SEO and the Future:
Here’s the precursor to this post: ShoeMoney and Marketing Pilgrim both posted articles today stating their reasons why SEO is dead. In essence they believe that the search engines are going to phase out SEO because they’re getting smarter about Gray-Hat and Black-Hat Techniques. They’re not wrong. But they’re also missing the point of SEO. It’s about making sites better as a whole; it’s about the SUM not the parts. That is, if you really subscribe to what SEO’s core belief is. Ian Lurie wrote a great rebuttal on his site Conversation Marketing. Check it out. Greg Howlett said:
They do not want to reward crummy companies that play SEO games–they want to give the top listings to the best companies. And they are quickly gaining access to the information they need to do exactly that. They will use traffic and buying stats to figure out who the top companies are.
Absolutely. And SEO is the best way to be that “best company”. Black-Hat and Gray-Hat SEOs will be phased out; it’s inevitable. And Here’s why: they cut corners, they view a website as the “Parts” of its “Sum”. They don’t take into consideration the overall health of the website. And, that’s not what SEO is about; it’s scientific wizardry. It takes psychology, sociology, mathematics, and a bit of voodoo. (Everything has a bit of String Theory worked into it folks.) SEO isn’t just on-site and off-site optimization. It isn’t just title tags, meta-data, and anchor text. It isn’t just backlinks, social marketing, and ad text. Those are just parts of the equation. The full equation cons iders usability, considers page layout and goal presentation, and considers on-site / off-site content optimization. That’s how you build a “best company”. That’s how you please both humans and engines. It’s not rocket science, but it is a science. And just for the stat-heads out there, here’s one that proves SEO will be around for a long time:
Yes, I know it’s from 2004. But search engine optimization, search marketing, and usability are still in the back seat of everyone’s mind. Not that much changes in 3 years a world really resistant to change. Instead, the way companies attempt to proliferate and augment their web presence is through Banner Ads. Doesn’t do you much good if your site is mess, does it? SEO is going to be around for a long time.
Search 4.0: Personalized Search
If you’ve read Darrell Long’s post, then you probably have the some questions too? If you haven’t, here’s a quick synopsis:
With the emergence of personalized search on the horizon (and already being introduced), once again the search marketing and search engine optimization world may be turned on its head. Ranking at the top of the organic results in Google will not matter anymore, so SEOs need to pull themselves out of the mindset that #1 position for a given search query is valuable. SEOs should be focusing on optimization that drives on-site conversions and stimulates traffic.
(Which, if you were worth your salt in the SEO industry, you’ve already figured out and were using this a major measurement for clients)
Ranking in the top position isn’t going to mean a whole with the personalized search in Google, (and eventually all engines), so don’t waste your client’s time and yours targeting this as a goal.
Ok, that being said, this too must also be said: I couldn’t agree more about undertaking extraordinary effort to rank #1. It’s certainly not a “must-have”, but it’s a “nice-to-have”. The top five will do just fine.
But this does raise the questions for me about search and organic rankings. If we are to believe that personalized search will, in a sense, make search ranking obsolete based on an individual’s personal preference, then next step in SEO is to involve its twin sister: USABILITY. After all, what good is an entire world finding you if they can’t use your site to get what they need/want?
While many might say this is a “duh” response, you’d be surprised at how many “well-ranked” sites have atrocious usability. Usability is the fundamental backbone of websites, and in conjunction with goal presentation and funneling, determines, ultimately, if your site is going to “make it” or “break it”.
Content may be king, but usability and goal funneling are gravity. And, through Search 4.0, Google is once again going to evolutionize the web again. Google Darwinism is back and meaner than ever. Now, not only does your site have to have polished content, linking strategies, and good goal presentation, it has to be usable by a general populous.
Up until now, if you felt like these were siloed elements, that is, you could excel at one or two and abandon the others, and still make a dent in the engines organically, you were right. That’s all about to change. Now, sites are going to need all four elements working in conjunction, together. Because Grandma Smith in Miami, is going to want a site that easy to use, has the content, and presents her with specific actions to take once she gets there.
I’ve already begun to do this type of usability with my clients. And, I’m already seeing excellent increases in goal conversion. If you want a great starters guide for web usability and what to look for, check out Steve Krug’s “Don’t Make Me Think“. It’s a little pricey, but a great jump start for SEOs to start the usability journey. Another excellent resource is Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox.