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The rules of search engine optimization are always changing, and old techniques quickly become outdated with the development of new search technologies. This is a point that Google has been driving home lately with its Panda and Penguin algorithm updates (most recently, Penguin 2.0). These algorithm changes are aimed at weeding out spammy, irrelevant websites while shining a spotlight on websites that actually offer value to their visitors.
The frequent sharing of content across social media has also changed the rules of SEO. Likes, retweets, and shares are natural, human indicators of quality for search engines to go on. Without a doubt, high quality content and social media are the driving forces of SEO in 2013.

Increased Mobile Usage

Mobile internet usage has increased significantly in the past five years, and experts expect this trend to continue in the years to come. A survey conducted by Accenture found that the majority of internet users used a mobile device to connect in 2012, and a good number of those users do so regularly.
Mobile internet users use their devices to perform a variety of tasks, including banking, accessing social media, doing product research, and shopping online. Take advantage of this new flood of mobile traffic by optimizing your website for mobile users. A few ways to do this include:

  • Using responsive design to design your website
  • Creating mobile apps to appeal to consumers
  • Optimize your email communications for mobile use

The New Rules of Linking

Gone are the days of link farms and link trading to improve search rankings. The quality of the backlink now matters more than the quantity, which means that backlinks from respected websites will do your website the most good.
However, this doesn’t mean that you need links from sites like USA Today or The New York Times to succeed. Links from smaller, yet more relevant websites are also good for SEO.  Guest blogging for established websites is a great way to accomplish this.
In addition, an infographic published by SearchMetrics points out that content with good and plentiful internal links tends to get higher search engine rankings. Building internal links within your content isn’t only good SEO, but it’s a great way to generate a readership on your website as well.

Social Media

Social media has become the most popular medium for sharing interesting content across the web. If your content goes viral across social media websites, this means increased traffic to your website and more social signals for search engines to pick up on.
To encourage this, make your content easily shareable on social media by using social share buttons for all of your content. You should also create your own accounts on sites like Twitter and LinkedIn if you haven’t already in order to expand your reach. If your web presence is a wheel, think of your website as the hub of the wheel and your social media as its spokes.

Black Hat SEO = Lower Rankings

Search engines are becoming smarter all the time, and increasingly difficult to manipulate. In the past, a site owner could rank by doing a little keyword research and stuffing those keywords into a website that has little other value.
Today, instead of putting so much weight on keywords, Google rewards websites with content that users share naturally across the web. The Search Metrics infographic referenced earlier also points out that though large brands tend to lack on-page SEO, they still rank well because of the quality of their backlinks and their strong social signals.
Certainly, on-page SEO still influences your rankings. Just make sure it’s an accurate reflection of the content of your website and that it’s supported by good backlinks and social sharing.

Using Multimedia

Though text plays a big part in SEO, taking a multimedia approach to your content will attract more visitors. Diversify your content with pictures (perhaps a few from where you live), slide shows, infographics, and video that readers will find helpful or entertaining. Pictures are especially important since site visitors may or may not watch videos, but they can decide whether or not to read a blog post based on the post’s image and headline.
You should also optimize your multimedia by:

  • Using keywords in image ALT tags
  • Including a transcript of your videos
  • Including keywords in your file names
  • Using keywords in your picture captions
  • Syndicating original images on content sites like Flickr and Photobucket

Longer Content Has Become More Important

Though blog posts of 300 to 500 words still attract readers, a study done by John Doherty of the Moz blog suggests that web users link to longer posts and articles more often. This could be because longer pieces tend to contain more useful and detailed information. The keyword is “useful.” Again, keep in mind that content must be valuable and relevant in order to attract both readers and search engines.

Google Authorship

Use of Google authorship has soared since Google introduced the practice in 2012.  Google authorship allows authors to claim the online content they’ve written by connecting it to their Google+ account. Google looks favorably upon content that has been claimed by its owners, and claiming authorship also helps Google to find and curate more of your content. Claiming authorship is good for SEO, and helps to build your online brand and reputation.
It’s true that the world of SEO is ever-evolving and changing. However, change isn’t always a bad thing. In an internet full of junk and filler, it seems Google’s focus has always been to bring high quality content to its users. “If that’s your goal,” says Google’s Head of Webspam, Matt Cutts, “we’re aligned with that goal, and therefore as long as you’re working hard for users, we’re working hard to try to show your high-quality content to users as well.” And that’s basically what SEO comes down to in 2013.

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