February 17, 2010
Content Still Tops SEO Priorities - SES London
A panel of search engine experts at Search Engine Strategies London underscored the importance of quality website content as the top priority for strong search engine placements. The panel also reflected on the rapidly changing nature of search engine placement and the SEO process. In his coverage of SES London, Edinburgh based search marketer Andrew Girdwood quotes speakers from the lunch hour keynote panel, "SEO, Where to Next?", each of whom says page and site content remains the most important element effected by search engine optimization. Girdwood, who is the Head of Strategy at bigmouthmedia, offers excellent coverage of the session on his blog at arhg.net. Moderated by Dixon Jones (Founder, Receptional Ltd.) the panel featured Maile Ohye (Senior Developer Programs Engineer at Google), Dan Cohen (Global SEO Lead at MSN), Julian Sambles (Head of AUdience Development at the Telegraph.co.uk), and Lisa Myers (CEO of Verve). Each of the panelists noted the underlying importance of content as the primary signal for search engines. Some organizations built on quality content like the Telegraph prepare content stubs in advance of coming events. Sambles suggests constant preparation is far easier than constant reaction. With advances towards the personalization of search results, knowing what content individual visitors want to read is extremely important. Sambles said the Telegraph examines what site visitors read and tries to tailor content to their wants. I think the assumption here is that reader preference as shown on site will also be shown in personalized search results. In other words, if the website knows what individual visitors want and manages to serve that content to them, references to that site should show in personalized results for relevant search queries. Even with the advent of personalized search results, giving Google and other search engines a full view of your website content is extremely important. Though the article never mentions the word cloaking directly, the implication is that in most cases, cloaking remains a no-no for Google. (Perhaps the inclusion of an overall site-map showing Google all content while tailoring content to the interests of registered members is the answer) Social media and local search are playing rapidly growing roles in search engine optimization. As the two often go hand-in-hand, media organizations are asking their staff to use social networking applications to communicate with their audience in order to draw traffic and create placement blips in personalized results. The advent of social media, combined with long term abuse of link-focused SEO technique has made the pursuit of useful links far harder. Earned trust continues to be an important factor in the valuing of links. The four panelists appear to have agreed that SEO as a service has not died but has fundamentally changed its focus from applied technique to communications and education. Andrew cites Google's Maile saying, "... the barrier to entry on these SEO 101 factors has dropped. You can achieve it with WordPress plugins, for example. That's why SEOs need to try harder to add value these days and why Google is keen to continue to communicate with website owners." Google and the other search engines see SEOs as important links in the chain of communication between the engines and website owners. High end web design has become far easier over the years while at the same time is a career option for a far larger group of people. SEOs aren't the only expert web designers working with or for an organization any more. What makes them different, as attributed by Andrew to Julian Sambles, is that, "Things change and digital marketers have their jobs because of this; they provide the solution to these new challenges." The Web that SEOs work on has changed fundamentally as well. Google's Maile Ohye pointed out that the way users access applications or the Web itself has moved from double-clicking on the desktop to entering applications from the Web itself. Maile's observation points to a shift in the way Googlites look at the Internet environment with an increasing focus on cloud computing, networking and data storage. Whether they be apps made for mobile or apps used through a desktop computer interface, Web Apps are a major component in Google's forward thinking thoughts. Speaking of "forward thinking", a line in Andrew's piece suggests Google might make upwards of 400 changes to its algorithm every year. The panel only had an hour to cover a rapidly evolving digital marketing environment. From the tone of Andrew's article, it seems the panel and the audience could have spent several more hours exploring the topic. If you haven't read it yet, here's another link to the piece, "Is SEO dead? SES London takes a look (#seslondon)". It's seriously worth the read.