Predicting inbound trends has become a bit of tradition over the last few years; most famous for this has been Rand Fishkin’s fairly accurate visions of the future. I thought this year I’d make my own predictions and look back on them at the end of 2013 to see just how (in/un)sightful I’ve been; and to make a change I want to look at a few more outlandish possibilities for next year. I want to take a look at topics that the majority of people haven’t heard of; topics like Tim Cook’s Apple TV, Zynga’s social gambling and Google’s Project Glass. Of course I have my own predictions for SEO and the movements of Google, but I’ll try and keep them to a minimum.
Disclaimer: what you’re about to read is super speculative, don’t start buying or selling stocks based on my own outrageous advice.
Apple TV… an actual TV
Prediction #1: Apple will launch a smart TV in 2013.
– Tim Cook, Apple CEO
People have been speculating on the launch of a full-blown Apple television set for many years; and it seems like the obvious route for a company that is already finely tuned into consumer electronics. Apple has nailed tablets, phones and PCs, with TV being the last remaining and relatively ignored market. If you’ve ever used a Smart TV you’ll know that running Netflix does not constitute ‘smart’, in fact by phone and tablet standards a Smart TV is totally primitive. This market is asking for a dominating player, and there is little doubt in my mind that that player will be Apple and it will arrive in 2013.
With a truly smart TV, we can expect browsing, social and search – which would massively alter the accessibility for television advertising opportunities. Reports have hinted at an Apple TV already in testing, but if there’s a more compelling signal towards this development it would be from this excerpt of Walter Isaacson’s Biography of Steve Jobs:
Facebook Ad Network
Prediction #2: Facebook share price to triple by the end of 2013.
Facebook took the headlines twice this year for all the right and all the wrong reasons. When the company launched their IPO back in May their stock was the talking point of every investor; as we all know, a few months later that stock price halved. But Facebook is not done yet; their stock has rallied back to the near $30 mark and their ‘promoted posts’ ad platform is getting a lot of coverage.
For those of you that aren’t familiar with promoted posts, it’s in short, a way of paying for organic likes. Marketers are reporting the cost per like at anywhere from 5p to 50p and the returns are enormous. For the right market, you could be looking at 1,000 targeted likes for a measly £50.
Part of the reason for this cheap CPL is the fact that the platform remains underused. But this sort of ROI is going to attract marketers by the million, which is where my prediction comes in. Facebook is beginning to nail their ad platform, and with over 1,000,000,000 users and counting – for me at least, this company is going places.
Prediction #3: G+ Authorship will still have no direct impact on SEO in 2013.
In late 2010 Matt Cutts made an announcement that Google was looking at social signals as part of their ranking algorithm. In December, he went ahead and launched this video.
This announcement resulted in nothing less than hysterics from the marketing community; every SEO and their mother instantly began Tweeting links by the million. It was all fuelled for a short while by reports of Twitter boosting rankings from SEOmoz and Search Engine Watch (that specifically stated “retweets serve as a new form a link building”). The fact is that it’s now 2 years on and social signals are still having little sway over a website’s rankings.
These things don’t happen overnight; for me 2013 will be a year of data collection and testing for G+. They’ll open Authorship analytics to everyone at some point next year but that’s not to say we can expect any direct impact on SEO anytime soon. There are too many trust issues for authorship to overcome before it can reliably be used as a ranking signal. Google still can’t get links right, let alone come close with the relatively new field of social.
Link focused SEO
Prediction #4: To gain rank, links will still be top priority throughout 2013.
There’s not a lot to say here – it’ll be more of the same. We’ll see more Penguin refreshes and keyword anchors will still be an important ranking signal. What we might see though is a real move towards something else; Rand Fishkin has mentioned co-citation (talked about later) and I think we’ll see videos from Matt Cutts hinting towards this and sentiment analysis.
.STORE, .BOOK and .UK
Prediction #5: Massive domain name confusion for everyone!
