Friday, August 07, 2009

5 SEO/SEM Trends that Are Changing Search during 2009

The real-time Web has arrived and traditional SEO methods of website optimization are rapidly moving to the background, as we the searchers move into an age of continuous and universal conversation. Search engines are making substantial changes in how they present search engine results: to filter the Web of the growing noise, and provide relevant, timely and useful information to searchers.

Fortunately, this fusion of the social Web with real-time search offers businesses a unique opportunity to take control - to dominate - the search landscape wherever the content is being pulled from.

Note: A shorter, edited version was originally published for the Online Merchant Network June 30, 2009 by Barbara Coll with help from Lidija Davis. It was written for the paypal audience to introduce them to new ways of thinking about search marketing.

To get the most bang out of your SEO buck today, you need to have a few things in mind:
  • understand rankings are no longer as important as they once were due to the weight search engines are placing on personalization and localization,
  • it is critical to create a virtual shelf for your business in expanded/blended search results,
  • build buzz around your product/service using the social Web,
  • monitor your brand via real-time search and
  • make use of the upgraded tools provided by the major search engines and other useful sources
1. Personalized Search Results

Search engines have been working on the personalization [or reranking] of search results for years . By collecting and storing information about their users (such as search history, types of queries, ads we click on, preferred locations, IP addresses, types of devices we use, and more recently language), search engines in 2009 have the ability to return very specific results.
During this time, site owners have focused on rankings but the personalization of results renders ranking in SERPs less important and overall domination of search results so that personalization will still yeild web assets and properties belonging to our company. Smart businesses no longer focus on rankings, they focus on building their brand and increasing traffic via the social Web, generating fresh content in different formats (blogs, videos, podcasts, microblogs) to ensure they appear across expanded search engines and universal search results, and constantly bettering user experience on their sites. But never taking their eye of the main site either.

2. Expanded Search Engines

Although comScore’s recent analysis found that Americans conducted 14.3 billion core searches during May 2009, it also noted that while 9.6 billion of those searches occurred on Google search, 3.3 billion occurred on other Google properties such as YouTube, News, Blogs, Images, etc.

Not only are the major search engines making substantial changes in how they present search engine results to individuals via personalized results; Google’s Universal Search experience moving to a ‘bento box’ environment; Microsoft’s Bing becoming your ‘decision engine’ and Yahoo! focusing on social since Carol Bartz has taken over as CEO, they are now indexing content from a variety of sources (blogs, video, books, news etc.) (editor's update: at least until Bing becomes Yahoo's search). Is your product/service represented in expanded search?

3. Online Communities

Given search engines are placing importance on indexing the social Web, it is imperative businesses today embrace the social Web culture. Whether you create an online community around your product or service (much like the Online Merchant Network), or participate in any of the many already established online communities (Digg, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon, Twitter, etc.), you are feeding the search engines and spreading your digital footprint; all good for SEO.
Online communities require commitment, time and effort. If you create your own community, you will encourage repeat visits to your site and receive instant feedback about your product/service; of course this assumes you have a product worth talking about . If you’re joining an established community you can create buzz about your product and build your brand; just ensure you take the time to get to know the culture, the etiquette, the vocabulary and the community before you jump in.

Regardless of the community you wish to involve yourself in, don’t forget the value of pre determined keywords and tags, and reap the benefits of a world that search engines are indexing.

4. Real-Time

Social messaging service Twitter and to a lesser degree social sites such as FriendFeed and Plurk have given Internet users a new platform on which to have public conversations, and a way to find out what is happening right now on any given topic. As a result, it is imperative businesses monitor these real-time conversations for mentions of their brand. Whether the conversation is good or bad, it is your responsibility as the business owner to participate.

Although the major search engines are brilliant at providing the latest search results, they lag behind when it comes to providing real-time results. Google co-founder, Larry Page himself recently admitted that the company has been losing out to Twitter in the race to provide real-time information to Internet users. Monitter , Scoopler , and Twitter’s own search engine offer ways for you to search for your brand in real-time.

5. Smarter Tools

Business owners have always craved information about how search engines see their sites, and search engines have been providing free tools for years. Like the search engines themselves, over time these tools have also evolved. Today, they provide much data on how to improve your sites accessibility and visibility, and are well worth using. Additionally, the major search engines run blogs with updates that you should consider subscribing to.

Google Webmaster Tools
Google Webmaster Blog
Yahoo Site Explorer
Bing Webmaster Center
Bing Webmaster Blog

Finally, during this souring economy it’s critical that businesses have all the tools to monitor their brand across the Web. In an effort to help you do that, WebMama maintains a list of over 80 SEO tools (many of them free) to help with the visibility and growth of your brand.

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posted by Barbara 'webmama' Coll @ 10:07 AM     Permanent Link