Each year in search brings new challenges and exciting developments…

So what does 2013 have in store for SEO? There is never any doubt that the year ahead will be just as interesting when you look back and review the past. 2011 was the year that Google merged their Google Maps product into the organic results resulting in push pins and map views. 2012 was the year that they cleaned up the SERP’s and automated their web spam team with cute furry black and white animals. It was also the year that saw their Google Hotpot and Google Places products merge into the one Google+ product. So what will 2013 hold?

If you look at the direction of Google’s product developments you gain quite an insight into the power and authority that this giant has on our everyday lives. You also get a feel that there is still more to come, especially in the social arena. Reading back over the article I wrote this time last year (SEO Predictions for 2012) I wasn’t far off the mark, let’s see how close I can get to predicting the future for 2013…

Let’s quickly re-cap on 2012…

There were many changes this year. The change with the most impact was the series of algorithm updates, coined Panda & Penguin. The updates Google made to its search algorithms gave webmasters a very clear message about the manipulation of rankings. These updates automated the process of the manual web spam team. Most of the things that spam reviewers would have penalised by hand, will now be held back in the search results automatically. Sites with low quality content, too many ads and an unnatural back link profile were shoved to the back and ousted, most often without warning in webmaster tools or even without an actual penalty.

2012 was the year that website owners started to care about the quality of their links rather than the quantity. Most SEO’s will be tight lipped about their experiences with sites that suffered or got penalized but if you worked in SEO in 2012 you would have seen at least one site that had suffered the damage.

If your SEO techniques are within the Quality Guidelines, no update should force you to change your strategy. The commercial reality is that the scalability of a robust strategy is not always cost effective because time is money. A search for ‘SEO Company’ in 2012 compared to 2011 will show you how hard hit the industry was. No doubt there will be another dozen ‘SEO is dead’ blog posts next year…even before Easter. The reality is that agencies will need to shift their mindsets and focus towards looking at holistic online marketing or perish.

These updates have reinforced the importance of daily research, the need to stay on top of Search industry changes even more closely, the need to test SEO theories and concepts before putting them into practice, and to monitor the results after implementing them to see what works.

Combining inbound marketing channels, website performance optimisation to include performance in search results, performance in site speed, performance in conversion rates and performance in user experience will be the key. All SEO efforts should be focused on long term methods of increasing influence and engagement of the brand. Which brings me to my first prediction: 2013 will be the year that the term ‘Inbound Marketing’ will be a phrase that isn’t reserved for those in the industry.

Predicting 2013

Mobile Search

As mobile web usage creeps up to usurp desktop we can expect mobile search to do much the same. This poses a whole new set of challenges for SEO and new opportunities to match. There are complexities like device type and location, fewer results per screen load and shorter titles. With the amount of personalised search on a mobile phone there will likely be a greater emphasis on social connections and intent based searches.

If your site renders poorly on a mobile device then you will be left by the wayside. It is likely that your site is in fair health for a tablet but a mobile phone may be a different story.

If your competitor has developed a mobile app to make the consumer’s life easier, you should consider doing the same. Mobile & tablet usage will continue to grow so business must consider mobile versions seriously.


It is no secret that Google+ has an impact on rankings and even Google admits that it takes positive social signals into algorithmic account. Google authorship & publisher values bring in a new metric that will become more important in the future. Website owners will shift focus from chasing likes and tweets, to hunting down +1’s. So whether you like it or not; everyone better get busy with Google+.

Local SEO

There is no doubt that the push pins are here to stay. Google Express is another new PPC product similar to the short lived ‘Boost’ Ads but one thing is for certain. Google is yet to monetize this space properly and when they do you had better be on board.

Knowledge Graph

Google’s highly prized and tested layout got a major revamp with the Knowledge Graph and carousel. They have never made such a significant change to their layout before but what does this mean for search? The search engines are getting smarter. Semantics will be important as it becomes easier for search engines to understand content. This may also mean that the correlations will be made without the need for links which Rand Fishkin touched on recently incorrectly calling this co-citation. markup is already being heavily rewarded by greater prominence in the SERPs so it looks as though sites that have correct mark-up will be rewarded.

Shrinking SERP’s

SEOs will be competing for a much smaller piece of the organic pie. The space that we once had to play with is getting smaller. In 2011 an organic search result in position #1 would get almost 45% of clicks. With the new layout, more ads, local push pins, maps and everything else in the way it is down around 36%. Oh no, have I just triggered another spout of ‘SEO is dead’ articles?

Google’s Challenge to Online Aggregators

Google will embed more of their own products into the SERPs and the real estate available to organic search results will shrink further.

Google’s aggressive push of its products such as Google Hotel Finder into the results may reduce the long term viability of aggregators such as and Their hotel finder has the ability to sort results user rating, star rating, price and price compared to usual. However, if their Google Cars experiment is anything to go by this might not get the traction people think it will.

Google Insurance is up and running at least in the UK. This aggregator you start with the car registration details, cover details, driver details to compare and buy your insurance online.

Google Glass

Google’s futuristic head mounted device, among the features that have been detailed, the most intriguing include apps, image search, and facial recognition. All I have to say on this topic is that it wasn’t as cool as people thought it was to walk around with a blue tooth dongle in your ear, now they want me to walk around with an eye glass? No thanks, this one’s not for me.


My advice for 2013? Don’t just rely on SEO in 2013 – get creative & combine channels. Learn the phrase Inbound Marketing and DIVERSIFY…

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!