Andrew Shotland is a well-known SEO practitioner and author of www.localseoguide.com and the trendy new applemapsmarketing.com. His proudest achievement on the Web can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ipkSRwgVtpA
When reflecting on the year, I like to think about it less in terms of specific niches like “local seo”, “seo” or even “local search”. It’s not that 2012 wasn’t a watershed year for a lot of this stuff, but rather that the forces that are shaping the landscape of these niches are often the same that are affecting the Web as a whole. So here’s what caught my attention in 2012:
1. 2012 – The Year We Start Paying For It
In 2007, Radiohead released it’s new album, “In Rainbows”, online and offered it at whatever price you wanted to pay for it. Many opted to pay $0 while some paid more. It was a big success. In 2011, Radiohead release “The King of Limbs” via their website and this time charged $9.99. It too was a success. And there was no record label between Radiohead and its fans. In 2012, it seemed as if more “creators”, particularly media creators, were experimenting with getting their customers to pay for these creations, thus avoiding business models such as advertising and using distribution middle-men. My favorite examples of the past year include Marco Arment’s “The Magazine”, Louie CK’s “Live At The Beacon Theater”, show, The Oatmeal’s Operation BearLove Good, Cancer Bad and Andrew Sullivan’s soon-to-be-independent Daily Dish (technically announced in 2013, but the deal was cut in 2012 right?).
While each is an example of a strong voice with a loyal following tapping into their fan-base, I was particularly impressed with the launch of The Magazine, as it stood in direct contrast to the failure of News Corp’s “The Daily”. It’s a classic story of an independent Web developer who understood the medium and his audience to produce a low-budget, high-quality service while a media giant spent $30 million doing the exact opposite.
And let’s not forget about the millions raised for new projects by Kickstarter.
For me, this trend, along with the continuing shift of our time spent on the Web to mobile and tablets, is critical to my thinking about how I am approaching this year, and how I am approaching SEO for myself and my clients. After Google’s Farmer (AKA “Panda”) Update in 2011, I wrote a piece entitled “Are You Radiohead?”, where I wondered aloud that with today’s SEO, you need to be the Radiohead of your particular niche to succeed. If I were to write that piece today, I might change the title to “Are You The Oatmeal?” In other words, ask yourself is what you are doing so great that people want to support it?
And I think this is going to be a key philosophy driving Web strategy, and not just to rank #1 for “Viagra”.
2. Mobile Customer Loyalty Apps Are Da Bomb
Let’s get a bit more down-to-earth on this one. Sure Google Places + Local had a lot of drama in 2012. Yes, Apple launched maps, Facebook launched Nearby. There were a lot of big events. But to me, the fact that my local burrito joint started texting me with points everytime I bought the kids an Itty Bitty Beanie Burrito and the local butcher shop had a tablet near the register that I could use to check in, was a telling signal to me that this stuff was suddenly everywhere. For those of you who are not on the local SMB text messaging bandwagon, you are missing out on one of the most cost-effective, high-growth ways to keep in touch with your customers. That said, I think we are going to see a shake-out of the hundreds of start-ups that are operating in this area, while at the same time, I don’t think we’re going to see any one platform become dominant.
3. Local SEO ToolSets Become All The Rage
As I mentioned in my SEL piece “SEOMoz + GetListed: Let the SMB Toolset Death March Begin”, last year it seemed like everyone I knew was developing some kind of local SEO tool. That trend is only going to continue in 2013.
4. Google+Local Keeps On Iterating & Irritating
I’ve got to mention Google right? For SMBs and SEOs that serve them, Google+Local 2012 was an absolute train wreck. Still is in many ways. That said, it seems like Google is slowly starting to improve things. From actual phone support to the G+ page management you recently reported on, I think we are going to see a continual gradual evolution of the service. It will still have plenty of bugs. Data will continue to disappear. SMBs will continue to be frustrated. And SEOs will still have a lot of work to do.
5. Apple Maps Will Sneak Up On Us
While my recently launched Apple Maps blog may bias my thinking, Apple Maps’ launch last year was perhaps one of the most significant events in the local search world. Say all you want about how screwed up the service is, the fact is that even with the Google Maps iOS app out there, I bet millions of people are still using the Apple Maps app. And the fact that it is baked into all iOS apps that use maps means it’s not going away. In the long-run, Apple Maps is the biggest threat to Google when it comes to local search. I expect Apple to quietly improve the service significantly this year and towards the end of 2013 I wouldn’t be surprised if they announced a big update that stimulates a lot of people who switched to Google Maps to retry the app. It’s still going to be a rough go for businesses that want to optimize for Apple Maps, which of course means more fun for SEOs who figure it out.
6. 2012 – Great Year For Local SEO
I think Aaron Wall said that SEO is getting so tough that in 2013 we will see a lot of consultants exit the business. In some ways he is correct. I already see a number of my colleagues moving away from Google Places SEO services. But 2012 created so much opportunity to help and educate marketers that I see nothing but green field in 2013 for those that have the enthusiasm and think of themselves as the Radiohead of SEO. Stay thirsty, my friend