2012 was a rough year for many SEO firms. Google’s Penguin and Panda updates intentionally took a lot of steam out of industry professionals. Now, it seems that Google is getting a few more swings in before the New Year. On Dec. 7, Raven, provider of the industry-leading SEO software Raven Tools, announced that on Jan. 2 it would discontinue its SERP-tracking services — one of its most in-demand offerings.
The decision is a result of a failed Google audit. Raven and its competitors collect data from Google and other sources and use the information to track site rankings.
In the past, Google was OK with companies using scraped data, but not anymore. Now, Google is cutting ties with software providers that deal with Google products, but don’t use Google-sanctioned data sources. Rather than get dumped by Google, Raven decided to jettison its scraped data — a hard decision to be sure — and Raven customers were not happy with the news.
What Does This Mean for SEO Services?
SEO consultants’ ability to track rankings with reasonable accuracy is getting weaker. Moving into 2013, it’s going to be harder for them to demonstrate ROI and know whether their SEO efforts are effective or not. Still, clients will continue to demand rank tracking, and consultants will either have to provide an inferior product or try to market themselves without this popular service.
A Timeline of 2012 SEO Shakeups
On top of all the other bad SEO news this year, Raven’s announcement doesn’t bode well for the industry. Consider these other 2012 events that took a hit on SEO.
- Google Panda refreshes, Jan. 18 through Nov. 5. In an effort to penalize purveyors of low-quality content, Google made 13 Panda refreshes in 2012, each affecting roughly 1 percent of queries.
- Google link-warning fiasco, March through July. Webmasters received e-mails directly from Google warning them that they may be in violation of the Webmaster Guidelines for hosting bad links and could suffer penalties as a result. Google later backtracked and said the warnings could be safely ignored, according to Search Engine Land, but these warnings remain a source of confusion for SEO practitioners.
- Penguin update, April 24. Penalized websites for using keyword stuffing and link schemes and affected roughly 3.1 percent of queries.
What Does It Mean for Content Marketing?
It’s likely that more SEO consultants will start providing content marketing services. More marketing dollars will go toward content creation as Google makes it clearer to everyone that other SEO strategies are risky business.
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