In reverence to the upcoming 19th anniversary of Blue Chips – a timeless exposé on collegiate recruiting, staring Nick Nolte and Shaq that dropped in February 1994 to middling acclaim and a movie I’ve seen dozens of times and think about often for unclear reasons – I present to you my Bill-Simmons-inspired Blue Chip SEO Events of 2012. Let’s Go!

Venice — February 27, 2012
But goddamnit, those kids played their hearts out. They gave everything they had! They played up to the maximum of their ability! They gave it everything. And you know, it wasn’t good enough. It wasn’t good enough for me, wasn’t good enough for you, wasn’t good enough for anybody! – Coach Bell

Coach Bell was frustrated. For years, his three-star level recruits left it all on the court, but were crushed by the overwhelming talent of the competition. Just for the small business owner looking to rank in Google for things like “doctor’s office,” “plumber,” “dog walker,” “bakery,” or “firewood,” success was not likely. These businesses could optimize their title tags and ask their neighbors for links all day, but still: faceless directories dominated the SERP. Venice changed that by giving added weight to localized businesses. And not just bringing up the Map more often, but by listing small business domains ahead of national sites for queries like lake geneva real estate; Venice was a great win for smaller players online that are trying their best to compete.

Further Reading:
Understand and Rock the Venice Update by Mike Ramsey

Search Quality Video — March 12, 2012
This class is culturally biased. – Neon (Shaq)

Google released a recording of a 2011 Search Quality team meeting, where the Google engineers discussed an algorithm change. It was interesting to see how these kinds of updates actually occur.

Google Plus Local — May 30, 2012
No, no, Coach, it was a nuclear surfboard, remember? – Happy Walsh

In another modernization of how Local Search ties into the big picture, Google replaced the Google Places page style and integrated it with Google Plus to create Google Plus Local pages (follow?). These pages have it all: necessary store information, social reviews, map integration, and Street View. At first it was a little messy with their integration of Zagat’s 30-point scoring system across all business types (is my orthodontist a 23 or 28?), but an update in October cleaned this up to an intuitive 5-point scale for non-restaurant businesses.

Further Reading
Announcement coverage from Greg Sterling
Two-Month follow up from Jordan Kasteler

Penguin — April 24, 2012
You took the purest thing in your life and corrupted it, for what? For what? – Coach Bell

Turns out Tony, Coach Bell’s senior point guard that played hard and avoided corruption – unlike his new class of backer-acquired 5-star freshmen, purposely did not cover the spread during a game in his freshman year. Coach Bell had coached a fixed game. Tony took the shortcut, and now everything he worked so hard to accomplish was falling apart; he’s paying the price and his coach is too. If you were buying links to trick Google, Penguin probably took you out this year in a significant step to de-value those links in the algorithm, and I bet those client calls weren’t very fun either. A win for the white-hats!

Further Reading
Danny Sullivan explains

Knowledge Graph — May 16, 2012
How long are you gonna keep this bullshit up, Ed? Huh? You know goddamn well there was no such incident. There was an alleged incident which you invented; in the same way that if I assert that you sleep with sheep, then it is alleged that you sleep with sheep. – Coach Bell

Google knows what time the sun comes upwhat year Shakespeare was born, and how Houdini died, so why waste time by sending you to or Wikipedia? The Knowledge Graph brings forth these facts and puts them right on the SERP, with more and more connected facts to devour, kind of neat. Google has been working on this one for years: the ability to assert facts that they were confident about – and this year they rolled it out with a new look and for several more queries.

To mainstream view points, this comes out like Google has developed a magical formula to predict how we think and feel – but I see it more as Google got some confidence in its evidence to make assertions based on what it has found on the Internet. The Knowledge Graph is still full of erroneous assertions and probably always will be. Coach Bell could tweet on Ed’s sheep fetish, put it on his blog, get quoted in the NY Times, edit Ed’s Wikipedia page, and create a thread on to get the sheep perspective – and Google would probably call it a fact in the KG, especially 200 years from now. But still, Google got to the point to commit to featuring the KG and I’m sure they’ll keep improving it.

Further Reading:
Google explains

Bing – All Year
Dwayne, you can get through college half-assed. Richard, you can get through life half-assed. But I’ll guarantee you boys one thing. Sure as hell, I’ll guarantee you this: you cannot win half-assed! – Coach Bell

Bing picked up their game this year. Substantively through a revamp to Bing Webmaster Tools, and webmaster webinars, and not-so-substantively-but-still-effective (maybe) through poking the Google by highlighting their partnership with Facebook in a national TV spot, holding the Bing Challengepublicizing Google’s move to paid placement, and rolling out their own version of the Knowledge Graph. Heading into 2013, Bing is playing to win!

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