Where search is headed

Recently I was reminded of the need to write more on my blog. It was during an interview with a candidate that we brought in at work, who as it turns out, researched the company by checking out my blog. So if you happen to be that nice young man I’d like to say thank you and hello!

One of the questions that came up during this interview sessions related to search marketing (it was specifically SEO but SEM was mentioned which in my mind means paid search). By the way it should be stated that my post on where search is headed isn’t to say that the conversation which ensued was correct or incorrect, only that I have my own definite views on it.

Search as we know it is changing. If you’re an SEO or SEM, it is probably changing for the worst but if you’re a consumer or content producer, it is probably changing for the best.

If you are an SEO or SEM you’ve been presumably living by Google’s rules (or, your interpretation of them because Google itself doesn’t spell them out in any great detail). You’ve been diligently doing your keyword research and generating compelling content to convince Google your site is among the top 10 in the world for any given keyword or phrase. But let’s face it — whats far more likely is that you’ve been faking your way through, applying best practices and reading articles like this which contain anecdotal information gleaned from a long career in guessing.

And although Google doesn’t always tell us their rules, they do tell us their intentions. Their intentions are to reward sites that have the best content. What exactly does the best content look like? Well, thats the confusing part and of course, subjective.

Google search for giving cats fluids

Now here is a great example. Recently my poor little Thurston (a domestic short-hair cat) was diagnosed with kidney failure. After going to the vet and receiving this news, we were informed that we’d need to administer subcutaneous fluids to him to help flush out his weakened kidneys. We received a demonstration — which quite honestly wasn’t very good, given a bag of fluids and needles and sent on our merry way.

I did what any good parent would do when faced with a medical emergency — go to Google!

And you know what? I got just the results I needed. Look at the screen shot above. Do you see lots of pages with keyword stuffing? Do you even see pages that look like they were written for search? I don’t. What I see are videos, produced in low quality, in an office, showing how to inject kitties with their fluids. And yet, these are the perfect results!

Another thing which is interesting is the date of the video. It was posted to YouTube in 2009 — but looks like it could be even older. Yet, its the #1 result in Google for this long tail phrase. There are numerous comments on the video praising its quality, as recently as 3 months ago.

Search is also becoming more personalized and more mobile.

You don’t need to look far to see examples of how search is becoming more personalized. Fire up your browser, visit Google and if you are signed in to any one of their services you will see personal recommendations. This makes a lot of sense, because if I want to get a recommendation for something I’d naturally like to start by finding out what my friends have to say — as opposed to an unknown third party.

When you combine mobile with search personalization, you unlock amazing possibilities. Enter Google Now, which is a service that runs on your phone and keeps track of your location and learns from your routines. After awhile, when driving to work Google will push you information about traffic conditions. What else could Google push you if it knew your routine and your location (along with the likes of your friends)?

  • Sales at nearby stores
  • Events taking place you might be interested in
  • Meetups with friends (join John at the Corner Bar, bring in your phone for a free shot (oh my!))

Pretty limitless possibilities, which is why search marketers need to think beyond the standard ways they treat search (paid and organic). They need to think local. They need to think social. They need to think more about the depth of their content (not necessarily more expensive production, just production with laser focus on helping people answering questions).


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