With Google’s release of Hummingbird in 2013 – the biggest algorithm update since 2009 – it is no surprise that many of the presentations at SMX West this year thus far have spoken to the “new SEO.” If you read our previous blog on how you should approach SEO in 2014, this won’t be a huge surprise to you – but it was certainly validated.
Justin Sanger of SupportLocal shouted vehemently “SEO is dead!” An odd thing to assert at an SEO conference, you might think, but his point was really that the traditional approach to SEO is no longer valid in the “collaborative economy” that we (and our customers) live in today. Build audiences, not links. Trust, he said, will define the next decade of search.
Many of the presentations also echoed the interdependent relationship between Social and Search. Tami Cannizzaro of IBM asserted that “if social [media] is discovery, then search is validation.” Even Google’s Search Chief, Amit Singhal, in his keynote conversation with Danny Sullivan, when asked to confirm that in fact social signals are not currently directly factored into Google’s algorithm, said that social signals “are not coming into play right now.” Hmmm…that certainly sounds to me like Google might be working on changing that!
I also attended a great session by event sponsor Covario that dove into the complexity of conversion tracking across multiple devices and channels. “Last touch” conversions – or the point at which the sale or lead was finally executed – does not sufficiently communicate the process that the customer took to get to that point; a process which likely spanned multiple devices, social, search, paid advertising, etc. They offered up some great insights into ways we as marketers can better track and decipher this whole process, thus better measuring the ROI and efficacy of all our client’s marketing channels.
The highlight for me was Rand Fishkin’s presentation. As the face of Moz, the gold standard resource for SEO’s, Fishkin went through the recent changes in the SEO world, both obvious and subtle. With the way that SEO has evolved, he said, we’re currently in a paradigm where SEO has increased dramatically in complexity, yet the public perception of SEO seems to be that of greater accessibility. It is our job as SEO professionals to set proper client expectations – a constant challenge in our industry.
Fishkin also asserted that in this industry, the early adopters will see paramount success. What does this mean? Quite simply that the companies who think outside the box, who take the leaps beyond the current trends (and certainly beyond the trends of the past) will be the ones who see the rewards. Or on the other side of that coin, if you’re comfortable, you’re going to fail.
And Fishkin also spoke to the larger theme of the day – that SEO and brand building work hand in hand, and the “new SEO” in fact encompasses many facets of brand building. He asserted that in this new era of SEO, “those who aren’t building brands will struggle mightily.” I immediately harkened back to a conversation I had with a former client several months ago, who told me quite flatly when I presented a comprehensive online marketing strategy to raise his overall online presence that he “had no interest in building his brand online” and he “just wanted rankings.” Friends, clients, fellow marketers – you can no longer have a sustainable search presence without a thoughtful, overarching strategy to build your brand.
The day closed with Google Search Chief Amit Singhal addressing thoughtful questions from Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land on the current and future state of Google. I loved his comparison of Google to a Swiss Army knife, and the introduction of the knowledge graph as the corkscrew. When the corkscrew was added to the Swiss Army knife, the knife took on a new function, but also gets more use as a screwdriver, knife, etc. since the corkscrew increased the likelihood that someone would carry it around. The knowledge graph provides a quick-answer format for someone who needs instant information on a topic or question, and was driven by the massive shift toward mobile search.
The evolution of Google search, said Singhal, will be “foundational on devices.” As the devices on which we search change, so will Google change to better the user experience on these devices.
Stay tuned for a recap of Day 2 at SMX West tomorrow, and keep up with us live at the conference by following us on twitter!
Blog by Webhead Interactive