Craig Greenfield’s Redefining Performance Marketing: The Search Engine Results Page of the Future

Although impossible to predict exactly how tomorrow’s SERPs will look, marketers can position their brands for future SERP domination by focusing content creation strategies on some known trends that are currently influencing or will soon influence tomorrow’s SERPs. 

Take, for example, Google’s integration of rich media (e.g., photos, videos) into SERPs in recent years. This trend will likely continue and could easily evolve into paid video search ads in the SERPs of the future.

Search engine results pages (SERP) continue to evolve before our eyes, consistently becoming more relevant to consumers. Marketers seeking to stay ahead of these advancements in usability and relevancy to own more of tomorrow’s SERP should focus on developing three types of content:

  • paid content: paid search ads;
  • owned content: native websites, videos, social media, local information and blog posts; and
  • earned content: user-generated materials like YouTube videos, tweets and consumer reviews

Although impossible to predict exactly how tomorrow’s SERPs will look, marketers can position their brands for future SERP domination by focusing content creation strategies on some known trends that are currently influencing or will soon influence tomorrow’s SERPs. 

Take, for example, Google’s integration of rich media (e.g., photos, videos) into SERPs in recent years. This trend will likely continue and could easily evolve into paid video search ads in the SERPs of the future.

Real-time owned content from blogs and social media; user-generated earned content from blogs, tweets, and videos; and such local brand information as addresses, phone numbers and maps will likely all continue to be important in the SERP of the future. These represent just a sampling of the trends directing SERP evolution, but let’s take a closer look at the following three other likely influencers:

Sitelinks and deep navigation
.The SERP of the future will continue to incorporate more anchor links and clickable ad text, clickable search snippet text and clickable URLs. Sitelinks and deep navigation enable users to more easily find the exact page they’re looking for right from the SERP. Incorporating sitelinks into paid search ads, utilizing breadcrumb navigation, clear URL structure, and clear sitemaps helps spiders display more links in natural search listings. Expect more links in body content to permeate the SERPs moving forward.

The growth of mobile
. Predictions say that mobile search will rise to 73 percent of the mobile ad market by 2013 (Kelsey Group, Sept. 2009). With more than 140 million worldwide mobile social network users, consumers increasingly hold the future SERP in their hands; therefore brands must ensure visibility in mobile search by catering to an altogether different and separate SERP experience.

Personalization . Based on the search results that users click, Google already changes the results over time to make them more relevant and personalized. Google’s social search also pulls in results from the searcher’s social circle, such as tweets or Picasa pictures from friends. The highly personalized SERP of the future makes search marketing more complex—brands must have a deep understanding of their consumers to be able to most effectively target them, and this only becomes truer going forward.

How can brands manage the SERP of the future? Simply put, marketers must create and embrace holistic strategies to fully manage owned, earned and paid content that lives on the SERP of today to succeed on the SERP of tomorrow. A working combination of these trends – and more – can help marketers develop a comprehensive search strategy to take advantage of the SERP, while enhancing user experience and relevancy.

Is Your Catalog Site Missing the SEO Copywriting Boat?

Yesterday, the marketing coordinator for a well-known catalog site contacted me about SEO copywriting services. “Our product pages aren’t ranking,” she said. “We heard we should ‘add keyphrases to our copy,’ but we’re afraid that keyphrases will make the copy sound spammy.” Ah yes, the old “keyphrases are bad” myth.

Yesterday, the marketing coordinator for a well-known catalog site contacted me about SEO copywriting services.

“Our product pages aren’t ranking,” she said. “We heard we should ‘add keyphrases to our copy,’ but we’re afraid that keyphrases will make the copy sound spammy.”

Ah, yes, the old “keyphrases are bad” myth. If this was expressed in a mathematical equation, it would look something like this:

Keyphrases + Content = Bad Copy That Doesn’t Convert

And that’s just not true. In fact, adding keyphrases into site copy can do more than help the page position in the search engines (although that, by itself, is a huge benefit). Good SEO copywriting is seamless. It’s powerful. And yes—despite those pesky keyphrases—it can help conversions. I discussed this quite a bit in a previous post called, “SEO Copywriting Is Dead. Long Live SEO Copywriting,” on my site’s blog.

