2010 : A New Age For Search Marketers

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We are in the midst of the largest algorithmic changes to Google’s relevancy since the Florida Update of 2003, and perhaps even the largest change for how marketers approach search since Google and Inktomi revolutionized the concept of citation based rankings. The interesting part of this change is that it is not focused on one concept, but rather several, that mixed together change the face of search as we move into the new year.

What makes this change so important is that the future of search, whether it be Search “2.0” or Caffeine oriented, is based on much more than the relevancy factors of content, links, queries and relevant infrastructure. This new “Search-o-morphis” brings factors into play which include site usability, site mobility, the presence of the site socially and also more and more offpage factors which go beyond traditional linking.

  • Personalized Search Changes
  • Real Time Search
  • Growth of Android and Personalized Mobile Search
  • Social Search
  • Bing Growing into legitimate option 2

These concepts individually have an effect, but combined they leave search relevancy heading in a direction that will leave SERPs looking far different than they did in 2009.

Looking at the way these changes are making search as a whole move, SEOs are going to have to focus on two new concepts in their marketing plan in 2010:

1. Social Media
2. Mobile Search

Why is social media so important? Well, since social media is such an all encompassing metric, let’s look at one aspect of social media : the sharing of information.

In 1998, links were important in the Google Citation algorithm because links were the way that people shared information and gave recommendations online. In 1998, in order to link to something, you usually had to hardcode a link in the HTML of your website. Doing so could take minutes to code, and hours to FTP via dial up, and if someone put that much time into linking to a site … well, that site must be of value, wouldn’t it have?

With blogging, things changed. Blogging came into the forefront in 2003 with Google’s acquisition of Blogger.com and ultimately Google’s launch of AdSense; which monetized blogs and led to a new economic culture of self publishing. With anyone having the ability to launch a blog with the click of a button, any novice now had the ability to link. Links are easier to achieve, easier to manipulate and much more valuable, since the link is no longer the voice of few, but the voice of many.

Enter microblogging and socially networked sharing, with Twitter and more predominantly Facebook. If Twitter is to an HTML link what Facebook is to mass blog linking. This analogy means basically that in my opinion, Twitter will hit its early adopter plateau while almost anyone will join Facebook, connect with friends and share information with others.

What’s our point?

Our point is that if Google is to still work off of a citation based algorithm based on relevant conversations and suggestions of websites using keywords, then the engine is going to have to catch up to the world of social media. Because bloggers don’t just blog anymore, they share thoughts and relevant information on Twitter and Facebook. If Dave’s mom reads something interesting, he’ll share it on Facebook. If Loren’s wife runs across a great recipe, she may tweet it out. Hence, microblogging.

If blogging has become microblogging, then linking should become micro-linking (ie. URL Shorteners).

If Google fails to incorporate social media signals via Twitter & Facebook sharing, TinyURL’s and other conversations … then they would be ignoring the direction of the Internet.

How will social media effect search directly? Well these new changes are sending signals beyond search.


The signal of traffic will not come simply from SERP use. The engines will be looking for how users interact with pages beyond their search product. How do they find the site? How do they share it? This can all be monitored from the methods above. Social media sites spread a ton of traffic throughout the web every day.

But traffic is not measured in terms of shear numbers, the relevance of traffic to a site can be measured via conversions (sales, sign ups, shares), bounce rate, time on site (all hail video!), diversity of traffic, whether the user revisits the site, and how the site is viewed amongst its peers and followers.


The more users engage with a document, the more it will show up in their personalized results.

Methods and systems for personalized network searching (Google Patent)

An embodiment of the present invention may comprise features to facilitate community building. For example, in one embodiment, the uniform resource locator comprises a community bookmark. The bookmark may be shared by a set of users or may be transmitted by one user and received by another. The second user can then perform personalized queries that are based, at least in part, on the shared bookmark. In another embodiment, a cluster of users is identified based at least in part on the bookmarks and annotations that they have previously identified.

If a user spends a great deal of time on a site, it is identified as a bookmark for later personalized searches. In other embodiments, the implicit measure may comprise at least one of the quantity of repeat visits to the site or the quantity of click-throughs on the site…Other implicit measures include printing the page, saving the page, and the amount of scrolling performed on the page.

