I met Giuseppe Pastore, an Italian SEO consultant while I was in Rome last year as part of the Euro 2012 State of Search Roadshow. Giuseppe has his own blog en.posizionamentozen writing in English and Italian (and putting all us English speaking people to shame). I wanted to find out from Giuseppe about his search predictions 2013.
Looking back at 2012, what has been the major change in SEO that you have experienced?
Penguin has been the 2012 game changer, I think it’s quite obvious. I’ve seen well known (in their niche) websites tank and it hasn’t been a surprise. You can (still) use manipulative techniques and get away with it in the short period, but it’s clear you can’t build a durable business on them any longer. Luckily, I’ve embraced this assumption time ago, so I haven’t changed that much the way I do SEO or modified that much my personal approach to link building.
How were you affected by these updates?
One client I was working for got hit by the first Penguin Update. Being online since the late 90s, during time they had built a very bad link profile. Besides this project, anyway, I can’t remember any particular stress after a Google update. In my experience, in many cases on-site optimization is enough to dramatically increase traffic and rankings (I often work on e-commerce or big sites, though) so you don’t need a huge quantity of links to rank better than competitors and this means you can be both effective and safe. However, Italian SERPs aren’t as hard as English ones and this greatly help to stay away from risks due to aggressive link building.
What will be the biggest changes in SEO in 2013?
Looking at recent updates, in my opinion Google has been mostly working on defining and tuning negative ranking factors than rewarding quality (that anyway could be a side effect for good websites, in theory). Having already targeted both onpage and offpage spammy metrics I think there will not be huge algorithmic changes in 2013. Instead, I think AuthorRank that will start playing a stronger role in the next months. If I’d have to bet on a “new” ranking factor for this year, I’d put my money on this one.
What do you think will happen with Facebook/Instagram and Pinterest in 2013?
It’s undeniable that Instagram’s growth has been very fast in the last months and I guess it will continue in 2013. Pinterest, on the contrary, hasn’t reached a critic mass here in Italy and as a marketing mean I tend to consider it still an option but not a priority. If I had to allocate some budget on visual marketing, I’d choose Instagram for 2013. It will be interesting to see how well brands will be able to use it for story telling purposes.
How important do you think social signals will be in 2013?
I think social signals won’t weigh more than now. In general, social sharings are an emotional phenomenon that doesn’t connect well with the value of what’s shared. The same post shared using a funny picture or an ugly one on Facebook can easily get tons or zero likes: how could an algorithm handle this huge disproportion?
Has “content marketing” been the buzz word in the Italian search market as it we have seen in the UK?
I’m seeing lot of SEO people rebranding themselves as content marketers, but not in Italy. A good share of the market is in the low budget side and content marketing requires financial investments that not many clients can afford. The most of the SEO’s here deals with small businesses so content isn’t always a viable ranking weapon. In Italy Content Marketing isn’t the buzz word seen in the English market.
What has been the “buzz word” for 2012 in the Italian search market and what will it be in 2013?
Hard to answer to this question. Being the size of the industry small (and since I don’t follow a statistically relevant number of Italian pros), I can’t say there has been a clearly more used word in 2012. For 2013, I think responsive design will get enough attention.
Will it now be easier to show the value of SEO/Social?
Social, in my opinion still not. Social ROI is still very hard to be calculated and even if clients know a social presence is important, not being able to define goals that translate into conversions makes it harder to demonstrate how much it’s worthy to invest in it. The ROI of SEO, instead, is more immediate and comparable to paid advertising performances. Being the number of people using search even before of buying offline growing, business owners are becoming more conscious of the importance of investing in SEO and in online presence in general. I think 2013 will be a good year, even better than 2012.
Will you be going to any search events this year? Will there be more search events in Italy?
I hope to go at least to a couple of events in 2013. In Italy there are two or three conferences I consider worthy to be attended and I’d also like to go to an international one (RIMC seems interesting). I hope I’ll not end up missing most of them.