This is Part 2 of the Search Marketing Expo East 2011 wrap-up.
The Search Marketing Expo in New York, also known as SMX East, concluded September 15th after three days of speakers and programs. Produced by Search Engine Land, SMX East was an awesome educational and networking experience for hundreds search marketers, techs and business professionals from all over the globe.
In the first part of our SMX East wrap-up, we covered Google +1 and Search Rankings and how Microformats are changing the way that content is found. In this installment, we’ll cover two other important takeaways from the programming.
3. In the Google Personalization & Robot Gatekeepers keynote address, “If personalized search is here, are keyword rankings dead?” was the question addressed by Eli Pariser, Board President of MoveOn.org and author of The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You.
Personalization may be the greatest achievement or greatest downfall of the web. Think about it in this perspective: Total personalization – that is, a web that is tailored to your interests, associations and activities – is no longer service-specific. It’s a buyer’s market vs. a seller’s market. When personalization factors alter or impact what you see on the web, then the web will show you what it thinks you want to see, not the information world as it actually exists.
Is this evil? Not necessarily. Although some attendees were wide-eyed at the thought, some skeptical, Eli explained it in simple terms: “Google most likely doesn’t have malicious intentions with personalization. Google is trying to make the web experience a little more passive, give you a better user experience.”
Okay, that’s an understandable approach to their personalization effort. But we all hope that Google understands that they don’t really know who we are. Google only thinks it knows who we are, based on our actions, our preferences and the content we regularly consume.
One of the additional problems with a wholly-personalized web experience is that a significant portion of the web-searching market may not know when the results are being personalized and when they are free of filters and solely native to the keywords in their search terms. Of course, the other glaring problem is that personalization may pose a great filter barrier for those SEOs and site owners that rely on keyword rankings and a level playing field to get their message out to the broadest market.
One last note from Eli, a well-stated suggestion for the powers that be at Google: “It would make it easier if we (the users) were able to understand the filters, able to turn them on or off, rather than having them imposed on us.”
A large part of this keynote was pulled from his Beware of Online Filter Bubbles TED talk. If you have not watched it yet, it is highly recommended.
4. “On local search, Data Consistency is key,” said Mike Ramsasy, one of the speakers at the Hard Core Local SEO Tactics panel.
Some would say that data consistency is a mantra that has been chanted to death. Not true. Now, more than ever, data consistency is crucial to local search rankings. Ramsay kicked off the discussion by claiming that “correlation does not equal causation. You cannot cause your page to rank by merely claiming your Place Page.”
Ramsay is correct. Any first-year statistician knows that correlation between two variables does not automatically imply that one causes the other. Ramsay goes on to say “build out your Place Pages with purpose. Own your data and fill out everything accurately.”
Some of the “most recommended” Place Page factors to focus on include the following:
- Consistent NAP (name, address and phone) data
- A manually-owner-verified Google Place Page
- Proper category associations for your business products or services
- Local area code on Place Page
Each of those recommendations suggests that you work to eliminate data confusion. For those who may not know, your Google business listing is commonly known as a Place Page. As a business owner, you can verify your business, add content to your listing, just make certain that your business name, address and phone number is consistent everywhere. A great tool to see if you have good verification metrics is GetListed.org. This tool can quickly check Google, Yahoo, Bing, Facebook, YELP, Best of the WEb and hotfrog.com.
The reason for all this consistency is this: Ramsay and the other speakers have rightly suggested that “citation” is a ranking factor of highest importance. A citation is where your business name and address is mentioned on another website. These citations can come from directories, blogs, articles, or merely appear on other sites for whatever the reason. Citations do correlate highly with rankings. A citation is founded on data you can control and make consistent.
One easy way to verify data consistency is to search for “address” and/or “phone number” and check the results several pages deep. Name, Address, Phone = NAP. And NAP creates your citation. Build out pages to reinforce your data and consistency. Easy. Worthwhile.