Everyone said everything is dead. Again.
Steve “SEO is Dead” Rubel led it off only minutes after the official announcement. (And, no, he does not get link for it) From there we were subjected to various other types of “dead”: paid search, analytics, long-tail keywords, short-tail keywords, etc.
It’s the status quo with the SEM community; if it’s new and foreign from a way of doing things, then the immediate reaction from the community is: IT’S ALL DEAD, MAN! GOOGLE JUST KILLED IT ALL!
Those of us who know the score sat back and watched the house catch fire. People were screaming out for Matt Cutts to set the record straight on this (again, per usual).
So let’s set the record straight: it’s not dead. It won’t be dead. SEO will never die. If Google ever discounts site content and links, then, and only then, will SEO die. Since that isn’t happening, we’re all fine. Everyone ok on that? Great.
What Every Major Google Hub is Saying About Instant
Yes, that’s right, beyond Matt having to shush the SEO Chicken Little’s out there, Google’s 3 major hubs and Google itself put out official posts on how Google Instant will affect the resource.
This in No Way Kills SEO
Sorry. That’s the facts. If you step back for a moment, all GI (Google Instant) has really done is allow people to search faster and offer suggestions, or as The GOOG put it, “mind read”.
Fact #1: There was heavy personalization BEFORE this update
Yes, indeed. Google was helping you, and still is, by honing in your IP address and by search history. Not much has changed there.
Fact #2: Google Suggestions have been around as early as 2008
Again, nothing changed. Those suggestions that still appear below your query, Google helping you refine your thoughts before you hit enter, they’re still there. What has changed is that GOOG is tacking them in your actual query string now, guessing/mind-reading at what you might be looking for.
Fact #3: SERPs Are Still SERPs
Yes, I think the instant update also came attached with some algorithm tweaks. Anecdotal searches I’ve performed thus far tell they’ve tweaked some things; yes, I’ve seen upward and downward movement in my sites’ positions for business-centric keywords. That said, the SERP is still being constructed based on your site’s content, authority, relevance to the query at hand, and off-site SEO.
Why would GI want to mess with a good thing? This update just allows them to serve those SERPs faster.
What’s Going to be Different for SEOs?
A few things are going to change. Keyword research is a premium now. If you were lethargic and lazy about your keyword research prior to this update, you’re in for a real treat. It seems that the GI update, again only from anecdotal searches conducted thus far, that the long tail is much more of a priority and seems to be pushing users in that direction.
What that means? It means that a lot more users are going to be engaging in long-tail search terms. It means this update, is essentially teaching run-of-the-mill searchers how write better search queries to find their information. What I am not saying is that one and two-term keyword phrases are useless, I personally don’t think these will be as much of a traffic force in the coming months. Hence, if you’re an SEO, you better get your keyword data-sloshing boots on, cause’ it’s going to get thick.
The solid SEOs/SEMs out there are already doing this. The hacks will have to play catch up: actually have to consider the content they are putting on the page. Consider dropping in long-tail terms within pages, being strategic with content.
Keep Moving Forward.
Yes, I did. I stole this quote from Meet the Robinsons. The past is the past; let’s all take a moment to reflect on it. [Reflecting]
There. That was great. Now move forward. Google is always going to be innovating, for better or worse, well-thought out or not, and always for the next big payday. If our profession didn’t change, not many would stick around. We’re a dynamic bunch of people; we institute change for others, we strategize how to create dramatic change in conversions and profit online for clients, and change happens to us both professionally and personally.
Stop buying into this ridiculous rhetoric that “SEO is dead”, that the game is so radically different now. It’s not. Put your game face on, buckle down, and get to work.
The Need To Unlearn
It went official this week: Google now has behaviorally-targeted PPC Ads. Before we talk about the ramifications of this act on small/business owners, let’s figure out what this actually means.
Explaining Google Behaviorally-Targeted PPC Ads System:
Google has raised privacy concerns with its newly launched interest-based advertising, which displays ads based on users’ previous searches and page views.
The new Google advertising system, currently in beta, links “categories of interest” to the user’s browser, allowing targeted ads to appear even when the user is looking at a page totally unrelated to the ad’s subject matter.
Let’s not forget to mention, even though Google’s not saying it, they’re targeting by IP Address as well. Meaning, you don’t have to be logged into your Google Account to get “personalized”, behaviorally-targeted ads. And, this is just the beginning folks. While it’s not fully-instituted in SERPs (search engine results pages), the SEO/SEM community has been following this trend for over a year now, and we’ve seen instances of “personalized” results peeking in and out of the SERPs already.
If you read my November 2008 post, I discussed this topic there as well, but briefly.
Why Small Business Owners Need To Unlearn What They Know About SEO:
Unlearning is about the most difficult thing to ask anyone to do, let alone small/business owners who just got on the SEO bandwagon and want to see RANK. For years they’ve resisted, were reluctant to throw their hat in the search/web marketing ring. And, sadly, for them, the rules have changed.
SERP Rank is Dead
RANK is dead. The introduction of behaviorally targeted, personalized search with PPC has now opened up the flood gates. In this new era, it hardly matters where you “rank” for certain keywords. Users will have the most relevant results served up to them based on previous search habits and geographic locality.
Mind you, this does not mean SEO is dead. Far from it. SEO is more important than ever. With this new spin on search, comes decreased visibility for terms that national/global users would have found you for. Competitive or not, you could have sloppy SEO and still do well. Add in the fact that “brands” now have “higher trust”, thanks to the Vince Algorithm change, it makes it all the more important to have solid, core SEO built and implemented onsite.
All this aside, for years owners have been duped, in large part by the SEO community itself, to focus on where you RANK for keywords. And, boy, did they buy in. It consumes them. It perpetuates a never-ending cycle of calls about less-than-business-centric keywords, because they did a search and saw that they went from Position 7 to Position 10. They’re not taking into account the one thing they all got into business for in the first place: to make sales. To pad the bottom-line with profit.
Unlearn Your Obsession With Rank
Yes, that’s right. Stop thinking about it. If you need something to do because it’s a rainy day, or you don’t have meetings, then look at them (and then throw them away). Otherwise, stop it. Instead, focus on if you’re site is converting users to a sale, to a purchase, to an anything, as long as it drives more business through the doors. And, considering, the downward-spiraling economic disaster looming in the coming months, this should be your only focus: get more business coming through the door.
Rank is a luxury. Sales aren’t. Quit wasting your time talking about why a keyword dropped from 3 to 5, and start focusing on if your site is fully-optimized onsite, if your user paths are clean and concise, and if your forms are painless and easy. Once again, in the near-future, everyone’s SERPs are going to be different for the same keyword, based on numerous factors and habits. Make sure you’re focusing on sales and conversions, that’s all that really matters.