Oh Seattle, how I love thee. I recently attended SMX Advanced Seattle and have to say that, for the most part, I was very impressed with the conference and the speakers (I was appalled at the self-promotional presentation by MySpace’s Tony Adam). The first session had me wondering if I had entered a room full of SEO newbies, but that thought quickly dissolved as I attended later sessions. Although I consider myself an advanced SEO guy, I really didn’t expect to gain any tactical-related knowledge from the conference, but I was excited about picking up insights and thoughts about the future of search from industry heavyweights like Danny Sullivan, Bruce Clay, Rand Fishkin, and Matt Cutts. I did not come away empty-handed.
It just so happened that I was in a session with Matt Cutts on the panel the same day that Google announced the completion of its new Caffeine index. At the risk of sounding like a total geek, I was elated to be in the room to hear Matt Cutts make the announcement in person. So let’s take a look at what the future of search holds for internet users and SEOs.
Although the goal of SEO is to increase website exposure across the internet, search engine rankings are no longer a gauge of success. The issue of measuring rankings has been more and more at odds with the perceived goals of SEO and the “real” measurable results. Over the last year or so, several factors have made the measurement of search engine rankings more difficult. When Google introduced personalized search, many people claimed the death of SEO. Nothing could be further from the truth. If anything, these innovations have helped to eliminate fraudulent SEOs. Since personalized search was implemented, users in different cities could simultaneously search for the exact same keyword or phrase and receive different results. Thus, measuring search engine rankings becomes more difficult, if not totally irrelevant. It gets better. With Google Caffeine, the indexing of websites will become much quicker and create a better user experience. More than ever, websites will be rewarded for updating content on a regular basis. I believe that Caffeine is a major advantage to search professionals who are able to monitor and gauge the result of updates with the speed of the new Caffeine index.
The future of search puts an even more complicated spin on SEO with behavioral, intent-based, and location-based search. These factors will result in even more differentiation of search engine results. Even if you are not signed into your Google account, don’t think for a minute that your internet actions are not being monitored and logged by Google. The privacy implications involved are another discussion all together. Why would search engines want all this data? They want to provide more relevant and valuable material to the user. Local search will become even more imperative to monitor in the coming years. Bruce Clay suggested that 50% of all searches in two years will be localized search. The inclusion of real-time social Twitter and Facebook data in search engine results adds another element to the picture and one that cannot be ignored. I have harped on the necessity of social media marketing quite a bit, so I won’t stray from my discussion regarding SEO, but I thought I would just throw the social thing into the mix. Why not? It will play a huge role in building brand awareness, increasing consumer engagement, and reputation management.
So what is a good measurement of SEO success? How about traffic and revenue? In reality, these two factors have been the only real measure of success all along. Even in the past, having a website rank number one in Google was only a benefit if the website provided a good user experience. If a user clicked on top-ranked listing only to have difficulty navigating and finding the information he/she was seeking, the ranking became moot at that point. I have been preaching the importance of user experience when it comes to SEO for years. Thankfully, search engine engineers understand this need and are continually working to make sites with relevant material and greater usability rank higher in the results.
The future of search marketing creates new challenges and opportunities for search marketers. It will be an interesting ride.Tweet