Many people believe that in order to successfully move forward into a new year, it’s necessary to look back at what happened the year before. This is true as well where Internet marketing is concerned.
As we look forward to a more fruitful 2014, it may be a good idea to take our cue from the most significant updates in 2013 within the landscape of what are perhaps the two most important areas of online marketing today – SEO and social media.
SEO in 2013
2013 was one of the most dynamic for everyone involved in SEO, and one of the biggest reasons for all the activity was Google. No one will soon forget the series of changes this major search engine implemented all throughout the year.
After all, those changes got SEO professionals and website owners scrambling at every turn just to keep up! Here are the most significant SEO changes in 2013 and what they mean as we move forward into 2014:
1. On May 22, Google launched the Penguin 2.0 update
This was said to be among the larger Penguin updates implemented by Google, but it actually affected only about 2-3 percent of Google queries. That may be because the update targeted only websites of the poorest quality.
The message Google wanted to drive home with this update and practically all Penguin updates, was that links need to have a good reason for existing and shouldn’t be there just to drive your rankings up. Now site owners need to make sure their site not only has high-quality content, but also top-quality links.
2. On August 20, Google launched the Hummingbird update.
Where the other Google updates involved just small parts of the search engine’s algorithm, this one involved a fine-tuning of the entire Google algorithm, something that hasn’t been done in the last 12 years. Google felt the need for this update when they realized people now had a different way of doing online searches. The aim of the Hummingbird was to eliminate web spam or at least minimize it.
The emphasis on quality content and authority links was therefore strengthened, and social signals became even more important. Website owners therefore need to ensure that they have the kind of content people will want to share on social networking sites.
3. On August 28, the Google Keyword Planner replaced the Keyword Tool.
The Keyword Tool functionalities are all still there, but the Traffic Estimator has been merged into it and new data columns were added when the Keyword Planner was launched.
The aim of this update is to make it easier for online marketers to plan their search campaigns. This was good news indeed for everyone involved in SEO.
4. On September 23, Google encrypted search data for all marketers.
This was one update with which many were not happy at all. Many considered it a selfish move on Google’s part. The reason for this sentiment was that all search data was encrypted, except for the ones from paid advertisements.
It became more difficult for SEO professionals to see which keywords their target market was using, and made keyword research a lot more complicated. This update had online marketers using data from Bing and Yahoo more than they did prior to the update.
5. Bing launched innovations of its own.
Google wasn’t the only search engine that launched changes in 2013. Bing launched its Smart Search for Windows 8.1, which is specifically designed for the touchscreen environment. They also strengthened their voice query capabilities, which they’re now testing on Xbox One.
Bing also released their Smart Search Preview tool and added Connected Pages to their Webmaster Tools. This effectively strengthens Bing’s social offering. It has now become important for online marketers to take Bing into account when planning their overall SEO program.
Social Media in 2013
2013 also marked several important changes in the social media landscape, which Internet marketers would do well to note. Here are the most significant social media updates of 2013 and what they could mean for you:
1. Facebook launched new Insights.
Facebook rolled out the enhanced version of their Insights feature in July of 2013. This update pleased page managers because it allowed for a deeper analysis of their Page’s performance. Specifically, it allowed them to see when their fans are active on the site, to analyze the reach of their posts, and perform benchmark comparisons over specific periods of time.
2. Twitter launched Conversion Tracking.
On December 18th, Twitter announced that conversion tracking capabilities are now available globally. This is a welcome update, as it allows for better insights into how your Twitter ads are doing in terms of encouraging conversions on your site.
This is indeed good news for marketers who have already launched Twitter marketing campaigns as well as those who are still planning one for 2014.
3. Google+ improved Photos.
Google understood how important high-quality images have become on social media. This is why they introduced some advanced photo editing features on Google+ in 2013. The new features allow you to enhance or crop photos as part of the upload process. It also allows you to add sparkles, twinkles, and other fun special effects to your photos.
4. Facebook now allows page managers to run contests directly on their Pages.
Facebook’s contest policy has been updated to give page managers the opportunity to run contests directly on their Page instead of having to use a third-party application, as it was done before. Page managers welcomed this update because it certainly helps enhance on-page engagement.
5. SnapChat became popular.
Have you heard reports that Facebook started losing teen users in April of 2013? Facebook initially denied these reports, but finally admitted it later in the year.
If teens comprise a large portion of your target market, you may want to shift some of your focus to one of the biggest reasons for this drop in Facebook teen subscriptions – SnapChat. This image-based social networking site was actually launched back in 2011, but only gained popularity in 2013.
It launched SnapChat Stories in October of 2013, which increased its potential for marketing. It may be worth your while to investigate this potentially useful site.
The importance of looking back at all these changes that occurred in 2013 is that they could possibly point to what’s coming in 2014. As you work to develop a successful SEO and social media marketing campaign for this year, the changes of the past year could serve as your guide.