New changes could mean massive changes for SEO

Its been quite a month for search, including significant changes to the search engines pages, as well as a number of noticable acquisitions for the mighty search behemoth that is Google. In particular Google’s recent acquisition trail would tend to suggest very much a focus on search and social – something we haven’t seen recently with a number of Google’s acquisitions.

This would sugget that Google very much appreciate the threat of a united Bing/Yahoo alliance – a move I can’t help feeling still has a lot of mileage in it despite many recent studies suggesting that Bing wins have mainly been the expense of Yahoo (Neilsen and Holistic Search) – and that social contnues to be a medium to long term target – particularly if you look at three of the acquisitions made durint the last month alone – those of and Angstro in particular (and even more so if you look how some of Google’s past acquisitions are now coming to fruition – such as Android (acquired August 2005) and Doubleclick (April 2007 – and now being expanded to include natural search tracking)

However whilst those acquisitions suggest social may be an integral part of Google’s future, search remains a fundamental part of their present – and it is here where we have seen a number of significant changes and tests within the Google search pages. One of the most notable was that of the Google local testing results – where many of the Google organic results pages were limited and local/paid search results played a more integral part of these pages.


There are a number of assumptions that can be made here when speculating as what Google may do next,

1) Google is constantly looking to monetise both its real estate and inventory. As such the search results pages are the gateways to many such opportunities and an easy vehicle for Google to incorporate into any distribution vehicle. Further to this, Google is a business like any other, and relies on being able to sell its advertising. To do this it obviously has to ensure best performance of the ads themselves and I think we have seen this within a number of recent changes namely

– Reduction in page width – This effectively brought the results closer together immediately reducing the space between paid and non-paid. The net effect is far less differentiation between the two results are thus the potential for greater paid search clickthrough.

– Changing the paid search results background from yellow to pink. Many have suggested this has made the paid search results more difficult to diffentiate from the organic search results.

– The local search tests above – would suggest Google is not afraid of completely changing the look as well as the functionality of the search pages. Pending feedback this may the catalyst for yet greater expansion of blended and secondary search results and thus greater importance in terms of maximising organic real estate. For SEO’s not considering meta descriptions on mere ranking issues – this may result in somewhat of a rethink.

The net effect of these changes is that clickthrough considerations need to be factored into the organic mindset in order to encourage users to consider the requirements of a potential browser. Increasingly the paid search inventory is competing with the organic search results – and thus our organic pages not only need to tick the right semantic boxes but also the right clickthrough considerations in order to be effective.

2) Google is constantly looking to corner new markets. We have already seen Google rollout Real Estate, undertake tests secured loans and mortgages during recent years, as well as credit cards on a more limited rollout recently. However the acquisition of ITA would suggest that the Google expansion is a far from complete process and that we may still see travel see similar rollouts to Real Estate – something I would suggest that (if rolled out like Real Estate and Products is more applicable to a SEO skillset than one of a PPC expert. The increasing impact of feed based optimisation is something I can’t help feeling is one that we may increasingly see more of.

3) Google is increasingly getting social. We have already seen Google launch Google Realtime as well as incorporate real time search results into the mainstream search results. However, having already launched Wave and Buzz – and still incorporating new social media inventory into the armoury on an almost regular basis, one wouldn’t put any further expansion of social media tools and products out of question. However current social media needs to have a degree of SEO built into its mindset. Deploying a blog as part of your social media strategy – you have to consider linkage. Undertaking a Twitter campaign – dont forget the impact on SEO. As I have said before on a post back on the Holistic Search blog – social media needs to encompass all aspects of the communications blend – not just standalone social media experts and PR proffesionals but SEO experts as well. The net effect is a wider impact of SEO within the mainstream marcomms.

4) Google is increasingly looking at the search experience. The tests which Rob Ousbey recorded last week suggested Google isn’t afraid to test big. The net effect of incorporating such a test mainstream would be enormous with many SEO’s likely to have to reconsider long tail targeting strategies in place of increasingly competitive high end terms as people potentially find what they want due to the way the revised SERP’s could work. This is a double whammy for two main reasons

– The potential search keyword pool is significantly reduced. Multiple competitors competing for a smaller number of terms.
– The competitiveness of these terms becomes increasingly higher. The net effect is more aggresive SEO as we see in highly competitive verticals such as gaming or finance. As a result I have to say I would be fairly suprised to see this rolled out to this extent but we will have to wait and see.

