Barry Schwartz gave the SMX Israel keynote about 2013 search highlights, and what’s coming in 2014.
Biggest changes of 2013
Hummingbird flew under the radar at first. Nobody even knew about it until Google announced it a few weeks later, but it’s changing the search landscape. Google is now much better at divining the intent behind the search.
Penguin 2.0 launched May 22, 2013. Only affected 2.3% of queries, but had major effect on SEO community. Google penalizing what they considered bad link building.
Panda is Rolling. Google stopped confirming Panda updates. Finally baked it directly into their algorithm. Made it harder for us to understand why our rankings were changing.
Pay Day Loan / Spam Algo. Hit specific aggressive industries like pay day loans and porn. Sites that were hacking to boost their rankings. Only hit 0.3% of English language queries. Hit some other languages much harder. It Turkey it hit 4%.
Merchant quality. There was a NYT article where a guy claimed he intentionally abused his customers because the bad reviews helped his SEO. So Google worked to fix that.
Mobile ranking factor: Smart-phone friendly search results rank higher on smartphones.
Link War. Big sites penalized because of bad links from their UGC sections. Expedia penalized for what Google felt was an artificial link scheme.
Paid links: They finally went after Text Link Ads which has been around forever. Text Link Ads had to change their name.
Google is also going after all these underground link networks. Matt Cutts is even mocking them.
Page Rank updates disappearing. Google only released 2 Page Rank updates, and one of them was by accident. Google doesn’t want you to focus on that.
Knowledge graph. This was launched a few years ago but it’s growing, and just entered the snippets last week.
Bing has their own knowledge graph, Satori. It’s important for you as marketers to figure out how to get in there.
Predictive search: They’re just at the beginning stages. Google Now made great strides in 2013. Google Glass is able to show you information based on where you are. Apple has Siri. Marissa Mayer just said that this is the future of search.
We’re having a predictive search session later with me (Barry), Ari, and Gil, who will all be awesome. [OK, he didn't say that last part, but it was in the subtext]
Social search: Kind of in its infancy. Bing tightly integrated with Facebook. Bing and Google are working hard to integrate social, both in the experience and in the core algorithm
More visible ads: Yellow ad label to make it more visible that it’s an ad. May affect your CTRs.
Google is testing massive ads for navigational queries. Try Southwest Airlines and you may get a huge picture and link to them.
Bing is doing the same thing. They call it “Bing Hero ads.”
Google PLAs (Product Listing Ads) are the next iteration of Google Froogle, Google Shopping. It’s not free anymore to list. But it seems to have a good ROI if you do it right.
Enhanced campaigns: Google forced all campaigns to upgrade.
RLSA: Remarketing list for search ads. Google & Bing are working hard to bridge search & display ads.
Social ads: Twitter and Facebook are experimenting with different ads.
Extensions: images, reviews: New extensions from Google that really calls out your ads. They integrate images and reviews. The extensions are also affecting the rankings.
Google Keyword Tool: You need an Adsense account now.
AdSense design: They’re experimenting constantly. Animations, different shapes.
They’re also loading ads asynchronously now.
Not provided: More than 90% of the searches are now going through SSL and not providing query data. Yahoo just shifted to this too. [If you saw a big drop in Yahoo traffic, you didn’t lose the traffic, it’s just recorded as Direct now].
Universal analytics: Understanding the user whether she came from mobile or desktop.
Jill Whalen retires. She was in the SEO industry before it was called SEO.
She said the Panda and Penguin algorithm really led to people like her not having to champion white hat SEO. There are fewer black hats out there (Barry added “supposedly” – didn’t sound like he meant to)
Google buys Waze (yay, Israel)
Coming in 2014
The rise of Mobile: It’s getting bigger (well, bigger and smaller). You’re going to see more ranking changes, especially on the paid side.
Social: Matt Cutts keeps saying they’re not using Social. Don’t count on that remaining true. They have to go there on the organic and paid sides. [Eli Feldblum later said "Google keeps saying they don't use social signals but nobody believes them"]
Predictive: This is just getting started with Hummingbird and Wearables. They’re going to know what information you want before you search for it.
Quality & authority: Google is continuing to increase its focus on determining who the authorities are.