Another year has passed, and we're talking about SEO more than ever, which is a good thing. It spells job security for a lot of us in the business.
With pension and portfolio firmly in hand, let's take a look back at some of the trends that gave the large agency a bit more wiggle room this year. With advances such a universal search and the explosion of social media (define), 2007 was quite a landmark year for search marketers.
For all of its breakthroughs, however, a few bad habits still remain from years past. Let's check the scorecard.
Universal Search Means Universal Competition
Depending on who you talk to, Google took the ball from Ask and ran with it last year, moving universal search into the mainstream. Now users may see images, a news story, or even video appear on the search results page for a particular query.
This trend spread across all the major engines in 2007 and continues to extend into local search. This means more competition for our clients in the SERPs (define). Clients must now not only optimize their Web pages, but their digital assets as well.
Search Gets Social
For one of our large publisher clients last year, our most successful SEO recommendation was the addition of social media badges to each of their stories. This simple recommendation not only led to additional traffic from new sources, it also led to a positive impact on the overall rankings of the pages tagged by readers. While this trend started in 2007, I believe it will continue to grow and influence SEO even more in 2008.
SEO Implementation Headache Still Pounding
Would you spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on blueprints for a house you never intended to build? I hope not.
The lack, or incorrect implementation, of SEO recommendations by clients is still a constant headache. Every year, companies come to us asking for our best team, stating their commitment to SEO and the need to drive traffic to their Web sites.
Although they spend a lot of money on recommendations, we continue to see less than a 50 percent implementation rate. At 50 percent implementation, clients are often far better off than where they were, but they're not nearly recognizing the traffic they could be or getting the best ROI (define) for their money.
As I said, it's a constant headache.
All Flash & No Function
A large contingency of site owners insist on having all Flash, AJAX, or even Silverlight Web sites. They want the best user experience possible and have put their faith in these technologies. Unfortunately, