Integrated search – the future of SEO?

by Peter Young on September 28, 2010 · 5 comments

There has been a lot of drivel written over the last couple of weeks – magnified by the Google Instant launch at the beginning of September. Interestingly many of these have centered on the ‘SEO is dead’ angle, the first being Steve Rubel from Edelman and more recently one from Techmap profisicing the same thing. Many of these articles seem to have an underlying tone of SEO being replaced with social media or derivatives thereof or merely removed from a consumers behaviour due to technical changes.

Its disappointing to see articles such as that written by the Techmap rabble suggesting the death of SEO and apparently suggesting budget should be migrated towards social. Whilst there is no doubting the role social media and engagement can play in the online marcomms mix, this needs the support of other channels both on and offline – particularly when one looks to monetize such campaigns in terms of its effect on ROI.

Through many of the agencies I have worked with, integrated SEO has been key. That is not just in terms of the integration of SEO with paid search but how SEO works and integrates with other marketing channels including press, display and affiliates. Note here the mention of integration rather than replacement. These channels are not working in isolation but rather together to produce the best results for the client. Further to this there have been a number of ‘studies’ in terms of the effect of Display/Social media etc on SEO both in terms of ‘share of voice’ (visibility) and in terms of direct return on investment. A recent .Fox Networks/Comscore study found the following:

  1. Video and display advertising both successfully increased brand engagement in each of the four campaigns analysed. The average uplift across the campaigns saw site visitation increase by more than a factor of seven over a four week period following exposure to an ad, with consumers three times more likely to conduct search queries using brand or relevant generic terms in the same time period.
  2. When evaluating video and display side by side, consumers exposed to video advertising were 28 percent more likely to visit the brand site and nearly twice as likely to conduct a trademark search.
  3. Confirming expectations and previous industry understanding, video was able to generate a more immediate impact in the first five exposures than display ads in terms of increases in site visitation and search queries; however, behavioural response for those exposed to display climbed steadily as the number of ad impressions increased..

This highlights quite effectively the natural effect of display advertising directly on the search landscape, and further to this there have been a number of research studies related directly to the impact of social on SEO (further to this the direct impact of social related links and subsequent linkage activity highlight the power that channels such as organic search. Such activity could similarly be done on the effect of TV etc on social media (take for example the Evian TV ads, or Meerkat ads here in the UK whose adverts have gone supersonic on Youtube.

Convergence in media
It is thus more important than ever to think of a converged media, rather than channels in isolation. Increasingly clients are looking for more bang for the buck – particularly given the current economic climate – and as such every pound spent will be scrutinised. Isolating other channels thus is likely to not result in the increased spend you are looking for (well perhaps short term), but rather a lack of understanding of the digital mix.

I have long since advocated that SEO supports multiple channels and really should be central to your marketing communications

  • TV – Online distribution of video. Development of Youtube branding/presence etc.
  • PR & Press – Online PR and Blogger Relations
  • Radio  – Podcasting/Vodcasting + Social Seeding

All these offline channels can work a lot harder when working in collaboration with a digital specialist, simply using these offline is only telling half the story – particularly given that more and more people increasingly are online whilst watching TV or consuming other media.

A Holistic Search Approach
Increasingly agencies in particularly are looking at search as an integrated piece, rather than SEO and PPC operating in isolation. This increasingly can offer

  • Greater efficiencies in spend where spend
  • Greater share of voice
  • Increased awareness of the search landscape as response can be measured side by side rather than in isolation
  • Greater awareness of the search path – that is how people interact with your site.

One of the tools aiding such innovation in the sector is the number of tools now able to provide a more blended overview. Take for example Doubleclick, once the domain of Paid Search, which now is able to track natural seach. Such tools allow a more blended overview to be presented, and a more accurate one as one tool is able to offer the insight on both a last click and contributory model – something which is essential to any succesful campaign planning framework.

So what for the future

Rather than the doom mongers which suggest the end of search engine optimisation, one can’t help but feel positive for the future of SEO. Yes our landscape is evolving but surely that has to be a good thing to a certain extent. We as SEO’s now have far more scope of influence than we have ever had, and given the increasing budgets which appear to be migrated towards SEO one has to suggest clients are increasingly aware of how this can be used successful.

Google Instant won’t be the last big change we will have to deal with, there will be more coming – but lets face it without organic search provides the search engines wuith a level of balance, something which is often difficult to achieve purely via paid search inventory, where bigger clients can afford to drive bigger campaigns, with more widespread visibility.  Sure Google is looking to increasingly monetize its real estate – however we have to tailor this with its strive for relevance – and that is where SEO is key to Googles future plans

Google+ Comments

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Prachi D September 28, 2010 at 10:32 am

Peter, Totally agree. Definitely we are all moving towards Integrated search and SEO encompasses far more than just search engines.

Google instant- Don’t think it an end of SEO. If your site is optimised for the right term, it is going to appear on Google, Instant search on /off.

Great post as usual.

Freelance SEO Consultant September 28, 2010 at 10:34 am

Interesting article. After having a look at the launch video of Google Instant; I knew that SEO isn’t dead. Rather it’s going to be more important for websites to rank for generic and long tail keyterms.

I agree that offering integrated online marketing services is the way forward.

Jake Langwith September 28, 2010 at 11:05 am

A very good read Peter. There definately seems to be a push on the intergrated side and I am seeing more clients coming forward with social media as an offering from an SEO perspective. Not as a sole source of SEO but rather as another arrow in the search quiver with a a thought towards link baiting in a round about fashion. SEO is far from dead, I think ask any business owner with a brand new bentley who has identified a niche online and optimised for it correctly.

Michael Jason April 26, 2011 at 4:05 pm

A very good read Peter. There definately seems to be a push on the integrated side and I am seeing more clients coming forward with social media as an offering from an SEO perspective.

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