Danny Sullivan- AZIMA SEMPOAZ event Scottsdale

Once upon a time search engine optimization (SEO) wasn’t even a term and the main search-related challenge for a web developer to reach the top spot was simply wording websites with the desired keyword phrases and maybe sneaking some colored text on a matching colored background. However, as internet growth surged and new search engines flooded the landscape, being search savvy became a thing and discussions about being at the top of the search results became a brass-ring challenge.

While the number of search engine companies decreased, the remaining companies increased their sophistication in an attempt to deliver better results while thwarting attempts to game the system. Developers and marketers continued finding tricks and solutions, often taking advantage of loopholes, and the search engines continued to create smarter algorithms to close those loopholes and return only the best matches. This ongoing battle resulted in the creation of a new marketing speciality of hunting that elusive top placement: SEO.

AZIMA-SEMPOAZ-event-Danny-SullivanOver the past two decades as SEO matured and the complexity, challenge and importance of an organization having great search visibility skyrocketed, those wishing to keep informed and increase their search marketing skills turned to one of the founders and leaders in the industry: Danny Sullivan, founder of Marketing Land and Search Engine Land and chief content officer for Third Door Media.

Last Thursday over 250 AZIMA and SEMPO members had the opportunity to attend a presentation (slideshare presentation) of the State of Search for 2015 by icon Danny Sullivan.

Danny’s presentation began and maintained a theme of an ever-changing search landscape. Literally showing how the real estate layout of a search results web page has changed over the years, Danny pointed out that the goal of landing at the top of the organic search results is not even the goal any longer. “Being number 1 and the 10 blue links is dead,” said Danny. Search results used to simply display the top 10 results and marketers simply used to fight to get as close to the top as possible. However, modern search results are more fractured and display a variety of listings including product shopping results, pay-per-click (PPC) results, local results and somewhere in the mix organic, free results.

education seminars scottsdale AZIMA afterhours cocktail mixerIn the past, users searched for a term, which was really just a collection of alphanumeric characters that search engines matched to their database of alphanumeric characters. A search for Obama would return web sites that had that collection of characters. There were 10 listings returned that best matched. Now, not only is the layout a mashup of paid, free and local listings but the returns are greater than just a content match and include a context match.  “Free listings get less space and… there are no normal results,” stated Danny as he joked that SEO is dead before launching into the details of the ever-changing landscape and how it affects marketers.

Danny pointed out that the industry has entered the “age of entity search” as results now have the smarts to realize a search for Obama is no longer limited to a collection of letters (o-b-a-m-a) but a “person connected to other people and facts,” said Danny. He uses a string of examples to illustrate entity search. “How old is Barack Obama” returns the expected results of sites that contain the president’s age. However there are two significant changes. First, is that the top result is a direct answer, which is simply an answer to the question without having the user to click any deeper. This direct answer is a big departure from traditional results as it often ends our interaction with the search engine; our question is answered, search over. Secondly, it opens the door to more conversational follow up queries that abandon the requirement of a collection of characters matching the database. Through Google, a user can continue the search with questions such as “how tall is he,” “who is his wife,” “how old is she” and so on. Google will understand you’re talking about Barack and then Michelle and without the need to actually type those characters.

With this evolution to entity results and direct answers, web sites that seek to be found readily need to understand the changed landscape and restructure efforts to match the new way people search. Danny points out some reasons to relax: “Direct answers are in less than 5{2bbd478b6aadf2a9bb5e10dcf35d17c0d0772390afbaf5ac8145fb1096668903} of search results. Google can’t turn everything in direct answers and publishers aren’t reporting major traffic drops,” said Danny. However, he also cautions to stay tuned as “concerns remain and people are waiting to see if Google maintains the search engine balancing act.”

As search engine Ahab’s continue to hunt the best results white whale, the back and forth of search marketing will continue to get more complex. To learn greater details of Danny’s State of Search, including useful tips and advice that include mobile, click to call and wearables, please review his entire presentation here.

Learn more about how your organization can benefit from these changes and continue to keep pace with the evolving marketing landscape…


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