Posts Tagged ‘future seo

14
Feb
12

Is Google Building Skynet?

I'm sorry, Dave, I can't complete your search just now. Please try again later, after you've calmed down.

Well, here it comes.

We’ve been predicting for some time now that Google will pretty soon render SEO as obsolete as phone cords by evolving some serious cognitive abilities.

While this sort of thing has been tried before (WolframAlpha does kind of a pretty good job of understanding the question), the new push by Google into the realm of artificial intelligence will be the One that Changes Everything.

Why this one? Because if anyone has the resources, the brain-pool, and the profit motive to create our new Digital Overlord, it would be the Goog.

Read on, future Eloi.

Google Knowledge Graph Could Change Search Forever

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.

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.

09
May
11

Build a Better Search Engine, and the World Will Something Something

Yesterday’s New York Times ran an article detailing the efforts of yet another up-and-coming search engine determined to dethrone Google—Blekko.com. Seems like the search monster wannabes crop up as regularly as referral spam. Why?

Well, duh. They want to do a Google and retire billionaires at the age of 27. They figure that all the folks at Google did was come up with an incrementally better way to find information on the internet, let it run for a couple of years, launch an IPO, and off to the Lamborghini dealer they went. How hard can it be?

Not so hard to invent a search engine, apparently. Very hard to invent one that’s even incrementally better than Google. For one thing, they have to improve on an engine that delivers pretty decent results on most queries, and good enough results on the rest. And at the same time, not make anything worse.

Here’s  a list of things a new search engine will need to do better in order to dethrone—or even compete—against the Goog.

  1. Relevance. As of now, Google’s ability to match queries to webpage content is almost creepy. They’ve indexed pretty much every word of on the internet, and their rocket-science algorithm sifts it all down to meaning as well as or better than most humans. Still, there’s always room to improve. And oddly (or not), the paid AdWords ads are often less relevant than the organic search. Maybe some room to compete there, and any engine that bests Google will have to return results that are least as relevant, if not more so. Bing, so far you lose.
  2. Currency. Just how up-to-date is the Google index? Well, it’s better than it once was, but it’s not so much. Because they apparently value a domain’s age when calculating search position, they return a lot of well-aged results. Try a search for “percentage of email that is spam” and you’ll get a Wikipedia page of uncertain vintage, then 7 of the next 9 pages dated between 2007 and 2009. In internet time, that’s ancient history. Searches conducted on popular current events do much better. This is at least partly because of Google’s love of the blog, which does give them a large pool of content centered on whatever is causing a buzz. A better engine would be better at determining whether a query is looking for up-to-date info, historical data, or for something with a pedigree. Wolfram-Alpha may on the way to getting that smart, but none of the others are close.
  3. Quality. The most recent Panda Update was designed to improve the quality of search result pages. It may have helped some by culling (or at least demoting) huge arrays of crappy “almost” content from a few giant content farms. Still, the ratio of junk to useful is still pretty high. The reason Google ranks so many pages full of nonsense? Because getting a high rank is valuable enough that scamming your way to the top of a Google search result page has become a billion dollar a year industry. Blekko’s focus on human-powered social networking to declare a page’s value is an interesting gambit. Will they be able to fend off the hordes of black-hatters who will descend on them the minute they find some success? Doubt it, but maybe.

That’s all there is to it. Come up with a search engine formula that does a superior job at even 2 out of the 3 and you have a shot at taking down the champ. Until then, forget it.

New York Times Article

An Engine’s Tall Order: Streamline the Search

11
Apr
11

Five Reason SEO Doesn’t Matter

I know, I know. It’s what I do for a living. It’s been a hot topic marketing strategy for over a decade. It seems to work for a lot of businesses. It shows up in the mainstream news now and then. Your mom probably has heard of it. It keeps a measurable percentage of the economy afloat. JC Penny’s is doing it successfully for crissakes. SEO is, like, pizza nasty.

Still, as a separate discipline that requires project management and a separate line in the budget, SEO just doesn’t matter very much anymore. Here are five reasons:

  1. Search engines are smart enough now to know when you’re trying to impress them, and they don’t fall for it so much. Before very long, every cherished SEO tactic will be obsolete by the time it gets put into play.
  2. Any web developer who doesn’t build sites with an eye to spider access is so far behind the curve they probably work out of nursing homes.
  3. Quality content is the new deal—the whole deal, pretty much. It’s the only good way to get links, get ranks, get customers, and get them to buy stuff.
  4. Once every site is optimized, the game will evolve into who has the best content.
  5. Search optimization is already a bullet point in every web-related business’ marketing copy. Stand-alone SEO just ain’t as sexy as it used to be.

And what does all that mean? It means that SEO is being assimilated into everything, and at the same time it’s being reduced to two keyword phrases:

  • best-practices web design
  • targeted content development

Maybe I ought to be looking into Law School….