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Taking stock of the SEO mindset

Written by David Harry   
Monday, 15 March 2010 13:34

If there is one are that I’ve been getting more acquainted with over the last year, is the state of the SEO Mindset. You see, for the uninitiated, I not only blog here, but also;

  1. Have a newsletter for SEO news
  2. Publish news and articles on Search Engine Journal
  3. Run a community some 200 strong
  4. Have weekly SEO chat sessions
  5. Have polls for search geeks (on Dojo main page)

And it’s that last one that I’ve been getting more and more interested in over the last while. Not only does the data bring to light some interesting elements, but they are often ideas of the brain trust in our 60 person strong Skype room.

So, if you’re a search geek that’s curious, a blogger looking for hot topics or even a search conference looking for topics of interest; hang in for the ride while we see what is really going on in the space. It was interesting enough I thought to share it with a few notes... Enjoy.

the SEO Mindset

Where SEO’s are weakest?

Let’s look at a recent poll titled; Which area are you weakest in?

  1. Link building - 33.7%
  2. Video SEO - 20.9%
  3. RDFa/Microformats - 19.8%
  4. HTACCESS and Robots -  8.1%
  5. Information Architecture - 7%
  6. KW research - 3.5%
  7. Content strategy -  2.3%
  8. Onsite technical - 2.3%
  9. Ecommerce SEO -  2.3%

We really felt this one was interesting as in many ways, ‘Content Strategy’ is a huge part of link building these days. What this seems to speak to is that not only is link building a weak spot, but the understanding of ‘Content Strategy’ likely is as well.

We also see that video and RDFa is certainly an area that many aren’t up on. This is certainly confirmed with a few of the Dojo Chat Sessions we’ve had on Universal Search. Most of the folks attending also admitted to being weak in video and thirsty for knowledge in this discipline.

We also see that IA and ‘On-site technical’ is a space SEOs believe they have nailed.

What to test? What not to test?

Next let’s take a look at what SEOs seem to ‘imply’ they’re weak in or want more data for with; What would you like to see tested/researched first?

  1. Microformats + RDFa - 25%
  2. Geo-local (flux/targeting) - 14.6%
  3. Universal (frequency/causes) - 14.6%
  4. Temporal signals (QDF/velocity/decay) - 12.5%
  5. Social Search (inclusion rates/signals) -  10.4%
  6. Site links (inline, traditional) - 6.3%
  7. Personalized search (more) - 6.3%
  8. Google Suggest (signals/accuracy) -  6.3%
  9. Image search (ranking models) -  4.2%
  10. Google + brands 0  0%

Once more we’re seeing the world of microformats making a strong appearance. While this may be partially due to me pushing this a lot; the polls are open to all, not just my peeps. I can also state that it has been a very popular topic in the community, chat room and even making more and more appearances in the newsletter.

Next up we see both Universal and Geo-local being areas of interest. As noted in the previous one, with the lack of knowledge of Video, the universal results are something we’ve noted is not really part of a lot of SEO programs. The local, well, that goes without saying as an area that’s grown exponentially and is also part universal, part personalization.

We can even expand that to the interest in temporal signals which can play into both the News uni and the much maligned social/real-time search elements.

Where is search headed?

Ok, so where do SEOs themselves see search headed? To that we had; Which do you feel will have the greatest impact on the future of SEO?

  1. Personalization -  41.1%
  2. Geo-local - 21.5%
  3. Social Search - 15%
  4. Better Link Analysis - 9.3%
  5. Mobile - 7.5%
  6. Vertical Search - 3.7%
  7. Other (not on list) - 1.9%
  8. Maps - 0%

Considering that geo-local is actually a form of personalization in many ways, we can see that SEOs really are concerned about it. What’s interesting is how low that scored in the ‘research’ poll. Not sure why, but I’d like to think it’s because of all the great research we’ve already done on this… hee hee… ok, maybe not.

There also seems to be a disconnect with ‘vertical search’ which also play into Universal search. Also, it is a bit concerning to see social search as high as it was… considering it’s end value at this point is debatable.

Is 2k10 living up to the hype?

At the end of 2009 we asked people; Which will affect your SEO efforts the most in 2010?

  1. Geo-local targeting -  29.7%
  2. Social Search - 24.3%
  3. Personalized Search - 18.9%
  4. Site speed ranking factor -  13.5%
  5. Real time search -  5.4%
  6. Other Vertical (news, blog search, images etc..) -  5.4%
  7. Mobile search - 2.7%

This time around we start to see a bit of disconnect. While SEOs seemed to feel personalization would be important, they seem to know the topic since interest in testing has waned. We also see that the other verticals, which tend to make up the universal sets, also were low on the priority level.

Of the dogs, it seems we did have consensus on elements such as real-time and mobile. It did seem that we’re drinking the social media kool-aid, however misguided that may seem now. Oh and hey, Google has still maintained that page load speed IS NOT a ranking factor at this time. Nice to see we’re also buying that swampland ain’t it?

So let’s look at RTS and SS a little closer

Real time and social search

We had a poll on each of these;

How will Google Social Search affect SEO?

  1. It will be just another vertical to cover -  47.1%
  2. It will have a significant impact - 23.5%
  3. The impact will be limited - 15.7%
  4. I have no idea, too busy working to play with it yet - 11.8%
  5. Not at all, it's just a fad -  2%

How will Google real time search affect SEO?

  1. Limited due to query types (more viral/news) - 37.1%
  2. They opened a can of spam - run! - 29%
  3. Woah baby, it's a game changer - 19.4%
  4. Devalues top rankings - 4.8%
  5. Just another vertical - 3.2%
  6. It's the social media guy's job - 3.2%
  7. I'm going to game it hard - 3.2%

This one is interesting as the responses were reasonably mixed. But, for the most part, it would seem that SEOs really weren’t going to spend a great deal of time on this. It should be noted that in most circles there is stiff a fair amount of debate on these.

I would have to say that this one might grab SEOs attention, but it may be a bit problematic to properly put into the context of an SEO program and the jury is still out on this.

Take what you can from it

So what can you do with all of this? Well, I leave that up to you my friends. As eluded to off the top, there are many interesting nuggets of interest in the data and many ways it can be used. At the very least it does give us great insight as to where the SEO space is at. Heck, even from a competitive analysis basis, I’ve learned some areas that my clients can attack (think ‘where SEOs are weakest’). I’ve also now got a bunch of interesting blogging topics and even new insight for programming in the SEO Dojo.

Oh, and since peeps where saying that link building was an area they were interested/weak in, I thought we’d do this post on that. This time I am looking to learn more about what SEOs ARE doing out in the link building world. Be sure to drop into the Dojo and cast your vote.

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