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What’s the Next Big Thing in Search Engine Optimization?

Search engine optimization changed drastically in 2012. But are the most dramatic changes yet to come? The Penguin update buried thousands of spam sites, but it didn’t exterminate the spammers themselves. It simply struck their “nests,” sending them scrambling about for the next SEO loop hole.

As long as there are spammers, Google will need to keep updating search technology and refining their methods for separating the junk content from the valuable and trustworthy content. This means ethical marketers need to stay one step ahead of Google. This is possible if you understand the philosophies behind Google’s newest indexing strategies.

Here are some of Google’s recent moves and a few suggestions about what your next move should be…

#1: Social Credibility vs Link Building

There should be no debate about whether intentional link building is an unethical SEO practice. Google’s webmaster guidelines have been deprecating the practice for years. It’s only been working because Google has had no other method for measuring the social value of a web page. Now they do, it’s called social media.

Websites now have Facebook buttons, Google + buttons, Twitter share buttons and options for leaving comments using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Google plus. The search engine spiders can read how many of these “social signals” a web page has, and social signals are already impacting search engine rankings.

So it appears that Google is replacing backlinks as a signal of social credibility. Marketers who are dependent on link building are already falling behind. If the next Google update evaluates content strictly based on social signals instead of backlinks, which is very likely, there could be some rude awakenings for web masters worldwide.

#2: Author Rank vs Page Rank

Google recently started including Google plus posts in its search engine results. Is this just an attempt to knock Facebook off the throne of Social Media or is this part of much larger move by Google? While Google certainly wants to topple Facebook as the social media leader, their promotion of Google plus also reflects a fast growing trend in SEO. It’s the trend of ranking brands, companies and even authors, instead of just ranking web pages and websites.

In 2012, Google introduced a new concept into the world of SEO, one which slipped in under the radar while SEO experts were debating about the authority of back linking, exact match domains and keyword density. It’s called “Author Rank.”

Google plus now allows you to connect the author account on your blog to your Google plus account. As your blog posts become more valuable (due to more visitor interaction and social signals), your author rank also increases. While no specific mention has been made of this, Google does have the technology to connect your author account to specific subjects and keywords.

Could it be that your expert status online will soon become more important than the ranking position of your web pages or your content? When you consider Google’s overall objectives, it seems like the next reasonable move.

When people search for content online, they want to know if that content was created by an expert. Since Google is in the business of delivering trustworthy content to people, it makes sense that author rank would be the next big SEO trend. So if you’re not already working on your expert reputation and author rank, it’s time to get started.

#3: Expertise is King vs Content is King

Content is still king…for now. But the information age has presented a problem for consumers. It’s allowed self-proclaimed experts to flood cyberspace with opinions and propaganda instead of information based on solid facts and expertise. This might have been amusing for a while, but the novelty has worn off. Now, people want solid and accurate information instead of mere speculation and theory.

Over ten years ago, in his book “The 8th Habit,” the late Stephen Covey predicted that the information age would be short lived and soon give way to the age of wisdom. Now, ten years later, Google is making strides to usher in the age of wisdom by promoting expert authors in the search results.

These authors won’t be self-proclaimed experts. They’ll be voted on as experts through the social signals which Google will soon be using to determine the value of content. If this change were to happen tomorrow, would your reputation as an expert be enough to keep your company visible in the search results? If not, this is your wake up call. Google is already preparing their next move, and you should be too.

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