Upstream and Downstream Data

Google will look to categorize a document according to the sites a user navigates to before and after the document in question.

Inferring User Interests (Google Patent)

The subject matter of this specification can be embodied in, among other things, a method that includes determining, for a portion of users of a social network, label values each comprising an inferred interest level of a user in a subject indicated by a label, associating a first user with one or more second users based on one or more relationships specified by the first user, and outputting a first label value for the first user based on one or more second label values of the one or more second users.

How is mobile going to effect these changes?

Let’s look at a quote from Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt:

It’s the year 2015. The compact device in my hand delivers me the world, one news story at a time. I flip through my favorite papers and magazines, the images as crisp as in print, without a maddening wait for each page to load. Even better, the device knows who I am, what I like, and what I have already read. So while I get all the news and comment, I also see stories tailored for my interests. I zip through a health story in The Wall Street Journal and a piece about Iraq from Egypt’s Al Gomhuria, translated automatically from Arabic to English. I tap my finger on the screen, telling the computer brains underneath it got this suggestion right…

It sounds like an android powered Google Phone, and it sounds like mobile has a key role to play in Google’s future personalization. This goes past the “Year of Mobile” cliché, this has to do with us as SEOs understand what role Andorid, Chrome, Chrome OS, and the 70 + search features introduced in the 60 days before the new year have to do with search marketing in terms of Google in 2010.

What does this all mean to Bing?

It means ride the wave to search user growth. If the minds at Bing are in tune to the situation they will take this time to go the opposite direction of Google, and capture a crowd of users that do not want their data collected and used against them. Improving the search product rather than narrowing its scope, and calling that advancement.

The SEO does not have the choice to go in the other direction at this time. As marketers we must figure out how to change our campaigns to meet the changes in the main search engine for our users. That means optimizing your campaigns for social and not just search, driving quality traffic from categorically related components of social sites, and enhancing the user engagement on mobile devices, especially those powered by Android.

Adapt or die.

The change is obviously not as neck breaking as the Florida Update was in 2003. People are not losing their living overnight. However, if marketers don’t take note, they may turn around in 2011 and wonder where there organic traffic and conversions went.

Loren Baker
Loren Baker is the Founder of SEJ, an Advisor at Alpha Brand Media and runs Foundation Digital, a digital marketing strategy & development agency.
Loren Baker
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  • Great article… Excellent summary and observations, forwarding this to staff since it shares my viewpoint.

    • yes indeed steveplunkett, we need to consider the mobile search and real time search which will dominate search industry.

  • Very good article, I’ll tweet it straight away!

  • This is a really good summary, I remember the 2009 speculations and everyone dismissing things like mobile search and no one would ever think a brand new search engine could compete but 2009 has been groundbreaking and social media (when done correctly) has become a powerful marketing tool.

  • Great article. Thanks for sharing!

  • A really good observation. Marketers should always be flexible enough to be able to keep up with time. Thanks for sharing!

  • Nice one! Will 2012 see the end of the world or end of the traditional SEO methods? I have few concerns for link building. Are tiny urls user friendly and can be read by Search Engine? I doubt clicking tiny urls, as I don’t know the exact site where I will land. Also, most of social media sites are linking with rel=nofollow. How this is going to help in passing link value to the sites?

    What about Google filling the organic search area with news, real time search, and youtube results? Is there be a space left for organic results on GOOGLE?

  • Stew Kelly

    Nice article and challenging for website developers too. I’m not sure where the social media aspect is going as the interaction is so superficial, but definitely mobile search should be taking off.

    Just one other observation, an interesting use of “shear” to cut, vs “sheer”, marked steepness used with SERP traffic:)

  • Interesting.

    Also interesting to note that this one blog post has generated 157 retweets (as of this writing) – it will be a challenge to search and find what you want in the sea of information overload…

  • Jeff Berg

    This was an interesting article, but coming from a social media background, I have a couple questions about it.

