Did you know that Google+ is now the #2 property after Facebook where content-sharing happens? Or that Google incorporates Google+ circles and shares in its search results? These are only two of many examples. The times are changing, and for search engine optimization (SEO), companies need to get on board.
The New Meaning of ‘Optimization’
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has long been one of the core strategies we use to promote websites and other content marketing assets. Basically, we are trying to entice the search engines to give our sites more visibility, and the word “entice” is important: neither we nor anyone else can make Google give us high rankings.
Traditionally, we focused on optimizing verbal (text-based) content to increase our websites’ relevance for keyword-based search queries, and on getting high quality inbound links to confer authority on our websites (e.g., for PageRank). We still do these things, and they will continue to be important going forward.
But in the future, we need to expand the way we think about ‘optimization’. It still means getting Google to give your content high visibility due to your inbound marketing content strategy, but your website will be only one of the channels you will see on search results pages. And the way search engines like Google evaluate your Internet properties is changing to accommodate more natural and more varied kinds of signals than just fixed keyword phrases or inbound links.
Changes in User Behaviors Drive Changes in Search
Going forward, Google and the other search engines are changing the way they scan and index (save) online properties, and we will need to update the way we view optimization to continue delivering successful marketing campaigns. It is important to note that what’s driving this is the evolution of the Internet itself, as well as the desire of Googleet al to improve the relevance of search results.
The use of mobile devices is one obvious way that the Internet is changing. More and more users are accessing the Internet through apps, many with GPS tracking built in, and they are using them to communicate, connect, find and buy.
Individual user behavior increasingly dictates the content of search results – to the extent that location and search histories matter, search engines are seeking ways to refine the delivery of search results to match personal characteristics. You only need to scan a sample of search results pages (SERPs in online marketing jargon) to see how new sources of content, including social media, are being combined with traditional websites to generate search results.
SEO is Not Dead
The need for optimization is not only going to continue (SEO is not dead!), it is going to increase in importance. Traditional SEO tactics will continue to be the baseline, but it is going to get more complicated as we manage multiple channels where content quality and consistency will be crucial for good results. For site owners who manage these trends effectively, the rewards will be great.
Website owners will need to take into account numerous factors to maximize visibility. Content creation and distribution will use a variety of channels (websites, blogs, social media, video, etc) as well as new ways to signal the meaning or significance of specific content (authorship tags, location ID, social network prominence).
Search engine upgrades to algorithms will induce marketers to take a revised strategic approach to optimization (Eric Enge’s nice post in Search Engine Watch gives some examples of how specific tactics illustrate this trend).
For some specific examples of how user behavior and search engine changes are forcing changes in SEO, see Hubspot’s recent Slideshare post. And then return to those SERPs you looked at to see how the new content and personalized targeting are affecting the results.
Do you see any Google+ links or references?
Locality-based content with displays of specific content in rollover events?
Author-tagged links with little photos of the author?
The sheer variety of search results pages you can generate from a variety of queries is a big clue about what’s going on in search. And these increasingly personalized and varied search results will continue to be a master trend in Internet and inbound marketing.