10 Things I Learned in 2010: Matthew Freeman

This is the fourth in our year-end series of retrospectives by [meta]marketer staff, which will conclude on Thursday.

As an SEO, a lot of the work I do is behind the scenes action—adjusting code, building links, saving the world from spambots, etc. So since the most interesting things I learned in 2010 relate to my work, I’m going to throw the curtain back and show what’s been going on without you even knowing it.

  • In 2010, the keyword was SOCIAL. Oh no, not the unmeasurable, overhyped “social media” campaigns of 2009. I’m talking how SEO and SOCIAL suddenly ran off to Vegas and eloped! And thank goodness they did. Behold:

Twitter is Borg’ing the Internet!

*Real-time search* *Twitter feeds in search results* *Magic Decoder Rings in my cereal* …Actually, that last one would be kinda cool.

  • So the whole Twitter integration into search results turned out to be less of a game changer than expected, right? Not so fast. Sure, having the latest information on a breaking story in my search results is valuable; but I’ve learned that Google’s partnership with Twitter is more of a necessity for their algorithm than for the SERPs.
  • Why? Because in the past, a valuable blog post might receive 50 or so linkbacks; but today, that same quality of post might only receive 5 linkbacks—and 500 tweets.
  • Uh oh, how was Google’s Algorithm supposed to accurately understand the value of a page and its semantic alignment, when 90% of its linkscape has just disappeared into the belly of the Twitterbeast? Thus, Google’s partnership with Twitter has done more to impact what you don’t see, than what you do—by gaining insight into the mountains of Twitter data and using it to impact organic rankings.
  • Most importantly, Twitter marked the first real threat to Google’s search dominance, by potentially hamstringing the algorithm’s ability to provide consistently high-quality results.

Resistance is Futile… and Kind of Fluffy

What’s this?! That’s right… TwitterBorg is our friend!

  • While we might have fewer people linking back to our “10 Things” blog posts, we now have the potential to gain Tweet-links far easier, and far more of them than we used to gain from our blogging buddies. So I’ve learned how taking advantage of Twitter icons and prompts in blog posts can not only help spread the word in the Twittersphere, it can also help a page rank better in the organic SERPs. Thanks, TwitterBorg!
  • While I expect we haven’t seen the final shake-out of how Google will handle Tweet-links, it appears that they provide a faster boost with real-time rankings; but like those gawd-awful energy gel packs they hand you at mile 9, their longterm value is still to be determined.
  • It also means that there is a new ranking algorithm for determining the TwitterRank for each user—similar to how they assign PageRank to websites—and the subsequent value for a tweet/retweet from that user.
  • And so the flipside of all of this, for good or bad, is that traditional links actually have more value now than they ever have. The reason for this is two-fold:
  • Google’s new algorithm for tracking social link value is still in its infancy, and hasn’t figured out how to eliminate enough noise in the space to consistently provide high-quality, relevant results—something the traditional href link algorithm is masterful at. So Google still relies most heavily on its proven, traditional algorithm.
  • Since good content is attracting fewer website-based backlinks, the competition has lessened—to varying degrees, depending upon the space it’s in—and thus, a quality, balanced, organic link acquisition campaign can yield results faster than it has in previous years, with the TwitterBorg snatching up your competitors’ would-be links.
  • Lessee…9, 10, 11. Yup, that about does it, plus one.

    So as the curtain closes on 2010 I can easily say that this integration of social data into SEO is the biggest change to the landscape we’ve seen in the last five years—and it’s only the tip of the iceberg.

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