First off, happy New Year from your friends here at!

It’s that time of year again, folks. The time when we internet marketers like to look back and see how things have changed, then look forward to making predictions with as much accuracy as possible.

2011 was a big year – no doubt about it. A HUGE year, even.

We saw Google roll out some massive updates (anyone heard of Panda?). These updates changed everything about search, emphasizing Google’s goals at increasing the general user experience for those using its search engine.

We saw Google come out swinging, taking out article directories and other “fluff” content sites like Muhammad Ali at his prime. But we also saw Google make some advances in how their search engine works. For example, the recent “Freshness” update makes the search experience much better for those who are searching for recently updated keywords.

It was certainly an exciting year to be an SEO!

In today’s article, we’re going to make a few predictions. These predictions are based on what Google’s been doing recently, as well as a few ideas we’ve been testing out for the past few months.

Further Decline of “Blueprint SEO”

Go back a year or two and what did SEO look like? 

Keyword research, optimized content, optimized backlinks. The ultimate blueprint to getting your website to rank #1 for its main keywords!

But in 2011, the Panda Update changed the blueprint. By eliminating a HUGE amount of “easy backlink” resources, Google showed SEOs everywhere that the old ways weren’t working. Google was unsatisfied with the types of results on page #1, so the blueprint had to go.

Backlinks are still important but look for their importance to change over the upcoming year.

More Accurate “Quality Content” Analysis

With the “blueprint” gone, SEOs have been testing Google like mad, trying their best to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

We’ve reached some pretty startling conclusions. Mainly, Google now has the technology to determine whether or not a website has valuable content. By using metrics like bounce rates, average time on site and the average number of pages visited, Google can see how people are reacting to your website. They can then make loose assumptions on whether or not people are gaining value from your website.

In the upcoming year, thanks to inevitable advances in technology, we feel it’s very likely Google will figure out more ways to gauge the quality of a website’s content through their algorithm.  

Additionally, it’s worth noting that both Google AND Bing have said clicks affect rankings. In other words, if you have a site on page #1 that doesn’t get clicked as much as the sites around you, you’re unlikely to keep that spot very long. In 2012, look for this to continue.

No Gap Between Social and SEO

For some time now, we’ve had two camps of internet marketers. We’ve had the camp that focused solely on the blueprint, disregarding social media entirely, and the camp that’s embraced social as part of their internet marketing campaigns.

In the upcoming year, it’s safe to say there will be virtually no gap between social and SEO. In other words, if you’re running an SEO campaign, you’ll have to have a social presence.

We’ve had plenty of warnings this is coming: social votes having an impact on search rankings, Bing partnering with Facebook, and “personalized search.” Additionally, social media sites continue to grow at a staggering rate. As long as people use social sites as their primary method of sharing and communicating, Google will continue to integrate social into every future algorithm update.

Also, keep in mind that Google released their own social network (Google+) this year. They definitely wouldn’t’ve done this if they didn’t believe social would be around for much longer. This also means Google+ will likely play a much bigger role in rankings than it did in 2011 since the Bing and Facebook team have become Google’s biggest rival.

The Golden Rule of Google

With the new year in front of us, it’s an exciting time. But it can also be a time of confusion. The good news is, there’s a way to prevent confusion throughout all the inevitable changes: remember Google’s “Golden Rule.”

Google’s the top-dog on the internet. They got that way by providing their users with top-quality search results. For Google to remain the top dog with new competition in the market, expect them to continue striving to increase the user experience. If you evolve your SEO mindset to include a quality user experience, future updates will be much less likely to shake your entire foundation.

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