5 Web Trends for 2012 You Need to Know

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The new year is upon us, which means that a new crop of web trends is about to unfold.  Although we can’t make any concrete predictions about what will definitely happen in 2012 (heck – think back to January 2011 and try to think of anyone who predicted the enormity of the Panda updates!), there are a few trends we’re pretty confident will influence website success, now and in the future.

Here’s what you need to know to stay on top:

1 – Further Panda Rollouts

Whether they come out under the name “Panda” or pick up a new name throughout the process, there’s no doubt that further changes will be made to Google’s search algorithm in order to punish low quality content and low quality link profiles.

We’ve discussed what constitutes bad content and poor quality links pretty thoroughly here on the Single Grain blog, and we’ve already talked about why these things matter to Google from a profit standpoint.  So instead of rehashing all of this, let’s get to the point…  Google isn’t going to stop until they’ve eliminated spam sites from the SERPs, so if your site doesn’t meet their quality guidelines, you will be punished at some point.

To Do – If you have duplicate content issues on your site that haven’t yet been addressed, make them a priority in 2012 (check out Yoast’s article on duplicate content for more info on how to identify and remedy these issues).  Also, make sure that any content you publish to your site in 2012 meets Google’s quality guidelines, as demonstrated in Amit Singhal’s 23 Questions post.

2 – Increased Mobile Access of Websites

It’s already pretty much a given that smartphone penetration and usage is growing throughout the cellular marketplace, with no signs of slowing down any time soon.  But what’s really interesting is how people are using this increased mobile access.  A recent study by Google and consumer research organization IPSOS OTX uncovered some very interesting information about how people use their smartphones to access the internet and the role they play in making purchase decisions.

The study found the following trends about general smartphone usage:

  • 81% browse the Internet, 77% search, 68% use an app, and 48% watch videos on their smartphone
  • 72% use their smartphones while consuming other media, with a third while watching TV
  • 93% of smartphone owners use their smartphones while at home

But even more interesting was the data relating to how smartphones are used when making buying decisions:

  • 71% of smartphone users search because of an ad they’ve seen either online or offline
  • 82% of smartphone users notice mobile ads
  • 74% of smartphone shoppers make a purchase as a result of using their smartphones to help with shopping
  • 88% of those who look for local information on their smartphones take action within a day

In the past, we’ve recommended pursuing mobile marketing in limited cases, where consumers specifically access and interact with your website via mobile platforms.  But given the way mobile usage is shifting and expanding, it’s safe to say that more companies than ever can benefit from providing mobile access options to their customers.

To Do – First, check Google Analytics to see if you’re getting traffic from mobile devices.  If you are, look into creating a mobile version of your site using tools like MoFuse, WireNode and MobiSiteGalore.  If not, keep an eye on this metric throughout the year.  If you see your number of mobile users increasing, revisit this suggestion to create a mobile version of your website.

3 – Keep an Eye on Tumblr

Though it seems strange to take internet marketing advice from a presidential campaign, the Obama campaign – widely recognized as leaders in social networking – launched on Tumblr at the end of 2011, and you should be paying attention.  Tumblr is growing like a weed in the otherwise stagnant microblogging market, making it a potentially viable option for website owners who have never ventured into blogging to explore in 2012.

According to SEOptimise:

Why is Tumblr such a success? It’s a bit like Facebook, a bit like blogging and a bit like Twitter, but it combines the best of all of them. In 2011 many high level bloggers even moved their blogs from WordPress to Tumblr for the sake of simplicity and ease of use. Also, never underestimate the huge Tumblr audience.

To Do – Follow a few different Tumblr blogs to get a feel for how the site works.  If you like what you see, consider creating your own Tumblr blog to support your main site.

4 – New Metric Tracking Models Rise to Prominence

To be honest, anyone can measure number of visitors to a page or the average time these visitors spent consuming your content.  The future of SEO relies on entirely different metrics, which strive to capture more than just past performance by understanding real-time impact and the value of intangibles (like social networking ROI).  The big two that you need to be aware of are real-time analytics and social networking value scores.

  • Real-time analytics – Google Analytics expansion into this territory (previously only occupied by third-party script and software vendors) highlights the importance of being able to understand how users are behaving in real-time and initiate immediate changes based on this data.  For example, if you launch a new promotion and market it via social networking sites, you’ll be able to see immediately which networks – and even which specific tweets or status updates – result in the most traffic.
  • Social networking value scores – Social networking value is notoriously difficult to track, but that hasn’t stopped companies like Klout or Venulabs from attempting to create structured influence metrics.  In 2012, we’ll likely see more competitors in this space, different factors being added to their algorithms and an increased importance of these scores in real-world activities (for example, when applying for new jobs).

To Do – If you run a website, start experimenting with real-time analytics as soon as you’re able to using either Google Analytics (though the new version hasn’t rolled out to all users yet) or a third-party program to make data driven decisions.  It’s also a good idea to follow both existing and upcoming social networking value programs and optimize your profile accordingly on them.

5 – It’s all about Conversions, Baby!

If 2011 was the year of content quality following the massive Panda updates, we predict that 2012 is going to be all about conversion rate optimization (CRO).  After all, it doesn’t make sense to pump hours and hours of work into a site to meet Google’s nebulous and ever-changing content and navigation structure requirements if your website isn’t making any money or generating any leads in the first place!

Conversion rate management refers to the process of ensuring a website is meeting its intended goal as effectively as possible.  If your site sells products, CRO is about removing the barriers that prevent people from putting items in their shopping carts and ultimately completing the sale.  If you generate leads for an offline business, it’s about demonstrating value as quickly as possible in order to get people to opt-in.

To Do – If you don’t yet have a conversion rate optimization plan in place, create one ASAP, as focusing on improving your conversion rates can make a tremendous difference in your company’s bottom line.  To get started, read up on principles of good conversion rate management and the split testing techniques you’ll need to implement worthwhile conversion rate tests.

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