SEO through 2013 – Q. What’s New? A. Everything!
December 18, 2013
2013 was a turbulent year in the world of search to put it mildly. According to Moz’s tally there have been 13 officially acknowledged updates to Google’s algorithms alone and who knows how many more that have happened behind Google’s increasingly closed doors. There was widespread speculation of 2 other unnamed updates in late-July and mid-November after sudden spikes in search result fluctuation but if anyone knows what caused it they’re not telling. Panda and Penguin were joined by Hummingbird while Google announced back in March that they would no longer be officially announcing updates to Panda but would be pushing them out gradually going forward while Penguin got a major upgrade to Penguin 2.0.
2013 was a big win for Bing with its share of US search engine traffic growing to almost 18% at the last tally while Google remained riding high with a steady 67% with most of Bing’s gains coming at the expense of Yahoo, Ask and other smaller search engines. Bing scored another big win outside of direct internet searches when Facebook made the decision to bring Bing on-board for social search integration in the largest social media in the world. Like Uyen and Elisa both said last week, Google may still be the king but Microsoft seems up for a fight and they should figure in everyone’s SEO plans. Whatever happens, we’ll be keeping a beady eye on these two titans in 2014.
Outside of algorithm updates Google made several notable changes to their online toolkits that dramatically effected the online search landscape. Perhaps the most notable of these was when they disabled the much beloved keyword tool and replaced it with the Adwords Keyword Planner, possibly in an attempt to stop the confusion that the data discrepancies between the two caused. There has been widespread speculation in the SEO industry that this was an attempt to try and drive sign ups to adwords itself. Regardless of the real reasons this happened at around about the same time as webmasters all around the world started to see an increasing percentage of organic keyword search data in Google Analytics being sequestered behind the screen of (not provided). At the start of the year it was not uncommon for (not provided) to account for only 10% – 20% of total organic data, a volume that was steadily on the rise all year until late August and early September when it rose to its current norm of over 80%.
This has happened as Google pushes more and more searchers through their automatically SSL encrypted search page which strips away much of the data that came along for the ride when searchers clicked through to a website. This has been great for privacy and user security but not so great for webmasters who used this data to refine their online campaigns. Though there are alternatives in Bing’s analytics and Google Webmaster Tools data neither quiet match the data provisions that we saw in early 2013 from Google Analytics. There does not seem yet to be any easy way to get this data back and though the rate seems to have remained stable for the last few weeks webmasters the world over are watching with baited breath in case Google closes this door like they did the Keyword Tool. As for the future, if Google knows what’s next for the ubiquitous (not provided) they’re not telling.
All of this has added up to a challenging year for SEO particularly alongside Google and Microsoft’s well publicized take-downs of several major spam and link networks. The end goal for everyone is a cleaner, higher quality, more honest web but that’s small comfort for webmasters caught in the cross-fire. In the end, while specific SEO tactics fall in and out of favor the best SEO advice remains what it has always been. Have a website with good quality content that offers a user experience worthy of page 1 and you’ll stand a much better chance of actually being there.