Posts Tagged ‘future of seo

29
Mar
12

What Does Google REALLY Want?

Google Galaxy

Google Galaxy

Is it backlinks?

Is it high PageRank?

Is it carefully selected keywords?

Metatags?

Sacrificial goats?

What Google wants is content, of course!

What they’ve been saying all along: in order to rank well in the search results, all you have to do is write lots of great content, with the following deep, trenchant, and impressively penetrating philo-sophical questions in mind:

(Lifted straight from Google Webmasters Central).

More guidance on building high-quality sites

  • Would you trust the information presented in this article?
  • Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?
  • Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?
  • Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?
  • Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
  • Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
  • Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?
  • Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
  • How much quality control is done on content?
  • Does the article describe both sides of a story?
  • Is the site a recognized authority on its topic?
  • Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?
  • Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
  • For a health related query, would you trust information from this site?
  • Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?
  • Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
  • Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
  • Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
  • Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
  • Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
  • Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?
  • Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?
  • Would users complain when they see pages from this site?

Easy, right? So what’s the problem? Why does everyone persist with all this SEO tomfoolery?

Simple. Because Google’s algorithm, smart as it is, will NEVER be smart enough. What happens when every website in the world follows all of the above “advice”? When every single article on the web is “Quality Content™”? Who gets the top rank then? It will STILL COME DOWN TO KEYWORDS, BACKLINKS, and CHICANERY.

Now don’t get us wrong—we’re absolutely in favor of improving the quality of the internet. We’d love to see brilliant writing, jaw-dropping design, and glorious graphics burst from every page in a Renaissance of Creation the likes of which will ring throughout the Galaxy for all the aeons to come.

And even so, when that happens, when the internet is 4 billion perfect pages strong, Google’s going to need a few more questions.

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17
Feb
12

Dilbert Is God

Oh, Scott Adams, you brilliant, sick, insightful, geeky, trippy, edgy, mofo, arty, philosophic, GENIUS.

Did we mention brilliant?

Not only are you funny as hell, but you say in three panels what we’ve been trying to get across for 10 years and a half million or so words.

Yes, we do SEO for a living. Yes, we’re good at it. Yes, it works.

And YES, SEO is a negative force in the world. It weakens the integrity of the world’s knowledge depository. It makes it difficult for valuable content to find its way into the brains of those who need it most.

White hat, black hat, pantless weasel. The whole SEO industry is up to no good. Luckily, the end is near. (See our previous post for a hint.)

06
Sep
11

The Perfect Search Engine

Oh Great Oracle! Who has the cheapest airfare?

Do you feel lucky? Well do you, punk?

Over the years, we’ve definitely done our share of bitching about the quality of results returned by search engines. Anybody get teary-eyed reminiscing about the usefulness of Infoseek, Lycos, or Looksmart? Seriously, there was a time when AltaVista created a gigantic buzz by returning a few relevant links to any given query. Still buried in tons of poop, of course. Yet comparatively awesome! Yahoo, Overture, and Inktomi were all  kings, once, even though they deliberately polluted their results with paid-for results. Until Google came along, almost everybody was pretty happy to be disgruntled by web search as a practical way to find stuff on the internet.  (Ask Jeeves? Are you kidding?)

In fact, until Google came along in 1998, the surging size of the web was making the job of indexing and identifying its parts almost comical. Google’s algorithm was so much better that it conquered the search space like Genghis took China, rising from nothing to 80%+ in just a handful of years. Yet even as the best available search engine—the best ever search engine—Google’s search results are somewhat lacking. Full of spam, fake content, and artificially boosted inferior sites. Oops. Our bad.

As SEOs, it seems a bit weird for us to complain about search result quality. After all, we’re part of the reason they suck. We spend a lot of time, money, and resources trying our damnedest to push inferior content into superior positions, crowding out whatever might actually be useful to any given web searcher. It’s a living.

You’re aware, no doubt, that beggars can’t be choosers and parts of the problem aren’t parts of the solution and whiners shouldn’t throw glass stones. Meh. Worst sentence ever.

Anyway, in an attempt to add something useful to the dialogue, here are some attributes that we think would make up an ideal search engine.

  • Ability to rank content by usefulness.
  • Ability to determine contents’ original point of publication.
  • Ability to parse phrases for meaning, instead of treating them as clumps of words.
  • Sophisticated filters and sorts allowing users to choose results by recency, geographic location, commercialty, price, size of site, type of media, and whatever else.
  • Unobtrusive and clearly marked paid placements (if any).
  • Fast.
  • Comprehensive.
  • Current.
  • and SEO proof.

