Getting to Where Search is Going to Be, Not Where It Has Been

wayne-gretzky-skatingWhen it comes to search engine marketing, I always think about this hockey saying attributed to Wayne Gretzky: “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”

This is the key differentiator of those who are successful search marketers, as opposed to those who try to pick apart the iterations of zoo animal updates from Google with legacy tactics.

The key to search excellence is understanding the past, but to better prepare and execute for the future and avoiding the trap of old clichés. So with that said, where is enterprise search heading?

Intent Over Semantic

Search has largely been a semantic play with content by making sure you at least mention the different variations of the term you’re targeting.

Now search engines are evolving to understand synonyms of the word’s intent. This – combined with knowing what your location is, your previous search history, your social graph from Google+, and your device type from your user agent – allows the search engines to vary the results to the intent of the search at that particular moment.

How do you skate to where the puck is going with all of this?

Use coding semantics vs. content semantics to better position toward the various intents. This is accomplished with microformats clarifying your content in the code to the search engines and providing more background coding, such as longitude and latitude. This can be further amplified with HTML5 as it provides even more delineation of the content and adjusts based on device type and their implied intent.

Destruction of Search’s Link Economy

Links have been the votes that have fueled propulsion of search rankings as the search engines are looking for affirmation that a page is what it claims it is about. These link votes have long been bought and Super PACs of voting services have been formed in different link services.

Google in particular had been shooting across the bow of these Super PACs and clients for a while. Then in 2012, the giant search engine leveled its sights directly at them.

Google’s approach this year has been multi-pronged by “sinking” a link service as a public example, devaluing rankings as a result to show SEOs, and finally to make sure the end site owner is fully aware sends link warnings directly to them.

The puck continues to be about links, but it’s best to skate toward a diversity of signals that could include actual traffic, QR codes, and social media.

Social Service

As search engines, Google and Bing want to get you search results quickly, but at the same time keep you on their services for deeper ad penetration.

Both engines are using social information to get and keep you using their services – Google by building up Google+ combined with the vast mobile data from Android, while Bing leverages data from Facebook and Twitter. Google leverages this data for onsite stickiness with the Knowledge Graph and personalized results. Bing leans heavily on Facebook to keep a user on its site – not just for results but interestingly for image stalking.

Most everyone is skating toward deeper social integration with their search practices as a new social economy forms, but the puck looks to be going toward those who best engage rather than amplification of echoes.

Search is skating toward the Mobile Social Semantic Intent Web 3.0 and it is best to have your site position heading right in that direction before the puck passes you by.

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