    When you write “If blogging has become microblogging, then linking should become micro-linking (ie. URL Shorteners),” are you suggesting that the behavioral trends that caused a shift towards microblogging are related to the URL shorteners? I see a huge difference between the two. Microblogging is a low-impact, low-cognitive load alternative to the, arguably, more time-intensive setup and writing of blogs. Shortening a URL, however, is actually more time intensive for the person sharing information because it adds another step in the process. I don’t see the link between the two.

    Also, as I understand it, Google does allow for real-time search of Twitter right now. They do not have the capability to search for content on Facebook because of Facebook’s privacy safeguards. The only way I could see this working is if, using Facebook Connect or something similar, Google allowed you to search through content submitted by friends. The alternative would, essentially, be like allowing me to search for your online banking records. Sure, they’re online and private, but so what?

  • So much information here. I particularly liked the part about social media. I truly believe this is the way of the marketing future. I’ve already seen the power of how information is easily passed around in Facebook and Twitter as I manage social media accounts for clients. Social media is here to stay and is going to be THE way businesses get new customers because it ties into what has always worked, the referral of a friend. Can’t wait for Google to get on board improving a companies search rankings because of it.

  • While I think that social media as a marketing channel still has a long way to grow, it definitely needs to be on every smart marketer’s radar at a minimum. As for real-time search, the jury is still out on how and when it will become a viable addition to the search landscape without becoming a spam haven..

  • The Twitter search is in Beta from recollection. I’m using the Facebook API on my site currently for real time updates and also looking into the Myspace one…

  • Great Article…………

    they are following the law of universe….
    changes are needed as market is going too much competitive……..
    a person who stand with that changes can stand in this deep ocean…….

    now its time to real-time search……

  • I am still a little skeptical about exactly how, and how deeply, the SE’s will use social media in search. I think the concept is fraught with holes. Obviously the issue of abuse comes up, but also the fact that I might trust my friends or even an entire community to judge a good pizza, but I don’t think I would trust them to recommend a good college. They may base their opinions on the best party school. Not necessarily a bad idea, but it may not be my criteria, and the one that ranks highest is the one that got the most Tweets? Does not seem like the Google way.

    Google’s empire was started by having the best search results, period. This movement towards social media seems to relinguish too much power. It just does not seem like the Google way. Of course, Page and Brin may not be pulling in the reins as much any more. This is not to say that it will not be a ranking factor, just how much weight is given.

    The recent real time search release has had some backlash, as well. When I search for San Francisco and the top result is a tweet about someone’s lost cat in San Fransisco, I am not happy. It totally flies in the face of what Google has stood for since it’s inception.

    Separate Google engine for social search, maybe?

  • marymary

    I might be willing to trust others to judge where to find a good pizza but basing the decision on tweets would be as sensible as basing the decision on the junk mail that arrives through the door.

    Tweeting is just spam? Surely, I can’t say that? Surely, it is a huge trend in SEO that we must take seriously. Well, time will tell. In five years time we will all know whether the SEs of the moment pay any attention to twitter. Until then of course, we can find ways to turn it to our advantage to manipulate rankings. Sorry, that last sentence should have read ‘Until then we can find ethically sound ways of promoting high value items that consumers are dying to know about but just haven’t been able to find out about until now.’

  • This is a fantastic article, I wish and hope mobile search should dominating our future search industry, it will save lot of time, if each and every hand have a mobile in future, then just think what amount of information would flow in through it.

  • I couldn’t agree with you any more, you make some excellent points about internet marketing and development for 2010. I plan on making a whole load of money in the coming couple of months with my websites, and I’m going to work hard to make sure that it happens!

  • JP

    Mobile search ? Give me a break. Mobile has been on the verge of booming for the last 8 years or so. And the birth of the IPhone hasn’t changed one thing: PC web browsing – and thus Searching – is still king.

    And on the topic of Social Media, I agree with that other comment: it’s search spam. Google just can’t fall for that one. It’s too obvious.

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  • Same as usual… don’t put all your eggs in the Google basket and create experiences that keeps customers coming back.

    • It’s hard to not put all your eggs into the Google basket when they drive so much traffic to the site. Of course we try to retain a lot of that traffic, but Google is often the first touch we get from our traffic.