Like Me? Follow Me.
I was reading a blog post about the next big Google algorithm change on Conversation Marketing which states that searcher behavior is going to drive search rankings beginning in 2009. The post (unusually for an SEO blog) gave some evidence to back up this assertion, but frankly, this is one of the most patently obvious things I've read since I got started in this industry.
Let's look at the facts:
- Google published a patent in 2005 saying it was working on this
- Google has started to personalise search results if you're signed into a Google Account
- Google recently launched SearchWiki asking users to vote sites up and down and leave comments as to why
- Google has been complaining about people trying to game inbound links to make their sites look more popular since, oh, about 2003 with very little ability to stop it
- Google has been trying to tell us that "content is king" since, oh, about 2003, with very few automated ways to differentiate between truly good content and content written with the right semantic markers.
While it will still be possible for hardworking black hat SEOs to "game" a system that measures user behavior, it will be much harder and take more time and effort, especially where Google has all that free data streaming in from Analytics on top of what it knows from user accounts and click through rates on search results. So where does this leave traditional SEO?
If we leave link building aside (as that's another issue entirely) traditional on-site SEO will remain as important as ever. Search Engine Optimisation is about making a site easy for search engines to understand so they can find the content and index it correctly - so pages load quickly and navigation is simple and logical; it's about putting in all the right markers so the page structure makes sense and adding the right tags so a site's listings on a search results page read well; and it's about using the words the searcher would use within the site's content. SEO is about building web pages that are relevant, useful to the searcher and easy to use.
The average SEO, however, will also have to up his game a little because usability will be important to keeping people on the site and he'll have to do more than just add copy to pages so that the number of keyword mentions keeps a page ranking - he's going to have to start adding even more compelling copy that searchers want to read.
Web analytics will also become key to optimising web sites correctly. Understanding searcher/user behaviour and acting on it (creating new content and offers) will help to improve the bottom line for the client and eventually improve search rankings.
But these are all things that any SEO professional should be doing for his or her clients anyway - because it improves conversions.