SEO in 2012: Five updates that shook Search this year

This year has been huge for SEO; Google is finally clamping down on cheap, easy link-building and rewarding those sites with authentic, high-quality and engaging content.
The SEO industry is shedding its shady reputation and being recognised as a skilful online marketing art. Here are five of the most memorable updates the Branded3 SEO team were talking about this year:
The Penguin and Panda updates
Tweets Vs. Rankings
The increasing need for mobile SEO
Hitting UK searches in April this year, Google’s latest Penguin update fought against aggressive web spam tactics and aimed to clean up link profiles. It’s estimated that this update affected 0.3% of UK queries, but even to those it didn’t hit, it sent a clear message that Google was fighting ‘over-optimisation’.
The Penguin updated affected many sites this year
Google has also continued to refine and modify the Panda algorithm update this year, which affects whole sites rather than just specific pages, and penalises low-quality sites with copied or useless content. So-called ‘content farms’ have been the target, confirming that Google’s aim is to reprimand those sites who try too hard with black-hat SEO tactics.
Although many webmasters and SEO’s had a tough time this year in the wake of these updates; moving forward, it means that sites can now focus on quality content and achieving user goals, rather than trying to play the system.

Earlier this year, we conducted an extensive study into the effect of tweets on Google rankings. In the biggest study of its kind, our research indicated that URLs receive a significant boost in Google rankings when they are shared on Twitter.
This revolutionary study was undertaken using Branded3’s innovative online petition site, Twitition, and findings have shown that the average ranking for URLs with over 7,500 tweets directing to them, have an average Google SERPs ranking of 4.96.
Obviously, we’re aware that correlation does not imply causation and it would be impossible to isolate other factors influencing rankings in this study, but the study has returned some really interesting results, and we’ll be conducting plenty more in 2013.
This year saw a massive shift in search trends with some of Branded3’s clients receiving over 50% of their traffic via mobile devices. With the ever-increasing smartphone market, it’s essential that brands factor mobile SEO into their strategies next year, because not doing so could cut out a massive proportion of their audience.
We outlined three main steps on Blogstorm that we use to deliver mobile content so that it delivers on an SEO level, but our preferred method is utilising responsive design so that there’s only one URL for users to remember, one URL for Google to crawl and index, and one reinforced brand message.
Our Head of Search, Tim Grice commented on the benefits of mobile search for local businesses:
“There is also a significant opportunity to drive local traffic as over 60% of all searches made from a mobile have local intent. This is massive for local businesses and stores, who can now quickly drive traffic and foot flow by optimising their local listings and mobile sites for local search.”