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Lee Odden

The Evolution of Google Is An Evolution of SEO & Content Marketing

By Lee Odden     Online Marketing, SEO
BackRub Google

The first logo for predecessor to Google (BackRub) was this photo (via a copy machine) of of Sergey Brin's hand in 1996.

Continuing our theme this week of Content Marketing, this post digs into some of the changes that have happened with search engines (but mostly Google) and how understanding both the diversity of search results and content formats can help internet marketers gain a competitive advantage with content optimization.

There’s nothing static about Internet Marketing, but the one constant we can all count on is the persistent effort by search engines to improve search quality and user experience. Such continuous improvements can affect how content is discovered, indexed and sorted in search results as well as what external signals are considered to determine authority.

It’s essential for results-oriented marketers to monitor the front and back end landscape of search to be proactive about what it will take to achieve and maintain a competitive advantage.  Continuous efforts towards progressive search strategy for marketers are important, because we cannot rely on Google to send us “Weather Reports” every time an update is made.

Google 1998

Google 1998

In 2007 Google and other search engines like Ask made some of the most significant changes ever, affecting search results by including more sources such as Images, Maps, Books, Video, and News for certain queries.  In an effort to capitalize on the opportunity for improved search visibility for the array of media types included in search results, concepts like Digital Asset Optimization came about.

Fast forward to 2011 and you’ll find that search results have evolved from 10 blue links to situationally dependent mixed media results that vary according to your geographic location, web history, social influences and social ratings like Google Plus. At any given time there are 50-200 different versions of Google’s core algorithm in the wild, so the notion of optimizing for a direct “cause and effect” are long gone.

Google 2011

Google 2011

The incorporation of social media sites like Twitter and Facebook into Google, Bing and Yahoo as link sources have changed what it means to “build links” and whether PageRank is still important.  Social signals are rich sources of information for search engines and old ways of link acquisition simply don’t have the same effect.

Google says it’s mission is to “Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”.  Marketers need to understand the opportunities to make information — including various types of digital assets — easy for search engines to find, index and sort in search results. Structured data in the form of markup, microformats and rich snippets, as well as feeds and sitemaps, all play an increasingly important role in helping Google achieve this goal.

At the same time, so does understanding myriad data sources and file types that can be included in search results.  By understanding these opportunities, search marketers can inventory their digital assets and deploy a better, more holistic SEO strategy which realizes the benefit of inclusion and visibility where customers are looking.

Increasingly, marketers are approaching search optimization holistically under the premise of, “What can be searched on can be optimized“.  That means more attention is being paid to the variety of reasons people search as well as the variety of reasons companies publish digital content. Content and SEO are perfect partners for making it easy to connect constituents and customers with brand content.

In the past, SEO consultants have typically been left to deal with whatever content they could optimize and promote for link building. Now the practice of SEO involves content creation and curation as much as it does with reworking what already exists. When a SEO examines the search results page of targeted keyword phrases on a regular basis, reviews web analytics and conducts social media monitoring, they can gain a deeper sense of what new sources and content types  can be leveraged for better search visibility.

For example, while the inclusion of Twitter and Facebook data as influential in Google search results has received a lot of buzz, search results monitoring might show that the keyword terms being targeted do not trigger the same types of content. They might be prone to triggering images and video, not just web pages. That information can be considered when allocating content creation and keyword optimization resources.

For many companies, it can be very difficult and complex to implement a holistic content marketing and search optimization program. Substantial changes may be necessary with content creation, approval and publishing processes. But the upside is that a substantial increase in the diversity of content and media types indexed and linking to a company web site will provide the kind of advantage standard SEO no longer offers.

As long as there are search engines, and search functionality on websites, there will be some kind of optimization for improving marketing performance of content in search. What companies need to consider are all the digital assets, content and data they have to work with to give both search engines and customers the information they’re looking for in the formats they’ll respond to.


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