Search Engines Are Like Home Delivery Trucks

While thinking about recent news surrounding the latest algorithm changes Google made and pondering something Matt Cutts has been saying about search, a picture came to my mind of a Google person arriving at my house delivering search results all packaged up for just me. The only thing missing was a little card.

Delivery of boxes

Search Results Just for Me

Perhaps someday search will be so intimately tuned in to us that such a personalized delivery of information will be possible. Of course, to do this, we’ll give up our privacy even more. Or not. The way waves of change go, there is often a backlash. For many of us, the privacy intrusions have become unacceptable. We don’t want personal delivery from search engines because what if we change our minds? For years Google’s spokesperson to SEO’s, Matt Cutts, has been saying that search engines, especially the one he represents, are and have been focused “on the users”. I’ve been saying the same thing because this is the only logical reason I can come up with for why search engine marketing is so vital to websites. We all want the same thing. We want the object of our desire.

This is why so many of the practices done by SEO’s since the very beginning are ones I’ve never done. People don’t go to content farms, or links pages or article deposit sites for that thing they most want to find. They don’t care if your site is linked to by .edu sites or PR10 pages. Sure, this happens behind the scenes but search engines have learned, and Human Factors research has found, that we base our choices on criteria like credibility, brand reputation, easy to use web sites and excellent customer service. I’ve never seen a scraper site that offers those things.

Something else that I’ve always felt would be rewarded someday is unique, original content – and years of it. A site such as Aaron Wall’s SEOBook is one example of consistency over time. He and his writers have a proven record of articles and posts that out class most other sites like it. Sure he has his book and SEO tools but for me the decision to stick with his site is the dedication and work he puts into the content. Because of the quality and time online, his content is scraped, stolen, and wrecked by the laziest of people. When he interviewed me years ago, that interview showed up for weeks in various versions on hundreds of sites. I wondered then how he could stand to watch it. As a user of search engines, would you tolerate being delivered alternative versions of well written, authentic content by your favorite writers?

I wouldn’t.

News and Stuff

I’ll be going up to SES NY (Search Engine Strategies New York) next Tuesday to blog for Libeck Integrated Marketing, the company I joined in January. I won’t be speaking this time.

At some point this year and we expect into the future, I’ll be back to speaking at conferences on Usability, Information Architecture and SEO topics, and offering training too.

New tool I love! ReadItLater. When you see something you want to read but have no time, this nifty tool lets you grab it for later. I have it on all my browsers and computers so that all I have to do is log in from anywhere to read from my list.

I’ll be at the Philadelphia Philadelphia Twestival Local 2011 to raise money for MANNA – Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutritional Alliance on Thursday night, March 24.

I’ll be watching everybody drunk with courage at the Pirate Karoke at SES NY at Wicked Willy’s NYC on Wednesday, March 23.

Recent writings by Me

Web Design Strategy is a list of points to consider and printable.

The 6 Riches Of Navigation Gold: Try This At Home. Yes, the gorgeous braided woman in the photo is me. (Oh Kim, shut up!) A girl can pretend.

Long Live Homepages

Don't Shoot Down Homepages

The Power and Glory of the Homepage

“Homepages tell us where to go in connection with the entire website. Landing pages can be limited in scope because they don’t have to tell the story of the entire site. Their focus is purposely limited.”

Rethinking The Home Page: 4 Relevant Considerations

“If you have a blog, give it a name. It’s like a new puppy or kitten that has come to share your web site home. Nobody runs a search for “blog” to get to your blog.”

Google’s Farmer Update Plants User Behavior Seeds

“This is a critical difference between content that is true and necessary versus content that’s untrue and manufactured to fit certain keywords.”

And you all thought I was lying around eating bon-bons.

The Future of SEO is Digital Assets and Conversions Tracking – SES NYC

I’m in NYC for Search Engine Strategies today and tomorrow, to cover sessions for Search Marketing Gurus. The first session I attended was covered by myself and another SMG blogger, so I’m posting my notes here instead.

