As expected 2008 saw a lot of developments and changes in the world of SEO:
Google to no surprise was fairly active in 2008, we saw the launch of SearchWiki, the launch of its “search based keyword tool” and its stand against paid links taken to the next level.
With the launch of searchwiki Google gave power to its user base to increase or decrease ranking positions based on how relevant they thought the results were. It was said that the results of such activity would not be taken into account within the Google algorithm and the results would only be for personal search. Ok that’s fair enough, but with that much data about what the user wants would you not want to use this data to improve search quality? Well personally if the results could not be gamed then yes. But this system is very much open to gaming and as such the results should very much stay part of personal search. And that’s where the darker side of searchwiki comes into play, no doubt upon its launched there were many SEO’s out there promoting their own sites and their clients sites. Now would this activity be used help Google to flag sites that need a closer look at for the possible use of spammy techniques? Only a few people know the answer to that one, if it was me I’d use this data to flag sites for further investigation.
The Search Based Keyword Tool
Essentially the search based keyword tool is both an advancement and a variation on Google’s Keyword Tool. This new tool enables the user to mine data about a particular website and provides the user with keyword suggestions for that website alone. So that gives us a tool that on a basic level just takes the keyword tool and drills down that little bit further.
The Stand Against Paid Links
The constant pain in Google’s side is paid links and 2008 saw Google step up their fight against them with a huge attack on paid posts, paid reviews and paid comments. This attack saw the use of these services fall extremely sharply as Google spoke out against them and placed rankings penalties on a selection of sites that were using them. Yep you read that right, a selection! Why some and not others? Who knows. But their is definitely a reason out their why Google places penalties on some sites and not others. Will we ever find out what that reason is? Fat chance.
Again another big feature for 2008 which at launched many said could be the end of longtail search. A few months down the line and very little change has been noted in organic search. Now I’m not saying there hasn’t been a change, just the change that has been experienced has been pretty minor, especially when you take into consideration that many thought it would be the end of longtail search.
The team at SEOmoz launched their linkscape tool, its probably safe to say the launch didn’t go exactly to plan and linkscape became one of the controversial launches of 2008. It was claimed that the linkscape tool used it’s own bot to crawl the web, but upon SEO’s and webmaster checking log files ans seeing no activity it soon became clear that this wasn’t the case, although for some time this was denied by the SEOmoz. Anyway to cut quite a long story short, the seo community united and slated the tool and SEOmoz. It turned out as many expected that the tool used a mashup of many data indexes and as such some of their data was pretty old. How much damage did this cause for the SEOmoz team, only time will tell really, but they definitely lost a hell of a lot of trust and respect for the way they handled the launch and as such the Linkscape tool will most likely never be used to its potential.
2008 saw SEO pushing for a more social approach, combining the use of social avenues such as blogging and link baiting as well as using resources such as facebook and Twitter to reach out to customers and engage with them. This kind of activity not only gained links and generated buzz, but also built loyalty and a community around a site. Essentially SEO took a more combined approach and looked at brand building as well as the normal concentration of non-brand keyphrases. Yes, social media has been around for a while but 2008 saw a real push on this kind of activity.
So why was 2008 the year that social media became a little more mainstream. Well lets face it, Google’s stand against paid posts and reviews sent out a pretty big signal to many that their algorithm was applying a fair amount of weight to this kind of activity and the buzz that it generated. Secondly the success of some of the big social media campaigns such as the one run by Dell. Also lets not forget the effect that social media can have on brand building.
Twitter rose in popularity, it’s rapid take up was in general through its adoption with the tech, seo and social media communities. Its rise in popularity has provided marketers with another channel to build their social profile and generate visitors. In terms of seo and brand building, twitter has provided another method to grab another space in the SERPS, SEOmoz is a great example of this with their twitter result showing at position three in a brand search.
ROI and Conversions
Just in case it slipped past you, 2008 saw the world plummet into financial crisis and as such companies became much wiser about their marketing activity. This saw a big push towards gaining maximum ROI out of all forms of marketing, which is where SEO and paid search excelled. This change in focus saw many changing their focus away from ranking positions and high traffic keyphrases to a methodology where they concentrated on keyphrases which with high conversion rates and placing a lot more focus on how users interact with a site.
So 2008 gave us plenty to think about, will 2009 prove to be as eventful?