Next year we’ll see the introduction of thousands of new gTLDs – new domain name extensions that are going to confuse the hell out of marketers and consumers. On top of that, Nominet will introduce .UK (currently not confirmed) and the combination of these new extensions will lead to a huge slump in overall domain value, possibly as much as 20%.
Marketers will be apprehensive about domain SEO and non-brandable exact match domains will be worthless. The only winners here (at least in the short term) will be the registrars that sell millions of new domain names.
Prediction #6: Commercialised at the end of 2013
Project Glass is seemingly unbelievable; and the video above looks a lot like a high-budget April Fools joke. But having electronic glasses that provide a HUD for everyday life is being taken incredibly seriously and some early market research shows a split in opinion:
- 51% will not buy Google Glasses even if they were affordable
- From the yes respondents, 52% are only willing to pay up to $160 for a pair of Google Glasses
Those figures may be positioned as pretty grim, but considering how outrageous this product is – I’d say it all looks very, very good. My prediction is that not only will these glasses go to market in some form, but also that Google will get some pretty cool celebrities to wear them.
4G and Mobile
Prediction #7: Mobile will take more leaps and bigger bounds.
Right now you’re probably thinking “does a bear shit in the woods?” and that would be a fair comment. Mobile is obviously going to become more important next year. In the UK, data usage is growing 250% year on year. 4G is already available in 40 countries and will be rolling out on most major networks in the UK next year; I can see data usage records being totally smashed. Of course this means that SEOs are going to have to focus even more on mobile UX; and we’ll see more disparity between mobile and desktop rankings as mobile unfriendly websites begin getting left behind.
Co citation and Sentiment Analysis
Prediction #8: Google will get more clever; Bing will get less stupid.
For those not familiar with co citation, take a look at the above video for Rand Fishkin’s Whiteboard Friday earlier in the year. If you’re not familiar with sentiment analysis, it’s a very simple concept – if someone is saying great things about your company then your company should probably rank higher. Google is leading the way with both of these areas and has even posted documents on how to use sentiment analysis at developers.google.com
Both of these concepts are bleeding-edge SEO. They’re the biggest threat to anchor text value and will at some point be incorporated heavily into Google’s algorithm. Is that some point next year? Probably not, but my hunch is that Matt Cutts will be posting videos on the two subjects to get us all excited.
Bing will follow shortly behind.
Prediction #9: Schema markup will be a staple for best practice SEO.
Over the past couple of years I’ve heard a number of SEOs complain that onpage SEO has become too easy. Google’s Panda filter is pushing organic rankings to become more accessible to everyone; it’s not about keyword densities or optimised title and markup anymore, it’s all about “great content”. The complaints are that Google is giving the small business owner a chance to rank without necessarily knowing exactly how to rank.
But I’d argue that there is still a serious need for technical SEO in the form of canonicals, page load speeds, and now schema markup. Schema has been used for rich snippets for a while now; and there are hundreds of different schemas. Using this markup is a way of telling search engines what your content means, and it’s still heavily underused. By the end of 2013, schema markup (and microdata in general) will be a staple of a good SEO campaign – SERPs are going to become so competitive that earning as many snippets as possible will boost CTR, while at the same time you will be rewarded with better rankings.
Prediction #10: Zynga grabs a gambling licence.
Social gaming fell apart this year. It had its own mini bubble all in about 12 moths. Zynga started out working with Facebook, made a ton of money through passive-aggressive sales tactics, went public and got completely stuffed (80% disappearing value kind of stuffed). Social gaming is pretty sinister and the psychology behind earning money out of it is remarkable.
Users have pretty much clocked onto social gaming as a bit of a sham – very little gaming experience, just a cheap tactic to get users hooked and paying money. But now Zynga is moving into the gambling market; currently there is no option to play with ‘real money’ but the intent is certainly there. My prediction is that by the end of 2013 their social platform will have introduced a slew of real money games and will be worth a heck of a lot more than it is now. But for all of the wrong reasons – I’ll leave you with this thought for how Zynga is planning to move forward; a slots machine that involves defeating bosses and going up ‘levels’… oh dear.