In an “article in the latest issue”:http://adage.com/digital/article?article_id=120597 of the highly reputed marketing and advertising magazine Advertising Age, Danny Sullivan, search marketing expert and editor in chief of “SearchEngineLand.com”:http://searchengineland.com/ has argued strongly in favour of why online marketers can ill afford to ignore “search engine optimization (SEO)”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Search_engine_optimization and concentrate only on “paid search.”:http://searchenginewatch.com/showPage.html?page=2167941 With search marketing picking up steam in India, online marketers will do well to heed Sullivan’s views. This article provides a gist of Sullivan’s arguments.
In recent times search engine optimization has earned quite a bit of disrepute mainly because of attempts by online marketers to hoodwink search engines by resorting to “click fraud”:http://www.google.com/adwords/adtrafficquality/overview.html and other questionable tactics such as filling up their home pages with words such as “sex” and “Pamela Anderson” in small font written in white on a white background so that it is visible to search engines but not to the surfer, or “blog spamming”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spam_in_blogs and other such activities on the one hand, and, search engines increasingly fine tuning themselves to counter such manipulations, on the other. But, Sullivan, citing recent moves by such entities as The New York Times and Facebook, has argued that SEO deserves respect mainly because in conjunction with paid search it can act in just the same way that public relations exercises supplement advertising.
Unlike paid search, in which marketers buy links through Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and others, SEO involves tapping into the “free” listings every search engine has. SEO is like PR for search-engine listings. You want a good review about you in a newspaper? A press release, a call to a reporter or other PR tactics can help. Want a good review in the search world in the form of top rankings and traffic? SEO can help, Sullivan says.
Many online marketers find SEO a rather too specialized and complex an activity requiring the services of outside experts who often resort to many unethical or at least questionable practices that Sullivan argues, are usually unnecessary. Instead they opt only for paid searches but Sullivan points out most searchers are still looking at, and clicking on, the unpaid listings SEO influences. Hence, he says, ignoring SEO is like doing an ad campaign without a PR push alongside.
He cites the example of Facebook which is often referred to as the current king of the “walled garden” – the practice of holding compelling content locked away from the prying eyes of search engines. Some have even suggested that with more and more websites going for such “walled gardens” search engines may even die. But the funny thing is, Sullivan points out, earlier this month, “Facebook announced”:http://blog.facebook.com/blog.php?post=2963412130 it had created “public-search listings” for all of its members. Why? So people searching on those soon-to-be-dead search engines will find listings leading to Facebook.
Citing another example, “The New York Times last week announced”:http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/nytarchive.html that premium content would no longer be locked behind a pay wall that search engines cannot penetrate. The Gray Lady was earning $10 million in subscription fees yearly by charging for the content but calculated there was more to be made from advertising if it let all that content be free. It explained: “What wasn’t anticipated was the explosion in how much of our traffic would be generated by Google, by Yahoo and some others.”
“Marshall Simmonds”:http://www.definess.com/Marshall-Simmonds.html who has headed the SEO efforts at The New York Times since he arrived as part of the About.com purchase in 2005 was certainly anticipating this, claims Sullivan who happens to be a good friend of Simmonds. Simmonds’ efforts has started generating so much free traffic that the paper has now completely changed it’s business plan.
Interestingly, following the The New York Times announcement, even Rupert Murdoch has indicated that “Wall Street Journal too would go free”:http://biz.yahoo.com/paidcontent/070918/1_314843_id.html?.v=1 to increase readership and search engine traffic.
In conclusion, Sullivan signs off by saying: sure, you can ignore SEO. But you can bet your competitors won’t! Online marketers beware!