seo predictions for 2011

14 months ago, whilst the Search & Affiliate Director for an agency in Bristol, I blogged about search engine optimisation (SEO) in 2010. As can be seen from the article and the above diagram I was fairly accurate (although the predictions were a tad broad!).

For 2011 I thought I’d do the same on my Search Muse blog hence without further ado here are my 2011 SEO predictions…

Semantic web and/or Social Media SEO?

Will the semantic web compliment and/ or conflict with Social Media SEO (and in fact will either of them affect the SERPS in 2011)?

To start with I will let the ‘owner’ of the internet explain his vision for the semantic web:

 “I have a dream for the Web [in which computers] become capable of analyzing all the data on the Web – the content, links, and transactions between people and computers. A ‘Semantic Web’, which should make this possible, has yet to emerge, but when it does, the day-to-day mechanisms of trade, bureaucracy and our daily lives will be handled by machines talking to machines. The ‘intelligent agents’ people have touted for ages will finally materialize.”

Tim Berners Lee – 1999

Essentially then computer algorithm’s will become significantly more intelligent and learn how to determine the meaning of the text/ data and then create connections for the user.

A contradictory, at least at first sight, SEO methodology is that of social media triggers and their effect on SEO.

Social media SEO still relies on computers to collate the triggers yet relies on much more ‘human connections’. As an example brand noise and inbound links from sites such as facebook and twitter do already impact the SERPS. An example of how social media could play an increasingly important role in the SERPS is where a well trusted blogger places an article solely on your site – the link with such a trusted authority might elevate your ranking for relevant terms for that blog beyond those than would have been enjoyed without that relationship.

So can both semantics and social exist together? Yes they can.

Will the Semantic web come to the fore in 2011? No.

Will Social Media connections increasingly affect the SERPS in 2011? You bet your bottom $ they will.

Algorithym amendments

The Google algorithm is made up of hundreds of parameters that decide where your ad ranks. As an example (deep breath) domain age, domain ip neighbours, url structure, html structure, content uniqueness, number of internal links to a certain page, robots.txt file content, xml sitemap, page age, keywords in the title of a page, keywords in alt tags, keywords in anchor text, keywords in body text, number of outbound links per page, links to bad neighbours, quality of sites linking in, link profile diversity, number of visits, bounce rate and site penalities all affect your rankings.

Parameters to add in to the SEO algorithm mix for 2011 could include:

Conversion rate – By owning Google analytics and Double click the mighty G generally knows what your website converts at. Google might feel it is serving its users better by elevating sites within a sector that convert better than others (as surely that site ‘must’ be of better quality?)

Contextual & personalised search  – Personalised search is already affecting the search results however it would be interesting if these were to be combined with contextual factors. As an example, whether Google knows/ thinks you are at home, work, on a laptop, desktop, mobile, ipad, etc. To a degree this is already happening with mobile search in areas such as local results. Whilst i doubt this will be huge in 2011 super personalised search will take off at some point e.g. Google knows you are using an android phone and after a series of searches about fitness starts to introduce android fitness app results at the top of the serps.

Social search personalisation – Your friends recommendations start to appear higher up your search results than would normally be the case.

Clicks = higher rankings – This already occurs of sorts. Google personalises search results for ‘everyone’. Although Meta descriptions are no longer part of the ranking algorithm, by the fact they affect CTR (click through rates) to your site they affect the ranking for subsequent searches for that individual user. This could easily be extrapolated out to affect others.

Local business listings

2011 will be the year of local.

Google made a bid for GroupOn in late 2010 as it realises local personalisation will grow in importance and it still has a way to go before it dominates this sector. Google does well ranking local business listings and reviews however needs to step up to challenges from companies such as FourSquare and great product extensions such as the Facebook places deals feature.

Data leveraging + increased reciprocity = ‘better’ targeting

Linked with the last point, the launch of ‘something’ by Google that gives you more such as super localised discount vouchers will lead to more people handing over their personal data. As long as the reciprocity factors are strong and their data is secure then people will gladly hand over their data – think of Google latitude on speed.

The Status Quo

Everyone talks of the  new shiny SEO stuff however we must not forget the basics will still form a major part of the future. Keyword rich domains and url strings, a well structured site hierarchy, good meta titles, quality and keyword rich content, etc will continue to be essential SEO fodder.

SEO spend will increase

with the growth of SEO complexity comes the growth of SEO company expenditure to keep up with/ ahead of the Jones’.

Universal search

Universal search will continue to form a major part of the SERPS with video, real time news feeds and social media updates becoming more prominent in 2011.


As can be seen from the recent Google J C Penney penalty there are occasional high profile penalties for naughty black hat SEO. Apart from these penalties continuing I see wider penalties about to impact content farms. As started by Blekko naming and penalising several major content farms at the start of 2011, Google will want to clean up its SERPS and thus content farms are likely to take a hit.

I leave you with one tip for 2012 and beyond…

Whilst not one for 2011 I absolutely believe that QR codes will grow in popularity and affect not only the SERPS but also online and offline integration. View the New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority QR pilot and how Japan are adopting QR codes.