SEO Predictions for 2011: Local, Trustbait and Social Media Optimization

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crystalball_smallADOTAS – The end of a year brings a lot of ruminations over what happened over the past 12 months and what the next 12 may bring. As a year largely dominated by social media comes to an end, what can we expect now from all we learned?

2010 saw the end of the long-tail search, the beginning of instant searches and the partnership of a web powerhouse with the search “underdog.” All of these developments shook the SEO industry – and piqued our interest as to what’s in store for 2011.

If we learned anything this year, it’s that social media is still expanding. But now, as an established communication and marketing medium, SEO will have to continue to grow and change to adapt to transformations in the social media landscape.

Since SEO is now being affected by Twitter and Facebook, data is going to have to include concise social media metrics. In addition, the applications that collect this data will need to evolve.

Currently, agencies and businesses are using anywhere from 5-10 different monitoring tools and many continue to use Excel to compile different data from different sources. This is too complex of a process for a marketing professional and can cost an agency approximately 40% of their monthly budget.

Everyone agrees that this needs to change – no one has the man-time or the budget to measure, but no one can afford not to. 2011 will bring an onset of tools to streamline this process, providing the information that is needed to monitor and analyze items such as keywords, domains, shares, comments and likes at a fraction of the current time and cost.

Another key phrase that we will hear a lot in 2011 is “Social Media Optimization” or SMO. Moving forward, SMO will take a strong role in leading campaigns and marketers will also be using the term SMO when referring to their online initiatives. Companies and agencies that will come out ahead of the game are the ones that start leveraging social media for scalable link-building efforts.

Perhaps one of the most interesting developments of the past year was the Bing-Facebook partnership. We do believe that it may end up being the biggest game changer for the SEO industry in 2011. This partnership has the potential of making Facebook an individual’s (and a corporation’s) go-to social network hub and search engine.

Previously, if you searched a company or name that wasn’t on Facebook, you would have to leave the site to conduct additional research. Facebook currently has about 500 million users, and with Google logging approximately 2.5 billion searches per day, most people were leaving Facebook to search with Google.

But with the Bing integration, leaving Facebook and choosing another search provider will no longer be needed – a user’s Bing search results are now listed along with Facebook search results. This underscores the power that Facebook has on the Internet at the moment. Right now we can only speculate on how this will pan out, but if executed efficiently, this could change searching for information online as we know it.

But while the attention may have shifted away from Google here at the end of the year, Google Instant and Google Local will still play a major role in the changing SEO landscape of 2011. The main change to traditional SEO we see with Google Instant is that fewer keywords are now being used in searches. But, from a nSEO perspective, the technical aspects and the amount of bandwidth behind these types of searches will come into the light.

In addition, Google Local adds another element, allowing for Google Maps results, video results and funneling traffic through Google’s YouTube property, can change the click distribution on search engine results pages (SERPS) – putting your site in the spot on a SERPS that gets most clicks – which is what SEO is all about. This changes the rule so that now the site that has the most attractive/relevant preview will generate the higher number of clicks. Adding in location-based keyword analysis will become even more important.

And finally, with the rise of social media and the increasing number of people worried about personal Internet security, “trust” is going to be a key word for the next few years. In 2009 all the chatter was about ‘linkbait.’ Not anymore. 2011 will be the year of ‘trustbait.’ We believe that search marketers are going to need to focus on more sophisticated link building strategies — organizations will need to develop links from more ‘neutral’ sites such as news portals or by appearing in a search engine’s own news stream.

As the first decade of the new millennium comes to a close, we can’t help but look back at how far we’ve come. If you had told us back in 2000 that in the next 10 years a college prank would be the catalyst for the largest shift in communication and web usage, we probably wouldn’t have believed you.

Yet, look at us today. Our personal, and SEO lives, are shaped daily by Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. While our eyes are trying to focus in on 2011, one can’t help but wonder what things we will be discussing in 2021.

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