What to Expect From Google in 2013
In the last two years, Google has made significant changes to its algorithm to rid its high-visibility results pages of spam and low-quality websites. In 2011, an algorithm change called the Panda update took care of websites with poor content. In 2012, the Penguin update handled websites that were using tactics in violation of Google's Webmaster Guidelines.
Trying to predict what Google will do next is one challenge that digital marketers always attempt and often come up short at. There are roughly 500 changes made each year to Google's algorithm, so we know changes will be made. What these changes are, well, that's a whole different ball game. Nonetheless, here's one search marketer's opinion of what to expect from Google in 2013:
Continued growth in mobile from cross-device targeting
There's good reason to believe that in 2013 paid search marketers will be able to connect the dots of specific consumers across the multiple devices they own — desktop, tablet and mobile. We've already seen mobile ad startup Drawbridge launch two products in November, and can only expect more great things to come. Sooner than later, marketers will be able to understand how a consumer is using their mobile device and then properly target that same user through Google AdWords while they're on their desktop or tablet (and vice versa).
Increased investment in Product Listing Ads
Expect more businesses to dedicate their online marketing spend toward Product Listing Ads (PLAs) this year, as Google will continue to offer robust features for these sponsored ads. Search Engine Watch reported that PLAs accounted for 10% of search spend on Black Friday last year and that many advertisers saw 100 percent year-over-year growth on this type of ad placement.
For example, take a look at the below query for a particular wine decanter from popular brand Riedel. With the current structure for this PLA placement, only two full (and one partial) organic search results are showing up above the fold, and the PLA dominates the screen with clear calls to action to "Shop."
Pay attention to your organic keywords that may be feeling this pinch, and consider if investing in PLAs is right for your business. You may also want to identify similar organic keyword opportunities that are less competitive, attract similar users and don't have a featured listing that dominates everything above the fold.
Google+ still won't impact organic rankings, but will impact traffic and draw more brands
Everyone has their own opinion on Google+ and how it should be treated in your search marketing strategy. Google is likely another few years away from counting G+ signals as a significant ranking factor, but that's not to say we won't see an increase of brand-conscious companies adopting this social strategy.
A report by SimplyMeasured last year showed that Ferrari was in more circles than any other brand. Why does this matter? Beyond building the eventual social signals needed to rank your website organically, the people who are engaging with your brand on Google+ are signed into accounts and they're seeing personalized search results. The more people signed into their accounts that are engaging with your brand, the more likely your website will show up higher in their results. Furthermore, their G+ connections will see they're endorsing your brand. This form of social validation is enough to help increase your clickthrough rate through people trusting other people in their circles.
Related story: Are Facebook Ads Worth Abandoning SEM For?