Before I dive into predictions for 2012, let’s take a look back at where I’ve been wrong and right over the years. I have a fairly good track record, and I like to take a few chances with these, rather than taking the easy way out with predictions like “links will still matter”.
Footer Links Get The Boot?
I was quite wrong about search engines devaluing all footer link networks. As easy as these are to spot, it baffles me that some sites can achieve high rankings via this spammy tactic. Check out this amazing expose blog post from Joost de Valk.
Prediction for 2012: This will be the year the footer link truly hits the ignore bucket. This tactic has been around since the early 90s with “free web counters” that sneakily linked to other sites. Then came WordPress themes, then site-wides, blogroll spam, footer links and many other tricks. Key word: tricks.
I am frankly amazed footer links have not been blown up. Like they should have been way back when school newspapers first used them like this below. Sorry, I’m not telling you the school.
Directory Links Take A Dive
I was both right and wrong about general (non vertical) directory links losing all value. While some of the worst directories have finally died a welcome death, I have still witnessed sites improve rankings via submissions to weak no-name directories. It will stop someday, it just didn’t in 2011.
Hopefully, 2012 is the year the generic link directory to nowhere and everywhere stops having any effect at all. How can any algorithm take seriously a directory that nobody uses other than the people submitting links to them?
The name of the game here is curated verticality. And it’s what I’ve been going after since the day I started in 1994.
Name me one single mass general directory that comes anywhere close to truly organizing and cataloging the Web. None of them can. Yahoo! couldn’t. DMOZ couldn’t. The Web’s very nature is distributed links pointing at expert content. Single source directories are antithetical to the nature of the web’s design.
Prediction for 2012: Watch for hundreds if not thousands of small highly curated and vetted resource lists to appear. In fact, they already do, and have for years.
I’m not going to give away the farm here, but for a recent project I gathered over 80 veterinary resource collections based at .orgs, coms, and .edus. These are small curated lists. And they matter. They matter more that you’d ever imagine.
Notice the link on the bottom right: Veterinary Product Vendor Sites.
Which of the two directories would you rather be in? Link-O-Matic above or this one below?
Facebook Brand Pages Build Likes & Links
I was wrong thinking any company with an existing and well trafficked website could forgo having a Facebook page.
While not an absolute necessity for every site, (are enough people really going to become fans of the Preperation H Hemmoroid Treatment Facebook page to matter?) the sheer mass and potential matriculation across the Facebook links space make it a worthwhile alternative mode to reach customers. At least for most brands it does.
Prediction for 2012: Dare I say it, every brand not currently on Facebook will be by the end of 2012.
Twitter Link Cred
I was right about Twitter having a far smaller effect on organic search rank that most claimed it would. Tweeted links have yet prove to me that their rank has improved due to being tweeted. Tweets are good for quick drive by traffic and that’s about it.
The only Twitter impact I see in organic results is people with Twitter credibility will see their twitter profile rank quite high. I was a reluctant Twitter user several years ago, but I can’t argue with the fact that my Twitter profile ranks at position 4 for a search on my name, and I’ve done nothing other than be cautous about who I follow and what I tweet.
Prediction for 2012: People will stop chasing followers and work on sculpting a more authoritative Twitter profile. What this means is instead of following 17,000 people and having 17,000 followers, people will realize that to have any influence at all, you need have more followers than you follow, and you need to tweet about things other than how wonderful your most recent column was. Share the good, curate the helpful, and the followers will come.
Anchor Text Gets Devalued
I was right about anchor text being devalued. This was never a reliable signal, because it was too SEO centric a signal and too easily gamed. You’ve heard me say before, in 17+ years of requesting links, I’ve never once asked for anchor text.
The most trustworthy content on the Web is not going to give over editorial rights to you so you can anchor your way up the Google ladder. We are all the Hemingway’s of our own content, so don’t tell me how to link to you.
The engines more than likely did not realize just how far people would go to try and manipulate anchor text, but the ironic thing about this is the more you try to manipulate your anchor text, the more you create a backlink profile that looks suspicious when compared to the mass of historical anchor text data the engines have to study.
Prediction for 2012: Services like these below slowly but surely start to vanish.
Two Final Predictions
First, people will discover the fantastic and free linking data available from blekko. It’s incredible.
Second, people will realize the futility of relying on search engines for all their traffic, and put more effort into link marketing tactics and strategies that have nothing to do with search results, like this.
Don’t laugh, their last client’s QR code baked cookies resulted in a 40% scan and install rate for a mobile app. Forty percent. Via an edible baked cookie with a QR code on the icing. And yes, it was my idea and it had nothing to do with search engines. Here’s one they baked for me: