One of the challenges facing any new industry is creating a demand for and an awareness of the industry in the mind of the consumer. Since many Website owners have only a general idea of what search engine optimization (SEO) is and how it works, I’ve come up with an analogy from another industry that makes it easier to understand.
Search Engine Marketers = Ad Agencies
Search engine marketers dealing with paid listings are very similar to ad agencies in offline media. They work with the message and the creative to get people to take action: to buy, subscribe or register. They have budgets and are able to monitor results and tweak campaigns to get the maximum return for their clients.
It’s pretty easy to see the parallels between SEMs and ad agencies, but a little harder to understand the role of search engine optimizers, as they relate to the “free” search listings.
Search Engine Optimizers = Public Relations Firms
A search engine optimizer is actually very similar to a public relations firm in the offline world. Public relations firms try to get their clients mentioned in news stories and featured in print and broadcast media, i.e., they obtain “free” publicity. An SEO consultant attempts to get their client’s site listed highly in the “editorial” or “free” listings of the search engines. As with offline media, the editorial content (or listings) often carries more credibility with consumers.
Just as a public relations firm carefully writes press releases and formats them in a way that is favorable to the news media, a search engine optimizer adjusts the code and wording in a site to present it in the way that the search engines prefer to read it. A good SEO (just like a good PR firm) will create content that is interesting and useful, making it much more likely to be ranked well (or be newsworthy).
PR firms often act as image consultants as well, working with the company and its executives to make sure they present the best possible impression when meeting with the press. They make sure their message is consistent and in keeping with their brand, to help firmly cement the company’s image in the mind of the customer. A professional SEO often does the same thing for a site, making design or usability recommendations to ensure that once people arrive they will easily be able to find what they need.
Not All Search Engine Optimizers Are the Same
There are different kinds of SEOs, just as there are different kinds of PR firms. Some PR firms merely churn out press releases on a regular schedule. They spend their time faxing and following up on items that may or may not be newsworthy. They make very little attempt to be creative or find truly newsworthy events within the company — they simply send a regular stream of minor happenings out via press releases. They may even try to sneak releases past screening personnel or exaggerate the truth in order to get a mention in the media. Ineffective PR firms waste your money; an unethical one can even hurt your company’s image.
The parallel in the SEO industry is those SEOs that use deceptive practices to place their clients’ sites in the engines. One such tactic would be the use of software to churn out keyword-stuffed pages instead of attempting to improve the site itself. Another tactic would be showing search engines different content than a human visitor would see. These are strategies that work in the short term. But just as a newspaper editor will eventually start throwing out all of the low-value press releases from a company that has proved they don’t provide good content, a search engine will eventually do the same to pages using deceptive techniques and which don’t provide any value to site visitors. Eventually, those SEOs will find that their clients’ sites are penalized or banned.
Neither public relations nor search engine optimization are forms of black magic; anyone can learn what needs to be done to get a company noticed. There are PR companies who see the media as something to be manipulated, just as there are SEO companies who see the search engines that way. However, you’ll find that it’s much more productive when an SEO actually works with the search engines, rather than against them.
Google has rolled out another new feature to search, and this time they’re getting to your roots. Currently dubbed Place Search, the idea is that all of the local information of Google Maps and listings are being turned into a searchable interface.
Couple in Google Instant, and the search page changes to show you their prediction as to what you’re looking for. Restaurants, appliance sales and repair or what ever else might tickle your fancy, if it’s local, it will have a new search results page. What you’ll find when the page comes up is phone numbers, address, a brief description of the ad as well as reviews if you happen to make a choice and click on a link.
Jackie Bavaro – Place Search’s product manager:
“Today we’re introducing Place Search, a new kind of local search result that organizes the world’s information around places. We’ve clustered search results around specific locations so you can more easily make comparisons and decide where to go…”
“Place Search results will begin appearing automatically on Google when we predict you’re looking for local information.”
“In addition, you’ll find a new link for “Places” in the left-hand panel of the search results page so you can switch to these results whenever you want. For example, when I’m in New York, I love to go out and play foosball, but a search for [foosball] doesn’t automatically show me Place Search results. If I click “Places” I get the new view.
“We’ve made results like this possible by developing technology to better understand places. With Place Search, we’re dynamically connecting hundreds of millions of websites with more than 50 million real-world locations. We automatically identify when sites are talking about physical places and cluster links even when they don’t provide addresses and use different names.”
Local search just took a huge leap for Google, in a way it’s their answer to FourSquare local reporting and listing power. If you’re not being found now on Place Search, it’s the next step in the powerful world of SEO, and there’s only two places in the race for the top. Page one, or page none. Where are you?
In the not so new news, the death of SEO is being cried again. The cause this time is the Facebook and Bing partnership. I’ve read about the social search changes that have been incorporated, and just as Google shrugged it off, I’m inclined to do the same.
