No different to any previous year, Google has continued rolling out algorithm change after algorithm change. Some have a small footprint (the sites they affect) while others are quite widespread. Some of these updates have focused on catching those who are trying to artificially manipulate search results. In that way they've been very successful, and have weeded out many linking systems. Other updates have revised the way Google rates sites for relevance.
Social media bookmarking
This is one of this year's hot Google topics. With the Millennial generation becoming a major buying power, and one connected almost like Siamese twins to their portable devices, it only makes sense that Google would start weighting social indicators more. It's not just the big ones like Facebook, Twitter and Google +1, but they have taken a holistic look at all platforms like Delicious, Digg, Stumble upon, etc. It's now becoming crucial that websites get votes from these platforms to ensure continued good rankings. Backlinking still remains very important, but votes from the social sites are becoming much more important than ever before. This is well evidenced by the number of companies you can see offering some sort of incentive to customers who "Like" them on Facebook. It's critical that any company has in place a strategy for obtaining these votes.
YouTube videos are a must
It wasn't long ago that few sites had videos, and virtually none had video testimonials. Now they're becoming common. Why? Partly because so many are hosted on YouTube whom Google owns. So having videos on YouTube gets your site great kudos with Google. It's now becoming such that you cannot afford to ignore the power of videos. We all know how we feel about written testimonials - look at the comments saying that the recommendations seem to be self written. Video is much more difficult to fake and carries more weight.
Keep up with the Jones's
If it's good enough for the big companies, it should be good enough for the small ones too. Sure, big companies can make wrong decisions, and it remains for the individual to do their own research, but the trend this year is very clear - social media booking and videos are the way to go.