Today I’m attending a search engine research workshop run by Brad Fallon in Atlanta, Georgia, and am fascinated by the people here who obsessively track their SERPs (search engine results placement, jargon for what match number you are on Google for a given search term).
My part of this workshop is to talk about how blogging can help your search engine placement, but what I’m actually talking about is whether SERP is a meaningful measure of whether or not you’re being successful. And that’s what I want to talk about in this article too.
The problem is that there are too many people who are flying at the five-foot level, focused completely on search engine optimization tricks and on daily traffic, daily search engine placement, and daily tweaks to try and suss out the best possible placement. It’s the Internet equivalent of corporations who manage purely for quarterly — or even monthly — financial results. It’s tactics at the cost of strategy, short term trumping long term.
This morning a woman came into the breakfast area, rather upset, and shared that “I’m no longer in MSN search! I can’t find my site in Yahoo at all!” My somewhat flippant response was “Ah, good, now you can relax for a while.”
But it’s not that flippant, because long-term businesses are created by having a strategic view of your site and your online business. It’s about taking a long view, being at 10,000 or even 30,000 feet rather than taxiing on the runway, worrying about the day to day.
Success in online business doesn’t come from search engine placement, it comes from creating an online store that is a best of class merchant, that demonstrates that you, as the store proprietor, are the subject matter expert. Why? Because then you’re creating content to establish and reinforce your expertise and, over time, will gain better and better search engine placement.
Keeping with this theme, let’s talk for a moment about the underlying goal of search engines like Google and MSN Search, because that’s critically important too. In the long run, the goal of search engine developers is to return better and better results for any given search, to identify (and weed out!) duplicate content, spam pages, affiliate pages, scraped content, spawned RSS content from other sites, and all the other stuff that pollute the current search engine space.
That’s the tension in this space: search engines are constantly tweaking their search results to come closer and closer to always offering the perfect content, the answer to whatever question or problem for which the searcher is seeking an answer.
That’s why I think that spending your time and effort worrying about daily SERP or being paranoid about whether you’ve applied the latest search engine placement trick is such a bad idea: instead of focusing on the long-term perspective of what’s going to win not tomorrow, but next week, next month or even next year.
The long-term winners are going to be the sites and online stores that establish expertise in their market segment, that actually have content, that are adding value to the Internet. Over time, these sites will always bubble up to the top on search engines and the other sites, however well they’ve optimized their content, will drop off the list.
And so, finally, my real answer to the woman at this event who was freaking out about her lowered search engine placement is: Good. Now you can turn your focus to producing valuable and helpful content that ties into your market, that appeals to your potential customers, and use that as the basis of your new long-term site strategy.
Oh, and one excellent way to establish your credibility and expertise in your market segment? Focused, customer-centric blogging. But we’ll talk about that more here at the workshop and online…