The Future of Search is … Marketing

future of searchI know. There is a lot of change in the world of search and you can’t keep up.

You know it’s critical to your business to be found online but SEO just sounds complex and overwhelming.

I’m going to help dissect this – because we can stop worrying about the day to day changes – the new strategic alliances between social networks and search engines, the algorithm updates (Penguin and Panda) –  and focus more on the long-term end game for the search engines.

In other words, if we understand what they are trying to achieve in the long run, it is enough to inform our strategy without getting bogged down in the day to day tactics.

Let me start by saying I’m not an SEO expert. I am an integrated communicator. I help clients with their online and offline marketing communications. And because of the emphasis on online communications and the need to be found online by the right audience, I am by default, in the business of SEO.

The Future of Search

Bing, Google and the newest DuckDuckGo and any others are all jockeying for domination; they want ad revenue. To win at the ad revenue game, they have to have eyeballs; that’s us. Performing searches. And if they want us, they better be delivering really relevant results and overall positive experience.

Semantic search is the convergence of elements that are new to the old school SEO scope of work. It takes into account your owned content, your created content, your social graph, your SEO (yes, the basics still matter), your PR (blogger and media outreach). It funnels into this thing called the SEO of Content, but I prefer to just call it: Marketing.

Here’s how search engines used to work: It was all about keywords. If the keywords matched, it was good to go. The more the better! And so, we’d get a lot of spammy keyword stuffed garbage in our results. And that doesn’t work. So now they are taking into account much more than that.

Here’s how they will go about doing it: Your content has to be popular. Spammy content is never popular so keyword stuffed sites are now being appropriately penalized. People have to be sharing it on social networks. Authoritative websites have to be linking to it. And of course, it needs to have keywords, but too many, and you’re done.

So while the user experience is not perfect, the evolution and updates we are seeing in the world of search are headed in that direction.

Knowing that, you can go about developing your content strategy without worrying about the fact that Bing just signed an agreement with Apple to be Siri’s search engine. That Google just launched the Knowledge Carousel. That Bing takes retweets and Facebook shares into account when that could change tomorrow.

I’m not saying you ignore these factors because it might change the way you execute programs, but it won’t change the fact that first and foremost, you have to create interesting content that gets shared and linked to.

I get asked why we are more expensive than an SEO agency, and there are a few reasons. SEO is no longer about cramming in keywords and submitting to numerous links. It takes a lot of time and effort to create quality content that becomes popular. You can’t just buy “likes” and “followers” in bulk and have that make a difference. You actually have to create relationships and build community. You can’t just submit links to directories; you actually have to do outreach to authoritative sites and get stories written about you. You can’t just pay someone to submit reviews about you; you have provide a great experience and let your customers do the talking for you.

SEO is content marketing is marketing.

I welcome your thoughts and comments.

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  • Ralph M. Rivera

    Does this then mean that the companies with the biggest budgets are destined to win? I think it’s a legitimate concern as the landscape continues to evolve. There was a recurring theme years ago about the democratizing effect of the Internet. Are we seeing the foundation for a migration away from that? I know it’s skeptical, but given a small player creating good content and a big player with a big budget creating good content, the big player will always crush the little; hence eliminating the democratizing effect. Am I being too cynical?

    • Lisa Gerber

      Hi Ralph! Sorry for the slow response.

      I’ve thought about this and it comes to down to execution. Big budgets tend to win in any game – not just marketing. But in content marketing, the small guys still have absolute ability to do well if they execute well. I look at small guys like River Pool Spas – that’s Marcus Sheridan’s company.And look what Gary Vee did with his small wine distributor business. It comes down to hard work, investment of time, and GOOD work.

      What do you think?

      • Danny Brown

        In fairness, his parents’ wine company was making $4 million per year when he introduced social. He’s increased that income immensely, but $4 million per year is no chump change. :)

        • Lisa Gerber

          OK – didn’t realize that so maybe not a great example, but my main point is, there are plenty of large enterprises with big budgets screwing up content. :) So while budget certainly is an advantage, in anything, good execution is the name of the game.

      • Ralph M. Rivera

        I don’t disagree. Hard work coupled with good content is never a bad thing. I do however, wish that “popularity” as a measure could evolve because the most popular content isn’t always the most relevant content. There exists the potential for a small business with quality content to fall behind a big business with popular, but irrelevant content. I know a lot of people say that relevant content will turn into popular content, but I just think that may be a romanticized perception of search.

        Wow, I’m being quite the Negative Nancy.


        • Lisa Gerber

          I agree with you Ralph – and as I think about it, I see that in many industries – look at film, music, and literature – there is tons of crap out there that is popular. :) I mean, my husband just made me endure an episode of Duck Dynasty last night and I thought, “really? This made it through countless filters to land on tv and the internet?”

          Always hard to get the good stuff out there – and “relevant” will always be a subjective. Clearly, based on my Duck Dynasty experience last night. Oy.

          • Ralph M. Rivera

            I just saw the first 10 minutes. I blame you for my ravenous desire for fresh bee honey now.

  • Unmana

    Can I just say how much I love that image? Because I do love it very much.