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Emerging Trends in Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

By Julie King |

There has been a lot of buzz about major changes taking place on the search landscape over the past 18 months, especially around some of the updates Google has done to control poor quality links, thin content and other underhanded optimization tactics.

In anticipation of the annual Search Engine Strategies (SES) Toronto conference being held from June 11-13, 2012, CanadaOne caught up with Canadian search expert, Terry Van Horne, to find out what today’s webmasters and site owners need to know.

Terry Van Horne has been developing and marketing websites since the early 90's. When CanadaOne needed an expert to do an SEO audit of our national business magazine we selected Terry and his partner David Harry in Reliable SEO, a Search and Social Media Marketing Agency, to do that work.

We believe he is one of Canada’s leading optimization experts and are delighted to share his insights.

Julie :

SEO has come a long way since webmasters first started optimizing for Alta Vista, Yahoo and other sites in the mid-90’s. What do small business owners need to know about what has changed in search landscape in the past 18 months?


If you consider the 2 current concerns for most sites, the Panda and Penguin updates, are almost a “Back to the Future” scenario with on-page usability/accessibility and visibility being the chief SEO concerns. Authority has shifted from predominantly a linkgraph calculation to a combination of the link, Social, Entity and other graphs. The newest SERP to be unveiled by Google is the Knowledge Graph which is a combination of trusted data sources like Wikipedia and named entities from the freebase data Google purchased over a year ago from Meta Webs.

The Social graph and localization of results through personalization and location lookup has given the brick and mortar local store another route to the top of the results in Google. Fill out your Local Profiles on Bing and Google Places, look to deal sites and mobile apps like FourSquare, Yelp and others to increase visibility. The advantage to these services are a Facebook page or limited web presence is all that is needed to participate.

Julie :

It used to be that webmasters would use a combination of “on the page” and “off the page” techniques to help their sites rank higher in Google, where on the page techniques tended to focus on adding keywords to key places, while off-the-page techniques focused on in-bound links. Is this still a good approach?


There was a definite bias on linking, in particular exact match anchor text, up until about the last 18 months when the Panda and Penguin updates were added to remove “thin content” and dampen manufactured or unnatural links and poor website usability and accessibility in the results.

Julie :

It’s easy for small businesses to get confused: on one-hand, they have companies calling them telling them they can get them top ranking by putting their links on directory sites, yet on the other hand they are told that doing this will get them penalized by search giants like Google. What is going on here and what do smaller companies need to do to be successful?


First and foremost consider that no one linking or other SEO technique can raise you to the top of anything for the competitive terms you need to be focused on. The best firms do not solicit business by email because they are fully booked by word of mouth and industry activity referrals. On the other hand be mindful the SEO you are contacting is biased by their methods and beliefs, wrong or right. Look for credible sources like SEMPO, and others keeping in mind for every legit “association” there are many that are shams

Julie :

Since “organic search” can be unreliable, how important is it for businesses to use a combined strategy, in particular one that incorporates pay-per-click like AdWords and site optimization using a tool like Google Analytics?


First and foremost not every product or service is suited to Pay Per Click advertising. Start with lower budgets and increase as you improve the campaigns. I would not put all my eggs in one basket. I prefer to devote budget to both PPC and organic Search and further would prefer Search in total is not too large a segment of total traffic. That said all online sales channels are seeing cannibalization by tablets and mobile/cloud computing in general. So now it is important to consider a mobile/web strategy. The trickiest part is mobile seems to be an ROI black hole that is taking share from Search and Social Web based activity.

Julie :

With all the buzz about social media sites like Facebook, when it comes to search is Google losing its leadership position in search?


Search and Social are converging as Facebook starts to move away from simple relationship between people to relationships between people places and things. One thing will never change and it is fundamentally why Social and Search will not cause the demise of the other. Simply Search is generally farther along the conversion funnel than Social which is primarily just in the discovery stage of the funnel. Search is also in discovery but is beyond just sourcing but also location of sources. For example you might ask a Social network about a product recommendation but generally you do not ask where to purchase it at the best price. Search engines are used when people are entering the transactional/buying phase of the conversion funnel.

Julie :

If you could identify just one upcoming SEO trend small businesses should pay attention to, what would it be, and why is it important?


Local/Mobile Search has been on a steady up trend for a few years and that will only grow as tablet and smart phone adoption grows. Start learning how to use the free Local listings on major search engines and review sites like Yelp and other niche services that will emerge. Keep in mind that there seems to be a desire for apps over web sites.

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