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Wednesday, June 14th, 2006

SEO and the Search Marketing Metaverse

 

Search engine optimization, as a practicing sector of the greater search engine marketing industry, is seeing an upswing in business over the past few months. This trend is fueled by a number of concurrent factors, the least of which is the actual effectiveness of organic search placement.

Today’s search marketing metaverse is made up of a multiplicity of mash-ups. Paid and organic results now appear in any number of venues beyond the traditional SERPs that are directly or indirectly associated with a branded search engine or social network. While search has been big business for over five years, a growing sophistication is entering the marketing space as creative people find intelligent and interesting ways to get a growing number of applications to work together.

This is a good time to be a SEO, especially if you’ve been around long enough to know what you’re doing. Search and social networking are about finding information. SEO is about affecting documents or files in order to make them findable for interested search engine users. The entrance of social networking applications in the search sphere, combined with the suddenly increased accessibility of rich media advertising, has changed the way SEOs look at their roles in the search marketing industry. A simple way to put it would be to suggest that most advanced SEOs are moving away from acting like search engine manipulators and are becoming search media facilitators.

Currently, the three largest search related entities are Google, MySpace and Yahoo. Each entity is actually a vast and growing collection of hundreds technologies strung together to form relatively cohesive information storage and distribution machines.

Along with pending offerings from MSN, Lycos and Ask, the three largest search entities offer hundreds of unique but often inter-related applications.

The sudden emergence of so many search related applications has caused a boom in the SEO sector because it has driven the advertisers themselves to learn more about how search works. The emergence of social networking as a group informative, peer-responsive medium has added another extremely interesting dimension to the mix of available tools.

Good SEOs have the requisite background to understand the emerging search and social spheres and find marketing opportunities between the varying applications. Not only do they all connect together, the results they return are still based on keywords either entered by the searcher or found and extracted from a document (or file) and shared with the searcher.

Over the past few years, paid search advertising, blogs, and the growth of social networking have changed the ways Google and other search engines view and rank web documents and files.

Most search advertiser and all search marketers have noticed significant changes in Google’s behaviors over the past six months. That’s because Google’s behaviour has been affected and altered by the emergence of informative, multi-functional media files.

Similarly, Yahoo has embraced many of the informative aspects of the social networking trend. Yahoo’s ranking algorithms take social references (such as those found in Yahoo Answers) into account and Yahoo is expanding on its already massive stable of direct marketing and social networking services.

Several layers of SEO related documents can be used to form a chain of cause and effect between the various search-based applications. An easy example would be the chain between AdWords, and branded Google applications such as Gmail, Google Base, Local Search, Google Maps, use of the Google API, and the landing pages paid-search ads and other Google-related references lead to. Another might involve Yahoo Search Marketing, image files distributed by Flikr, eBay advertising, Yahoo Local and, again, the landing pages they all might lead back to. A third, and possibly most relevant example, will be drawn from the paid-search advertising alliance MySpace is seeking from Google, Yahoo or MSN, (whichever makes the sweetest deal).

In each of the examples cited, including any pending MySpace scenarios, SEOs have the opportunity to advise on and help construct the online messages, including brand or product identities expressed by their clients. Ultimately, each of the examples lead back to semi-static landing page documents which in turn should lead a consumer to complete a desired task, becoming a conversion.

The future of SEO, regardless of the introduction of innovative technologies, will continue to rest on the website and documents extracted from or associated with specific domains. The way SEOs currently view websites as domain driven collections of documents needs to evolve to encompass a more fluid view of how individual documents are actually unique nodes in much larger link-networks. The size of many link networks is astounding. The StepForth site has over eleven hundred recognized links in Google and over 41,000 recognized by Yahoo.

Search results, both paid and organic, are distributed in such a wide variety of places it is impossible to estimate the impact of a fully planned, strategic search marketing campaign. The expansive nature of search engine marketing constantly creates larger audiences for advertisers, both large and small.

At the Search Engine Watch Seattle event last month, the majority of attendees were new SEOs who were directly employed by mainstream corporations. Many of these were previously IT or marketing workers who have recently been thrown into their new role of corporate search guru. A relatively similar number of new-cast search marketers were present at the Toronto SES show in April. This indicates that the IT and Marketing departments at medium to large corporations, along with tens of thousands of entrepreneurial ventures, are taking steps to enter the search engine marketing world. It is a confusing space though.

Unless they are capable of taking a six month crash course in search marketing, and given the allowance to fail, the wisest move for many of the new corporate-level SEOs could make is to go back to their managers and suggest they contact an established search marketing firm for direct consultation. That way, the new-SEO gets to play internal quarterback to the coaching provided by the consultant, while offering their company a far higher level of overall service for their annual salaries.

Good SEO techniques can add a great deal of value to web documents and files in both the emerging social search scene and the traditional document/domain driven search scene. From effective copywriting to accessible site architecture to statistical analysis of site traffic patterns, SEOs have a lot more to bring to the table to go along with Top10 rankings or search placements.


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