The future of SEO
Social search is a serious topic of discussion. The SEO world, and search in general, has moved away from link building as a stand-alone practice, and many online marketers see the future in Page Likes, Retweets, +1s, pins and Channel subscriptions. At SES New York, Bing’s Duane Forrester talked about search engine’s continued efforts to reward sites for creating great user experiences – through content marketing and intuitive user designs. In the same session, Dan Cristo, director of SEO innovation at Catalyst, spoke about how social cues and interactions influence online behavior directly and indirectly. He highlighted some notes on the impact Google+ members searching the web for content – a subject Bing steered clear of.
How Google+ can impact SEO
He reported that SEO boils down to two things: Relevancy and trust. Why do social cues and recommendations matter so much to search engines? Cristo hypothesized it’s because certain queries just cannot be answered by the web – no matter how intelligent crawlers and developers get. But these questions CAN be solved by friends and family. For example, consider the query, “Who should I vote for?” The web can offer a bevy of results suggesting who Cristo can vote for (no matter the election), but his social connections likely have similar views on politics, and can point him toward the right direction. If these people have made their own leanings clear online, that’s where search engines come into play – technology allows the categorization of data based around these interactions.
How Social is Important ?
Bing’s Senior Program Manager Duane Forrester expanded on the value of social listening and how it plays into search. He compared today’s social SEO market to that of traditional SEO ten years ago. Metadata, title tags, etc. were once the gold standard of SEO, but now they’re the base line. The reality: If there is a big collection of people talking about a person, search engines are drawn to the person or site to try and understand what all the fuss is about. Unfortunately, the technology to truly hone in on these conversations and chatter remains in infancy.
Forrester covered some statistics that showed how imperfect search is today:
- Imprecise results – one in four searches delivers successful results.
- Refinements – forty-two percent of sessions require refinements.
- Lengthy tasks – forty-four percent of page sessions last a day or more.
Social is all about Psychology of Human Beings
Every online marketer understands quality content is essential, but Forrester challenges this notion just a bit. “If there’s not a good user experience or social campaign to amplify reach and compel people to share, the media won’t float to the top of SERPs.”
How does Forrester advise listeners on creating a better search experience? “Take money out of SEO, paid search, and put it toward usability testing.” He continued, “If you really want to attract search engines, amaze your customers with quality content.” This content must inspire social chatter, and to better understand what drives more conversation, a company’s social team must be connected to various departments, so insights can fuel results.
He advised marketers that personas are a great way to personalize content. “People are actual human beings – not just ‘users.’”
What is the deal with Social and Search
Social listening can be a shallow practice. Companies may hear what their customers say online, but they rarely respond effectively. More, brands often overlook how to leverage what they pick up on Twitter and Facebook. Cristo and Forrester both presented cases of why social will become an even greater asset for companies, and it all relates back to the user experience.