The year 2010 can be summed up as a year of many new things in the world of search marketing.
We saw the introduction of Google Instant, Google Caffeine, Google SERP revisions to marry organic and local listings, and the Bing/Yahoo index merger to name a few. We listened and paid heed to the wise words of Google when they said page load time would be the new ranking factor taken into consideration in 2010.
Now, we're ramping up for 2011 and many are probably beginning to scratch their heads and wonder what to focus on this year for Google. We shouldn't ignore Bing or Yahoo, but with Google's current market share, it's a good idea to adjust fire for Google and hope that Bing lends a favorable eye.
The easiest way to get a jumpstart on what Google wants us to do is to take into consideration the subliminal messages they're sending us.
Google doesn't provide cool new features in Webmaster Tools, Analytics, and the SERPs because they want to make a webmaster's day. This is for their benefit as well.
Let's look at what Google is giving us now and what we should take from it.
Links to Your Site (Google Webmaster Tools)
Google has added elements to this data field over the past year, such as "your most linked content," "who links to your content the most," and "how your data is linked."
What does this tell us?
Remember to deep link to internal pages and not just your homepage. Continue to anchor links appropriately. Additionally, the linking domain info also shows that they are counting links per domain, so quit buying run-of-site links.
CTR in Search Queries (Google Webmaster Tools)
We're seeing the advancement of this tool section by means of announcing the click-through rate (CTR) of listings, by keyword, by ranking. This is Google's way of saying we are watching who clicks in SERPs.
You might want to mind your first impression and create relevant "non-spammy" titles and worthwhile meta descriptions. Solely link building your way to good rankings may not work anymore as the site descriptions and content must be relevant and enticing to the SERP.
Image Mapping (Google Webmaster Tools)
Google now supports the uploading of XML based image sitemaps. These allow you to tell Google in greater detail about your site's images.
It isn't just about alt tags anymore, folks. It's where your images are located. It's the integration of your images to your local listings, for example.
Google's new Hotpot relies on a location image for your review/rating listing as a key point of the listing. This is another cue from Google to get you thinking about image presence and placement.
In-Page Analytics (Google Analytics)
Google has put forth additional effort to better the Site Overlay feature and create the beta version of In-Page Analytics. This is Google letting us know that they can tell what message we're portraying on a site.
Is most of the traffic funneled into very few links? Do most visits delve into the site from nav links or content based links? This means you might want to look at the CTR of internal links on your site besides the CTR of your SERP listings.
Organic Listings Meet Local Listings
Outside of specific Google products, we must adhere to the additional offerings put forth by the search giants.
Recent Google SERPs now feature the absence of the "local packs" in favor of organic listings coupled with local listings.
How can we take advantage of this? Ensure that your local listing is a "sibling" of your site.
Your local listings need to feature your URL first and foremost as well as a description relevant to the content on your home page.
On-site, ensure that you have your location(s) address in text in the site footer or if you have many locations, feature a text-based location sitemap. Go a step further and provide links to local review sites such as Yelp, Citysearch, and Hotpot to help build your sites review and ratings.
Get Social, Then Get a Little More Social
Much was made late last year about a report that Google and Bing take Twitter and Facebook linking activities into consideration to some extent as a ranking factor, as well as the authority of those providing the links. However, the true impact of these "social signals" from Twitter and Facebook on organic search results is arguable.
Regardless, it's still a good idea to build a strong Twitter and Facebook network.
Concentrate on finding relevant Twitter members to follow. When their followers follow you, follow them in return.
For Facebook, make an effort to provide insightful posts with a viral edge in hopes of getting feedback and gaining "likes."
On-site, ensure that you utilize Facebook like as well as an icon link to your Twitter account and options for other social sharing options on any blog post pages or pages that are viral in nature.
Give Bing a Little Attention
The Bing Toolbox is nothing new. However, now that they drive Yahoo's index, you need to make sure that they index all of your site pages and keep tabs on their indexing and crawl frequency.
I have a good feeling that Bing is going to start gobbling up market share this year so it's in your best interest to spend some time in the Toolbox. Solidify your local listing in this search engine.
2009 Wasn't That Long Ago
Take a walk through the past. There are probably some search engine offerings from 2009 that you aren't taking advantage of.
Rich snippets are a good example of an underutilized 2009 feature recognized by Google. If Google announced an enhanced SERP offering via a markup language, it shows that they are begging for descriptive info on your products, recipes, events, etc.
Happy Searching in 2011!
Ultimately, the search engines provide subliminal cues to lead us along and help show us how they want us to help give them data. Paying attention to what Google is offering, I mean asking for, can also help you to become more visible in the search engines.