2012 has been an exciting year for search marketers. Google released algorithm updates at an unprecedented rate. New concepts like "AuthorRank," "Link Disavow Tool," and "Social Signals vs. Backlinks" have challenged SEO experts to review current strategies. Among all the change and ambiguity, the ability to drive incremental revenue and/or leads has remained constant. The upcoming year will present new obstacles and opportunities for agile search marketers.
Here are the top SEO considerations heading into 2013:
Organic CTR Will Continue to Decline
Google will continue to feature its "money-making" products in search results. YouTube, Google+, PLAs (product listing ads), and Google Local will see increased visibility. In addition, it's possible that Google will reduce the number of organic listings on page 1. This has already happened for certain brand terms and may expand to non-brand terms over time. Limited exposure for organic placements will make each and every spot that much more valuable.
Increased Emphasis on Conversion
The traffic potential of each organic placement on page 1 is slowly declining. This will lead to aggressive conversion rate testing. Marketers have tested paid media landing pages for years, trying to maximize the efficiency of every marketing dollar. With the cost of each organic visit increasing over time, conversion rate optimization (CRO) will play a critical role in driving organic performance.
SEO Will Become More Expensive
The connection between Panda algorithm updates and link building is generally overlooked. Panda focuses primarily on the existence and quality of content. Most link building campaigns consist of building or acquiring contextual links. Site moderator demand for high-quality content will translate into higher copywriting costs necessary for link building. Future Panda updates will also necessitate higher quality on-site content, further increasing copywriting costs. Outreach activities required to obtain valuable links from relevant, high-authority sites will also become increasingly time-consuming (read: expensive).
SEO Talent Will Become Harder to Acquire
There has been a surge in demand for search marketing related jobs over the past three to four years. One obstacle for both agency and in-house SEO departments will be a lack of talent. This is true for all experience levels. The primary cause of this deficiency will be the unavailability of higher education related to SEO combined with fierce competition from employers. In 2013, the employees executing and creating SEO strategy will be as important as the strategy itself.
Increased Inclusion of Rich Snippets in SERPs
Rich snippets received a lot of attention in 2012. Easy manipulation has led to an absence of rich snippets for the majority of search queries. Rich snippets offer a tremendous amount of value to users providing a variety of information without requiring a visit to the site. Rich snippets will play a more predominant role in 2013. This will include both Google authorship as well as product-specific information for e-commerce websites. Smart marketers who invest in relevant rich snippets will see increased click-through rates from organic search. With organic CTRs set to decline slightly, any advantage is critical. We may even see a minor ranking benefit for those who adopt rich snippets in 2013, especially Google authorship.
The upcoming year presents a multitude of opportunities for agile marketers who understand and plan for obstacles. The Google SERPs will become increasingly full of non-organic placements and competition for remaining top spots will be fierce. Implementing rich snippets will help obtain high click-through rates to maximize traffic. Conversion rate optimization and aggressive testing will be required to maximize the business impact of this traffic. Invest in hiring and retaining talent, writing high-quality content, and acquiring relevant links from authority sites. This powerful combination will lead to impressive organic results well into 2013 and beyond.