A Look Back at SEO Predictions

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Winston Ong

I'm a Sydney based SEO consultant and search marketer. I blog about unique SEO topics the main sites don't talk about, and like fiddling around with real world SEO experiments that shed light on the limits of Googlebot.
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Happy new year.

Yes, it’s that time of year again when the experts dust off their keyboards and round up their top X list of seo predictions for the year ahead. To save you that click from your Facebook feed, I’ll summarise the same points that are made every single year:

  • SEO will get harder
  • Content strageties will be more important than ever
  • Mobile optimisation will be more important than ever
  • Black hat techniques will become increasingly less effective
  • Keyword matching techniques like EMD, KW density and tag stuffing will become increasingly less effective

Bleh, okay now you never look at any of those Top SEO predictions for the year ahead articles ever again.

What I do love though, are the specific call outs that are made without the assistance of captain obvious. Let’s take a look at some of the calls that we’re completely off with the benefit of hindsight.



Eric Enge wrote of Author Rank in Search Engine Watch in March 2013:

If you want your content to rank in Google, build your author authority (“Author Rank”) now. Google hasn’t taken this position solely to create a binary signal (got a profile, you’re good; no profile, you aren’t). How much authority you have as an author is going to be a big deal… In fact, I think of rel=author as the markup/signal that Google created for the purpose of finding a meaningful way to extract useful ranking data out of social signals.

I haven’t heard anyone recommend adding rel=author as a priority since 2015.


Bruce Clay predicted at the start of 2014:

Google will introduce enhanced features to local results that businesses can buy, much like exists with PPC, or coupons with local listings….I predict that local results will become the next segment of the SERP Google will monetize. Within Places listings, businesses will have an opportunity to buy ads and/or listing enhancements.

There certainly have been quite a number of changes to the local pack since this article was written 3 years ago, but as of 2017, monetisation has not been one of them.


Rand Fishkin had 2 bad calls for his 2016 prediction list, written this time last year:


Social content engines [examples: Pocket, Nuzzle, ProductHunt and Snapzu] will become a force … My prediction is that one or more of these will rise to the level of some of the second-tier social networks in popularity, referral traffic, and active users.

I have no doubt these services would have grown throughout 2016, but the call that at least one would grow to the level of a second tier social network was wrong.


Twitter will figure out how to grow again…I believe we’re going to see numbers from Twitter that improve their market position and their stock price

Unfortunately for Twitter, 2016 was the year it again failed to get traction in user numbers or a feasible revenue model. It has remained a cornerstone of digital and popular culture, including featuring heavily in the US presidential election, but last week’s tech report card on Twitter by The Verge says it all.


And of course, I can’t leave out the epic troll update announced by Google themselves in April 2015 on the Mobile Friendly Update, which promised to be bigger than Panda or Penguin. Except it wasn’t. Not even close.


Bonus: Great Call


Tom Johns wrote in Jason Munn’s blog in late 2012:

Panda will be rolled into the algorithm itself, instead of periodic updates

Perhaps a shot in the dark, but this turned out to be a correct call which eventuated in January 2016. I’m impressed by this call because up until the confirmation by Google, a lot had been discussed and talked about Panda prior, but no one was distinguishing how the algorithm seperated periodically applied updates versus baked in core updates.


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