Wow. 2012 has been a big year for SEO. We’ve seen Penguins roll into town and tear SERPs up, over-optimization penalties and more Panda updates than I want to count. It’s these “big” changes that TM Social Media Manager Michael L. Hoffman and I are discussing in this week’s TM podcast, including new Link Building techniques, Google’s top 10 search queries for the year, and a little Facebook along the way.

SEO 2012 in Review

Google is notoriously quiet about what will get one site better search rankings than another, but this year’s updates are giving us a few more clues. The most significant of all the big changes to search engine optimization this year was Google’s Penguin update.

Google Penguin

Like 2011’s Panda, Penguin was aimed at providing users with higher quality search results, but instead of taking aim at on-page optimization, it focused on external aspects–links. For years, many people relied on less than savory tactics to get their sites the rankings they thought they deserved. One of those tactics was obtaining links by either purchasing them or offering reciprocal links. It’s these techniques that Google is using Penguin to combat, though as we know, people will always find a way around Google’s armor.

Messages to webmasters

People say that in order for any relationship to be successful, there needs to be an ample amount of communication, which is exactly what Google did when it started sending messages to webmasters that vaguely outlined problems with their websites. About halfway through the year, Google began sending notes to webmasters after sites were penalized informing them of their wrongdoings. The only problem was that the search giant did what it does best with regard to SEO techniques–be evasive. It didn’t spell out exactly what a specific website’s problem was, just that it had a poor link profile or that it was over-optimized, etc. What it did, though, was wake a lot of webmasters up and get them thinking about better, more kosher SEO tactics.

The future of link building

As mentioned above, it used to be common practice to buy links in order to boost a site’s SEO value. Now that Penguin has turned that into a near obsolete strategy, it’s unclear what the future will hold for link builders. Search Engine Land’s Julie Joyce thinks that paid links might make a resurgence in 2013. Joyce writes that while buying links is still frowned upon, it’s still important to have a diverse backlink profile (which might include low-quality links). She also points out that because of all the changes Google has implemented over the last year or so, there’s no telling exactly where links will go. The only thing we know is that they’re still important.

Google’s top 10 US search queries

It’s always interesting to learn what the average Google user is searching for. According to Google’s Zeitgeist 2012, the list is as follows:

  1. Whitney Houston
  2. Hurricane Sandy
  3. Election 2012
  4. Hunger Games
  5. Jeremy Lin
  6. Olympics 2012
  7. Amanda Todd
  8. Gangnam Style
  9. Michael Clarke Duncan
  10. Kony 2012

The most surprising ones on the list to us are Whitney Houston, Michael Clarke Duncan and Hurricane Sandy. While searching for actors after they die isn’t uncommon, the fact that the late Whitney Houston beat out both Hurricane Sandy and Election 2012 is pretty astonishing. We were also a little taken aback that Hurricane Sandy beat out Election 2012 for the No. 2 spot. Not because it was a less significant thing, but because it happened at the end of October, the election was something going on all year long.

Want to know more about what we think about these topics and a few others? Listen to our podcast below. Don’t forget to leave us a comment if you want to share your two cents!

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