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MarCom Matters

December 2013
Issue: #50

Humming Along with Google

I’ve never been what you would call an early adopter.

Truth is though, I admire people who plunk down money or invest time to acquire and learn the latest smart phones, smart apps and smart entertainment systems. They’re the ones who ultimately become the experts and influencers as technologies evolve and go mainstream.

As for me, there isn’t a Luddite joke that hasn’t been tossed my way.

But as the unofficial spokesperson for the laggard community, I’m here to say that it isn’t simply reflexive nay-saying that keeps us from spending twelve days waiting in line for the iPhone 11Q. On the contrary, we ask the thoughtful questions before jumping in.

Questions like…
Has the dust settled? Consider Betamax versus VHS or Wii versus Xbox.

Will I lose something in the process? I have wonderful music trapped on cassettes and vinyl that I just don’t listen to anymore.

Is there a social impact? Mobile technology has unquestionably helped blur the lines between our personal and professional lives.

Isn’t this just hype? Be honest – did earning that high Klout score do you any good?

Is it reliable? Okay, not exactly a technology, but I learned long ago never to trust those popup thermometers when roasting the Thanksgiving turkey.

Turns out this healthy skepticism also comes in handy when considering how technologies impact B2B.

Case in point: Google Search.

For digital marketers, the big question has always been, “How do I get buyers and researchers to find us?”

For most of Google’s life, the answer was to concoct a magical mixture of SEO tactics that combined keywords, HTML coding and link-building.

But there were a couple of problems: First is that from a user’s perspective, keyword matches alone don’t always do it. The more abstract the subject matter, the harder it is to get the results you’re looking for. Second, while hardworking SEO pros focused on all the right stuff, so did the spammers and hackers.

Then back in 2011, Google began to change direction by issuing a series of software updates. The first, called Panda, gives higher page rank to websites offering a positive user experience. The second, Penguin, penalizes sites using questionable techniques like keyword stuffing and link farms.

With this past September’s Hummingbird release, Google turned its attention to extracting the semantic meaning behind search queries (something and many domain-specific search engines have been doing for years).

It was then that we, the cautious adopters, nodded our heads knowing that 15 year-old Google had come of age. Because taken together, these three updates signal a significant shift that favors content quality over SEO tactics.

And what does it all mean for communicators?

If you depend on search, here are a few things to consider…

The bottom line: If you’ve been cautiously waiting for a reason to get serious about improving your website’s findability, Google just gave you three big ones.

Finally, for a nice summary on what’s important in SEO today, take a look at The Periodic Table of SEO Search Factors that those clever folks over at Search Engine Land put together.

Meanwhile, I understand something called a DVD has thrown a monkey wrench into the Betamax/VHS battle. Guess I’ll just have to be a little more patient.