The changes that Bing and Facebook bring together is definitely interesting, no doubt. However, the idea that the entire industry of search marketing, search engine optimization and search engine rankings being dealt a deathblow by this partnership is laughable. If anything, the new partnership relies on SEO and SEM to function appropriately.
For another perspective, imagine going into a hardware store, and seeing all of the isles and rows numbered and having short labels for the contents of each row. Makes your shopping trip quick and efficient to know that you can find power drills and skill saws in the power tools isle. This would be a very basic example of SEO. Now applying the new Facebook/Bing method, you’re in that same hardware store, nothing is labelled or itemized (because it’s killed SEO remember) but you know there’s a power drill in there that your friend likes and owns. Great to know that your buddy has a favorite tool that you were thinking about, but how do you go about finding it?
Two very basic examples, but they illustrate the interpretation of the new personalized search Bing and Facebook are rolling out. Social Media Optimization (SMO) isn’t a new idea, it’s not revolutionary, it’s adwords on a more personal level. It displays information relative and relavant to your account and what it knows about you, not for your searchs. One last point to consider and digest, without search engine optimization, social media optimization wouldn’t exist, and without SEO, SMO will disappear.
Appearance, usage, accessibility and speed. Four qualities which should be incredibly important to any website owner and doubly so for users. If a site isn’t appealing to the eye, easy to use, have intuitive navigation and is slow to browse, it’s almost certain to be skipped over by users first and search engines later.
The qualitites came to mind over a conversation with a friend, they’d lamented that the coroporate side had changed the website and made it unfriendly to use. Previously their site was css based, very little code written on page, and had a good deal of content to be indexed relevant to their rather competitive niche. The new look and layout for their site, abandoned CSS in favor of Java, Ajax and active scroll over elements on the page.
The new site is visually more appealing than the old one, the effects that were added with all of the new coding however, was unecessary. Dropping indexable, search engine friend CSS for Java and Ajax was a half step backwards though in the search wars. While the coding offers a great deal of flexibility in what your website can look like and do, it’s basically entirely skipped over by search engines. The website in question has been running a brief survey on the new look and feel, and so far the consistent response has been that past consistent users, have begun to use other portals to meet their needs. Their new site, while more appealing to look at, was too slow, difficult to navigate and wasn’t easy to understand at all.
It’s a good example of the addage, “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it”
The world wide web is growing everyday, with any and all sorts of content which you can imagine. Google, the largest, most widely used search engine globally, has the leading edge in the speed of searching, and delivering the web to each individual users needs. billions upon billions of pages viewed, indexed, and ready to serve.
The introduction of Google Instant, the displaying of search results while you type your search terms, should have come as no surprise. In terms of speed and reliability, it’s definitely faster (if only by a few seconds at times) than finishing a well formed query. Through their closed testing, one of Googles statements pertaining to longer searchs versus shorter, longer is not always better. Whether you type in 1 word and receive a viable, useable result, or use a 4-5 word query which returns the same result, it’s the few seconds here and there, which can end up meaning big on the bottom line. Both as an online business, and as an online consumer.
There’s been the calls of Google Instant being the death of SEO, and/or the end of SEM. When in fact it will be much the opposite. The introduction of instant search will help seperate the wheat from the chaff in the search business. It became a popular niche if you will, for anyone and everyone to become an SEO expert overnight by long tail optimizing for people online. It began to devalue the true worth of the real experts, those of us who can drive our clients campaigns to page 1 with three and less terms. Honing your skills and knowledge to be razor sharp in adapting to the algorithmic shifts as necessary, to maintain rankings, and continually build upon it’s success, and improve.
Google Instant isn’t the end of SEO, it’s not the death of SEM. It’s a new birth, the reset button on the industry that’s been long overdue. As the brands and businesses who targetted only long tail terms scratch their heads and wonder where their traffic has been trickling off to, and while the garage and Twitter based “SEO experts” struggle, the leaders in the industry can rest easy. Knowing that our ability, our knowledge, and our skills will rank our clients on Page 1.. Google Instant search or not.
So the big news so far this week would most definitely have to go to the newest change in Google search, Google Instant.
Google Instant is starting to roll-out to users on Google domains in the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Russia who use the following browsers: Chrome v5/6, Firefox v3, Safari v5 for Mac and Internet Explorer v8.
In a nutshell, Google is completetly your searches for you as you type, so no need to hit that enter button. They broke down the search time in a basic format. It takes about 9 seconds to type a query, 1 second to return results, and on average, 15 seconds to select your best choice. The idea, is that Instant will reduce search times by as much as 5 seconds!
