I caught up with Lisa Myers after the "SEO: Where to Next?" keynote panel at SES London 2010. She had a lot to say about Google Local, calling them to up their game.
We also discussed how the SEO skillset is changing and the future winners need to be savvy with social media. I have paraphrased the conversation below - you can head over to our YouTube channel to get the full interview:
"What's next for SEO? Interview with Lisa Myers."
What do you think is next for SEO? One thing that has become a much bigger part of SEO in the last year is Universal Search. Now almost any 'location' keyword will trigger a Google Local Business listing. These are now such a big part of the SERPs that the 'normal' organic listings are pushed down to the bottom of the first page or onto the second page. However, this is a bit risky as Google does not provide enough support behind the Google Local Business search, which leads to problems such as 'hijacking' business listings and spamming the local ranking algorithm. If, for example, the prominence is going to be given to Local Business listings, then Google needs to support all the features of Universal Search.
Is Google trying to kill off organic results? There's lots of speculation as to whether Google will eventually monetize the Local results. This will make a lot of people upset as Local Business listings are positioned within the organic results.
What is Local Business hijacking on Google Maps? I had this happen to one of my clients over a month ago and it took a blog post and over 100 tweets to get Google to respond. Basically, hijacking exploits a flaw in Google's system, where they could post a listing with the same name as my client, at which point Google suggests identical listings and asks the user whether they own them and if they would like to claim these other listings and merge them all into one. What was interesting was that all they did was change the web address and through that they were able to claim all the map listings, accompanying videos, and over 1,000+ TripAdvisor reviews. They suffered a massive impact on their traffic and lost tens of thousands of visitors.
Do businesses need to get on a land grab for their local listings to defend against unethical affiliates? I don't think Google should allow Local Business results to be an open market. They should be reserved for brands only where they can claim for their business addresses. Affiliates should not be allowed at all, that's only fair. Also, Google needs to tidy up the algorithm, as it is far too easy to manipulate. They say that you should not put keywords in the title, but they don't take any action to stop it. Given that Google Local listings have such a big prominence, they need to put more attention into it.
How do you get your business listings up there in multiple languages? Good question. You can upload all the data very easily, but it's the verification that is too time consuming and difficult. They need to keep it difficult to stop hijacking, but it shouldn't take three months for a company to claim all their listings in different countries. Again, Google needs to sort it out.
What new SEO processes have you had to implement into your workflow? Off page optimization is the biggest change. in the last year, the organic algorithm that calculates links is getting tighter and more difficult to achieve success. Link building in the 'traditional' sense is almost impossible now unless you can take the riskier approaches (like paid links). At Verve Search, our off page optimization strategies now always include social media. We create large viral campaigns via social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to get the right links.
Can social networks still create good links? Facebook and Twitter are not social networks, they are just the tools you use to reach those networks. You have to use these tools to build up your campaign - you wont get direct links, but they will help you generate the buzz that will generate links for your site. The concept of 'linkerati,' the people you need to target to get links for SEO, has evolved to the 'socialrati,' who are the people who are the most active within a social media network. Those people do have blogs and their own websites and if you can target them through Twitter you will get links. You just have to make sure you are getting the right content and are niche enough for those people.
Have all changes in the SEO field changed the way you recruit for your search marketing agency? Yes, the way we recruit has changed. We have to recruit people who have creative social media skills as well as technical SEO skills. We need to get the people who have the ideas. It's really difficult, as now we must find people who are both technical and marketing savvy, and now, social media savvy. Finding these people is more important and more difficult than ever before.
You can watch the complete interview with Lisa (which I have only paraphrased above) on the Search Engine Watch channel on YouTube.
We will be covering subjects such as the future of SEO and more at SES New York in our new panel session "SearchSpace: Boldly Take Your Browser Where it's Never Been Before."