Become A Complete Marketer for Search 4.0
This post stems from something SlightlyShady mentioned in his post about Where SEO and Google Will Be in the Next 5 Years“. (On a side note: SlightlyShady has his finger on the pulse and tends to very straightforward, frank conversations about the Search Marketing Industry. Moreover, I’d just like to give him a quick shout-out, say “thanks” and keep the veritas coming.)
So here’s what struck my attention in the post:
The only way to get above the map results(definitely a click killer) is to…..pay for a PPC listing. Now, SEOs are not PPC experts(largely).
It’s not far from the truth. SEOs are not PPC experts, but they should be and they could be. And, to be frank, it’s the only sure-fire way to build solid goal conversions for clients:
SEO in combination with PPC
- SEO is (in most cases) for the long-haul. Most clients come to us without optimization, without knowing what it is or how it’s done. While the rules of SEO have changed in the past 2 years (thanks to the advent of social networks and media sites), the standards remain the same:
- On-site optimization of as much content as you can effect.
- Off-site link building campaigns: Paid, Free, Corporate Partners
- New ways to generate fresh, engaging content on the website
- PPC is, in my estimation, an excellent and reliable quick strike tool. It’s for the instant impact clients’ need to have to build brand awareness and site traffic while the SEO portion builds solid content and backlinks.
- It’s my opinion that PPC spends should increase after 3 months. By that time, SEO efforts should be bearing fruit in organically, and you’ll have plenty of data to weed out the non-performers and boost the high CTR and conversion-producers. Why increase?
- Because if you do a good job on-site for your best converting keywords and long-tails, you’ll increase your Google Quality Score and be able to achieve the same position at a lower cost.
Will This Technique Matter in 3 Years?
The question is, do I really believe this is going to work anymore? For the time being, yes, I do. I think SEOs and Search Marketers have about 2 and half to 3 years before the shift happens. Danny Sullivan wrote a very extensive and informative post on SEL about Search 4.0. I think we’ve got just about that timeframe before personalized search turns SERPs and SEO on it’s head.
How To Compete After Google RE-Invents Search
And, I guess, to echo the sentiment, I think SEO will survive that semi-apocalypse. Because, as we all know, there are companies and sites that really need help, even with the basics. However, I believe it will become about each engine’s proprietary/purchased applications. For Google: FeedBurner, Local Business Center, AdWords, Reader, Base, YouTube, FriendFeed (not exactly owned by Google, but probably will be), FriendConnect, etc. I don’t expect Google’s numbers in search domination to drop anytime in the near future, more than likely never. Just look at the latest numbers (thanks to SEL)
I think the only way for Yahoo to survive is to team-up (read “be bought in a hostile takeover”) with Microsoft. And, let’s face it, Microsoft needs help with search and Paid Ads solutions. They’ve always been a “Johnny-Come-Lately” with every application (yes, even Webmaster Center and Local Live). And, while Yahoo also isn’t up to snuff on the Paid Ads, their search capability and seeming transparency (Search commands: there is a reason that we all use Yahoo! to find the true number of anything on the web) is something Microsoft needs to latch on to in order to have a snowball’s chance in hell against Google.
Right now, I’m advising my whole team to get familiar with every application Google has to offer. Know the ins and outs of each application. And as for AdWords, well, it’s taking over. My prediction is that before the year’s end, Yahoo will be delivering over 25% of Google Ads. And, two years from now, if they haven’t teamed up with Microsoft, they’ll be over 75% Google Ads. And in 3 years, Sponsored Search/Panama will be nothing but a sad memory, a failed experiment swallowed by Google.
The new way to compete, and I hate to admit it, will be GRAY SEO. Personalized search is going to force everyone to find the shadow-advantages to be the MOST RELEVANT web page in a particular niche. So that, the woman in New Mexico and the guy in Montana both see your client as the one of the most relevant pages for the search they’re conducting. To compete, Search Marketers will have to be savvy in all things, not simply SEO, because SEO as we know it today just won’t exist. It’s going to be a hybrid, a chimera of each engines’ applications.
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.