Hey look, 2009 is over! How about that! The apparent custom in the media is to push mostly useless year in review top ten lists at the world, so why should SEO be any different? So here you go. Welcome to my very unscientific “Top Ten SEO Developments of 2009”, posted countdown-style in honor of the holiday. I’m even throwing in a bonus: What I think Google’s New Year’s resolution should be.
10. The profile of mobile search rises sharply, and the author uses it to find a pub. An Irish one.
Since I got my Droid (♥!), I’ve been playing with the voice search and navigation, but never did I have actual need of it until yesterday when, on my way to a family Christmas-ish dinner, I had to find my relatives’ favorite Irish pub without knowing the name or how to get there. All I knew was that it was in their immediate area. I told the Droid to search for Irish pubs in Highlands Ranch, Colorado. It obligingly gave me a map of Irish pubs in the neighborhood. I only half-recognized the name of one, and confirmed that it was the one I was looking for by looking through the photo gallery on the pub’s website. Then I asked the Droid for directions and it took me there. Landsdowne Arms. It’s one of my family’s favorite spots.
9. Google’s canonical support rocks my world, and cross-domain canonical support rocks bigger than Christmas.
Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but it’s pretty darn spiffy. I may have to declare my love for it. Now please, Bing, please hurry up with the catching up to Google on this one.
8. Yahoo! claims to have stopped supporting the keyword meta tag, even though it apparently still does.
The internet is old enough to see things like meta tags come and go. How freaky is that? Probably not so weird to some of you younguns out there, but to a thirtysomething who learned HTML in PICO and Elm by raiding page sources before there was any such thing as an editor, it’s somewhat startling to think about it. Dammit, now I feel old.
7. Google announces that rel=nofollow no longer works for pagerank sculpting, even though it apparently still does.
Hey, is that a pattern I see here? That the search engines, whose job it is to hide the magic formula from us might mislead us is disappointing, but not surprising. It certainly threw us all off the scent for awhile, eh?
6. Yahoo! Site Explorer is slated to shut down, thereby leading the SEO community to sound a collective FML.
It’s hard to find solid info on this one, but when Rand Fishkin speaks it’s probably a good idea to listen. If he’s getting insider gossip on this one, it’s that much more likely to be true. Out with the old, in with the new. It’s a nice, traditional New Year’s theme. So the hunt for a reasonable replacement begins.
5. Michael Jackson breaks Google and Twitter. Real-time search gets pushed to the front of the line. Jeff Goldblum breathes a sigh of relief.
When MJ died suddenly in June, perhaps the best measure of his impact on the world – the ENTIRE world – was the fact that he then brought the entire internet to a screeching halt as an entire planet full of people dropped whatever they were doing to read and talk about it online. The result was that Twitter broke down. Google thought it was under a denial of service attack. The news results available were clearly not up to date. And Jeff Goldblum, poor Jeff Goldblum was collateral damage as rumors of his untimely demise ran unchecked since the search engines were too crippled by the flood of Michael Jackson mourners to cough up any verifiable news results about it. Jeff got the last laugh when he appeared on The Colbert Report to spoof his own death rumors and Google and Bing began to push hard to get real-time search live. Alas, real time search is painfully easy to manipulate, as Natalie Portman can probably attest. With or without real time search, celebrity death rumors will always find their way to the mainstream.
4. Google’s pending Caffeine update gives panic attacks to SEOs worldwide.
Seriously, this is the SEO equivalent of being stuck circling over Iowa because there isn’t a runway available for you in Chicago. Not that that’s ever happened to me or anything. Truth be told, Caffeine will probably be a very good update, and we’re all probably hyperventilating over a bunch of nothing. But let’s just admit it – the SEO community thrives on its own panic. If it wasn’t Caffeine, it would be something else, like the recent updates to Google’s personalized search methodology. Oh wait…
3. Personalized search wreaks havoc on traditional SEO metrics. Big Brother snickers softly.
While my fellow SEOs are breathing into paper bags and privacy advocates are steaming about involuntary information tracking, I’m cool. Sure, rankings have been the traditional easy metric on which to base your invoicing, but it’s really just a proxy for conversions. Conversions are the whole point. If you’re a Purple Potato Broker in Kalamazoo, and people in Kalamazoo are looking for purple potatoes, Google is MORE likely to list you in its search result because it’s working to deliver results that are relevant to both the subject and the searcher’s location. In the end, this is a true benefit to the client. If I’m optimizing my Kalamazoo client’s site from my office in Denver, my search results are not going to be what the Kalamazoo searcher sees, and that’s okay. Their results are probably better than mine anyway. Therefore, the client benefits.
2. Social media, social media, and social media. Did I mention social media?
I think it’s the overall consensus that 2009 was social media’s coming out party. The question has evolved from “What is Twitter?” to “How are you using Twitter?” My Mom got a Facebook account and harasses me daily about when I’m going to get around to posting the latest photos of my niece. How do you know when a technology has truly arrived? When your Mom has it.
1. Bing goes live, and there goes the neighborhood.
And suddenly Google may have a worthy competitor. I’ll be honest, I like Bing. I like the look and feel of it. The maps are better, the local info more accurate, and the travel forecasting for airline ticket prices is rather nifty. Are the organic search results better than Google’s results? Meh. Judge for yourself, and throw Yahoo in there too for good measure. They all look trustworthy to me. I think SEOs grump about Bing’s results because they’re less sure about how to manipulate it since it’s just too new to have the years and years of history we all have with Google.
A New Year’s Resolution That Google Should Make
Cue the dropping of the shiny crystal ball! YAY! Now it’s the new year and it’s resolution time. And, dear Google, I think it’s time we had a little talk about local business search.
I have a client, a wonderful pediatric ophthalmologist, whose local listing has the wrong address and phone number, and no matter what I do, no matter how many times I’ve tried to claim it, Local Business Center will not let me do it. It pretends to let me claim it, then spins off a new listing with the updated info instead of updating the one that’s bad. I’ve submitted community edits and, well, nada.
Did you know the “LASIK Surgeons” category that you have preprogrammed into your category list is a joke around here since LBC berates us for excessive capitalization when we try to use it?
And please, the forced aspect ratio on pictures is hopelessly antiquated. Who wants to click on a thumbnail when your uploader has distorted it so that our smiling client resembles a blurry version of the guy whose face melted in Raiders of the Lost Arc instead of the really nice professional portrait that he gave us?
Yes, while Google releases amazing products and gadgets and widgets and whatnot – did I mention how much I adore my Droid? – its local search is ridiculously broken. Fixing it needs to be Google’s top priority. Local and social media are on a collision course, and it’s frankly hard to build a strong product around that when its base is a crumbling mess.
Please, please, for the love of not being evil, Google, please fix local search!
And with that, I’m signing off. Happy New Year, everyone! See you in 2010.