SEO Trends for 2009

search engine marketing  and SEO trends 2009Following the pace of change relating to search engine optimization — or SEO as it’s often called — can be dizzying.

Sure, there are landmark changes every once in a while that almost everyone hears about; Google’s introduction of “universal search”, in May 2007, is one example.

But Google says they made more than 400 changes to the ranking algorithm last year. Who can keep up with that?!

Luckily, you don’t have to keep up with every detail. But there are some important SEO trends you should know about as we go further into 2009. I’ll break the list down into two sections — Strategy and Tactics and Industry/Big Picture Trends – and then turn it over to you at the end.

Industry/Big Picture Trends

1. Increased SEO Awareness

SEO used to be something akin to voodoo; the only people who understood it were the ones doing it. But now it seems everyone knows about SEO. (Heck, even Wal-Mart offers SEO services!) As more small business owners become aware of what SEO is and why you should be doing it, competition should increase and put a premium on smart decision-making when it comes to doing SEO in-house or hiring a consultant.

2. Moving SEO In-house

On that note, in-house SEO has never been more popular than it is now, and that trend should continue into 2009. The upcoming SMX West search marketing conference even has an entire day devoted to in-house SEO. Companies big and small are recognizing the need for and value of having dedicated staff to recommend and implement SEO strategies.

3. SEO Consultants and Firms Booked Up

Many of us who don’t work in-house have never been busier than we are now. Because of trend No. 1 above, small business owners are hunting far and wide for SEO help. Purely anecdotal evidence, but something that many fellow SEO friends are experiencing: I usually get 2-3 emails a month from small business owners looking to hire an SEO. Last week alone I received five. There’s big demand and a lot of SEOs will be booked up.

4. It’s Google’s World

Google has dominated the SEO landscape for years, and their lead over Yahoo and Live Search is only getting bigger. There are several companies that try to track market share, and their numbers differ. But they all agree that between 60-70% of searches happen at Google. That doesn’t mean you should put all your SEO eggs in Google’s basket, but it does mean if you’re not being found on Google, you’re not being found.

5. SEO Tools & Automation

Hoping to take advantage of the growing interest in SEO, and the difficulty in finding the right consultant, more companies and individuals are creating online tools that automate portions of an SEO analysis. While some of these tools offer helpful data at a basic level, what matters most is how you use the data they provide.

6. SEO Scams

The downside of increased interest in SEO is that many small business owners will continue to spend money making unethical scam artists rich. $99/month for 500 directory links? $200 for search engine submission services? Don’t do it. Read what several search industry leaders had to say about SEO scams, and make sure this is one trend you avoid in 2009.

Strategy & Tactical Trends

7. Content = Authority (Still)

Links are the currency of SEO, and content is what attracts the links you need to rank well. When you rank well, you have authority. If you run a service-based business, you must be giving away your knowledge and expertise in the form of articles, blog posts, or other unique content that will attract links. If you run a retail web site, this still applies. Follow Amazon’s lead; I think they’re the SEO-smartest retailer online.

8. Content Variety

I mentioned Google’s universal search at the start of this article, and other search engines have also been providing blended results for some time. What this means is that the Google search results page is no longer a list of 10 web page links; it now includes videos, news articles, blog posts, images, and more. In turn, this means that SEO isn’t just about tweaking your web site; it’s about creating and optimizing whatever forms of content make sense for your business and industry.

9. … Especially Video

The numbers are astonishing. YouTube gets more searches than Yahoo. About 100 million people watched videos on YouTube in October, and the average viewer watched 92 videos that month. eMarketer just reported that video is the number one tactic that US marketers will be focusing on in 2009. If you’re not doing it, chances are your competition will be.

10. Personalized Search Results

Personalization of search results has been simmering for a couple years now, but has started going mainstream recently. Google is leading the way with things like SearchWiki and Preferred Sites. Plus, things like your location, your recent searches, and which datacenter your search gets sent to can also impact the 10 search results you see at any given moment. It will continue to become more unusual to see the same 10 results when you and a friend in another state do the same search.

This renders ranking reports borderline useless. In other words, it’s no longer about whether your business is ranking for a certain search term at, say #2 in Google. Traffic and conversions are what you should be tracking, not what number you rank at for a specified term.

11. Local Search and Mobile Search

Mobile search has been on the way for years, but it never arrived. Until now. Mobile search used to be as fun as root canal, but the growth of smartphones – fueled by the iPhone – means mobile search is more enjoyable, more productive, and more popular than ever before. If your business appeals to people who might be searching on the go, local SEO should be a high priority for you in 2009.

