I feel compelled to share my observations of the direction that organic search has taken this year. In times past, skilled SEO’s could often achieve high search engine rankings by taking a formulaic approach which shamefully condensed looks something like this:
1. Throw a page online
2. Mark it up with a keyword phrase
3. Get anchor text links pointing to the page
If everything was done correctly and the keyword phrase was not a highly competitive one like “web hosting” or “London hotels” or something like that, traffic might just pour in. SEO’s could charge lots of money for skillfully positioning their clients in the search engines. In fact, anyone could charge for search engine optimization. Many web designers were suddenly “web marketers” selling SEO as an optional service or “SEO experts.” Why shouldn’t they be? After all, they held the number one position in Ask Jeeves for the keyword phrase “Antarctica air conditioning company.”
There used to be many U.S. car companies, not just three. Google, Yahoo, and MSN’s recent moves smack of GM, Ford, and Chrysler’s as they bought up competition and improved their products. Search engine marketing has shifted into high gear. Search engine companies have begun to consolidate and become more competitive. Google went public and raised big cash, but lost its virtual monopoly in search. Yahoo now delivers its own organic and paid search results. MSN is not far behind.
How does all this affect the traffic conscious webmaster? All search engine companies have the goal of returning good results to their users. To be competitive, search engine companies increase the size of their indexes and improve their algorithms. You may have heard discussions of Google patent filings. Perhaps you’ve noticed the effects of Google updates like Florida, Bourbon or Jagger which attempt to filter out irrelevant results and spam. The updates are not perfect. Sometimes the broad brush paints over legitimate sites, wrongly pushing them down in search results.
Based on what I’ve seen, I believe the new search engine algorithms from Google and Yahoo are working for the user. I see the improvements becoming so effective that many Internet marketers deploying the aforementioned 3 point formula will be unable to deliver on their promises to achieve short term results for clients. Webmasters will have to dig in for the long term and come up with quality products and interesting content to attract visitors from search engines. This may not seem so strange if you read about the goals of two former Stanford students: