Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
April 6, 2007 3:30 PM

What Is The Real State Of Search Engine Optimization?

Let me prefix this by saying that I am not a Search Engine Optimization Expert. I'm also not an active Search Engine Marketer. I do know the search space. I worked for many years at one of the first search engines, I have extensive understanding of the industry and its history, I have read The Google Story and The Search (both fine reads) and I'm deeply entrenched in watching search results and how they've changed over the years. I've even spoken a handful of times at Search Engine Strategies conferences in Toronto.

I don't have a gripe with people who do search engine optimization or search engine marketing - they are valuable allies (and I have many friends in the space). I would welcome people like Andrew Goodman from PageZero and the author of Winning Results With Google AdWords or Chris Moore from SearchAnyway to chime in with their insights.

When I first started Blogging in late 2003, I started to notice that the more content I Blogged about the higher up in Google search engine results certain keywords would appear. By early 2005 I was convinced that I could get almost any two to three word keyphrase to the top five position in Google's organic search results in under forty-eight hours (with the caveat that this was not a highly competitive term or one for the adult or gaming verticals).

In the past couple of months, I've noticed another shift. It's getting harder and harder to get top-level positioning with a Blog posting.

I'm starting to think that the tubes are clogged.

My guess is that both companies and search engine experts realized that Blogs do possess several of the key elements that search engine ranking algorithms liked and that by creating a Blog and stacking it with fresh content, constantly updated and strategically linked all backed with web design that was SEO-friendly would be a far easier route than trying to optimize a standard website. Couple that with the social media insanity - where everyone and, literally, their cat can and do have a Blog - and the real state of search engine optimization is going to be facing some huge hurdles as this content lengthens the long tail.

So how does a company get to the top of the search engines in this day and age? My guess is Marketers, search engine experts and others are all scratching their heads as they balance both paid and organic search results to optimize the chances for increased success.

There's a little part in my brain that wonders if anyone not on the Black Hat side of SEO is cursing out the social media tsunami we're now confronted with. Through Blog postings used as link bait to millions upon millions of fresh Blog posts being created and linked to each and every minute, all of this is having a huge effect on the results of search engine optimization.

It's no longer a game of beating out your competitor's website to the top of the search results. It's become a veritable guerrilla war that needs to be fought Blog posting by Blog posting... and more and more people are starting Blogs, linking to each other and creating new and fresh content at an unimaginable pace.

What are Marketers going to do if they can't get their clients to the top of the search engines - even if they are doing everything right?

By Mitch Joel


Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by Tony
    Mitch Joel

    Good question. It will be an issue of managing expectations, I believe. But also putting a premium into ongoing work into creating "good" content, and not merely structural changes to a site.

    You could get away with the latter for a while, but given how Google treats blogs?

    Not any more.

    t @ dji

    Reply
  • Posted by Mitch Joel
    Mitch Joel

    I'm also starting to wonder how/when Google will start "PageRanking" Blogs differently from "regular" websites. The obvious challenge being, how will they know the difference?

    I'm starting to see/admire new sites that are driven by a Blog platform but operate the same way a traditional website does. I think hybrids like this will also affect rankings, etc...

    Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    What are SEOs doing? Well, speaking from a "holistic" SEO perspective, I can tell you that we encourage clients to think about more than ranks. I think it's very important to remember that ranks are only one part of a website's -- or a blog's -- success. It's about conversions - who's coming to your site and what they're doing once they get there. It's about connecting with your audience and writing great stuff so that people come back once they've found you. It's about putting yourself out there in your topical community so that others recognize you as an authority on your subject. And, especially for blogs, it's about getting inbound links from sites that can drive targeted traffic your way.

    Reply
  • Posted by Mitch Joel
    Mitch Joel

    Thanks for the feedback Jennifer.

    I guess I'm jaded and I'm making an assumption that when someone calls up a SEO firm, it's because they want to rank at the top of page one.

    If that mind-set is changing, this is happy news to me.

    Reply
  • SEO is an ever changing art/science. Once, all you needed to do was to add keywords to your Meta keywords and you were set to go. Some webmasters started misusing this and search engines started finding more sophisticated ways to rank and match sites to queries. Then PageRank came along and changed the name of the game. SEOs started building links to get high rankings. Then came the TrustRank and Sandbox (age delay) concepts to offset the link builders’ manipulation techniques.

    When blogs were first embraced by the online community, they were less biased and search engines started giving them lots of value. That was the time, it was possible to even bypass Google’s age filter by posting on a blog and adding a link to your newly created site.

    However, the name of the game is changing again. As in any other business, those who sniff and find alternative solutions are successful and those who are slow to adopt end up asking who moved their cheese.

    What is important is to focus on the long tail, utilize the analytics, improve usability and increase conversion rates while finding ways to lure new visitors.

    Reply
  • Posted by Mitch Joel
    Mitch Joel

    If the game is changing again, what are some of the new and alternative solutions?

    Which ones are working and which ones are proving to be less successful for SEO professionals?

    I've been a long proponent of content creation for the sake of keeping readers engaged (and the search engines happy), but with all of this content suddenly being created, how long can this phase last for?

    Lastly, are clients "happy enough" with a handful of niche keywords while constantly having to create content to simply stay ahead of the rat race?

    Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    Content is the king and in my opinion in the foreseeable future stays that way. With the new personalization practice by Google, this is getting even more important.

    It is all about relevance and making sure you have such a diverse content that you covers all your audience and make sure they can find you.
    This is possible by covering a wide range of long tail keyword phrases.

    The common misconception about the long tail is that it is about targeting just a few phrases. The proper way of approaching the long tail is to target a long list of targeted keyword phrases to cover all possible ways your audience might search for you.

    Reply
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