Us SEO’s are used to change – its part of the territory – however I can’t help thinking that we potentially have some significant changes and challenges coming our way.

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About Peter Young

Peter has been around the industry for a while now, having previously headed up both search and SEO operations at Connectpoint (now Amaze), Mediavest, Brilliant Media and now Search & Social Director for Mediacom.

7 thoughts on “New changes could mean massive changes for SEO

  1. Well… Monetising has definately been the name of tge game for Google the past few years. But still – are there any real alternative for most people?

  2. Nice post Pete,

    Theres no getting away from it Social is now part of the mix & is staying, totally agree with you that SEO’s need to be part of the equation when promoting in this medium.

    I like the idea of click throughs adding to the algorithm, it certainly shows the quality of your Title & snippet in terms of attraction & hopefully relevancy to the users.

    I think one of the biggest changes that might be upcoming (as covered in a recent Google Patent) is changes to the value of links in the organic algorithm.

    I’m hoping this will happen soon but reckon it could be quite sometime, if we really want to see the most relevant results to query then the level of value given to inbound links needs to be reduced, due to the overwhelming manipulation of this area.

    I also hope that the ASA initiatve does what is designed to do in terms of website content and hammers sites that make false or misleading claims, not directly SEO but affecting site content & Social so yet another thing us SEO’s need to be aware of.

    Sometimes maddening but always challenging, I think thats why a lot of us love this job…it’s hardly dull.

  3. Thanks for the comments guys

    @Andy – Personally I dont think it will be – however I can’t help thinking it is part of the bigger picture – perhaps or perhaps something more all encompassing. Realtime is important but it doesn’t represent the entire picture, after all as a searcher I dont want everything from something that happened five minutes ago.

    @SEO LEX – Completely agree – one has to only look at those recent tweaks and changes to see that. Further to that, the expansion of Google into credit cards, real estate – and the fact they are going head to head with the likes of Rightmove etc would only serve to suggest consistent growth in the bottom line is fundamental (as it is with any huge organisation). In this industry – if you stand still for two long – someone will overtake you.

    @Pete G Glad you liked the post. The ASA could be very interesting – however I will be interesting to see how much power they have in real terms – as many of the fly by night operators are often difficult to track down – and at the end of the day those are often the ones who cause the biggest problems.

  4. Great piece, Peter. I agree that we’re facing some dramatic changes in the near future. I’ve been writing about it myself, and it’s nice to see I’m not the only voice in the forest (well, aside from those in my head).

    Certainly, SM is going to be around for a while, at least ’til the next “new game” hits town. I’m still a little up in the air about what the long term effects of the burgeoning mobile market will be to the SEO industry. It’ll be interesting… that’s a safe bet.

  5. Some very valid points in an intricate examination. I believe myself that google has got something drastic coming in it’s results as it continues to adapt and evolve to accommodate and incorporate social media and reinforce it’s position online.

    I believe it has already missed the boat in allowing facebook to become so established and entrenched and is worried about the long term effect on the Market share.

    So much of these changes are pre-emptive and welcome in my opinion, no matter the effect on SEO. Competition never hurt anyone. (Except Apollo Creed- he died.)

  6. Certainly everything Google does isn’t the right thing. I admire that they’re bold enough to make big splashy entrances into markets, and sometimes exit those markets as well. They’re very bold in how they approach their product development. They may not win every market they enter, but due to their sheer size, they do shake it up and encourage innovation. Consumers & businesses end up winning in the end.

    I guess everyone is keen to shoot them down for lack of a leadership position in Social – but, that race is far from won, and Social is new to everyone – so there’s plenty of time before the dust settles.

    I feel they do a credible job of forging Search as an application, and we are moving closer to Universal Discovery where we don’t think about “search engines” – rather, just destinations to find answers to life’s problems.

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