Upcoming search ranking factors for 2011

Written by: Drew Lyon   Austin, Texas

Posted on: January 19, 2011

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Search changed A LOT in 2010. But last year is so last year. Time to look ahead to search ranking factors that will gain the most value in 2011.

As an SEO company, we have an opportunity to monitor and track the impact of different ranking factors across each website we optimize. It’s our job to proactively address new and upcoming ranking factors and give clients a head start over their competition.

With that in mind, here are the upcoming factors that we will be stressing most in 2011…


Content

Raise your hand if you’ve updated website content this year? No? Even though the year’s only a few weeks young, it’s time to start thinking about a consistent content strategy.

Admittedly, regularly updating content is not a new idea. Search engines have always rewarded websites that add new content. However, this year we expect even MORE importance to be placed on creating new and interesting website content.

Why it matters…

When content marketing is done right, it’s a fail-safe way to improve website positioning. Not only do search engines reward websites that frequently produce quality content, but Internet users promote content they find useful or interesting. They may place a link on their website OR share content on popular social sites such as Twitter and Facebook–both of which increase search engine value (more on that later). Each website update or blog post you make has the potential to be seen by an ever-expanding audience–but only if it’s worth reading.

What it takes…

Keep in mind that producing a steady stream of high quality content takes time and resources. Content writers command high hourly rates and employing an in-house content writer(s) may be a large commitment. However, the level of commitment involved is precisely why search engines value fresh content so strongly.

Google Places (and local search)

Localized search is the future–especially, for local business owners. Rather than being intimidated by all the changes Google is making, local businesses should be thrilled with their newfound opportunity to surpass competitors previously out of reach. Now that Google Places listings often show up before standard search results, businesses are less likely to be overshadowed by informational websites and directories.

What to do…

Of course localized search success won’t happen on its own. Google Places optimization requires maintaining up-to-date listings for ALL business locations. For each listing be sure to fill out all fields, add pictures and use relevant keywords when applicable. Another important factor is customer feedback. To some extent, Google is generally promoting listings with more customer reviews. You should strongly encourage customers to go online and provide concise reviews of their experience.

Stay tuned…

Judging by the frequency of updates, Google hasn’t finalized their approach to local search. What they have made clear, is the emphasis they will be placing on local search going forward. As always, we will be carefully monitoring their local search strategy and advising clients accordingly.

Social Reputation

Facebook has become so mainstream a movie about the popular social network is receiving ‘Best Picture’ award buzz. And Time Magazine’s ‘Person of the Year’…that’s right, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. So if you’re one of the few remaining holdouts waiting for the social ‘bubble’ to burst, don’t hold your breath.

What do search engines think…

Google is displaying ‘Tweets’ directly in search results, Bing is showing how many of your friends have ‘Liked’ a page or article and they both are placing more importance on social links. Using the number of “Retweets” or “Likes” to help determine a website’s ranking is an obvious next step.

What are you waiting for…

Setting up social accounts for your business is free and maintaining them should become routine. Some businesses may choose to enlist help from an Internet marketing company or allocate time for in-house social management. Regardless, someone close to the business should be infusing social media accounts with fresh interesting content. If you can get real people to notice, you can be sure search engines are taking notice as well.

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