Why You Can't Beat Google's Algorithm
It's a commonly-held belief in SEO circles that there is this "Google algorithm" out there somewhere that monitors and ranks websites. If only you can reverse-engineer it, you can grab the number one spot in your niche and have a fire hose of traffic directed at your website. It's a nice thought, but there are a few problems with it.
There Is No Google Algorithm
The top reason you can't beat Google's algorithm is because it doesn't have one. That's right. There is no algorithm, as in singular. There are algorithms, as in plural. In fact, Google uses between 50 and 200 different algos to determine what gets indexed in its search engine and where websites rank for any given keyword. The algorithms might change depending on the industry you happen to be in, and the types of searches people use to find you. What's more, Google can add, subtract, or selectively use any of its algorithms depending on what it thinks will deliver the most relevant results.
Google doesn't even have to tell you, in advance, what it is going to do to its search engine. This means that you're left to guess at what algorithms are at work, how they work, and when they will change. Predicting the future like this is hopeless, yet many SEO companies manage to hang in there - selling clients on a few tricks that still happen to work. Unless it's a long-term strategy (i.e. writing guest blog posts, or getting merit-based links from extremely high-authority sites), there's a good chance that what's working today won't work tomorrow. Then what? You'll have wasted a lot of time and money.
Your Odds of Ranking Nationally Are Rapidly Declining
Google + isn't going anywhere. In fact, Vic Gundotra told Mashable earlier this year that, "Google+ is just an upgrade to Google. People have a hard time understanding that. I think they like to compare us with other social competitors, and they see us through that lens instead of really seeing what's happening: Google is taking its amazing products, and by bringing them together, they just become more awesome."
Google has been trending towards social, but also local, for a long time now. When you make a search, notice how your search results are affected by your zip code and location (if you're not at your desk)? That's because Google wants to show you results that are near you for many searches. It thinks that you want to find businesses that are close to you. Whether you agree with this search philosophy or not is another matter. The fact is that local results often appear before national results. In fact, in some niches, the global results are nearly pushed off the first page. If you're hoping to rank in one of those niches, you're going to be very disappointed (i.e. insurance and finance).
You're Not Google, and Neither is Your SEO Company
One of the biggest elephants in the room is the fact that neither you, nor your SEO company, is Google. You can't pretend to know what's going on behind closed doors at that company, and you can't predict what engineers will want to do to improve search results. For example, who would have predicted the impact of the Panda filter? No SEO, prior to the refresh, was warning clients of this filter or a filter like it. It was "full steam ahead" for most companies - using SEO strategies and tactics that would soon become obsolete. What a waste of money, but didn't these SEO companies (and their clients) deserve it? This is what you get when you chase SE rank and algorithms.
Going Forward In 2013
It's like beating a dead horse, but many companies still don't get it. They want something "new" and "fresh." It's like weight lifting. You have to go into the gym and do the same things every week to see results. It's not about doing something "new" and "fresh." It's about consistency. In SEO, we already know what Google really wants. It wants really good content, well-researched articles, and a good user experience. When you construct your SEO strategy in 2013, you don't have to forget about things like social media. But remember that these are just advertising mediums. The bread and butter will always be unique, innovative, ideas expressed in print, video, or audio. In other words: content is king.