(By Paul Morris note: this article is aimed at intermediate-advanced Search practitioners hence I’m not going to spend time explaining the basics.)
I like to muse (hence why my blog is called search muse) on what’s next for the Search Engine algorithms as this clearly impacts the direction you should take with your Search marketing activity.
The above image visualises where I think Google et al are evolving there website ranking parameters to in the medium-long term (by the way, I’m not going to cover obvious stuff in this post about optimising page titles, standard in bound links, meta optimisation, site architecture, etc).
Broadly my overarching ethos is one of Google et al focusing on quality and personalisation. We have already started to see this with a Search Engine focus on social media ranking factors, Google +1 & Google+ launching and ongoing Panda releases and I see no reason why these themes will not continue.
Right then; without further ado let’s explain my mind map:
Google +1 button – Google ‘social votes’ are affecting the SERPS now and as Google fine tunes this parameter and minimises people gaming the system e.g. by selling +1’s and more people adopt the button on their site this impact will grow for SEO and be adopted as a PPC quality score parameter.
Klout , topsy & post rank – as with Google +1 the Search Engines are moving away from their overreliance on ‘normal’ inbound links ( many SEO’ers buy links from quality relevant sites with on theme anchor text and hence game the SERPS) and trying to interpret social signals. Klout, Topsy and the now Google owned Post Rank (read more about the Google Post Rank purchase) gives Google et al a social ranking platform feed in addition to what is already being done.
Facebook Like and the linked in share buttons – Whilst these do not appear to be algorithm factors at present it would not take much for Linked in or Facebook to feed votes back to Google et al to impact where that site ranks. Now we only need Facebook and Google to like each other to make this happen!
The Linked In shares could be quite powerful as due to Linked In users taking this feature more seriously than the promiscuous Facebook liker’s if someone does share a link on their LinkedIn profile, whilst the number would be significantly smaller than Facebook Likes, they could be given more ‘link juice’ weight.
Author tag (the quill) – The Meta author tag is a Q2 2011 addition and will start to give power to online authors. At present it is far too easy to steal and repurpose content but this addition will help to give authors algorithm weight and not just the site they are posting on. This in my opinion will lead to a new parameter to accompany the author tag – that of a bona fide passion parameter!
The Ipad, Iphone and operating system logos – Whilst Google et al at present broadly offer one Search algorithm for all platforms and simply tailor it slightly e.g. the way local results are displayed on a mobile (I am over simplifying here by excluding innovations such as the Bing Ipad app). Due to the search behaviour differing per platform/ the context in which they are searching Google et al will at some point start to tailor results. As an example if I’m searching on an android mobile phone about fitness the results will feature more mobile friendly sites about fitness, digital versions of fitness books and also introduce android fitness app results at the top of the universal search results.
Site speed icon – In addition to the above of tailoring for context and operating system, parameters such as site speed will start to play a bigger part. Google already takes in to account site speed however it is a small parameter with little Search affect (unless the site is shockingly slow). Site speed is clearly more important on mobile devices due to the reduced speeds and I foresee Google et all starting to favour sites that load quickly and/or have dedicated mobile sites and/or are built in HTML5.
Twitter – Twitter started to impact the SERPS from around Q3 2010 and as discussed in my Twitter impact on SEO piece parameters such as retweets and links from influential/ on theme twitter users will only grow in prominence.
Doo you, reevoo and review centre icons (a sample of 3 review sites) – Google could start to collate brand ratings and introduce these into its ranking index (poor reviews reduce your rankings and vice versa – Google already try’s to grade inbound positive and negative links in a similar way to how Radion 6 grades sentiment).
Therefore in addition, standard SEO and social seo (e.g. building links to sites that show your brand in a good light to elevate them over the more negative sites) reputation management will become even more important to bury the negatives but also stimulate the positives.