the transformation of search engine optimisation

Interesting thoughs on the future of search engine optimisation. The area which interests me most is that of personalisation as this, to me, is one of the key strengths of the internet. Amazon have done it for years, personalising the products offered to a return user, showing producst which may be of interest. The introduction fo this to the world of search engine marketing could change the way in which we all operate.

The Transformation Of Natural Search Optimization by Rob Garner, Wednesday, February 14, 2007

THERE IS NO DOUBT THAT natural search is coming to a crossroads. My view is that the transformation may not be so radical that everything changes, in so much as having situations where only some things become more challenging. However, the basic tenets of natural search will remain the same, only applied to more sophisticated scenarios on a personalized level, a research level, and a technical level. Here are a few thoughts on some of these key drivers in the changing landscape of natural search optimization:
Personalization. Google recently announced that it was rolling out personalized results, marking the beginning of a change in the way we approach natural search optimization campaigns. Though there is the theoretical potential for every search result page to be different, the impact is not quite as drastic as it sounds.
My basic view of optimizing for personalized results is similar to some points outlined by David Berkowitz in yesterday’s Search Insider column. His primary assertion is that the basic benchmark for optimization is still the editorial results (personalization turned off).
Make it there, and you’ll make it anywhere. Achieving top rankings in the editorial results ensures that your site is trusted, and that you created a natural presence that is best-of-class in its keyword space.
More emphasis should be placed on aggregate traffic metrics such as increased share of natural search traffic, and ultimately, increased ROI and conversions. If personalization meets its primary goal of increased relevancy, then traffic and conversions should increase to properly tuned sites.
The rise of market research in search (going beyond “keyword research”). In recognizing that personalization is a now-major factor in the way that natural search traffic is delivered, the new imperative is optimizing a site to satisfy the target customer’s desires. This is accomplished by thoroughly knowing your customer through market research, and further down the road, testing and validating through analytics and clickstream analysis. The deeper implication is that search-informed market research should be further integrated into the discovery and design phases of Web development.
The future will be in knowing what your target audience wants, knowing the language they speak and knowing how they find what they seek. Provide the content and experience they are seeking, and you will naturally match your offering to the key aspects of the personalization algorithm, such as click-through rate, time-on-site, number of page views (or in a rich app, back to “time-on-site”), internal site clickstreams, repeat visits, bookmarks, etc. Engage your target market, and the search engines will engage your site.
Today, many search firms substitute “keyword research” for true “market research.” Predicting and understanding human search intent is much more complicated than choosing keyword terms based on search frequency, and the guestimated likelihood to click through. Human search intent is as complex as human beings themselves, and market research should be a primary driver in creating exceptional search engine marketing campaigns, for both natural and paid campaigns.
SEOs will be met with increasing technical demands to address the crawlability and indexability off rich Internet applications The trend of enterprise RIA adoption is hitting its stride in 2007. The shift is essentially focused on moving from a “page-based” paradigm to a “pageless” paradigm; one that treats the Web more as an application, rather than a book. Ajax is driving the change.
Senior Google engineer Matt Cutts told Search Insider back in December that RIA-based sites are not a threat to relevancy at this time, mainly because the developers that create them are technical enough to build a second site for search engines. This statement is interesting for a couple of reasons.
The first is that it is not a threat “at this time.” This indicates that widespread adoption of RIA without a secondary technical solution for search engines could be a major threat to relevancy, as well as a threat to a company’s search presence. If the content is hidden, the engines can’t find it, and companies cannot be found.
The second implication is that to have your user-interface cake and eat it too, a progressive tech solution for search is on the menu. This will go beyond the capabilities of many search firms.
Ultimately, I don’t believe that RIA will put any SEO firms out of business, because page-based sites are not going away any time soon (not for the next 10 years, anyway). As long as there are page-based sites and the need to rank those pages, there is room for those who practice current methods. But a new breed of SEO will emerge to address the need to optimize for RIA (there are many in existence now).
The bottom line is that natural search optimization is in a state of transformation at the enterprise level. If anything has changed, it’s not that SEO is dead or dying — it’s that the bar has just been set even higher.
Rob Garner is a senior strategic planner for interactive marketing and search agency iCrossing. He is president-elect of the Dallas/Fort Worth Search Engine Marketing Association, and also serves on the board of the Dallas/Fort Worth Interactive Marketing Association.