This year’s Search Marketing Expo was one of the most productive and informative conferences I have attended in a long time. Danny Sullivan and the folks at Third Door Media put on an excellent show. I received the latest industry news from sources that I trust and respect, got an opportunity to network with my peers and also came back with several ideas for blog posts. The best part is that I also managed to get a number of interviews lined up with some of the leading experts in our field and will share them with you in the coming weeks.
Danny Sullivan addressing the audience at SMX East, 2013 in Manhattan, earlier this week.
As digital marketers, we are used to the constantly evolving world of online marketing. However, as far as SEO is concerned things seem to be evolving every day. Listening to industry leaders talk about Search, the future of SEO, current and future trends is really about understanding where the future of intenet marketing lies.
We’ll examine the future of SEO by looking at 5 important threads running through the entire conference.
#1. Local SEO
A common theme seemed to be the importance of local optimization for local businesses. One of the best presentations that I attended was on local SEO. There were several panelists and I really enjoyed the presentation by David Mihm, Director of Local Search Strategy at Moz and founder of getlisted.org.
Here are some key points that he covered:
- Every local business should be optimizing their sites for local Search . In addition to being on all the local directories, optimize your site for local SEO with structured data.
- Your NAPW (Name, Address, Phone Number, website) citations need to be accurate, across the online world.
- Be where your competitors (often referred to as the “7 pack” of local listings in Google) are. Use their exact NAPW and copy it into the Google search box to see where they are listed.
- Make sure you are listed with tier 1 and tier 2 providers. Tier 1 providers are local search data providers such as Neustar Localese, Infogroup and Acxiom. Tier 2 providers are local directories such as Yellow Pages, Kudzo, Mojopages. Listings in local directories count as local links.
- Links from local, high authority sites is also a good signal for search engines, as it proves you to be a legitimate business and an authority in your community.
#2. Semantic Search
Not surprisingly, there were several discussions and a separate track for semantic search. Google and other search engines are using semantic search to bring the searcher the most relevant results.
Semantic search systems try to understand the context of the search and use many factors such as location, intent, variations of words, synonyms, natural language queries to produce results.
With Google’s Knowledge Graph and last month’s announcement of the Hummingbird update, the search world is changing from single keywords to relevancy of content. Information in the knowledge graph is derived from several sources that include Wikipedia, Freebase and CIA World factbook.
The Hummingbird update algorithm is also based on semantic search, focusing on user intent versus individual search terms. According to Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan, in his article, FAQ: All About The New Google “Hummingbird” Algorithm, “Hummingbird is paying more attention to each word in a query, ensuring that the whole query – the whole sentence or conversation or meaning – is taken into account, rather than particular words. The goal is that pages matching the meaning do better, rather than pages matching just a few words.”
Another excellent presentation was all about entity search in SMX’s semantic track. Entity search and the entire subject of semantic search are the topic for an upcoming blog post as we will delve deeper into the concepts and what it means for us and the future of internet marketing.
This is a major shift away from traditional SEO practices where the focus was on a single keyword. SEO’s today need even more to work closely with their clients to come up with different queries the user would type in to come into the site. Long tail keywords, focus terms all give your content more relevancy. It’s not a single keyword, but having search terms that search engines would expect to find about in your document. It’s also about long tail queries and their relevancy to your content.
#3. Structured Data Mark-Up
I heard time and time again about the importance of structured data. There were several presentations on preparing your site for structured data. Since structured data is a joint initiative by Google, Bing and Yahoo you will score big with all search engines if you use structured data.
Local businesses, customer reviews, medical information such as drug types, disease types, events are just some of the types of content that will largely benefit with structured data mark-up. You can find all you need to learn abut structured data at schema.org. This site provides a collection of schemas, i.e., html tags, that webmasters can use to markup their pages in ways recognized by major search providers.
#4. Importance of Google Authorship and Google+
Here’s what I learned about Google authorship and growing your Google+ account
- Not having Google Authorship is only going to hurt you. It’s also time to start taking author rank seriously. Even though Pierre Far, Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, said that they have not yet incorporated author rank in their algorithm, many presenters talked about author rank and how this influences rankings. Currently, author rank is loosely determined by your engagement level on Google+, the number of +1’s you get, your number of circlers, comments per post and authority on non-Google networks.
- I also found out that Google+ profiles have page rank and having a Google+ profile establishes trust with Google.
- Also, if influencers have you in their circles, that boosts up your author rank.
- Google+ profiles have page rank and the more links you have to your Google+ profile, the better the page performs.
- Make sure that you have a link back to your Google+ profile from all the blogs that you write and guest-post on.
#5. Social Signals and Search Results
There were several mentions throughout the session of the current search and social integration. In the Top Social Tactics for Search Marketers session, Debra Mastaler offered these tips:
- Finding influencers in your niche can really help your marketing efforts.
