According to Acceleration Media's SEO expert, Michael Walker, two major trends are sweeping across the search market, bringing with them a host of new challenges and opportunities for online marketers. They are the moves towards universal search and personalised search results, and together, they amount to game changers for search engine optimisation (SEO).
In short, these trends mean that an emphasis on pure page ranking in search results is no longer enough. Let's start off by taking a closer look at each of these trends and what they mean in practice for online marketers.
When we refer to universal search, we're talking about the way that social media, video, maps, images, and other search results are shown on the same page as natural search results when a user conducts a search.
Personalised search, meanwhile, refers to the way that search engines tailor their results to the end-user according to historical information they have about the user's previous searches.
Personalised search results pages are delivered even when the user isn't signed into Google. While personalised search is nothing new, what is new is that personalised search results (usually based on up to 180 days of anonymous data) are being served to users more frequently.
So, what do these two trends mean for marketers as they embark on their SEO strategies? On the downside, real-time search results, particularly from social media that show up in searches, could have a negative impact on the brand if it isn't managed carefully.
It's important for companies to consider an online reputation management strategy and to monitor social media channels so that they can at least be aware of any potential problems brewing in the background. On the upside, however, the sheer number of opportunities to expose your brand has grown exponentially. If you tap into the power of universal search, you have multiple opportunities to drive home your marketing message and put links to your content out there.
Low hanging fruit
The goal should be to saturate the market place with positive customer touch points wherever the customer is, and to try and direct the flow of the content that appears at those channels. You can use your analytical data to identify the low hanging fruit and start working on the content that will make a positive difference for your business.
Provided you get the basics right, you can even get your visitors and customers to help you spread your content around and improve your search results. For example, allow people to spread the word for you with social bookmarking, or put up your own YouTube videos and RSS feeds.
It's also a good idea to ask users for their input about how you should classify your content, products and services. The key to thriving in this changing search environment is by sharing experiences in interesting, easy ways that create keyword-rich content and that make it easy for users to generate and share content that benefits your business.
One does need to give up the traditional page rank metrics you used to value SEO success in the past and concentrate instead on metrics that focus on the quality of your search results. Visibility across multiple channels and usability for the end-user are among the factors that matter most now.
It's no longer enough to get your search results at the top of a page of search engine page results. Your SEO skill set should go beyond focusing on pure page ranking and take a holistic approach that focuses on a comprehensive set of factors that includes usability, relevancy, accessibility, content generation and spread-ability, all of which will make you easier to find on a search engine.