The most important factor is judging how to prioritise new developments in and amongst existing industry best practice to maximise the potential of any individual page as well as the overall ranking capabilities of the entire site or portfolio of sites.

This article discusses some of the new developments that affect search engine optimisation and the challenges that each of these present to any SEO agency; including recent social media announcements, the launch and future implications of Google Instant and the impact of the advertising powerhouse struggle of Google & Bing for market share in the search arena.

Firstly, the introduction of Google Instant last year sent shockwaves throughout the online community, but it didn’t take SEO agency executives and in-house personnel long to pick up on the opportunities and turn the development to their advantage. This trend is likely to continue into 2011 with the use of Google Instant to corroborate search patterns from the suggestions that Google instantly jumps to as you type each individual letter becoming ever more important.

Google were also very active in terms of the announcements that they put out at the end of last year, leading to new implications for 2011. Perhaps the biggest of these was the announcement that it was in the habit of taking Twitter & Facebook links into account through its ranking algorithm. If previously some companies had been reticent to take on Twitter & Facebook accounts in the past for whatever reason, they now have a new significant reason to get on the social media bandwagon. Simply by not being active on social media sites, they could be leaving themselves at a strategic disadvantage to competitors that are more prominent on Twitter & Facebook. This will make an effective social media management strategy an absolute essential in 2011, if it wasn’t already.

In addition to this, Google also announced that its search algorithm was subject to much more frequent change than was previously assumed. With the knowledge now that Google tests and amends its algorithm daily, SEO agency executives and in-house search engine optimisation specialists need to be ahead of the pace more than ever before. Testing and reanalysing SEO data should become a daily occurrence for them too if they are to ensure that top ten listings are stable and not just subject to fluctuations in search algorithm. The level of interaction between SEO specialists will also need to be high to share best practice and new interpretations throughout a mutually beneficial community. This could be seen as a development that would favour an SEO agency over smaller in-house teams or individuals.

Finally, there is the ever present looming potential of the Bing/Yahoo search alliance that has pumped significant marketing budget behind their attempt to muscle in on Google’s online market share. While this has been largely ineffective in 2010, it will only take one significant shift and the game would change entirely to a more significant two horse race. Perhaps the biggest impediment to growth for both Bing and Yahoo has been the general lack of confidence in their search algorithm in the online community. If in 2011 their search results suddenly improve significantly due to algorithm improvements, or if their marketing messages embed more confidence in their search then they could see a significant impact on market share overnight. While this remains a slim bet, the ever present nature of it implies that SEO specialists need to be well versed in the different ranking variables that effect Bing and Yahoo ranking positions. This is combined with the reality that on some keywords the gains in return on investment may be more prominent in Bing or Yahoo than with Google.