The topic today was part of the “Search and the Future” Track and was called “SEO: Where to Next”. It was moderated by Mike Grehan of Acronym Media. Panelists were:

Marcus Tandler, Creativity in Action
Bill Hunt, Global Strategies International
Chris Boggs, Rosetta
Duane Forrester. OnlineMarketingGuy.com
Jill Whalen, HighRankings.com

This session may have surprised conference organizers. The keynote talk ran overtime, so there was a very long line waiting for the escalator from the Grand Ballroom to the session rooms. By the time I got into this session, it was full and standing room only. I sat on the floor in the back, out of view of the slides and speakers. People spilled out into the doorway and were listening to the talk from outside the room as best they could.

Essentially, this talk was focused less on the future of SEO and more of a review of the past and what no longer works, or in some cases, never did work. Mike asked questions from the panel and they offered their opinions based on their own unique experiences. Some of them, like Jill Whalen, have been doing SEO since the mid-1990’s.

What Are Still Useful for SEO Today?

1.Basic organic optimization, such as title tags and H1 tags are really critical, no matter what type of web site you have.

2. Although Mike disagreed, it was suggested the H tag (h1, H2, etc.) are still helpful in telling search engines what content is the most important on the page. Having an H1 will “trump” someone who doesn’t have it.

3. Build good infrastructure. This includes social media, press releases… Most big companies don’t need to buy links. Tricks don’t work for most companies.

4. It used to be that search engines just looked at text. Then links. Do they still have to? Yes. Web sites still need content to give strength to page.

5. If you are a small site or start-up, you can get links freely from places like the local Chamber of Commerce.

6. Focus on what makes your company relevant.

7. If you can prove authenticity, the links will come. SEO’s used to chase the wrong links and use things like reciprocal link software and site directories. As many long-time SEO’s have been saying all along (oh, since at least 1995!) – “It’s the quality, not the quantity” that counts. Relevancy counts.

8. Do not use automatic link software.

9. Study anchor text and what people are linking to. They don’t always need to be taken to your homepage. How about linking to an inside page that is more relevant to a search inquiry? It’s easier to change a link than asking for a new one. (Note from Kim: You can request specific anchor text for your links.)

The Future?

Without a doubt, SEO is changing. It’s more difficult to implement properly. Yes, links are still important but not to the overblown proportions they used to. For example, there is Universal Search.

Most people don’t understand what Universal Search is. There are now many ways to bring in traffic from search engines now, including video, images, podcast transcripts, PDF’s and even optimized FLASH. This means there are far more ways to arrive at a site other than a homepage.

1. Ranking reports are dead. Logically, this is because no two people are seeing the same report anymore. Today and more so in the future, we have personalized search, which is search based on your personal preferences and search history, as well as where you live. Rank reports will be different when done from different places.

2. Jill Whalen says that rankings don’t equal traffic. There are many reasons for this. One problem is bad SEO and ranking for words that nobody uses to get to your web page. Look at your conversion rates. They show the performance of your SEO campaign, show trends around specific category areas, and you’ll need to compare ranking reports with other types of reports to get a full picture of page and site performance. Ranking reports are not metrics. Therefore, it’s best to not base important decisions on them.

3. Study how rank converts to traffic by using analytics and conversions measurement. You want to see what keywords convert to sales. Management is interest in metrics like leads/conversions/referrals/page views. You should be asking, “What drives revenue”?

4. Concentrate on your “Digital Assets”, which are things like video, images, multi-media

5. Online marketing is not a level playing field anymore. Therefore, insist that developers know SEO and “bake it into the web site”. (Note: I would add that UX/Usability be “baked in” as well.). Companies are wasting money on incompetent SEO and not getting results. One place to look for money leaks is in-house development with those not trained in SEO.

6. Absolutely STOP focusing on just Google! Nobody knows what they’re doing next. Focus on other sites, like social networking sites.

7. Do not buy links.

8. Make FLASH search engine friendly.

9. Match the intent of your searcher with the right content in the right context.

10. Be multi-skilled. It’s helpful to know different programming languages, CSS, HTML. SEO reaches into other areas and “we have to break barriers”

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