Originally Authored by Joe Griffin
2007 has drawn to a close and so the time has come to take a look back at the seminal moments in the SEO industry. These are my thoughts on the developments I feel most impacted our business and our clients rankings.
# 10: Wikipedia and Yellow Page Directories Infiltrate the Natural SERP’s
Yellow Page directories like Magic Yellow, City Search and Super Pages have dominated natural search results for years. These directories possessed the majority of the highly coveted, top ten natural search results for many local professional and trade service key words in 2007 (example: “Washington DC plumber”). This relegated local businesses to lower SERP’s when they would typically enjoy higher rankings. It drastically affected websites and businesses across the country.
Wikipedia also had a significant impact. It is now a major industry player after maintaining a strong presence for the past few years. Currently, Wikipedia is the best ranking website on the Internet. It continues to not only preserve, but accrue number one positions for extremely competitive keywords.
#9: Matt Cutts’ Communication
Google’s Matt Cutts has become increasingly vocal over the years. He maintains a popular blog, participates at most major conferences and has begun posting videos on YouTube (find them on YouTube or Google video). He addresses hot button issues such as paid linking, alt tags and on page SEO. His engagement validates SEO and allows the industry to hear from the horse’s mouth.
#8: Google Backlinks Displayed in Webmaster Tools
For as long as I can remember, Google has displayed a partial snapshot of a website’s full backlink portfolio. This applies to every website on the Internet. Several months ago Google allowed unfettered access to backlinks in the Google Webmaster Tools. Anyone possessing these tools can see every backlink Google gives them credit for. This is a boon for SEO and is still underutilized within the industry.
#7: Google – DoubleClick Merger
The FTC has given Google the green light to buy Double Click. DoubleClick is arguably the largest ad serving company in the world. It also owns Preformics, a full service SEM/SEO company. Translation? Google has officially purchased an SEO company. This merger has significant implications for the industry down the road. Even though the jury is still out regarding the precise consequences, I consider it a banner move worthy of ranking in the 2007 Top 10.
#6: Google and Yahoo! Filters Get Public
Search engines have instituted spam protection since 1995. This protection became increasingly sophisticated around the late nineties and into early 2000. Filters represent one aspect of this progression and they are more public in 2007 than ever before. For example, Yahoo! will assess 50,100 and 500 point penalties. Google will assess everything from 5 or 6 point penalties to 20, 30 or 100 point penalties. There is also the famous 950 filter, a 950 point penalty. The visibility of these filters, what they mean and how to avoid them are popular topics for discussion amongst industry insiders.
#5: SMO not Always Great for SEO (except when you’re in the SEO business)
A year or two ago social media’s popularity was rapidly building. It reached its pinnacle in 2007 when the industry latched onto the medium, and its marketing potential, with strategies like link bait. As tempting as it is, not every business will benefit from these endeavors. Speaking on behalf of an agency that manages over 250 customers, in various industries, we have found that Social Media Marketing definitely has its place. Many businesses do not fit the mold and that puts a kink in the link bait idea. Link bait applies to less than 50% of businesses and potentially less than 25%. Major social sites (including Wikipedia, MySpace, Facebook, del.icio.us and Digg ) have assigned the “no-follow” to all outbound links. The “no-follow” is an attribute on hyperlinks ensuring links get no credit when search engines rank websites in their search results. It is essentially a non-vote so spammers will not take advantage of public areas. In essence, these social networks do not pass link juice. It is critical to note the lack of impact these popular sites have on most marketing efforts. That said, in many circumstances these networks can be used to positively impact search results, but only through third party notice originating from these networks, but not directly from the networks.
#4: Paid Directories get Squashed
Paid directories have always been an ace in the hole for SEOs as they are a useful resource for acquiring paid links. We maintained a list of approximately 110 paid directories we considered valuable. Google recently took action and filtered around 50 paid directories leaving only 60 valid options available. This is a significant percentage and eliminated 50 guaranteed links. It affected rankings and strategies across the industry for individual search engine optimizers and companies alike.
#3: BlogReviews Hits it Big in 2007
Blogging has been popular for several years, but 2007 was its banner year. Blogging as well as paid reviews (what we call BlogReviews) took off and are strong contenders for relevant link acquisition. The industry embraced this trend. Consequently, it meaningfully impacted rankings.
#2: Universal Search Jumps into the Scene
This year Google rolled out universal search. The service includes Google Local, Google Maps, Google Video, Google News plus more. Google has conducted extensive experiments with the application as well as the industry. They tested the click through rates for video, local etc. by positioning them in different locations in the SERP’s i.e. top, middle, bottom. They even tried displaying 3 local results and 7 natural results. Thankfully, they are back to 3 local results and 10 natural results. All SEO companies have had to address universal search and assess the entire search mix. This includes video and news which also entail press releases. Universal search’s impact and implications rank it number 2 in the Top 10.
#1: Text Link Advertising gets Dinged
Google takes a fierce stance against text link advertising. Many major Google webmaster blogs discuss this subject and naturally Matt Cutts is the main spokesperson. Google has trained a magnifying glass on paid links. They are manually filtering out websites and will pass penalties to sites that buy links, when it is done in a non-favorable way. If sites buy too many links, use too much of the same anchor text, buy on non-relevant sites or buy on sites that are known links sellers, they are in the danger zone. In essence, links must be purchased with the utmost care and consideration. That being said, text link advertising is still a healthy industry, but the model has entirely changed in 2007. Information on this issue saturates the Internet and the industry has yet to see its ultimate effect.
This wraps up the Top 10 SEO changes in 2007. The industry has its gaze fixed on the horizon and the dawning of a new year filled with an array of possibilities, advances and modifications.