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2012 will be the year that geo-social search starts to all come together as one…

2011 saw a transformation of search results that defined the Local search environment that we are now very familiar with and 2012 will be the year that geo-social search starts to all come together as one…

For businesses, especially those who service a local area, there is no doubt that 2012 will continue to accentuate the mounting significance of establishing and managing your business identity. From an SEO perspective, the emphasis will continue to be about maintaining consistent local search identifiers such as name address and phone number across the web. Whether or not Google decide to pull back on the prominent display of local (places) listings will be interesting to see. We have already seen in 2011 the change from the iconic red push pin of Google Places to a duller grey one – all influenced by the advertising spend of course. With over 20% of searches now triggering a ‘map view’ this might be one area that Google decides to reign in, especially if its success is to the detriment of the Adwords spend.

There is no doubt that Google HotPot and Google + will continue to dominate and we are already seeing some of the influences of these social platforms in much personalised social searches with “search plus your world” rolling out as Google continues to expand its product range and its data gathering ability about your personal life. There will be some interesting debates on privacy in the months to come as Google reveal more of peoples personal life in the search results to their ‘inner circle’ than one might like or expect.

Content will continue to be a key ranking factor as there are already promises of more Panda updates to roll out in early 2012. Content doesn’t only need to be of ‘high quality’ and a ‘good fit’ but it also has to be ‘useful’. In previous years it was okay for content to be ‘relevant’ which really translated to ‘good keyword placement’, but today the focus has to be on ‘usefulness’.

Broken links and optimised images are also going to be ranking factors that should not be ignored in 2012 whereas the advantage of having an exact match URL will be down played. A rise in spammy websites that merely exist for the sake of displaying Adwords will see exact match URL’s downplayed by not only the search algorithms but also by the human reviewers.

Now that Bing and Yahoo are merged it wouldn’t be surprising if Google got too cheeky by taking their advertising or personalisation of search results too far. How far they need to go before people to start jumping ship we will have to wait and see.

On a final note, 2012 will likely see the continuation of SEO expanding to encompass more than just the traditional on and off page website optimisation. Optimisation efforts will need to encompass social media optimisation, mobile search optimisation and geo-local / geo-social optimisation to continue to deliver the best results.