- There are several tools that you will help you identify your influencers such as Klout, Facebook, LinkedIn, Followerwonk, Alltop and G+Data.
All panelists agreed that social is playing a bigger part in search results because it offers fresh content, personalization and it’s real information from real people… all things the search engines want to provide.
To sum it up, SEO is now more than ever before, part of an integrated marketing mix. With Google authorship so big, SEO specialists need to be content marketers and bloggers to build up their authority. They need to align themselves closer with social media. They need to know the technical aspects of the web and they also need to be good sales people. Clients need to work closer with SEO specialists to figure out the goals of the users. While SEO specialists cannot be expected to be experts in all these fields, the more knowledge they have of these fields the more they will be able to help their clients achieve engagement, conversions and traffic.
Alan Eggleston says
Great recap of the conference, Gazalla. Sounds like you learned a lot and brought back a lot of value from it. That’s always beneficial to your clients, too.
I think Google Hummingbird and semantic search will be a major benefit to websites that pay attention to website optimization (SEO). I’ve already seen major benefit to clients, not even knowing initially that Hummingbird was underway. It really is about great, well written, well produced content, not cobbled together keywords.
Similarly, marketing through social media is about people agreeing that your content is relevant and adding to your authority through interaction. Even more important is people with authority, who tend to gather at Google+, lending their authority to you through interaction. That’s hard to fake through keyword manipulation, although spammers will continue to try.
Not sure how businesses haven’t gotten Local Search up until now. With such high competition for individual keywords at the universal level, local has become the only real way to reach consumers in the market. And it’s so easy, as you’ve explained it. Larger retailers with multiple locations have a challenge identifying “a” location, but it isn’t insurmountable – in fact, it’s fairly easy.
Website optimization helps a business become competitive on the Web. What these conferences keep reinforcing is that the changes in the technology open new opportunities for businesses to reinforce what they’ve accomplished following SEO basics.
Yes, you’re exactly right, thanks, Alan. As technology changes, it only opens up new opportunities for businesses. I’m tired of hearing, with every new change that SEO is dead – It has been dead for a decade now! SEO consultants are even more valuable now than ever before, as you need an expert to guide you in this rapidly evolving field to increase conversions, engagement and traffic on an organic level. Thanks as always for your feedback and support.
Frederic Gonzalo says
Awesome recap, Gazalla. I am reading quite a storm about Google’s Hummingbird in the past few days, seems to be quite an evolution, so I will be interested to hear more, hopefully through some of your upcoming interviews. As for Google+, I agree we need to pay more attention to it and get started: I get a funny feeling early adopters will have the edge when it becomes more popular on a more mainstream level, whenever this will happen (jury’s still out on that one…)
Yes, I will be covering the Hummingbird update and semantic search in more detail. Yes, Google+ increases authority and also has page rank. All the more reason, to optimize your G+ page, today. Thanks as always for your feedback and support.
Carol Lynn says
Really good stuff! It’s funny how “search” is always synonymous with “Google”. I’ve seen some pretty dramatic differences between results in Google and Bing, for example. In fact, Bing is a little like the good old days where my client’s sites were actually showing up 🙂
The interesting thing about Google is how it’s tightening the net around it’s own ecosystem. Get your authorship, get your plus page, get your local page… or die!
In a way it’s good because you do build up some level of authority and credibility but I still wish there was some real competition. Lately it all seems to be part of the Google echochamber,
At any rate, these are some great points that all businesses need to pay attention to. Sounds like it was a great conference.
Thanks, Carol Lynn. I wish too, that Google had some competition. Right now, it can dictate and the rest of the world has to follow! As you rightly put it, it’s a do or die culture.
Google authorship does give a chance to authors to build up their credibility online which I think for all the early adopters is a good thing.
Yes, it was a great conference. You now it’s surprising how these conferences can get you charged up again and inspire you to keep doing what you are doing! Thanks for your feedback and support.
Changes are constantly taking place these days and we need to keep up with what’s going on. For the most part though I just don’t worry about SEO, it’s not what I concentrate on. Don’t get me wrong, I love getting traffic from the search engines, and I do, but I much prefer having my site referred.
I do agree with what Carol added though. I wish that Bing and Yahoo would step up to the plate and really give Google a run for their money. It’s sad but I’ve been finding much more relevant results using Bing than Google which I’m really happy about because it’s like Google wants to rule the internet.
Either way, I appreciate you sharing with us what you learned and I’ll look forward to more of that in the coming weeks.
Enjoy your weekend.
Gazalla Gaya says
I agree with you. Right now, Google is the 900 lb gorilla that we have to watch out for and because of their monopoly, they dictate all the rules of the web! I think it’s up to us bloggers to educate and spread the word about other search engines and hopefully there will come a day when monopolies will be a thing of the past. Until then though, we have to pay attention to Google and make the changes at our end.