Aaron Wall of SEOBOOK gave a webinar last week entitled “SEO strategies for the 21st Century”. Overall I am very much on his wavelength, and agree with his outlook for the future of search marketing. Below are the main messages that I took from him.
The first is that to feature in search engine listings, it must be the marketeers’ aspiration to be industry leaders in their space. As sponsored listings and “one-box” features built by the search engines themselves appear more predominantly above the fold on page 1 of listings, the squeeze to appear in the mix tightens. Site Index results are another phenomenon whereby industry leaders take a greater slice of the pie on the premium results page. There lies the incentive to control that authority listing, as well as pay for advertising in the sponsored real estate of the page.
With reference to market economics, we know of herd mentality and monopolisation of industries. The same is forecast for the digital space. Only the best will survive and winners will take a disproportional share of market power. To succeed requires social networking. Any presence on the web should add value to the end user, and in fact should inspire your target audience to act as brand evangelists. Review-based marketing is pivotal to success. Fore-runners in this marketing mould, such as Expedia, understood this when they took ownership of sites like TripAdvisor and hotels.com, platforms to forum-based consumer-generated-content which cross-sell Expedia’s other product lines and fortify their position as market authorities, as voted by their consumers.
Of course not all of us have the capacity to go off acquiring social networks. We can create our own community peer review schemes internally though. The key is define the offering exactly, and present it in an interactive manner. If a visitor to a website is empowered to communicate with the brand directly, be it through competition, product review, testimonial, or community log-in, they will feel affiliated to the brand, be it someone’s blog or an e-commerce site. According to Aaron, “The Cluetrain Manifesto” is a very forward looking marketing dissection that describes markets as conversations, and the powerful voice of the masses. As it is freely available online, I for one intend to read it ASAP.
Another area covered was that of the manifestation of search suggest. Live, Google and Yahoo! have all incorporated this form of pre-emptive search query dynamic drop-down technology. Aaron delivered a telling statistic that he had overheard over at MSN, whereby search engineers reported somewhere in the region of 20% of queries being unique, and not registering previously for search. This emphasises the long tail of search. However with search suggest, that tail shortens and becomes a short head and fat belly, to quote Aaron again. Therefore, popular queries will experience vastly more search volume as they receive click-through from suggestion boxes. Competition for listings on these queries will heighten, as search query analysis returns a homogenisation of fewer high volume terms. Search marketeers then need to understand that it is better to put value on certain niche terms that they can compete on, rather than employ spray-gun tactics. As with migration to social, it becomes imperative to be a pioneer in a specialist subject, rather than a jack of all trades. Finally, these suggestion tool boxes also open up a wealth of keyword research faculties which can be judged against traditional tools such as compete, wordtracker, and overture.