SEO Trends From 2008 & A Look Into 2009

In January of 2008, I issued my predictions for the upcoming year in the SEO industry. Now that it’s a year later, let’s look back and see how I did.

My first prediction was:

SEO Becomes a Top-Of-Mind Priority in Larger Companies

I predicted that more large companies and big brands would realize the value of baking SEO into their website redesigns, rather than first redesigning and then trying to “wedge” SEO into their new site. I also felt that more of these companies would hire SEO consultants to work with their online marketing managers to help with this task and make sure it was done correctly.

Did this happen?

It’s difficult to say for sure, but judging from the calls, emails and clients our SEO agency received this past year from companies who were redesigning their websites, I would say that SEO was certainly top-of-mind for them. In fact, consulting on those types of projects was one of our main service offerings in 2008. I anticipate that this trend will continue through 2009 and beyond.

My second prediction was (and I quote):

Success measures will continue to evolve and focus on the metrics that matter. SEOs have traditionally measured success by tracking the rankings in the search engines for various keyword phrases. Emerging factors such as personalized search, geo-targeted search and multiple search engine datacenters mean that no two searches show the same results.”

Did this happen?

While I’m not familiar with how every other SEO agency measures their success, I do know that the “rankings are dead” mentality has finally started to catch on in the industry as a whole. It seemed to take Bruce Clay talking about it at PubCon in Nov. 2008 to get it to really start to sink in to folks.

Since I’ve been discounting search engine rankings as a true measure of success for many, many years, it’s great to see the industry as a whole taking this to heart. I suspect in 2009 agencies may be able to finally do away with rank checking software on a grand scale.

Certainly, Google itself has had the most impact on this by ensuring that no two people will always see the same search results, and by making their free analytics program so robust. Once people use Google Analytics for awhile, they start to learn how to measure the success of their SEO campaigns in a manner that is much more helpful than rankings.

My third prediction was:

Greater SEO Education Opportunities Will Emerge

There’s no question that this prediction certainly came true. While we already had a plethora of large search marketing conferences such as SES, SMX and PubCon, additional smaller conferences/seminars emerged for those looking for more personal attention.

We saw Search Engine Guide hold spring and fall “Small Business Marketing Unleashed Conferences.” Then, just in time for Halloween, the folks from Search & Social held a mini-con called “Scary SEO.” It must have been a success as they’re planning another mini-con in the spring of 2009. The SEOMoz gang offered an “expert seminar” in 2008 that got rave reviews from the attendees. At High Rankings, we began offering personalized SEO Training in Feb. 2008 to a limited number of participants on a monthly basis and had no problem selling out each month. We’re continuing those 1-day classes into 2009 as well as offering more advanced, half-day website marketing workshops on specific topics of interest.

Besides all the in-person SEO education that took place in 2008, there were more ways than ever to learn SEO in the comfort of your own home or office. In addition to the already existing online training programs offered by the SEMPO Institute, MarketMotive expanded their online search marketing training to include a certification program, and SEOBook’s Aaron Wall began offering online SEO training courses.

I believe that SEO education will become an ever-increasing portion of companies’ budgets in 2009. With the ROI for SEO being one of the highest of any marketing initiative, it just makes sense to de-mystify it within the corporate culture. With the ongoing recession and budget cutbacks that inevitably come with it, many companies will be keeping their SEO in-house as a cost-cutting measure.

What Else is Happening in 2009?

For 2009, the trends from 2008 will continue. In addition, companies who previously tested the social media waters and felt that it didn’t work for them may try it again, but in a more structured manner. Those companies who understand that social media marketing can’t be faked, will reap huge benefits from their participation, but many companies will still not quite grasp this concept.

Online reputation management will become more important than ever in 2009, especially as Google’s SearchWiki component gets noticed and used more often. It’s going to be critical for all companies to carefully monitor their reputation online, and have a plan of action in place for responding to criticism swiftly and honestly.

How about you? Did your predictions from last year come true? What do you foresee the trends for 2009 to be?

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: All Things SEO Column | Channel: SEO


About The Author: is a pioneer in SEO, beginning in the field in the early 1990s and founding High Rankings in 1995. If you enjoy Jill's articles at Search Engine Land, be sure to subscribe to her High Rankings Advisor Search Marketing Newsletter for SEO articles, SEM advice and discounts on industry events and products.

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  • incrediblehelp

    I think mobile SEO will finally because a huge deal to people. Sure handheld search is more and more like regular search, but just making sure your website appears right on the handheld is big.

  • socialnetworksoftware

    I agree with incrediblehelp…those companies who focus on mobile seo now will stand to benefit.

  • Jill Whalen

    @incrediblehelp and @socialnetworksoftware I think it really will depend on your type of website and its target market.

    Certainly local bricks and mortar places like restaurants and the like need to be mobile friendly, but not so sure about your average B2B company that sells chemicals or whatever necessarily needs to worry about it — yet at least.

  • AndyW

    “Google itself has had the most impact on this by ensuring that no two people will always see the same search results”

    What does this mean?

  • Jill Whalen

    @AndyW what that means is that everyone sees different search results depending on their location and their personalization settings, whether they are logged into their Google accounts, previous searches they may have made, etc.

    Which is why running ranking reports is an exercise in futility.


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