As any website owner knows, search-engine optimization--SEO--is a rapidly moving target. What worked well last week might work against you today. Hordes of website operators learned this the hard way earlier this year, when two key updates to Google's algorithms took effect. Known by the cute code names of "Panda" and "Penguin," these updates were designed to severely penalize websites with thin, weak, or duplicated content. The goal: To rid Google's search results of content farms and spam blogs by using quality metrics, instead of merely relying on the old PageRank system to measure a site's importance.
The end result has been to force webmasters to do what pros have been advising for years: Stop stuffing keywords into low-grade copy and focus on quality. Unique blogs, images, and video are all increasingly key in today's Web world.
Of course, more and more scenery, so to speak, accompanies this mandate. Google+ might not yet matter much to most individuals, but it's becoming more important to search engines, along with Facebook and Twitter links to content. How your site looks and loads on a mobile browser is also increasingly important, as search results are ever more accessed via smartphone.
All of that is merely prologue: If you're not already working on all of the above, you're far, far behind. For those already following this advice, now is the time to take a look ahead at what the next 18 months of SEO are likely to bring. We spoke to dozens of experts to get the skinny on SEO for 2013. Here are the top tips we discovered.
This Website Will Disavow Any Knowledge of Your Actions
What happens if someone links to you from a spammy website? It makes you look bad; in fact, search engines can deem that your site is in fact a spam site as well. Your site is guilty by association, even if you have nothing to do with the linker.
Bing has rolled out a tool in its Webmaster Tools that let you "disavow" links from such places. It's largely self-explanatory. Just add a page or domain to the tool and click the Disavow button to tell Bing you do not approve. This may improve your site's position in search results, but almost certainly it will help to rid the Web of some of its spam. Google's "disavow" tool is expected in the coming months.
Carson Ward of Distilled.net (one of several online marketing agencies whose experts we interviewed) says these "disavow" tools will raise a lot of questions for search optimizers. "Will site owners be more likely to use tactics that search engines frown on if they can simply turn and tell search engines to discount the spam they have created? Will search engines trust site owners to crowdsource spam detection, and should they? Google's implementation of a disavow tool will largely determine the future of Web spam."
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