Ouch. That last one hurt. But we think it’s true. Search results would be better—more accurate, more relevant, more reliable—if only the search optimization industry were obsolete.

‘Course, SEO isn’t obsolete, and probably won’t be for some time to come. Until then, we’ll be here, gaming the systems, skewing search results, and helping websites prosper. Whether they deserve to or not.

22
Aug
11

What Would One-Page Google Results Mean for SEO?

We came across this article at Web Pro News yesterday and it really got the old “what-ifs” rolling.

Google May Start Serving All Results On One Page: Good for SEO?

The gist of it is, some folks have spotted what look like some test page layouts that may indicate Google is thinking along the lines of a single, infinite scrolling search results page.  First, to be completely accurate, Google have not indicated in a direct way that they plan to do this anytime soon. The page layout stuff they appeared to be testing are things like sticky navigation—so no matter how far down the page you scroll, the left nav and the search box (and maybe even the AdWord ads) stay in same places. That change would effectively make an infinite single-page results page possible.

What’s not addressed is how they would manage to load those results cleanly, or how much of your browser’s cache they’d use, or whether they’d use all that new page real estate to increase the number of AdWords displayed, or just what they’d do.

Nevermind. All we’re interested in here and now is what effect on SEO all this might have. Here are a few things that popped into our infinitely scrolling minds:

  • Every website would now be—at least technically—on the first page of Google’s search results. The only way to judge success would be keyword rank. And we hate keyword rank. A lot of marketing copy would have to be changed….
  • Would it change search engine user behavior? Currently, the vast majority of searchers rarely go past the third or fourth result anyway. But if there were millions of results on page one, might that encourage folks to go a little deeper?
  • What if they also added more sort features to the ones they have now (price sorts, alphabetical sorts, geographic sorts—all sorts of sorts are possible). Would that not make the job of SEO really, really, really hard?
  • And what would happen if you searched “www”? Would the internet explode?

Just a few thoughts. We’ll let you know if we hear anything else.

18
Aug
11

The SEO Value of Social Media

Doe you like me? Do you really, really like me?

Okay, then, where were we? Oh, yeah. We’re talking about SEO. Today, let’s devote a few pixels to the question at the front of every online marketeer’s overworked brain:

Does social media have an SEO value?

This question is important for two reasons: 1) The trendy popularity of social media means scarce marketing resources are being diverted from traditional SEO; and 2) The ROI for social media advertising has been very difficult to quantify. (Is there measurable ROI from social media campaigns? That, friends, is a posting for another day.)

The answer makes a difference. If a company’s social media efforts adds value to the SEO campaign as well as deliver at least some direct revenue generation, well, maybe that’s enough to justify transferring the budget.

So does it?

Meh. Depends on who you ask. Whenever something new-ish comes along to capture the hearts of MarCom execs everywhere, a circus-ful of promoters and cheerleaders quickly develops. Happened with banner advertising, happened with pay-for-placement, happened with rich media, and now it’s happening with social media. Google “SEO value of social media” and you’ll get a hella lot of “yes” votes, mostly from companies and consultants trying to get you to buy their social media package.

But there are also some “not-so-sure” votes and even some “noes.” What are the facts and what are the spins?

FACTS

  • All the major social media venues (re Facebook, Twitter, Digg, et al) only publish links with “no-follow” tags. Meaning links you post in FB, Twitter, etc, do not directly count as links for page authority.
  • At least two of the majors, FB and Twitter, suggest that they do count social popularity indicators when they figure page authority. (See this SEOMoz post for specifics.) Although whether or not these ranking elements count as high as, say, link authority is very much up for speculation.
  • Return on investment from social media advertising has been roughly on a par with banner advertising. Which is to say “decent for branding campaigns, but iffy for sales and leads generation.” Which is also why it is in social media titans’ interests to claim an SEO benefit to offset the underwhelming ad performance. (ClickZ take on it all.)
  • Social media titans desperately want your advertising dollars. Facebook, for instance, is flirting with an IPO early next year—and if they rake a billion dollars profit from advertising this year (Business Week), it will surely have an “upward influence” on their valuation. Meaning that they (and the other social media venues) have a serious vested interest in convincing folks that their products add value.

