The State of Organic Search in 2013

BrightEdge recently released the results of their 2013 Search Marketer Survey. The survey was conducted to try and help identify, and more importantly clarify the priorities and needs of organic search marketers across the globe. Organic search has undergone a major transformation in the past couple of years, but at the heart of everything, the fundamentals have not changed that much. To be successful in organic search, there are a couple of key components that should be focused on:

  1. You need to understand how people arrive at and engage with your website. This means understanding how people search, what keywords they use, what devices do they use (mobile vs desktop? both?) and what type of information they are looking for and more importantly consuming. Analytics information is your friend.
  2. You need to produce high quality content – this has not changed. The Web is a competitive space and the need to produce unique, useful and timely content is probably more important now than it was five or ten years ago. Simply because you have one page around a given topic does not make you an authority. Think about why consumers visit the web properties that they do. It is a good bet that they frequent websites that provide them with the information that they are looking for when they are looking for it.
  3. You need to make your website accessible – love it or hate it, Google is an information superhighway that can drive a high amount of traffic to your site or conversely drive a lot of traffic to your competitor’s site. You see if Google cannot find your content, it will be pretty difficult for others to find your content regardless if they are searching by tablet, by phone or from their laptop or desktop device. To be successful in organic search, the search engines have to be able to crawl, index and “rank” your site in their web results.

According to Forrester, Organic Search (SEO) is forecast to be a $2.2 billion dollar industry. Quite honestly I think this forecast is a little low. Organic search, while being difficult to measure at times, provides strong return for many organizations. Organic search works best not alone but with other channels whether that be social, PPC, or traditional mediums.

In the survey from BrightEdge, they identified ten key takeaways:

  • Mobile and tablet search is the next frontier
  • Local search is bigger than ever
  • Video offers search and social opportunities
  • It’s time to quantify and communicate SEO value
  • ROI across multiple channels like search and social is what truly matters
  • The C-level is paying more attention to SEO
  • SEO metrics need to keep up with SERP changes as they happen
  • Social for SEO is big; so is SEO for Social
  • Content Marketing is back, and in a big way
  • Page-centric SEO makes its mark

I wanted to take some time and discuss a few of these takeaways within this particular post.

Mobile and tablet search is the next frontier – this is stating the obvious and is something that we have been talking about for the past couple of years. Combine this with the fact that Google shared a report not too long ago that nearly 45% of all search queries have some sort of local intent, it only makes sense as a result that more people are using their phones and tablet to access information online.

Local search is bigger than ever – see above. Local search will continue to become more important as people have a convenience need that needs to be met. Searches via phones and tablets are on the rise.

Video offers search and social opportunities – while video may not work for everyone, it is important to note that from a Search perspective, YouTube is the second largest search engine based on regular usage – a fact that is simply too important to disregard. In December 2012, nearly 85% of the US Internet viewed video online. Source comScore) [http://www.comscore.com/Insights/Press_Releases/2013/1/comScore_Releases_December_2012_U.S._Online_Video_Rankings]

It’s time to quantify and communicate SEO value – traditionally this has not always been an easy thing to do, but we do know the value of organic search and SEO. We can measure this in traffic to a given property. We can measure the conversions from that traffic. As a result communicating the value of SEO and organic search is something that every website owner has the capability of measuring. If you are applying best practices and have a highly engaging website, quantifying and communicating the value of organic search will not be that difficult.

SEO metrics need to keep up with SERP changes as they happen – while we try not to “chase the algorithms”, the fact is that Google makes over 500 changes to their algorithms each year. Every time there is a major update there is always collateral damage. The reality of this is these changes can and probably will at some point have an impact on your website. For example, when Google shows seven results on their SERP as opposed to their traditional ten results that will have a direct impact on organic Click through rates (CTRs). The same can be said for when Google decides to display a video or a Google Places result or image and news results. Any change to their results page has the potential to impact your website and the visibility you have in Search. When Google decides to devalue low quality links pointing to a given website, you should take note. SERP and algorithm changes are important to make note of. The SEO metrics that were traditionally tracked will carry less value and as a result should be adjusted to reflect what is happening with Google and their SERPs.

Content Marketing is back, and in a big way – in my opinion, content marketing never really went away. I actually prefer the term content development over content marketing but perhaps they are one in the same? Content development and enhancement has always been the key element to why users can find your site, why they visit your site or why they leave your site (not being able to find what they are looking for). The ability to provide unique and timely information is still what separates the “good” from the “bad”. While Google’s results do not always serve up the “best” or “most relevant” result, they do it better than anyone else. Creating content is one thing, promoting it and having users engage with it is another. When the BrightEdge Search Marketer Survey states “… Producing, managing, and sharing quality and relevant content is going to be a key priority for enterprise search marketers.” we do not disagree.

Source: http://www.brightedge.com/2013-search-marketer-survey-results

The survey from BrightEdge states or maybe reiterates a lot of the obvious to those of us who specialize in organic search. However for businesses or organizations who have been slow to see the benefits of SEO and organic search, this survey may prove eye-opening. SEO seems to get a lot of bad press and reputation and maybe that is a result of the simple nomenclature of the term SEO (search engine optimization). When in fact, SEO has always been what I would refer to as organic search. It really is the process of optimizing your website and content so that you can intercept your target audience and those searchers who are looking for your site to help satisfy their needs.

Organic Search has really matured in recent years. Those tactics that so many employed previously simply do not work. Organic search is about targeting the people who are looking for information and ensuring that your website provides that information. It is about driving more qualified visitors to your web properties and engaging with these site visitors. Organic Search in 2013 is about content, local, mobile, social, analytics, conversions and engagement.

To access the Bright Edge survey visit: http://www.brightedge.com/2013-search-marketer-survey-results

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