In the next 12 – 18 months I personally feel the search landscape will change more drastically than we ever seen before, Google has already begun to roll out multiple changes and the failed buy out of Groupon clearly shows the direction they would like to take their search engine.
We also have Facebook firmly knocking on the door and making their intentions clear in terms of how they see their own search share growing.
These two web giants have one thing in common and that is they are both trying to make search more specific, Facebook with their like system and unparralled social data and Google with their local business data and new places results.
Let’s just take a look at the two strategies in a bit more detail before I get to my point;
Google Places and Local Search
Google updated what was known as ‘Google Local’ to ‘Google Places’ in April this year clearly stating;
Millions of people use Google every day to find places in the real world, and we want to better connect Place Pages — the way that businesses are being found today — with the tool that enables business owners to manage their presence on Google
Everybody knows Google’s main algorithm is failing, the search results are becoming flooded with spam websites regurgitating content from Wikipedia and other authoritative hubs, I only posted a few weeks ago about the spam levels in the SERPS and Rand Fishkin just a week ago.
The fact is it is getting worse and Google seem defenceless against it, so what do they do?? They bring in full page Places results.
So now you have to be a genuine business, with an address and local references if you want to be on the first page for a local term.
Can it be manipulated? Yes, certainly but it’s not as easy as spending £50k on anchor text links.
Not only have Google rolled this out on ‘local’ searches, such as ‘restaurants in london’, they have also rolled it out on broad terms such as ‘hotels’, ‘cars’ and even ‘flowers’.
These changes send a clear message to those of us involved in search, Google is going to become more and more focused on the intention of the search not just the words within it, moving closer and closer to semantic results that up until now have been a bit of a red herring.
You then have to consider rich snippets, which are literally a form of Facebook ‘likes’ but from a business perspective and even more recent than that Google have admitted that tweets and other social signals play a part in the ranking algo.
The Facebook Challenge
As we all know Facebook now gets more traffic than Google and potentially has more leverage, potentially…
Their strategy at the minute seems to be a fairly straight forward one, using like data to rank websites, Google has ‘link bait’ and Facebook has ‘like bait’ and let me tell you there is huge potential in ‘like bait’. A test recently drove more than 25,000 visitors to a fairly basic story after a ‘like’ base had been built up. So don’t just ask people to link any more, ask them to like!
When you combine this like system with all the data Facebook has on our interests, friends, conversations and recommendations you can easily being to see that a Facebook search engine could be phenominal.
Of course they have obstacles to overcome such as ‘like’ spam and the general intention of those who surf Facebook but the raw potential is unquestionably there.
My point is simple, these two search engines, in my opinion, are the future and will dictate the general flow of traffic around the web for years to come. On top of this they both have relevance in common, they both want to guide us to the most specific information, products and resources possible.
Both search engines will have the intention of the user in mind, so if someone searches for flowers are they wanting to buy flowers? Are they wanting to view images? Are they wanting gardening advice? These are the questions we need to start asking ourselves as search marketers, how do I link my site with the correct intention.
In SEO particularly it tends to be a quick scan of the keyword tool and then implementing an optimised but dry web page, then we build links.
In my opinion we now have to start asking the following questions:-
- Will I need a business address?
- How do I get people to review my products?
- What demographics am I targeting and where do I find them?
- Do I provide a solution, information or both?
- Are people discussing us socially, if not how do we get them to?
- Am I developing a brand
and of course…..
So if you sell cars, where do you sell them from? Do you have positive reviews and feedback? Are people referring to and talking about your service? These are the things you need to start worrying about.
Directories even the biggest out there like Yell are going to to struggle as these changes are fully realised, why would Google send traffic to Yell when it has 10 local business listings with endless positive reviews? Why use a middle man?
The changes will also have an impact on content empires like ezine articles, this impact won’t be anything like the directories thanks to long tail search queries but it will certainly be felt as Google switches to a more intention focused SERPS.
Whether were working for clients or working on our own sites now is the time to build a business not just a website.
If you have a content rich website, what added value do you offer?
If you have an e-commerce site, how are you getting reviews?
This for me is the future, ‘like bait’ as well as ‘link bait’ and ‘social recommendations’ as well as ‘commercial reviews’, as we move through 2011 it will become more prominent and into to 2012 it will be a must.
SEO has always been about evolution and staying ahead of the curve, however these changes are coming thicker and faster than ever, are you going to be ready for them
As awlays thoughts are welcome