SEO in 2013 – A Year in Review

2013 proved to be yet another interesting year in the SEO field. Lots of ups and downs for website owners and SEO companies alike, and it’s unlikely that you dodged the Google bullet entirely if you own or manage a website. Everyone in the SEO game likes to complain that Google keeps making our lives more difficult, but at the end of the day, what Google is trying to do is serve up the best, most relevant and highest quality results when a user searches on their search engine. It’s become harder and harder to fake your way to the top of search engine results pages and I don’t think this is a bad thing!

Let’s take a look at what specific changes happened in 2013 and how you should be responding to them, if you haven’t already.


Although Panda officially rolled out in 2011, we still felt the effects of the Panda update in 2013. The focus of this update was on low quality websites and content. Gone are the days when you can buy 50 poor quality articles written by writers in non-English speaking nations and hope to benefit from spreading them around the internet. This includes the content on your website. Your website content needs to be written properly (proper grammar and spelling) and should be compelling and relevant enough for Google to give you a place at the table.

Penguin 2.0

Penguin 2.0 is an update to the first Penguin update that rolled out in 2012 with a focus on unnatural link building practices. For all those building spammy links across thousands of low quality websites, this hurt in 2012 and then hurt again in May 2013 when Penguin 2.0 rolled out. On the bright side – Google started to communicate with Webmasters, through the Google Webmaster Tools Interface to let them know that a manual action had been taken on their website for building unnatural links. If you just spent the last 2 years building crappy links, all your effort is essentially down the drain because Penguin 2.0 devalued those spammy links to mean exactly nothing.


This September 2013 update, was an update that didn’t feel like an update but still affected 90% of searches. For many, it didn’t have a profound effect on traffic like the other 2 updates did. The best way to explain Hummingbird is that Google attempted to get inside your head even more than it has in the past. This update tries to measure user intent. When you’re Googling,, the folks at Google tried to ensure that the results matched what you were actually searching for. For example, if I searched for “how to fix my brakes” I might be taken to a bunch of articles that were entitled “how to fix my brakes” but when I got there, the information wasn’t all that helpful and was likely trying to sell some sort of affiliate product. Today when I do the same search, Google has decided to be as helpful as they can, by serving me videos or maybe even images that actually show me how to fix my brakes. Not a bad thing!

Test it out for yourself. Ask Google a question and you’re likely to get a pretty relevant answer. Hummingbird has been far from perfect though. Some searches turn up results that are completely irrelevant. See this post for more details on some of the crazy things happening because of the Hummingbird update.

“Not Provided” Keyword

For anyone who obsesses over their Google Analytics data to see which keywords visitors used to get to their website, you have likely noticed that your top result is no longer your most popular keywords, but rather a line that says (not provided.) This isn’t exactly helpful for those of us who rely on that data. Google says their main reason for doing this is to protect the privacy of their users, but I don’t buy that entirely. What it also does is force users to think of other ways to get keyword data – ironically, the best way to do this for many is to start using Google Adwords. This creates a win for Google and a new expense for business owners. Thanks…

Google Publisher/Author Growth

Google pretty much anything and you will notice little photos beside results. This is because the writers of the content have associated their content with a Google+ account. Undoubtedly this will provide a higher click-thru rate, so it’s not something you can ignore any longer if you write content.

All in all, 2013 was an exciting year in SEO and great strides were made in the quality and relevancy of search results. Again and again, all of these updates are simply forcing website owners to re-think their web strategy. If you remember the old movie, Field of Dreams, the key phrase of the movie “If you build it, they will come” seems to apply here and Google has said it over and over again. Build a GOOD QUALITY website, write HIGH QUALITY content, be the best that you can be online and the rest should follow. Stop thinking of your website as an expense and start viewing it as an investment and the costs associated with building a high quality website won’t be an issue.

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