12. Value of Your Audience and Community

Social media (sites such as Facebook and Twitter) isn’t going anywhere. And more of your potential customers are using it to make connections. You should be, too. By being active in online communities, you can develop an audience (look at the 38,000 followers Zappos has on Twitter!). When you do it right, that audience will help you push out your content (see No. 7 above), link to your content on occasion, tell their friends about you, and become your de facto marketing department.

Few small businesses will suddenly find themselves with 38,000 Twitter followers, but don’t underestimate the value of connecting with even 25, 50, or 100 people in the right online community.

What Others Say

Speaking of community: While writing this article, I asked my audience of Twitter followers to share their thoughts on SEO Trends for 2009. Here’s what they said.






@MikeTek (read this one from the bottom up!)











They’ve had their say. I’ve had mine. Your turn: What SEO trends do you expect to see in 2009?

* * * * *

Matt McGee, online marketer and SEO professionalAbout the Author: Matt McGee offers search marketing consulting and training to businesses of all sizes. He blogs at Small Business Search Marketing and 


Matt McGee Matt McGee is an independent online marketing and search engine optimization professional with expertise in SEO for local businesses and small businesses. Visit Matt's website Small Business Search Marketing.

47 Reactions
  1. If I understand you correctly, your 2009 trends suggest increased emphasis on organic search — all that content and media you mention? And do you subscribe to the view that search is the new email marketing?

  2. I’m banking on numbers 8 & 9: “Content Variety…Especially Video”. This is exciting info!

    Nate Hanson
    Pilothouse Films

  3. Interesting thoughts. I agree that more focus may be on DIY to save on limited budgets. I like doing most things myself for the feelings of great accomplishment when good results are achieved.

  4. Thanks for your comments, folks. This was fun to write.

    Peg – I don’t believe SEO/search is a replacement for email marketing, if that’s what you’re asking. I think the two complement each other quite nicely. Hopefully, your SEO efforts bring new people to your web site, and then you’re able to convert them into mailing list readers/subscribers.

  5. Nice summary of trends Matt. Funny how many of them were predicted many years ago by many SEOs (personalization, video, in-house, etc.), but didn’t really take until recently. I see your predictions as more in tune, timing-wise.

  6. This is valuable perspective on SEO trends for 2009. Yes, SEO awareness is increasing, but awareness alone is not enough. Successful SEO efforts require a planned, multifaceted approach that includes website modification, link building, directory submission, and more. Therefore, successful SEO demands expertise and persistence.

  7. Matt McGee,

    Do you think personalized search will come stronger during 2009? I have experienced that search engines like my blog, especially Google. I am thinking of putting some effort into contextual ads, so I have signed up for Mike Dillard’s new course (Play Per Click Domination) on how to use Google AdWords as a marketing tool.

  8. I’m always looking for useful articles like this that I can send to my SEO clients when they ask questions or want to better understand SEO. Although I write a lot of tutorials and other materials myself, it helps when they see support from the greater SEO community. I’ll surely be spreading the link to this post around. Thank you.

  9. Thanks again for the new comments, everyone. Martin — yes, Google especially continues to tweak search results for the individual user. It’s not wholesale personalization at this point, but they are clearly moving in that direction. Think about all the Google products/services people use — they have an astonishing amount of personal data on many searchers and it would be silly not to mine that data and use it.

  10. My goal is to try and help small business understand SEO and how it can help their company. So many companies out there I believe want to be doing SEO, but they want DIY SEO to keep budgets in mind. I appreciate hearing what everyone has to say about the trends. 2009 will be one very interesting year for SEO.

  11. Matt, this is a very helpful post.

    Though, I beg to disagree to this statement -> But they all agree that between 60-70% of searches happen at Google. That doesn’t mean you should put all your SEO eggs in Google’s basket, but it does mean if you’re not being found on Google, you’re not being found.

    What do you think happened with the remaining 40-30%?

  12. Matt,
    You rock, man. This is stellar. 400 changes in one year! Whoa.

    The big takeaway I’ve had in the SEO world came from my client: “SEO is a constantly moving animal. A big animal…” Once they realized that, they pulled out the stops and started paying attention to the various pieces.

    I’m sending them and a bunch of others this post link. I suggest that everyone else who cares about their clients and network do the same.

    I’m dropping this into Twitter, too.

  13. Matt,
    Great article!
    I believe that local search AND video are the places to spend some of one’s SEO time.
    The Franchise King

  14. A proper SEO activity will increase our product sales through our website. We have to identify the correct service provider for it. Nice article.