Unless your a professional racer of some sorts, 5 seconds may not seem like a lot, but it can mean the difference between an ad impression, click through, or new visitor to your site. As a business owner, you need to decide and realize what your time, product and online presence are worth to you. Google Instant isn’t available widely, and can be shut off by users who dislike the service. But, what are you worth? Is your competitors site optimized better? Is your nearest rival perhaps in a better search position on the “normal” SERPs? With the looming introduction of permanent Instant, how much is your online brand worth to you? A difference of 5 seconds could mean the difference between a new contract, or being on the receiving end of a dusty unused website.
There’s a new Google test which has caught fire on the web discussions over the weekend. Google has been running a test algorithm segment which displays your search as you type. Dynamically updating the page as you add, change, or remove your query.
The assumption is that the test has been rolled out to those with only a very high speed connection, as the nature of the results being delivered is unknown. It may be from a cached, prefetch server based on your previous searches, but it also may be entirely and completely dynamic in nature. Automatically fetching the results as you add a term.
Couple this recent test, in with the article decrying that Google is set to allow domain dominance on a search page, it will change the landscape of the SEO game somewhat.
Today we’ve launched a change to our ranking algorithm that will make it much easier for users to find a large number of results from a single site. For queries that indicate a strong user interest in a particular domain, like [exhibitions at amnh], we’ll now show more results from the relevant site:Prior to today’s change, only two results from www.amnh.org would have appeared for this query. Now, we determine that the user is likely interested in the Museum of Natural History’s website, so seven results from the amnh.org domain appear. Since the user is looking for exhibitions at the museum, it’s far more likely that they’ll find what they’re looking for, faster. The last few results for this query are from other sites, preserving some diversity in the results.
This change could mean the difference in small business SEO, and will definitely encourage niche marketing campaigns. So it’s time to put on your creative thinking caps, hash out the creative copyright for your clients, and be ready to push for the niche search terms.
From a PR perspective though, it’s an interesting twist from Norvig’s comment earlier about wanting more diversity in search results. In having the second result to be as “different” from the first as possible to encourage diversity.
It’s not an unsual method of finding a service or product, you ask your friends and family for their opinions. It helps you form your own preliminary opinion, and with a few questions in mind you go for it. The trend however is shifting with the realization that word of mouth, has been changing more into world of mouth.
In a new Cone Inc. report indicates that consumers don’t take word of mouth as gospel when making their decisions. Eighty-one percent of respondents agreed with the statement,
“After getting a recommendation about a product or service I may want to purchase, I go online to do additional research about that product or service before deciding whether to purchase it.”
One of the surprising finds, was the disproval of the thought that bad news travels faster than good news. Online, the sway power of good reviews and news of a product or service was proven more potent than bad news and reviews. Only 68 percent of respondants admitted to changing their minds based on bad reviews, where as 80 percent agreed, positive reviews found online solidified their decisions of a recommended product or service.
These numbers in mind, it’s worth noting that while search engine optimization and search engine marketing are incredibly important to your business, it’s just as important to focus some of your attention to the social interaction of your client base. Whether it’s having a submitted question and answer form, a Twitter feed where client concerns can be addressed, or a Facebook page and wall, it’s worth the time to put in direct client interaction. Face time with your customers is still paramount in the digital world, and as the numbers from the Cone Inc. report shows, having a positive image online will help you immensely.
Another D-Day is looming on the horizon, and website owners are going to be learning another step to the SEO dance. It’s been in the works for the last while, the Yahoo-Bing search results merger, and in a recent press release from Bing, the proverbial trigger was pulled.
For webmasters, it’s important to be familiar with how the Bing crawler interacts with your site. After the full algorithmic transition is complete, you only need to optimize for one crawler (Bing), as we will provide Yahoo! with results from our index.
All of the little tricks, optimizations and tweaks that we’ve learned over the last year, can be trimmed down to the Bing bones as it were. In other words, don’t be surprised if your site shuffles and changes in ranking on Bing abd Yahoo, depending on which secondary search you work with.
You can find the entire press release issued, from their senior VP of their online services division, here.
Well, under a new patent which was approved this past week, Google will have an idea just what you do like to point at. The patent, titled “System and method for modulating search relevancy using pointer activity monitoring” was filed in 2005, and granted this week. The patent is described as a system for monitoring the movements of a user controlled mouse pointer in a web browser, identifying when the pointer movies into a predefined region and when it moves out of said region.
So basically you can think of it as using a hotbox link area for an image, or a div tag in CSS. Google can assign an area for analysis on their SERPs page, and track where searchers mouse moves. What type of information, and how it could possibly be applied in the realm of SEO is still to be determined. It could however, give Google a better understanding as to how well a SERPs page comprised of blended (both paid and organic results) results fares.
And, in the realm of satire, these headers are from a live website, who noticed Google flagged their website as a possible spam site. Internet cookies for those who can see what’s wrong. Who said Google doesn’t read meta tags?
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