SEO is Dead – Long Live Algorithm Marketing

SEO is Dead – Long Live Algorithm Marketing

19th July 2011

It’s been, I don’t know, seventeen minutes since the last “SEO is dead” post, but please bear with me. I make my living from SEO, so hopefully my opinion is a little more informed than the usual antagonistic diatribe where search marketing is read its last rites.

The internet is an ever changing place, but then it always has been. One of those big recent trends is the rise of the alternative algorithms. When most of us hear the “A Word” we think of Matt Cutts and his friends at Google coming up with the rules and regulations which determine what websites rank were on search results pages.

I wouldn’t know where to start programming an algorithm but we all know what it means. However, for the benefit of this article I’ll refer to Google’s handy “define” function.

A process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, esp. by a computer.

I’m starting to see more and more of these “sets of rules to be followed in problem solving operations” all over the net and influencing marketing.

To be more clear, we can take Facebook as an example. What appears in your news feed when you login to Facebook? That’s determined by Edgerank. That’s Facebook’s algo. It’s not the most complicated.  To start with every object or piece of content is known as an “edge”.

How likely that edge is to appear in someone else’s news feed is determined by a combination of three factors: affinity, edge weight and recency.

Affinity is a score based on the proximity or how “friendly” you are with someone. You’ve probably seen this in action. Spy an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend, snoop on their profile and suddenly they’re in your news feed all the time.

Edge weight is a basic formula which decides that certain pieces of content are more likely to appear in news feeds than others. Photos are more important than someone “liking” a business profile, etc.

And finally recency or time decay, which is again pretty self-evident, is simply that something newer is more likely to appear than something older.

Now if you’re a regular user of Facebook, many of these ideas are obvious, but with a good appreciation and understanding of how EdgeRank works you will begin to make more intelligent decisions in your Facebook Marketing Campaign.

Perhaps you have an important launch coming up. You really want this to appear in as many of your fans’ news feeds as possible so what can you do to increase the likelihood of it appearing?

First of all, you want to do all you can to increase the affinity between your followers and you ahead of the announcement. Perhaps you could start a debate on one of your status updates which lots of your followers contribute to. That contribution has increased their affinity to you, great news!

What if you know that in general photos tend to appear in news feeds more frequently than normal status update? Well then perhaps you ought to accompany the release with a series of photographs. If you also know that the more recent your update is, the more likely it is to appear in news feeds, that’s should have an impact on when your announcement is made so it coincides with your followers logging into their accounts.

I’m only scratching the surface here, but hopefully I’ve illustrated that anyone who is conducting a Facebook marketing campaign will be able to achieve greater results by understanding an algorithm.

That being said, this isn’t the only algorithm which should be having a huge impact on marketers’ decisions.

If we look at a second example of Twitter. You are now able to pay for a promoted trending term on Twitter. So, if someone clicks that tweet, they’re redirected to a Twitter search results page. Not so long ago those results where chronological, so most recent was second after your tweet, not anymore; there’s an algorithm at work.

You’ve spent a significant sum of money for that exposure to send traffic to that search result page; you need to understand what is going to influence what else appears on that page. What results occur may be different for everyone but if you knew the algo you’d already know that.

I hate people who reel of stats, rather than offer insight, but there is one particular statistic I love. It says that YouTube is the second biggest search engine in the world.  Whether you believe the data or not, there’s a pretty strong case for optimising YouTube videos for their internal search. It’s a different set of rules and parameters to Google and requires a different approach, however, there’s a huge value in understanding what those differences are and changing your approach accordingly.

These aren’t the only algos out there affecting marketing decisions: local, merchant centre, quality score, etc. are growing in importance. I think generally marketing is getting more integrated and I think anyone with a background in marketing and specialising in complex algorithms, like search marketers, are going to find their skills in huge demand. So maybe SEO isn’t dead (the old headline bait and switch trick) but I think us Algorithm Marketers have a rosy future.

Written By
Kelvin Newman is Creative Director at SiteVisibility and specialises in achieving natural search results and producing link-worthy online content, working with a variety of brands including the RSPCA & uSwitch.
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