Unfortunately, scads of catalog marketers are missing out on search engine rankings. Rather than realizing that a Web site is a completely different medium (requiring a different approach), they instead upload their print catalogs’ text and images without changing a word of copy. Then, when they check their search engine rankings, they’re convinced that “this SEO stuff doesn’t work.” When told they have to change their copy to make this “SEO stuff work,” they jump back in alarm: “Why should we change our copy when we already spent a lot of money writing it for our catalog?”

Um, because you wrote it for your catalog … not for an online environment. Those are two different marketing avenues. People don’t have to search for your products when they have your catalog in their hand, they can just flip to a page. But if you want folks to find your pages in the search engines, you’ll need to play the search engine game … and play it well.

But heck, don’t take my word for it. Let’s take a peek at a “traditional” brick-and-mortar site that does it right: Brookstone.

Brookstone is a master at creating value-added, intelligent content that also happens to be keyphrase rich. Its product pages are written from scratch, with keyphrases skillfully woven into the body copy. User-generated product reviews help encourage conversions (people feel more comfortable about making a buying decision when they can read what other people like and don’t like about a product). Brookstone includes a well-produced product video. Heck, even its product names like “Tranquil Moments Sleep Sound Therapy System” and “Fold-A-Way Rowing Machine” contain keyphrases.

Does it work? Heck, yes. Brookstone’s “Fold-A-Way Rowing Machine” page is positioning in Google’s top 10. As is its “Sleep Sound Therapy System” page.

And go figure … the site copy can’t be considered “spammy” in the least.

Some takeaways to consider with your own catalog/e-commerce site are:

  1. Is your product copy directly uploaded from your print catalog—or is it the “standard” product description appearing on the product packaging? A smart rule: If you see multiple sites with the same product copy, rewrite yours so it’s completely original. Yes, it’s time consuming. But this one act alone can immediately differentiate you from the hundreds (or thousands) of other sites offering the same thing.
  2. Know that user reviews are good for more than just reviewing the product; they can be incredible helpful for search engine positions. Every time someone posts a review, it provides your site “free content” that you didn’t have to source somewhere else.
  3. Keyphrase usage matters. You don’t want to repeat your keyphrase incessantly within your copy. But it is important to research your keyphrases, set a keyphrase strategy and use keyphrases on the page. Otherwise, your page probably won’t be found.

At the end of the day, catalog sites can definitely benefit from smart SEO copywriting techniques. Not only do SEO copywriting strategies help your pages position better in the engines, the additional, in-depth information gives your prospects the information they want (which, ultimately, encourages conversions). Everyone wins.

Is Cuil Cool?

Perhaps the biggest announcement in the interactive space this week was from Cuil (pronounced COOL), a technology company that unveiled its search offering, also called Cuil. An old Irish word for knowledge, Cuil was developed by a team with extensive history in search.

Perhaps the biggest announcement in the interactive space this week was from Cuil (pronounced COOL), a technology company that unveiled its search offering, also called Cuil. An old Irish word for knowledge, Cuil was developed by a team with extensive history in search.

According to its press release, the company is led by husband-and-wife team Tom Costello and Anna Patterson. Costello developed search engines at Stanford University and IBM; Patterson got her training at Google where she was the architect of the company’s search index and led a Web page ranking team.

They refused to accept the limitations of current search technology and dedicated themselves to building a more comprehensive search engine. Together with Russell Power, Anna’s former Google colleague, they founded Cuil to let users “explore the Internet more fully and discover its true potential,” according to a company statement.

Cuil reportedly combines the biggest Web index — 120 billion Web pages — with content-based relevance methods, results organized by ideas, and complete user privacy. This is supposed to give users a richer display of results. It offers organizing features, such as tabs to clarify subjects, images to identify topics and search refining suggestions to help guide users to the results they seek.

The conversation about the search engine reached fever pitch in the blogosphere this week, with some experts saying Cuil should be taken seriously, and others saying it is a poor search engine with little relevance and technical issues.

I guess we’ll have to see what the future holds for the search engine. If Cuil does take off, then marketers may need to rethink their search engine optimization strategies. At present, however, it’s probably best to cool your heels. There are too many issues that will need to be addressed if Cuil is to make any sort of impact on search engine optimization.