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SEO Trends

December 2, 2009
Each year around this time, I like to review the traffic trends to our High Rankings website, and compare the traffic to the previous year. I usually learn a lot from this exercise, and I highly recommend it to everyone. Thankfully, with Google Analytics it's very simple.

Some of the things I look at are total number of visits to the website, as well as the number of visits to certain sections or pages of the site. And of course, I especially like to look at which keyword phrases drive search engine traffic.

Because our site is all about SEO, in addition to learning how we're doing with our own optimization and overall online marketing initiatives, I can also learn about overall trends in the SEO industry. High Rankings has a number of authoritative articles on fundamental SEO techniques that are typically ranked #1 or #2 for the keywords that relate to them. In fact, those articles tend to have more page views than any others on the site.

Today I thought I'd share some of these insights with you. Please remember that you have to take these "SEO trends" with a grain of salt because many factors could be at play beyond just what people are searching at Google.

With that said, here are some statistics for you, with my commentary on what they might (or might not) mean.

For this exercise I looked at just Google visitors, rather than all search engine visitors, because it was easier to filter the data that way. Our overall Google visitor number was about the same in 2008 as it was in 2009 (–0.24%), which is good for purposes of looking at the SEO trends. If we had substantially more or fewer Google visitors, the numbers of visitors based on keywords would be skewed because of that.

Meta Keywords? Really?

I had hoped that searches related to "meta keywords" would be way down. Silly me: I assumed that certainly by now nobody still thought they were a useful part of SEO. I was unpleasantly surprised to see that they were, in fact, up (+32.04%). [Sigh] (Now, remember – it's possible our meta keyword article wasn't ranking as highly the entire year in 2008, which could also account for the difference, although I'm pretty sure it was.) Even worse was that people were still searching for information on whether they should use commas or not in their keyword tag! (+95.83%) [Even Bigger Sigh!]

Surely They Know Title Tags Are Key?

I had also hoped to see title tag keywords up significantly, and they were, but only (+19.84%). It never ceases to amaze me that our title tag article typically receives only a third of the page views as the meta keyword article. It appears that a whole lot more education on that is still needed.

They Love Their Meta Descriptions

Meta descriptions continue to be hugely popular, though. In fact, our meta description article is the single most viewed page on the website. Description keywords from Google were up (+34.94%). This is interesting because, while meta descriptions are somewhat useful for SEO, they're not as important as some make them out to be. Assuming you have great keyword-rich content already on your pages, they're often not necessary. So even with this one, it's a shame that it has so many more page views than the title tag article.

Good Riddance, Keyword Density!

There was good news on the keyword density front as searches with the word "density" in them were down (–32.91%). Yay! My hope is that this means people are finally getting away from seeking out that secret-super-duper-all-encompassing keyword density formula or percentage that will magically put all their pages in the #1 spot.

SEO Training's In – Site Audit's Out

It also looks as if more people are seeking out ways to be trained in SEO, as our training keywords were up (+62.40%) and our classes keywords up (+121.35%). More people may be looking to learn how to do SEO themselves as opposed to having website audits done by other companies because audit-type keywords were down (–31.01%).

Google Really Does Love You!

People are increasingly looking for answers to frequently asked SEO questions as our FAQ keywords were up (62.69%). And even better is the fact that fewer people are wondering "why Google hates them"  as page views of that page were down (–7.79%). From what I've seen via forum questions, this is corroborated because there do seem to be fewer people complaining about being penalized for no reason at all than in previous years. This was especially common when Google had their aging delay for new domains in full force.

And Speaking of Forums...

It seems that forums may be going the way of the dinosaur. Our forum page views in general were down (–32.26%). I think this can be attributed to the fact that newer people online are just not as familiar or comfortable with forums as they are with other forms of social media. That said, people searching using SEO forum keywords were in fact up (+16.71%). Perhaps it will be a few more years before we have to put the ole High Rankings Forum out to pasture after all!

Can We Get a Little Closer?

More companies interested in outsourcing their SEO are seeking out local SEO companies. We've definitely noticed this with clients and potential clients this year. And searches that contain the word Boston were up (+80.10%) over last year, which seems to corroborate this.

How about you? Have you noticed any SEO trends in your analytics as they relate to the search marketing industry?

Jill Whalen is the CEO of High Rankings, a Boston SEO Services company.

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Post Comment

 Alex Miranda said:
Great article on SEO trends. I constantly give my clients pretty much the same advise as you did in the article above. Many insist that i use Meta tag descriptions. I believe that if your content is keyword rich and your title tags are chosen correctly, you can rank high on Google in no time. What really makes it hard is other companies claiming that they are SEO marketing experts and giving the wrong advise to their customers. When I client constantly hears this from different so called experts they start believing it. It makes our job a bit more difficult convincing them that we are right and they are wrong. I received an email from a company telling me they would increase our rankings overnight. There were many things wrong. First, why would you email another SEO firm telling them that you could giver them high rankings. The biggest mistake was that their site was mostly a graphic with no title tags or keyword rich content. How could they sell their services when they do not even rank at all. When I emailed them to point these facts out they gave me a great answer. This is directly pasted from their email to me: "We know how to optimize however choose not to share our techniques on our site. We get all of our clients through trade shows and email contents they participate in. That works for us". That my friends is a classic.

Keep up the great work.
 Ann Donnelly said:
Thanks for sharing your trends. I was wondering if use of forums had declined. I was searching for something on the High Rankings Forum the other day and most of the results for that particular search were a couple years old.

It's too bad that today's newbies are missing out on the wisdom of the High Rankings gang. I learned a lot here!
 mark rushworth said:
as meta descriptions are an aid to motivate a serps click and google are factoring in this metric to your placement metrics then meta description optimisation is perfectly valid.
 Clinton said:
I see a 250% increase for SEO tools on one of my sites. Particularly frustrating as I neither sell any nor link to them. I just happened to mention "seo tools" somewhere.
 Janet said:
Jill, you haven't actually asked for topic ideas, but hope you can address a few areas this year:
Google Local - a host of issues there alone; we're told it's "the future" but who knows anything about it?
Non-Profit organizations website seo - especially the typical one (not the major national/major budget organization)
Comparison of keyword vendors - utility and methodology

Thanks for all you do!
 Robin said:
Hi Jill,

You've got some great trends here and I just wanted to let you know that we quoted you a couple of times in our new article on the future of search in 2010.

Keep up the awesome work, it's appreciated!

 Nathan Smith said:
Excellent advice - very interesting to see how these trends progress year to year. And a nice introduction to some of your other very useful articles. Thanks!