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Television Is About To Change In A Big Way, Thanks To Search

America loves TV. Too bad our love affair with it is about to end. But we have “search” to thank for it. Because SEO plays a major role in the content funnel today, it is helping to make TV a thing of the past.

Pulling the plug on TV

According to Neilson’s 2013 cross-platform report released in March, there is a new segment redefining the TV viewership landscape. Neilson calls them “Zero-TV” households, or more commonly “cord cutters”: families who no longer watch TV. This new segment is still relatively small, at only 5% of the US population, but it is growing at a staggering 22% year over year.

But why is America pulling the plug on TV?

Viewers are replacing TV with online video. In fact, YouTube alone now serves over 4 billion video views daily, a 30% increase in the last 8 months.

But the shift away from TV isn’t just due to the increase in online video content. Search is actually helping to drive this change in viewing habits. How so? In a traditional TV model, SEO really didn’t have a role, because there was no true search functionality. But now that content is moving online, search is at the forefront of the experience. The strong search functionality available with online video gives consumers control over how they engage with content.

SEO’s role in the content funnel

The new content funnel is comprised of three elements: content discovery, content exploration, and content consumption. And search plays a role in each stage. Let’s look at each to see where the SEO opportunities lie.

content funnel Television Is About To Change In A Big Way, Thanks To Search

Content discovery:

We’ve all sighed a little when our favorite shows get cancelled just when they are getting good, but did you know that almost 70% of new series are cancelled in the first season? New shows are born on “death row,” and can only be saved if they attract a large, dedicated fan base before the first season’s finale. But how does the average viewer find which new shows are worth watching? Search! In fact, this is where Facebook’s new Graph Search comes in.

tv shows my friends like Television Is About To Change In A Big Way, Thanks To Search

Graph Search lets you mine your Facebook social graph by asking questions in natural language like, “Which TV shows do my friends like?” The results it delivers contain a collection of shows your friends have curated, which makes them both relevant and trust-worthy.

In addition to social network based search engines, streaming content providers like Hulu and Netflix also help viewers discover content. They do a great job of categorizing and recommending content based on genres and viewing habits.

hulu Television Is About To Change In A Big Way, Thanks To Search

What it means for SEO?

It’s tempting to think of SEO as “Higher rankings in Google or Bing,” but we need to expand this thinking. Because search is key to content discovery, we need to think of it as “Higher rankings anywhere a search takes place.” This could mean social networks, shopping sites, app stores, Q&A sites, even inside mobile apps.

Just like we can optimize the link graph to boost a site’s ranking in Google, we can optimize the social graph to improve rankings in Facebook’s Graph Search. This is part of Social SEO, and it creates an amazing opportunity for SEOs to expand their service offering outside traditional search engines.

Content Exploration:

After we hear about a new show through Facebook Graph Search, word of mouth, or traditional advertising, we’ll want to get a feel for the show. Fortunately, search helps us explore the content. A quick search over on YouTube pulls up short clips, commercials, fan reviews, cast interviews, bloopers, and sometimes full-length episodes.

the office Television Is About To Change In A Big Way, Thanks To Search

What it means for SEO?

Whether you’re optimizing content for a TV show, or are simply working with your company’s video assets, try to make the most out of your content. Consider breaking up a longer video into several shorter clips, each with their own targeted keyword set.

For example, a 10-minute interview with your company’s CEO might be edited into several 1 or 2 minute clips in addition to the full-length interview. If a “behind the scenes” or bloopers video doesn’t fit the company’s style, a few “Vine style” six-second clips of insightful quotes can be taken from the interview and packaged as individual clips.

Content Consumption: 

One of the biggest problems with network television is the need for viewers to tune-in the same time each week. In between each episode is a week’s worth of distractions and unpredictability. Recording shows with DVRs is a step in the right direction, but still requires pre-planning by the consumer. Wouldn’t it be better for both consumers and content publishers if viewers could simply search for the show they wanted to watch, then continued watching that show until they were done? Many viewers think so, as evidenced by their “binge” viewing behavior.

This trend of binge watching is why Netflix decided to release all 14 episodes of the new season of Arrested Development simultaneously.

arrested development Television Is About To Change In A Big Way, Thanks To Search

What it means for SEO?

Episodic content — such as photo galleries or long articles — has traditional been split up into multiple pages to increase page views, which boosts ad revenue. But consumers hate clicking through pagination links to continue reading an article, just like they hate having to wait a week to watch the next episode of a great TV series.

To delight visitors and increase the likelihood of them sharing your content, consider consolidating the entire piece of content into a single element. Doing so will help drive engagement. By increasing user engagement and social sharing, search engines will consider the content to be higher quality, which will lead to higher rankings. High rankings spawn more traffic, which in turn will lead to more social sharing. This social-search dynamic is the basis for a successful content-based SEO campaign.

The Wrap Up:

TV viewership is on the decline, and search is helping to push it out of the picture. That’s because it has the power to help viewers discover, explore, and consume content online. Given that, be sure to optimize your efforts for every stage of the content funnel.

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Dan Cristo is the director of SEO Innovation at Catalyst Search Marketing, a thought leader in the organic, paid and social space. Dan has been doing SEO since 2002, when he started his first company at age 20. An avid programmer and entrepreneur, Dan's latest project is the social media tool for bloggers, Triberr. Look for him on Twitter: @DanCristo.

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2 thoughts on “Television Is About To Change In A Big Way, Thanks To Search

  1. A big reason people, like myself, are pulling the plug on TV is because it get’s more lousy everyday. To many commercial interruptions and crummy programming. This is driving a lot of people into alternatives like the internet of course. This doesn’t have much to to with SEO I guess but there it is. Good article thanks

    1. Hey John,
      You’re right on point.

      TV networks are pressured to monetize their content a little more every year. They’ve gotten to the point where people are frustrated, and are looking for alternatives. With a smaller audience, it becomes even harder to monetize, which means they REALLY need to monetize their viewers, which adds more friction. It’s a death spiral, and it reminds me of a certain social network…