With the end of 2013, there has been a lot of looking forward toward what this New Year will bring. Prediction after prediction has been issued, many of which proclaim that SEO is dead, dying, on its last legs, rising from the ashes like a Phoenix and, if you live in Seattle as I do, the Seahawks will go all the way this year.
Instead of predictions, I want to encourage us to form intentions for 2014. I’ve outlined some of mine.
Marianne’s SEO Intentions for 2014:
Let go and let Google
Many 12 Step recovery programs use the maxim “let go and let God” to describe the process of giving oneself over to a higher power for restoration and direction. It would seem that we have done the same with Google and finding information on the Web.
Google’s simplistic interface, blazing speed and data mining user behavior in a fashion that puts the NSA to shame produces results that are always just what users want. As a result, users have let go of any responsibility to be deliberate with forming search queries and discerning with what is delivered back to them. Our users let go and let Google take care of everything, as do the rest of us.
For 2014, join me and Rand Fiskin (from MozCon 2012), and let go of Google dependency. Now I start with Bing or another search engine. Believe it or not, 90% of the time I find exactly what I wanted. For the other 10%, I then go to Google and their ginormous index. It is hard to break the Google crack habit, yet it can be done. In doing so, you are contributing to a competitive search landscape by allowing other search engines to learn from user behavior and become better. Win-win and feel good all around.
Hit the books instead of the gym
It is time to go beyond what has worked in the past and develop new approaches that work for the landscape we currently occupy. This means putting down the latest Lee Child novel and supplementing our personal knowledge bases with ideas that might just break our brains.
During the Spring Quarters, I teach Introduction to Information Retrieval at the University of Washington Information School. This requires that I dig deep into how search engines work in the past and today. For class, I am reading Essential Algorithms: A Practical Approach to Computer Algorithms by Rod Stephens. I understand about 15%, and that 15% is helping me to understand the lengths that Google must go to find, extract and store Web pages. Jaron Lanier’s You Are Not a Gadget was a valuable introduction techno-skepticism and inspiration to keep the user, not the search engine, at the forefront of my optimization efforts.
Take a content strategist to lunch
Does anyone really know what content strategy is? There’s a lot of FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) around the topic. Some think it is a high-level road map on what to publish on websites. Others think it is the process by which content is published to the website. Smart money says it is what you want it to be. Content providers have a pretty solid grasp of what content strategy is. One thing I know for sure is that content feeds the search index and is our last best chance to influence rank position for our clients.
For 2014, I am seeking out opportunities to speak to content strategy groups and conferences about the importance of content in the findability (aka, SEO, slipped a wee information architecture term in there for you) experience (and there’s one for the user experience crowd). Content strategists think that content is important because it informs and it is. However, the SEO community knows (or we should know) that content is important because it is deconstructed, assigned a surrogate, stored in a peculiar manner, retrieved according to formulas developed in the 1970s and presented in a rank order that is influenced by a sequence of as many as 200 algorithms that oftentimes contradict each other.
Now, we can continue to chase our tails while we chase Google’s algorithms. Or, we can seize control through what we give the search engines to process, e.g. the content. And, to do that, we need the content strategists for help with semantic associations, content structure and, yes, clean copy. Google has become that English teacher we had in high school that nitpicks every typo and misused gerund (whatever that is).
Control what feeds the beast and you control the beast. So, I am resolved to learn more about content, entity definition and relationship modeling. I am going to attend content strategy meetups, read the blogs, follow the superstars on Twitter and cruise the conference presentations on Slideshare. You?
We’re two weeks in to the New Year and so far, I am doing pretty well. What are your intentions for 2014?
*Image used courtesy of Pixabay, and can be found here.
Marianne Sweeny is a Search Information Architect at Portent Inc. She is passionate about optimizing the user search experience on the Web or inside the enterprise firewall. Marianne’s last article for SEMrush was "Was It Good for You? How to Use Analytics to Measure User Experience."