Why You Should be Thankful for These Four SEO Updates

This year has produced many changes that have altered the way we look at content, link building and conversion optimization. Inno Garage shares four things that every SEO should be thankful for in 2012.
The fourth Thursday of November offers a day for reflection—giving us an opportunity to appreciate our friends, family and all the good fortune we’ve received. This year is no different, being one that has seen a Presidential re-election, Hurricane Sandy and more. However, after a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend, I can’t help but reminisce and reflect on a very interesting year in the search engine optimization world.
For SEO specialists and social media marketers alike, 2012 has produced many changes that have altered the way we look at content, link building and conversion optimization. Here are four things that every SEO should be thankful for this year:
1. Link Disavow Tools
This latest tool in the SEO utility belt came as an early Holiday Present for SEOs battling penalties and bans from the release of Google Penguin back in April. Links are key signals that search engines use to order results by those that are deemed most reputable and important; thus, more relevant for users. In the aftermath of the webspam algorithm update, webmasters everywhere spent time combing through their backlink profiles to remove those that would get them in trouble with the Goog. These include paid links, link exchanges or other linkspam strategies that violate Google’s PageRank guidelines.
Directly removing these bad links corrects the problem at the root of the issue. Unfortunately, many of these spammy or low-quality links came from ambiguous third-party websites that were impossible to get a hold of. Enter Google’s Link Disavow Tool, which allows webmasters to submit one plain-text file of URLs to disavow per domain. But beware, this tool is meant for advanced users only. Google does not recommend using this tool unless you are sure that you need to disavow some links to your site and you know exactly what you're doing. (FYI, Bing has a similar tool for its search engine as well.)
2. Mobile or Responsive Web Design
By now, everyone knows that fighting against the onslaught of mobile browsing is a loosing battle. Mobile has arrived and it is here to stay. In fact, mobile Internet usage is projected to overtake desktop access by 2014. Today, the average American spends 2.7 hours per day socializing on their mobile device and half of all local searches are performed on mobile devices.
Good news designers, Google announced this year that it’s on your side! The search engineofficially recommended responsive design for mobile optimization, indicating Google’s preference for Smartphone-optimized websites in a way that gives both desktop and mobile sites the best chance of performing well in search results. Responsive web design allows sites to serve all devices the same URLs and HTML, with just CSS to change how it is rendered on the device. Check out our work on Fetch Eyewear for a live demo:
3. Social Media Covers and Headers
Ever since Facebook announced its mandatory switch to the Timeline profile in March, many other (ahem, ALL) social media platforms have followed suit, making the wide cover image or header the norm. For individual users, this concept of widescreen images allows for sharing and highlighting of memorable photos and life events.  For businesses, this vital real estate can be used to showcase their brand with a unique design that fills the open space.
Covers and headers are the first thing users see when they visit your profile, and these first impressions are important for trust-building and engagement. Shortly after Facebook’s announcement, Google rolled out with its version for Google+ Pages. Today, you can create custom cover or header images on LinkedIn and Twitter as well.
4. Advanced Social Media Analytics
Social signals are now becoming top citations for search engines to perceive online value and authority for websites. However, with the plethora of social sites available, and individual measures of engagement and tracking to boot, pinpointing the ROI on social media activity has been near impossible.
This year, we’ve seen the entrance of new software and development companies that have jumped on the social bandwagon, with new tools that not only integrate cross-platform social marketing strategies, but also provide comprehensive visibility on individual social referral actions and their relative values to the bottom line. Thanks to innovative applications, such as Pinfluencer, we no longer have to spend a Friday afternoon counting fan repins, likes and comments across 34 boards and 1,238 pins (yes, we used to do that):

The search engines are also pushing the social envelope—Google announced last week the release of its Social Data Hub, which integrates activity streams into Social Analytics to see the big picture of how social behavior impacts brand conversions. Full-scale rollout of Social Hub will be available Q1 of 2013, so stay tuned for more info.
What update, change, tool, application or news are you most thankful for this year? Leave your comments below!