SEO in 2013 – Meetup at Airbnb SF Office

What's going to happen in the world of SEO in 2013? I'm not going to write you a list of predictions, you can read a number of these by other people who live and breath SEO for a living. No, I would like to highlight my thinking what will be necessary for SEO moving forward, and what has been presented tonight at the first ThenSome SEO meetup in San Francisco in the HQ of Airbnb, organized and planned by SEOgadget & SEOmoz.

Presenting at Airbnb HQ for the SEO meetup ThenSome

SEO Themes for 2013

For this presentation I looked at a number of recurring theme's in SEO. More and more you hear from people that the way you would rank sites in the past does not work anymore. The cycle for black hat SEO is getting shorter, where the rinse & repeat of a trick is becoming almost not profitable anymore.

In general, when SEO's find a new optimization technique which works, they tend to overuse it in a way that the search engines quickly write a fix for it. Remember Exact Match Anchor text, right. That stuff can kill your site right now.

Unless you are in the PayDay Loan vertical in the UK. Just look at the stuff that is ranking on PayDay Loans, and do some backlink checks. Don't be surprised if you see ~75% exact match anchor text for these sites!

How about that for Exact Match anchor text

No wonder SEO got a bad reputation. Spreading false information, spamming the search engines with links, all in the name for profit!

Dilbert SEO false information in Search

Source: Dilbert

Big Game Changers in SEO

I see three important changes on the web which have an impact on how you would prioritize your SEO strategy.

  1. Local
  2. AuthorRank
  3. Social


As more people share content on Twitter and Facebook, which have closed off their streams for certain search engines, it becomes harder to get a signal through the Link Graph, as its dissapearing. The disappearing link graph forces search engines to search for another authority signal. A social website you can control being a search engine can become a great signal how to rank the content and websites being shared.


As Eric Schmidt so elegantly said:

Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results. The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be irrelevance

The ease of publication & monetization of web content has deteriorated content quality, and false information thrives online. G+ as an identity layer to prevent spam and attribute content to authoritative sources


Mobile is taking over Desktop. Location matters for relevance of Search Results. Where you are, will determine  your intend and what you are searching for to great extend. You will just have to pay attention to this space if you are serious for SEO to succeed.

My SEO Success Formula for 2013

Over the years I've had enough time to really think some concepts through.

  1. Build an Awesome Product
  2. Success in SEO Requires Dedication & Commitment
  3. Have all your Technical Ducks in a Row
  4. Build More Real Relationships

Build More Real Relationships

I remember I first met Joost de Valk, from, through Twitter. It was kind of odd that our paths never crossed before, as we are both from The Netherlands and do SEO. But only 4 years ago, we started chatting, and when I came for a visit to Amsterdam, Joost took the train, and we met up for Coffee.

Now Joost is one of my SEO & Online friends, and we help each other out where possible. This is the value of building a real relationship. I have a tremendous respect for Joost, as he has built some really good products, while being there for his wife, kids and family.

The way you can build up relationships as a company can resemble your personal relationship building. When Airbnb was still a young company, Paul Graham gave the following advice to the founding team:

Build something 100 people love, not something 1 million people kind of like

So Brian, Nathan & Joe, the founders of Airbnb, took a plane to New York to personally meet up with all their hosts in the Big Apple.

Have all your Technical Ducks in a Row

So many technical best practices to share...

A great website can only have great SEO if you have all your ducks in a row when it comes to the technology. So many new advances have been made to mark up your content using rich meta data, html5 or including the Facebook Open Graph or Twitter Cards tags. These make it super easy for more awesome sharing online.

Presenting the SEO aspects of the Airbnb Annual

Check out the tweet from this morning, which includes the picture we had specially made and a short summary of the new Airbnb Annual report.

Tweet with a Twittercard of the Airbnb Annual report

Oh, and BTW, did you notice the Schema data at the bottom of this post for the SEO Meetup?

Success in SEO Requires Dedication & Commitment

Slapping a piece of content on an authoritative domain with loads of backlinks won't get you anywhere in the near future. Real SEO success comes with hard work, lots of research and dedication for a great end result in the product. Just check out these examples:

  • The Epic List of Content Strategy Resources; Jonathan spend more than 25 hours researching the complete list he could find on the topic. The time was spent over the course of 2 weeks, where writing the post took another 2 hours or so. And he is not done yet! Expect more to be added to this post.
  • The Advanced Guide to SEO; Sujan & Neil spent 6 months planning, writing and designing the content for this guide. The end product is a wonderful example of the work you will have to put into a product to make it awesome. They furthermore invested a large amount of money into the product. Sujan actually told me they spent 2-3x the amount they originally had planned.

If you're an in-house SEO specialist, commitment from your executive team is also very important. They will need to have a similar vision for what you would like to build, and should not be afraid to take a leap of faith in the strategy. SEO takes longer to show lasting results than $10K in Paid Search, but at least you don't have to cough up the money every day.

Take the Annual Report for the year 2012 at Airbnb. There is a print version, for which the plans came from the founders, and was in the works for months.

Airbnb 2012 Annual report in print

Build an Awesome Product

Ultimately, you won't succeed if your product sucks. Check out this tweet from my friend Laura:

The Best SEO is a product that doesn't suck. Otherwise it's just manipulation

That's right, I expect companies to step up their game, and raise the bar for everybody. If you would like to rank in search engines, you would need to delight your costumer in such a way that they are starting to expect your site to rank at the top of the search engines for their queries. That is the ultimate goal, have such a high Net Promoter Score, that it makes Google look stupid if they don't put you at the top of their results! And who wouldn't like that to happen.

So build a product people would like to share, talk about and which will get media attention without having to do any PR outreach!

Or even better, build a product kids will find even better than their Christmas presents! My daughter made this drawing after the Holiday Break at school; the tree house adventure was the best part of the break, trumping her Christmas presents! As a father, that's what it's all about..!

Building lasting memories

Get them young.. and build lasting memories of your brand!

The rate of change in SEO has been accelerating over the last couple of years. What do you need to focus on these days in SEO? Who should you hire and where do they sit in your organization?
Starts: 02/07/2013 06:00 pm
Ends: 02/07/2013
Duration: 3 hours:
99 Rhode Island Street
San Francisco, CA

Some great SEO's came out for the meetup. Among them, Jordan Koene and Jonathon Coleman, both chose Obama O's over Capt'n McCain's

Jordan Koene at the Airbnb HQ office

Jonathon Coleman with the Obama O's at Airbnb HQ


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