SPINS

  • Because the actual ranking value of tweets, retweets, twits, and twattle is complete speculation, declaring that “there is an SEO value to social media” at this point is a lot more like a mantra ( I do believe in ghosts, I do, I do, I do) than a solid reason to throw the weight of marketing budget into it.
  • Because advertising firms are competitive and always trying to come up with new ways to attract advertising dollars, they will always jump on any hype-wagon that rolls into town. Social media happens to be a big ‘un. So believe all the “well, even if there isn’t any measurable ROI, at least it’s good for SEO” chatter you want. Just make sure you’re carrying a very large hunk of salt.

So. The ultimate answer to our original question then is clear.

Yes, there is probably at least some SEO value to social media marketing.

And

No, it’s probably not enough value to justify short-changing your SEO budget.

20
Jun
11

ICANN Haz (dot)Cheezburger

ICANN haz .cheezburger?

ICANN haz .cheezburger?

ICANN, the dark and diabolical secret society that controls all internet names and naming from their Lovecraftian lair  somewhere deep beneath the Matterhorn, has unleashed a new terror upon us: unlimited third-level domain extensions.

You didn’t think .com, .net, .edu, and .gov were all there is, did you? Surely, you’re already using all the new top-level domains they’ve introduced since 2004, right? Of course, you regularly find yourself typing blahdeblah.us, blahdeblah.jobs, blahdeblah.ru, and blahdeblah.asia, don’t you. Well, if you love those extensions, you are gonna swoon over this next round:  Unlimited. Third-level. Domains.

That’s right, kiddies. ICANN haz .cheezburger!

Or .coke, .ibm, .google, .nytimes, .wendys, .you-name-it. All you need is a $185,000 application fee, and proof that your new .domain is useful, necessary, and yours by right.

Since ICANN is a “non-profit” (if “self-funded”) operation, we’re sure they initiated this earth-shaking plan purely out of concern that the internet was growing short of usable territory, and NOT because every time they approve a new set of third-levels, every company in t he world feels obligated to snatch up all the new variations of their brand name. And not because every Fortune 5000 company in the world is going to immediately pony up the $185k for their new vanity plates.

They did it for us.

In case you wonder, here’s what this latest hold-your-breath-ICANN-announcement really means.

Nothing.

Seriously, nobody cares. Because nobody types URLs into the browser address box anymore. Nobody goes anywhere on the net that didn’t start with a link from somewhere else: a search result, a bookmark, a link in an article, a link forwarded in a joke email by a goofball co-worker. The biggest impact unlimited domains is likely to have is a surge in new SEO company marketing materials.

ICANN haz nap now?

07
Jun
11

What Makes Content “Good”?

With the recent Panda Update, Google has stimulated a strategic shift among web professionals that we believe is long overdue. By claiming that their intention was to improve the quality of the internet by rewarding “quality” content, Google changed the overriding question facing the SEO from “how can we game the backlink system?” to “how can we generate a ton of quality content?” Which, we believe, makes for a much more interesting game.

With a tremendously interesting side-effect: the overall improvement of the internet.

That is, as long as SEOs continue to play this game the same way they’ve started. A quick unscientific  survey of Craigslist ads shows a measurable uptick in classified advertisements for website writers (31,500 in the last week compared to 2,800 for the same week a year earlier). Some of that can be attributed to the painfully slow economic recovery, of course, but if you don’t think there’s a connection to Panda, why do you think so many of the ads specifically use the word “content”?

Every SEO company we know has been actively pushing the new model of more content, but quality content.

Which really  begs the question: just what the hell makes content quality?

Here’s our quick checklist.

  • Does your web content have a clearly discernible point?
  • Is your content interesting, amusing, controversial, and/or useful?
  • Is your content written in a style accessible to the audience for which it is targeted?
  • Does your content use a reasonable facsimile of grammar and spelling?
  • Does your content make sense?
  • Is your content displayed in an organized manner, with appropriate headings, subheadings, bullet lists, images, and emphasized text?
  • Is your content unique to the page it’s on?
  • Does your content add anything to the overall value of the page? The website? The industry? The internet?

Okay, to be realistic, backlinks still count for a lot and probably will far into the foreseeable future. But if Google’s dominance holds sway—and they continue to call the shots—all the backlinks in the world won’t help you if your content sucks.




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