  15. SEO is on the way out.

  16. Can anyone share some tips on how to approach selling SEM/SEO to small businesses? I have been working in the space but for recruitment since 2003 and want to shift gears.

  17. 400 changes in one year is huge. I hope it’s for the best.

  18. Long Island Computer Girl

    I found this article very interesting. With over 400 changes in Search Engine tracking in Google alone, its a good idea to stay on top of all the latest seo trends.

  19. @Arthur — depending on which metrics service you look at, Yahoo has about 15-20% market share, MSN about 8-10%, about 5%, AOL (which is really Google) about 3-4%, and everybody else is teeny-tiny. The top four basically take care of 95% of search market share, and Google has the vast majority of that — triple what Yahoo has at #2.

    @Mike Walsh — depends on your definition of SEO, I suppose. In my mind, SEO is just expanding to include lots of stuff beyond tweaking page titles and meta tags. SEO isn’t going anywhere.

  20. Great article-we have just started doing some video blogging as we heard this is going to be a great medium in 09. Thanks for the great content.

  21. After reading this, it’s no surprise to me that the Flip video camera is so hot selling. It’s the perfect kind of camera for creating your own videos inexpensively.

    Plus, they’re small enough to tuck into your bag, briefcase or pocket.

    Every conference I go to now, I see them. So there’s no excuse for not doing video.

  22. Anita,

    I will get a Flip video camera in the future. I want to use it to add things to my blog and for my personalized video email greetings and messages I got a Logitech Pro 9000 in my Talk Fusion starter kit, but it could be great to have a mobile video camera on the road.

  23. Useful insights . . . SEO can be mind boggling – 400 changes?? Gees. I agree with #9 and your thoughts about video. YouTube is gaining speed and video related content is fast becoming more and more popular. Having video content on YouTube can really benefit your small business. Helpful tutorials and the like can drive a lot of traffic.

  24. Good to know about these trends, at least we get to prepare for these things and we can formulate new strategies with these up-and-coming trends in the picture. Trend no 12 though will always be there and is not a trend- we all have the same responsibility to our audience no matter what happens. We have to be responsible in posting good, and relevant contents.

  25. Interesting list. The one I’m watching most closely is personalized search.

    Personalized search will make quality content even more crucial. It won’t be just about hitting on the algos, but on connecting with people. And that can only lead to less junk clutting the Web.

    And it will lead, as you implied, to businesses focusing back on the metrics they should have been focusing on all along.

  26. Thanks for the 2009 trends! As a small start-up, I think this will be helpful as I try to build my presence on the web!

  27. thanks dear, its very useful for us

  28. I wish I had purchased that Flip video camera when it showed up in my local Costco. It was at a great price!!

    On personalized search, I think it is hugely important. I find that it doesn’t impact my personal results, though, because I clear my entire cache upon exiting the browser. And many times, I’m not “logged in” so to speak, when visiting sites, which effectively disables the personal search results algo. Plus, I have my Web History disabled in Google, too. Part of that is I want to see the traditional results, which we can still do. The personalized search results only become personalized, and thus more meaningful to me, when I click on the “up” or “down” arrow that shows next to the result allowing Google to remember my preferences.

    This intrigues me, so I’m going to go do some fast research and report back.

  29. Hey Matt,
    Thanks again for this post. You rounded up a strong list of trends for us.

    I did a fast search in Google over the past month and came up with some useful posts.

    My favorite was from SearchEngineWatch:

    I’ve emailed your post to some friends who are trying to keep up with the world of SEO. Plus, we should all tweet this article/post of yours!

  30. Seo is a must, marketing to get through the recession! If your interested in web optimization for your site, there is a free site for uploading video ads for your business, they also have image uploads if you are not yet up to videos. The more sites you can link to the greater your market will be. They have a free link exchange as well.


  31. Great article. Long enough but perfectly capable to hold on while go.

    Summarized everything, concentrate on content, diversify the content, avoid black hat, rather than chasing trends be focused on the usability of usefulness of site is better for any small business sites!

    Did I understand it right?

  32. hi
    Its very informative
    social media like facbook and twitter are good to bring unique visitors to site and to increase the traffic to the site

  33. thanks for your sharing

  34. I just wonder if you happen to consider google caffeine when you coming up with these trends for 2009?

  35. facebook applications

    I appreciate you for compiling an informative and helpful article, keep it up good work. Thanks

  36. Great article-we have just started doing some video blogging as we heard this is going to be a great medium in 09.

  37. Very insightful article. It still seems relevant 3 years down the line. I do agree that we webmasters must focus on building a user friendly website and traffic will increase. Its just like they say. ‘build it and they will come’