Looking Forward to SEO in 2013: How to Prepare Your Website

It seems like just yesterday that we were posting about the trends that we expected to play a big role in the world of SEO throughout 2012.  And yet, here we are with the leaves on the trees changing and the Christmas decorations firmly ensconced in department store displays.  It’s true – 2013 will be here soon, which means that it’s time to start preparing for the industry changes we expect to play a major role in next year’s natural search recommendations!

The following represent the trends that we believe will play the biggest role in influencing 2013’s SEO best practices, as well as the actions that should be taken to ensure that your website continues to pass muster.  While we at Single Grain obviously can’t know the future, it’s hard to imagine that any of these recommended actions could fail to benefit your site in some measurable way.

1 – Focus on content creation

Yeah, yeah – by now you’re probably bored to tears by the phrase, “Content is king.”  Indeed, it’s not exactly news to say that content creation should be a priority for webmasters.  Content marketing has been gaining steam throughout 2012, as it plays nicely into Google’s ideal strategy of rewarding high quality sites with top rankings in the natural SERPs.

However, the big news for 2013 isn’t that you should be focusing on content creation.  Instead, it’s the particular types of content you should be creating that deserves further scrutiny…

One thing that we’d like to challenge webmasters to try in 2013 is to focus on creating actual evergreen content (which, unfortunately, is a lot easier said than done).  In many instances, blogging and content marketing are “throwaway” strategies, with the planned obsolescence of content as an unfortunate, but unavoidable side effect.  Just think about how many of the content pieces you produce these days will still be valid or useful in a year’s time!

Instead, spend at least a little time creating the pillar content that will continue to serve members of your industry well at any date or time.  Finding topics with true evergreen potential isn’t easy, but it’s well worth the time saved when you’re able to continually refer website visitors to these seminal pieces in the future.

2 – Eliminate low value SEO techniques

Next up, it’s not exactly a secret that it’s been a bumpy couple of years for SEOs, with the release of the Panda algorithm update in 2011 and the Penguin changes in 2012.  And while you might just be starting to feel confident in the way SEO best practices have shifted in the wake of these launches, we’ve got news for you – it ain’t over yet!

Despite the major strides that these two algorithm updates made in terms of prioritizing high quality websites in the SERPs, there are still plenty of low value tactics that produce top rankings (I’m looking at you, profile backlinks!).  As a result, I highly doubt that we’ve seen everything Google intends to throw at web spam yet – meaning that, as a webmaster, you need to be on your toes.

In preparation for 2013, take this opportunity to clean up your SEO toolbox, removing anything that could be construed as manipulative and focusing instead on techniques that represent good value and legitimate online relationships.  Take the time now to clean up your backlink profile using Google’s new Disavow Links tool, remove any keyword-stuffed tags from your website and commit yourself to following a cleaner set of SEO guidelines in 2013.

3 – Improve your SEO metrics tracking

As you’re tidying up your SEO techniques for 2013, you’ll also want to pay special attention to the metrics you’re tracking.

Interestingly, a survey conducted by Search Engine Watch and market research agency Conductor, found that “63% of executive teams are more familiar with SEO metrics than 12 months ago,” according to responses from hundreds of SEO professionals.

As a result, if you work as an SEO employee, you may find yourself being held more accountable to SEO metrics than ever before.  To maintain your organization’s trust and commitment to SEO, it will be imperative that you’re able to produce these numbers and demonstrate measurable revenue improvements as a result of your SEO efforts.

But even if you perform SEO as a consultant or as the owner of your own business, you aren’t off the hook just because you don’t report directly to a management hierarchy.  As companies become more and more attuned to the power of SEO, as measured by increasingly-utilized metrics, you’ll likely find it necessary to invest in your own SEO metrics tracking in order to keep up with these organizations and avoid losing ground in the natural SERPs.

4 – Invest in mobile

According to research conducted by Morgan Stanley, mobile internet usage is expected to exceed desktop usage as early as 2014.

That’s a startling statistic, and it has one serious implication for webmasters.  If you aren’t fully invested in a mobile strategy for your company, 2013 is the time to start.  Don’t get caught with your pants down in 2014 – take the time now to get your mobile site up and running, alongside an effective mobile marketing campaign.

We’ve already written quite a bit about mobile marketing on this site and on our personal blogs, so I won’t waste your time rehashing this same info here.  Instead, if you need advice on how to incorporate mobile marketing into your website’s business plan, take a look at any of the following articles:

5 – Enhance social integrations

One final trend that we expect to see influencing the way SEO is carried out in 2013 is the blurring of boundaries that exists between traditional on-site SEO and social media marketing today.

Currently, most businesses adopt SEO and social media marketing practices as two separate sets of priorities.  On their sites, they focus on updating title tags and image ALT tags, while at the same time; these businesses spend time adding followers and posting engaging updates to their social networking profiles.  By and large, these dual focuses are carried out as two discrete sets of objectives – often by entirely different teams within an organization.

However, today’s consumers are growing to expect more of a social experience from traditional websites, and it will be important for sites that want to remain on top of the SEO totem pole in 2013 to follow suit with industry leaders that are already treating the two pursuits as two sides of the same coin.

Take, for example, apparel websites ModCloth and Rent the Runway, both of which feature pictures of real-life buyers wearing available merchandise alongside traditional fashion models.  And though fashion designers aren’t thrilled about this revolution, the trend is indicative of a growing desire from the buying public to have greater input over the online purchasing process.

Though apparel retailers are a natural leader in this shift, we believe that the move towards a more social web through the integration of traditional websites and social media interactions is one that will be seen on a much larger scale in the future.  As a result, ecommerce sellers and online service providers would be wise to start looking for ways to incorporate social voices and feedback into their websites in order to capture and captivate customers in 2013.

Again, we’re neither psychics nor Google engineers, so we can’t say with complete certainty what types of changes will be coming down the pipeline in 2013.  But as you can see, all of the above recommendations will result in substantial improvements to the user experience on your site – no matter what specific changes occur to SEO best practices.  As a result, we recommend moving forward with all of these techniques in order to position your website for its strongest year ever in 2013.

Image: pasukaru76

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