The Shifting SEO Landscape

June 26th, 2006

by

Originally published in DM News

Search engine optimization will undergo a huge transformation over the next several years. No longer will you be able to track your position for particular keywords and know for certainty that those rankings are what your consumers are seeing. Why? Because personalization, intention and geographical location will all be taken into account to deliver a unique set of search results to each individual searcher.

While you may be able to say that your site is No. 1 in Google for “women’s clothing,” that may only be for Betty Smith in Dubuque, IA, on a particular date and time, and only while she is in a buying mood.

SEO is going to be a very different ball game, so a more sustainable approach is to focus on mining “the Long Tail” — those products or keywords that are in low demand but, given a large enough catalog/portfolio, can collectively add up to the majority of your business.

When I suggest you mine the Long Tail, I mean add more length to the tail and more area under the curve. Elongating the tail could involve creating new types of pages that end up getting indexed.

For example, Northern Tool has achieved significant traffic and sales gains through the hundreds of thousands of pages created by permutations of their Endeca Guided Navigation system, made search engine friendly using the GravityStream proxy solution.

Another example is etronics and the thousands of site search results pages that SLI Systems’ Site Champion product has made available to the spiders through “related searches” links. And yet another example would be Amazon’s millions of tag pages (which you can find in Google by searching for “site:www.amazon.com/gp/tagging”).

Adding more area under the curve would involve a whole other set of SEO strategies.

For instance, you could augment your catalog content with customer-generated content such as reviews or tags. Or you could implement an automated means of adding popular keyword synonyms to page titles across your product catalog. A pair of slacks could have the keyword “pants” added automatically, thereby opening up that product to additional relevant keyword markets.

As I alluded to above, the frame of mind of the searcher may, in the future, influence the search engine results that are delivered to that person. Search engines are already working on this technology. Yahoo Labs has released a demonstration of an intent-driven search engine called Yahoo Mindset. Although rough, the concept is cool and certainly worth checking out at http://mindset.research.yahoo.com.

The landscape is shifting and Web marketers needs to stay on top of various Web 2.0 advances in order to stay competitive. That means keeping up, not just with the Long Tail, intent-driven search, personalization and geocoding, but also with blogging, RSS, podcasting, tagging, and so on. This is no time to be resting on your laurels.

Stephan Spencer is founder and president of Netconcepts, Madison, WI. E-mail sspencer@netconcepts.com.