search and social.

Be the first to play the game. Compatible on mobile and iPad as well. Rev up your game rankings by visiting the NVI Xmas Rankerizer to play!


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