The Future of SEO & Search
Notes from SEER founder Wil Reynolds' talks
on where the industry is going next
"I HATE the word viral."
Where do brilliant ideas come from? For Wil Reynolds great inspiration strikes when he's on the toilet. As an example, there was the RCS project. The original concept came about by slowly entering search queries into Google one letter at a time. When you slow down on hitting the enter key it gives you clear insight into what most people are looking to find via the suggested search phrases.
The RCS site is a product that's full of answers to people's naturally curious questions. The Verge and Wired picked up on the story and spread the word. The site saw a huge amount of traffic thanks to all the publicity. But the traffic died down after a while. And you know what happened a few months later? The traffic began picking back up when Google started sending a large amount of search traffic to the site. It's now had way more visitors over the course of the long tail than during the first month of intense press coverage.
Start doing big content. Do sustainable content. Create content that makes people say:
"This is interesting."
You need to create a story if you want to capture your audience's attention. SEER's new strategic bet is on PR. All of their latest hires have been researchers, librarians and publicists. These are the people that know how to pull an interesting narrative out of a huge amount of data. Search and keyword research is baked into SEER's business and they are aiming these skills at building powerful story telling machines.
"This is what we are doing for all our clients."
Google has been hiring as many PhDs as possible for the last few years. And what are the best and brightest minds doing for Google? They are continuously working to create new algorithms for sniffing out junk content to remove from search results. The days of being able to throw up thousands of pages of automatically generated content based on a few keywords is over. You're not going to have success trying to fake your way to quality content. People recognize it when they see it, and now the Googlebots are becoming aware. Instead of fighting the trend you need to embrace the new techniques that provide actual value.
You should feel proud to promote it
Building lightweight, useful and fun custom web apps has huge potential for attracting traffic. Introduce a piece of content that is useful, something you feel proud to promote. The days of blackhat SEO manipulation are basically over. You are going to be left behind if you cling to any of the leftover advice from the last few years. All SEO companies have is their reputation, and it's getting easier to lose it.
Years ago Wil Reynolds bet that Google would reward high quality content. It wasn't a popular opinion in the search industry at the time, but Google's Panda update proved him right. You can't go wrong by providing value.
Cardstore is the company that produced the video above. They are a SEER client that asked for help in maximizing the search value of the video. The World's Toughest Job got over 10,000,000 views in just a few days. It was a brilliant campaign for an online greeting card store. Captivating content can take many forms, and the key to success is the people behind it.
Many companies take down content when the campaign is over, but Wil recommends leaving it up. There's a lot of potential in gaining traffic from the long tail over time. You simply need to keep track of the analytics to see how these numbers add up over time.
Standing out from the crowd
A lot of the successful SEER projects have copycats. But none of them ever take off because they fail to execute as well. You can't skimp on things like the design. Hiring a local design company to build an idea into a finely tuned working product is something that's going to stand out and get attention. The details matter and can make or break a project. You can make it look easy, but your competition isn't going to be a problem if you go the extra mile.
The next big idea
New ideas don't always come when sitting on the toilet or typing slowly into Google. Sometimes you have to get out of the office and talk to people outside your world. One day Wil was out talking to Frank Domizio, the Philly Police's Twitter guy, and they came up with the idea of an app for people to map security cameras around the city. And so CommunityCam was born. This free tool helps people locate surveillance footage of crimes. It got their video surveillance client several minutes of time on the news and continues to drive large amounts of traffic to their site.
Check out Wil's slideshare page for some more inspiration on what to do next. It's going to pay off more and more to develop your own content strategy.