SEM – Beyond the Popularity Contest

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In my last article I wrote about how search marketing is currently like a giant popularity contest. This begs the question of what’s going to come next as Google’s and the other engines’ algorithms keep evolving and take into account more and more data. What will this mean for search marketers?

Although Google is doing some of this now, as technology increases, personalized historical search data and end user behavior analytics (or which site you click on when looking at list of items and how long you stay there) will gradually become more and more important until they spark the next major shift in SEO strategy.

I predict technology will take the search market from being “the popular web” to a contest of usability combined with messaging. The stockier your site and the higher percentage of return visits, the more it meets the needs of the users who found it from the keyword searches you’re targeting, the better it will rank. I wouldn’t expect this to happen anytime soon, but it’ll definitely be interesting.

Take, for example, the keyword “blue widgets.”

Currently, if you build a site on “blue widgets” and you become popular and encourage a lot of bloggers to link to your site using “blue widgets,” you may rank for that term, even if the majority of searchers finding your site from that search don’t find what they’re looking for and quickly bounce to another site. In the next wave of Search Engine marketing, if that scenario came to pass, Google would understand that your site wasn’t meeting their needs and it would start dropping it in the regular search engine results pages (maybe it would continue to rank well if you applied a filter or did a blog search), while a less popular site that really met the needs of users searching for a specific keyword may start rising for that keyword, even if it doesn’t have anywhere near the link popularity that the previous site had.

Very interesting. At this point I think the search engine marketers will split their time between analyzing and improving usability and continuing their current link building / baiting, and viral marketing strategies.

Just a thought.

SEM – Beyond the Popularity Contest
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