The New Year started with Google in the middle of a scandal where bloggers have been SEO spamming while promoting Google's Chrome browser. As soon as Aaron Wall posted about the issue of these sponsored posts Google shoved Chrome down in search ranking.
As the story and the year 2012 unfolds we will see some more interesting facts and I mentioned the above things to point out to Bigcommerce store owners to avoid link building schemes like this one. It is about buying backlinks from sites in order to help with rankings. No one can guarantee that they will help since most of these inbound links come from untrusted or low quality sites. Avoid that.
Quality or value added content is still a strong pillar for organic search
There are still complains about spam sites ranking higher than they should and the concern always exists that Google might not be able to catch them all. This is true, but search engines evolve and we should not look at what these spammers do and adopt their practice. Never.
If you still fear that the one who's outranking you may be a spammer SEOMoz has a nice guide for this situation. In your store you must rely on always using meta tags and giving an accurate and quality description for your products. Of course, you need to be careful at many other details outlined by me in our Bigcommerce SEO Bible series.
Value added content is a key requirement for 2012 too so simply inserting the canned descriptions provided by the manufacturer won't help you at all. Many stores are doing the same so you'll have to come up with a better solution.
Fighting to get to the top of results is not an easy task and no one can guarantee that your online store will be on 1st position for ever, nor that you'll even get there. For those who want to get the most out of their sites in regards to rankings they need to know not to fall into The Made for SEO Website Trap. This kind of site tries to get (steal would be the better word) visitors by employing tactics like pages created for products that are not on site, slicing of search phrases and ignoring user experience by providing low quality content.
Be social, be everywhere
If at the beginning of 2011 people were asking themselves if social signals will be taken into account, we start this year by knowing that the number of likes, shares, retweets, in one word the viral factor, have an importance in rankings. Google says that they take into account these signals, but does not give a percentage in regards to how important they might be. Given the harsh environment in which many online stores are every small change here and there can help. Better be safe than sorry.
Being social and having Facebook, Twitter and/or Google+ pages is not enough. You will need to actually be there and interact. This way optimization and internet marketing are hand in hand as outlined in the post published by Search Engine Journal about data for 2012.
As you can see in the infographic below, created by Go-Gulf, being on the internet and not only in your online store is a requirement, not an option.
In 60 seconds many things happen on the internet: 1500 blog posts are published, 600 new videos see the light in YouTube, 98 000 tweets on Twitter and 70 domains are registered. The web is dynamic and online stores need to keep up the pace.
Although content is still king getting an account in the main social media networks help you get your links shared easier. It is important to enable the sharing buttons in your BigCommerce store by going to Settings - Store Settings - Share.
Being social also means that you need to have a blog to communicate your ideas and only sometimes link back to your products. Blogs on Blogspot or WordPress (my favorite) are indexed in a very short time and can be used to drive traffic back to the store.
Google gets aggressive and pushes product search items above organic results
Yes, you heard that. If you do a search in Google.com for "video card" you will see the image below. It may vary depending on the geographical area you're in, if you're logged into any Google account or not and many other factors, but the truth is this: less organic results in SERP.
If you are in the US you may get the results Rand Fishkin got when he searched for "espresso machine": only one organic result on the first page and the rest were either ads, either Google Product Search. Read about this in section #5 in this SEOMoz post about SEO 2012 predictions and you will see that Google means business, not only search.
If BigCommerce has done a great thing thinking at the future of SEO for store owners then the integration with Google Product Search is definitively a big win for them.
So, as soon as possible prepare your products to be listed in Google by following this tutorial. Also, please read about the importance of mapping your products the right way.
As SEOMoz states, organic results gather 80% of clicks and will drop with the passing of time. This is why you might need ahem some help from AdWords from time to time. Just saying...
Google+ is starting to grow in importance. You don't like social networks and use Facebook only for your Social Shop? Then you're missing the bandwagon. Google+ is a service (soon to be platform) that is pushed in almost every aspect of Google's services. The top floating horizontal bar will guard you (and your search results) wherever you go.
That being said a Google+ account and a page will be a requirement in the very near future. You can now see Google+ brand pages, circles and +1s in search results. It is good to know that Google profiles will have priority when using the rel=author tag on their site. Alternatively use this method to verify authorship of your site. You can test is the implementation of rel=author is good on this page.
It never ends
Rest assured that the recipe for success (once it is known) will be changed before you blink so if you rely solely on organic searches to drive traffic, then you need to be all eyes and ears to make any small change needed to push you in front of the competition.
Hard work doesn't have to be a LOT of work, although it often times is. Still, SEO is a field that gets more and more challenging for all of us as the days go by.