The search engine optimization (SEO) landscape has changed drastically over the past decade. In the early days of the Internet, search engine optimization was centered on the basic elements of web design, keyword selection, backlinks and placement. Today, there are numerous additional factors that contribute to search engine algorithms that determine page ranking or what is called web presence.
What has happened?
Firstly, the number of web sites, pages, blog sites and social media content has increased drastically from the days of only having a few million web sites online. Today – millions of pages of content, blog posts and social media content are published daily on the Internet. There is an incredible velocity of content generation daily and this will only continue to accelerate. In order for the search engines to provide quality, timely search results for users, they had to develop algorithms to sort through all of the noise. The complexity of optimizing for organic search rankings has gone through the roof, but the underlying formula for success can be achieved through a combination of strategy, tactics, effort and long-term vision. Of course, software automation added to the process will drastically help (more on this later in the article).
Secondly, competition has escalated during this period of time. Now, not only do we have an ever increasing volume of content but also many businesses understand the art of search engine strategy and have started spending money on optimizing their web design and web content. Businesses are actively measuring their results with analytics and making changes each month and they understand the value of being found naturally or organically in the search engines. According to an eMarketer.com survey of senior Marketing and business owners in 2008,a large percentage have added “SEO” to their marketing budget as a separate line item. Forrester Research surveyed 204 marketing executives in July 2009. Their research unveiled that marketing executives are expected to spend $2.8 billion on SEO services in 2010 with spending to increase year-over-year to $5 billion by 2014.
Thirdly, the entrance of social media to the search engine stage gives us even more we need to focus on. Social media has completely transformed how people share information – in terms of the social anthropology of storytelling (future blog post) and also in terms of how the major search engines have adapted to use social media factors in their search algorithms. The real-time delivery of information provided by Social media, combined with the upcoming changes to search (See Google Caffeine) mean that social mentions, syndicated press releases, blog posts and even videos can rank higher than business web pages. The most interesting part is that they can rank very quickly, sometimes in minutes. We are seeing Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook content ranking higher than business web pages! People are also using social search results as a relevant and convenient traditional search alternative.
What does this mean to your business?
It means that business leaders need to understand the changing landscape of SEO and apply resources accordingly. In-house talent, interactive agencies and/or specialist consultants are all being hired to work manage organic search. Did I mention before that using a software automation solution would be ideal to remove a lot of the grunt-work from researching, auditing, monitoring and improving web sites?
What other SEO trends should business owners be aware of?
Major search engines are developing relationships with social media web sites. In the summer of 2009 we saw that both Google and Bing developed closer to ties with both Facebook and Twitter. Bing (MSN/Live) and Yahoo! recently announced a deal that they would combine their search results and that merger would result in an approximate 28% search market share with Google taking the bulk of the remaining 70%. Google and Binghoo! (Yahoo! & Bing) are providing more real time data in their search results. Real time content is coming from streams like social media, press releases and blog posts. As always, a large portion of Page ranking is being determined by popularity, authority and relevance of the backlinks to a piece of content (blog post, web page, etc). These links traditionally were relatively static between two web sites, however now they are now being created much more dynamically from social media posts in Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other sites.
Local search has become much more important in recent years as major search engines have made it easier to add local listings and in turn made it easier for users to understand that they have the option of searching locally. Consumers are also searching more often using alternative searches such as maps (via Google Maps). It is important that businesses understand how local search impacts their search results, especially at the macro level when considering how your results appear in different regions such as Canada versus the United States.
We believe that the largest issues that businesses face today are needing to understanding the internal and external factors that make up their web presence, how to monitor these factors and then finding the time to effectively manage their web presence effectively over time. We consider SEO, Social Media, Press Releases and Blogs as web presence optimization. Look for a future white paper that we will publish on “defining Web Presence Optimization”. How will your business communication strategy change to adapt to the ever-changing SEO landscape?