Oct 1, 2014 113 reads by Navneet Kaushal

Google and SEOs share a symbiotic relationship but the search engine is always out to challenge the latter as well. This presentation talks about the risks and obstacles in the path of SEO and opportunities for it and audience development in the time ahead.


Chris Sherman- VP of Event Editorial, Third Door Media, Inc. (@CJSherman)


Marshall Simmonds: Founder and CEO, Define Media Group, Inc. (@mdsimmonds)

SEO and search engines thought leader Marshall Simmonds has just defined the challenges ahead for SEO in the coming time at the opening Summit session at SMX East, NY. Marshall opened the presentation with the contention that SEO will never die and those who believe in its demise can look forward to failure. He also said that search marketers have to keep pace with the changes Google comes up with.

Nature of SEO

Marshall spoke of how SEO can never have an end or a middle or beginning for that matter, because it is constantly changing. Focusing on how the search strategy has to evolve given the constant and consistent pace of change in the search industry, Marshall also mentioned how Google is constantly on the move too.

Google on the Go

Marshall indicated that Google too has been keeping pace with SEO to outwit search engine marketers constantly. He lays down the facts of the case as mentioned by the search engine giant:

  • Google has said it's found 30 trillion unique URLs on the web so far
  • It says it processes 100 billion searchers each month
  • Google also claims it crawls 20 billion sites per day
  • The Internet giant has indicated it has made 530 improvements this year to get the search engine to meet the demands of the future

Marshall cited the lack of transparency in Google and mentioned that finding the answers and the true picture is not easy, if one relies on the search engine. So, he talked about the results and analysis put together by Dr. Peter Meyers for Moz which keeps track of updates.

Google's Funnel of Changes to Search Results

Marshall has cited data from Dr. Pete which says Google made nearly over 600 improvements to its search engine. Adding further to the data, Marshall also described the Google's Funnel of Changes to the Search Results, composed of the following parts from the bottom to the top:

  • 665 launches
  • 7,018 live traffic experiments
  • 10,391 side-by-side experiments
  • 118,812 precise evaluations

SEO Is Not a Project

Marshall says, “SEO is not a project.” He feels that SEO can never have parts because search marketers are constantly on the go to keep up with Google. He says, “The second upper management believes SEO is dead is the moment you start failing.”

Change in SERPs

As evidence of the fact that SEO will never die, Marshall displayed a comparison of SERPs for the same Google query taken a month apart. He presented the following findings based on the analysis:

One box popularity graph displays video results showing in SERPs 65-80 percent of the time

  • The inclusion of SERP images has surged on an annual basis one year after the other
  • Search experience keeps on changing and becomes more customized and personalized

Marshall says that the bottom line is Google has not stopped innovating because SEO is not dead.

SEOs: Changing and Adapting

Marshall has explored 3 aspects or points which will explain how SEO is changing and what search marketers need to do to adapt to the changing pace, namely:

  • Market share
  • Image search
  • Log file analysis

Google's Market Share

SEMPO Results

Google sites have been cited by comScore as having 67.3% of the market share as of August 2014. Marshall has cited information showing the number is incorrect as SEMPO budgets demonstrate no change in SEO budgets. Marshall presented the graph showing SEMPO findings with respect to:

  • Paid search marketing
  • Search engine optimization
  • Mobile marketing
  • Digital display marketing
  • Email marketing social media marketing

He narrowed in on SEO and cited how the budget had remained pretty much the same unlike social media marketing or mobile marketing.

Actual Market Share

The CEO of Define Media Group also talks about how his company's research shows Google market share to be 86%. The study is based on 15.24 billion views of search referral pages. In around 125 Analytics profiles, Define Media Group identified 86% of the traffic to be from Google.

Yahoo and Bing Dethroned

They also found Yahoo and Bing were nowhere, which is a direct contradiction of the comScore results, Marshall mentioned. He showed how Yahoo had only 4% of the market share and Bing had another 6%, as per the research by Define Media Group.

Facebook Vs Google: Search Referrals Vs Social Referrals

BuzzFeed's contention that Facebook referral has overtaken Google and Facebook was the more powerful of the two was also shown the door by Marshall. His research showed that social referrals are not expanding at the rate of search. Search referrals are still at the top of the game while social referrals are at the bottom.

Specifically, Marshall showed the numbers based on which 3,592,386,378 search referrals were found to be made in 2014 so far, the data having been culled from Google Analytics and Omniture as well as 125 sites from chief publishing networks. Search referrals stood at 35% while social referrals were 15%, Marshall's presentation slide depicted.

Dark Social Tint

Marshall also showed data about engagement by traffic with social breakout whereby there was a dark social tint which was becoming more clear and louder.

Google's Image Search

In the year 2013, Google made changes to the image search whereby the page was no longer there when the image was loaded. Marshall showed how the change was seen by Google as a win despite image traffic plummeting in April 2013 when this change was introduced.

Marshall showed a quote by Pierre Far, a webmaster trend analysts input talking about how this new method of loading images did away with “phantom visits” and actually was a net win for Google.

Survival Tactics

Marshall recommends watermarking all the images to evade this Google strategy. This way, Marshall indicated users will have to click to observe the image. He cited Pixabay's results as an example, showing how strategy has evolved.

For countering the failure of past strategies such as image traffic, Marshall indicated the need to evolve as well through the following solutions:

  • Images should be optimized for contextual relevance because Google could do a rethink
  • Avoid image traffic as a strategy for getting hits
  • Try alternatives such as Bing and Pixabay

The dictum that sites should be made for users, not search engines, was highlighted by Marshall.

Log File Analysis

Marshall also highlighted the discrepancy when spider visits everyday was compared to crawl statistics by the Google Webmaster Tools. Crawl stats for Googlebot activity in 90 days were compared to Marshall's data and the discrepancy was extremely obvious.

Trust Splunk!

Marshall said a company cannot be trusted if it “doesn't trust you with your own keyword data.” He recommends Splunk! because this enables them to know where Googlebot is arriving when it goes through your site.

Marshall found that Splunk! Results showed Googlebot was actually visiting parts of the site that were:

  • Not the most popular
  • Not the ones with the most links
  • Not where most of the traffic actually lands up

Googlebot was most likely to be found in the business section which was the hub of this media site, according to him. Marshall explained how the site created links to new content in the business section to overcome this hurdle.

Specifically, Marshall has discussed how log file analysis within a month of data from a big publisher showed there were 1.3 million requests by Google in one day, while Google pegged the number at 12,000 only. He therefore recommends Splunk! for keeping a check on Googlebot's activities.

Marshall concluded the session by suggesting that direct channel could be the optimization channel in the future.

No, SEO Is Never Dead…It’s Just Trying to be: #SMX New York 2014, Day 1!, 5.0 out of 5 based on 3 ratings
Navneet Kaushal

Navneet Kaushal

Navneet Kaushal is the founder and CEO of PageTraffic, an SEO Agency in India with offices in Chicago, Mumbai and London. A leading search strategist, Navneet helps clients maintain an edge in search engines and the online media. Navneet's expertise has established PageTraffic as one of the most awarded and successful search marketing agencies.
Navneet Kaushal
Navneet Kaushal
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