There can be no doubt that 2011 has been a bumper year for search engine optimization, so, I thought it might be nice to do a little summary of some of the key events that have occurred for SEO during the year. Read on for the Dental Design round up for 2011!
The first month of 2011 was relatively tranquil for SEO. Google quietly rolled out a PageRank update while many in the search engine optimisation community were beginning to suspect that Google had something big planned for the New Year. They do always say there is calm before the storm…
And that storm came in February, which was arguably one of the most significant months for SEO in 2011 due to the release of Google’s Panda algorithm. The word ‘Panda’ used to conjure up images of a lovable, fluffy animals, occasionally sneezing and snaffling down bamboo, but now it is a word that strikes SEOs around the world with a sense of fear and loathing. It was the first time Google had integrated machine learning into their algorithm, and the result was a cull of content farms and other low quality websites that had previously ranked highly in their results pages.
March was a month of notable celebrations including the birthday of Twitter, which turned five in March. The world’s first tweet was sent on March 21st 2006, and five years later Twitter released some statistics that reflected how rapid their growth has been as a social network:
• It took three years, two months and one day to get to the billionth tweet. Now there are a billion tweets a week.
• A year ago, people sent 50 million tweets a day. On March 11, 2011, the tally was 177 million.
• There was 456 tweets per second after Michael Jackson died in 2009. That record was broken on New Year’s Day this year with 6,939 tweets after midnight in Japan on New Year’s morning there.
• There were 572,000 new accounts created on March 12, 2011; there were 460,000 new accounts created daily, on average, in the past month.
• Mobile Users increased 182% in the past year.
• Twitter has 400 employees today, compared to eight in January 2008.
Pretty impressive, I’m sure you’ll agree. March also saw the long awaited release of Mozilla Firefox4 which was more customizable, featured private and secure synchronization, a new streamlined interface, and was considered to be the fastest Firefox ever.
April was significant because it saw Google release the first additional update to the original Panda algorithm. SEOs around the world waited with baited breath to see if their sites would be penalised or promoted as the latest version of Google’s quality-assessing algorithm was rolled out across the internet. This update saw several significant additional features implemented:
• Live for all English Queries: The original Panda update impacted U.S searches only, but in April it was rolled out across other English speaking Google domains such as Google.co.uk and Google.com.au.
• Incorporating searcher data about blocked sites: Initially, Google said they didn’t factor data about the sites people were blocking into the Panda algorithm, but in the April update they said they would use that data in “high confidence situations”.
• Impact seen to a wider variety of sites: It tended to be larger sites that were hit by Panda in the initial launch, but in the April update smaller sites were also targeted.
Surely if a month was made to show good will to all men then it would be May? Well, not for Paypal who decided to go toe-to-toe with Google in the Californian courtrooms over claims that they misappropriated trade secrets relating to ‘electronic wallet’ technology. Google ‘lured’ away a Paypal executive earlier in the year, and he just happened to be the man showing off the technology that Paypal claimed they invented. Google also released a new feature that they called ‘Correlate’, which finds patterns which correspond with real-world trends.
In June 2011 we saw the emergence of the Google +1 button. At first it seemed odd, a bit of an enigma, and Google were seemingly evasive about answering what exactly this button did. The explanation that Google gave about it being a tool that allowed them to serve us more relevant results based on what links our ‘Google connections’ had ‘+1′d’ seemed shaky at best. But Google had bigger plans, a Facebook killer that would signal the dawn of a new era of social-search – it was our first glimpse of ‘Google Plus’…but more of that to come. June also saw Google announce that they were supporting the ‘Authorship’ Meta tag which allowed authors to identify their content across the web. Google, Bing and Yahoo! also collaborated on the Scheme.org project, which allowed webmasters to mark-up their webpages by more accurately identifying intent on the page itself.
July was another busy month for SEO and internet marketing. The most significant event was arguably that the first wave of specially selected users were allowed into Google Plus. This first lot of users tended to be well-respected voices, bloggers and journalists from within the technology sector whose outreach would transcend to the more mainstream, less technology-savvy populous. Early impressions were good, but it would take time before people became convinced that G+ could takedown Facebook. By a happy coincidence, Google’s next attempt at entering into social coincided with the expiry of their deal with Twitter, meaning that Realtime Search would cease to be. Facebook announced a Video Chat feature powered by Skype only a week after Google announced a similar feature on G+…what were the chances of that?!
A couple of notable events happened in August. The most significant for the SEO industry was that the results on Yahoo! began to be powered by Bing. The merger between Bing and Yahoo! had been in the pipeline as Microsoft’s search engine looked to find new ways to loosen Google’s grip on the search engine marketplace. The summer riots in England also occurred in August – and while some saw fit to accuse social media channels of causing, or at least perpetuating the riots, it was generally concluded Twitter and Facebook were not to blame, in fact they were a force for good.
September saw Google+ finally open its doors completely to the public. After months of beta testing and ‘invite only’ entrances into the social network, they finally deemed it quality enough and hyped enough to open the floodgates to the eagerly waiting public. After the release G+ went on to become the fastest growing social network of all time, and although that growth has somewhat plateaued recently, it’s certainly Google’s most impressive attempt at breaking into social. However, Facebook weren’t ready to let Google have it all their way, and at their ‘f8′ conference they announced a powerful partnership with music streaming service, Spotify, adding another dimension to Facebook. Google also announced a spring clean of their products in an attempt to streamline and place more emphasis on their social network.
October saw Google make one of its most divisive decisions of the year as they announced their decision to redirect all users of Google.com to their secure browsing channel. This meant that search referral user data for logged-in users of Google.com would be hidden, and the keyword ‘not provided ‘ became the bane of many SEOs lives. It’s still too early to comment on exactly how much this will impact search engine optimisation, but it certainly has divided opinion. In other news, Apple released the iPhone 4S with its ‘Siri’ voice recognition technology being the main selling point, and Firefox partnered with Bing as their deal with Google expired.
November saw the SEO community mourn the passing of an old friend in Yahoo! Open Site Explorer, and with it the last recognised tool on the internet offering free linkage data across all platforms. The closure marked the final stages of the merger between Bing and Yahoo! and the tool has been integrated into the Bing Webmaster Tools…so it hasn’t vanished from our lives completely. Google+ finally opened its doors to businesses after being open to the public for several months, and speculation began about how they could be integrated into social media marketing strategies.
Here we are in December. It’s been an eventful year for search engine optimisation and there has been some incredible progress made in our industry. This month we have already seen Twitter roll out a new version, called ‘Fly’, which has seen it divided into four key sections, ‘Home’, ‘Connect’, ‘Discover’ and ‘Me’. Also, for the first time, people have been able to register ‘.xxx’ domains as ICANN’s gTLD’s were finally released across the web. It was also time for Google’s annual Zeitgeist list which this year saw inclusions for Ryan Dunn, Adele, Steve Jobs and 2011′s undoubted pop hero, Rebecca Black. To finish the year, just when you thought Google had done everything it’s possible for a business to do…they made it snow!
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!