Search Engine Marketing is Changing
Just twelve months ago it would have been inconceivable to talk about search engine marketing (SEM) and think it would be possible to do so without talking only about Google. Sure you might have been able to discuss Blekko and DuckDuckGo keeping a straight face, but the truth is that their market share in search is so low that they do not even feature on the BING horizon.


So, why are we talking about it right now? Two reasons. First, there is a growing wave of dissatisfaction with Google. Rightly or wrongly it really does not matter and it is largely irrelevant. In search marketing, just like any other market perception drives change as much as facts and there is a growing feeling amongst business that an overly reliance on Google is creating vulnerabilities which they would rather not have. As a result webmasters and search engine optimizers are looking for alternatives in terms of advertising, search and marketing, which begs the question, are there any?

A year ago, even before Google Plus came on the scene the pickings were remarkably slim. Facebook, Twitter and a coterie of social sites like Digg and micro-blogging site Tumblr would have been the only viable route available. It helps to define here that in this context search engine marketing (SEM) as opposed to search optimization utilizes your website’s content to create a social signal which directly impacts upon your website’s ranking in search. As you probably realize, the success of this approach relies on data, or rather the ability of a search engine to find, analyze, categorize and evaluate data.

Until recently Google had no match when it came to this task and in many ways it still doesn’t. Google is still the only search engine to date which can successfully analyze the web, index it and serve it in search, in relation to a search query, with a high degree of relevance. But the web is changing. It is growing bigger each day and, even more importantly, the amount of data in it is also growing at an exponential rate.

While the amount of data is not a massive problem when it comes to indexing it and understanding it, the way it is shared is. Prior to 2005 Google only had to understand and index the information shared by websites. In that search universe data came from websites into the web in the analogy of rain falling from the sky. It sort of dropped in there, pooled into lakes of information and waited for the Google bot to arrive and start to make sense of it all so that search could work.

This is not what’s happening now. Websites still drop data into the web like raindrops into the sea but in the social media era, the way it is being used, or rather re-used is creating an incredibly complex picture. Data going into the web right now, gets reshared through Twitter in ways which can diminish or enhance its relevance, it is socialised through Facebook which can alter its value and it is being reshared, added to and commented upon in Google Plus, which can alter its significance. In addition, the degree of interaction data enjoys in each medium further changes the way it can be assessed in terms of relevance and value on the web and this impacts upon how it is served on search.

If this sounds like an ever-shifting landscape, it is. You understand, perhaps, the scope of Google’s task and why it could conceivably, at times, fail. More than that, it is also now conceivable that within that complex environment there could arise specialists who in a very narrow context can do a better job in search than Google simply because they have a much better grasp on how content is used, how relevant it is and how it is shared and with whom.

In this field now, which Google used to be the only choice, we see some verticals which may conceivably do a much better job: Facebook (not right now, Facebook search sucks!) if it goes ahead and buys BING. Bitly, in about a month or so when it launches search. Even StumbleUpon could become a player here if they managed to somehow acquire some quality search engineers.

How Does The Change in Search Affect Webmasters?

The critical question right now is what should you be doing as a webmaster to ensure that your website is going to benefit?

Well here’s a short list of actions some of which you should be doing already:

01. Have a presence in Google Plus. Google’s own social network is, right now, adding great value to your social signal just by having a presence there and linking it to your website, creating authorship.

02. Have a presence in Facebook. I know, right now you may not have sufficient time for everything, yet Facebook needs to be squarely on your radar in terms of posting some content there. And should it ever buy BING, well, then you’ll be well ahead of the game.

03. Use Twitter on a daily basis. You should be posting content there at least two, three times a day and if you are pressed for time you will find a way to automate this in my article on Social Media Marketing Shortcuts.

04. Create a presence on Bitly. Should Bitly search take off this is one service you will be glad you actually put into use. Get into the habit of using Bitly on a regular basis and actually see how your content is shared there.

05. Have a presence on StumbleUpon. In the US StumbleUpon is responsible for driving over 50% of traffic to websites. With this kind of performance not having a presence there makes no sense.

We are reaching now, a very critical time in search. Things will soon begin to crystallize and the shape of the web of the future will become much clearer. As a webmaster working hard to help your website rank on Google search you need to try and think ahead as much as possible. These steps will make sure that you are prepared for most eventualities.

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