(Read in entirety at Search Engine Land. Published 2010)
Search marketers are hugely time-constrained. So many pages to optimize for so much search activity, yet so little time. Where do you spend it? Most likely on the top categories or keywords. But if you have thousands of pages, most pages go under-optimized—and will always be unless you have the ability to “create” time. As a crowdsourcing technique, that’s where social media content comes in.
User-generated content: SEO’s flux capacitor
“Doc, are you telling me you built a time-machine… out of a DeLorean?”
Back to the Future is one of my all-time favorites movies. It opened the minds of a generation (or at least a certain 10 year-old boy) to the concept of time-travel—with style! We’ve all wished we could go back in time, or to be in more than one place at once.
Movie buffs and pop-sci geeks alike remember the absolute coolness of the flux capacitor: This plutonium-powered 1.21 Jigawatt dynamo that kicks-in once Marty’s DeLorean reached 88 miles per hour to burst through the space-time continuum and into another era. The functioning flux capacitor makes the difference between a fast sports car and a time-machine.
Similarly, by approximating keyword management decisions SEO experts make on each page of the site, leading brands are starting to harness consumer-generated content to propel their SEO into a new era. And you don’t even need to worry about finding the requisite plutonium at the corner drugstore. Like Marty, you may just need to expand your definition of social content and what it can do for your DeLorean.
In a prior column, I shared the kind of benefits User Generated Product Review Content can produce for your SEO program (as on-page HTML content). What other content are your customers contributing to your site (in the form of data or analytics) that you could re-purpose as a form of social content to benefit your SEO?
Queries users type into your onsite search field? UGC. Why not append to each page’s meta data or append a dynamic “top search query” list showing actual (or filtered) search queries conducted from every page with links to the ideal landing page? Helpful for users, helpful for rankings.
Referring phrases searchers used to find each page through organic search listings? UGC. Since the search engines already rank each page for these phrases (some of which may have originated as user-generated on-page product review content), why not calculate opportunity based on position and append the phrases to important page elements? You match “voice of the customer,” and strengthen relevance of the page – producing higher rankings and click-through.
Referring phrases searchers used to find each page through paid search or feeds? UGC. Why not calculate organic opportunity based on performance of these phrases and either append them to important page elements or produce new pages that target these markets? Again, you match the voice of the customer, and strengthen relevance of the page – producing higher ranking and click-through.
These types of cutting-edge techniques augment what SEO experts can contribute for the most important pages of the site. We’ve seen these “crowdsource” search optimization techniques contribute upwards of 15-20% traffic lift on keywords “selected” by consumers versus those selected by experts, in very short amounts of time (as little as 30 days).
Naturally some SEO experts feel skeptical about techniques that do not rely on keyword research methods. But that is the crux of our problem—there simply isn’t enough time to optimize every page perfectly. To put things in perspective, how about a visit to the late 90’s: This online directory called Yahoo provided great results for people searching for websites. One of the problems though was the human editors didn’t scale, and a directory search only returned the main page of a site. Meanwhile, Google went about building a method of approximating the same result quality that a human editor would produce, while being able to extend that method and quality to more sites and pages. The key is that Google didn’t try automate Yahoo’s human editorial process, just approximate the end result using more innovative methods.
Techniques that cleverly use dynamic social content as a proxy for SEO expertise, without harming performance or impeding top priority SEO initiatives, are the future of SEO. So fire up your DeLorean, get your time circuits on, and start fluxing your capacitor.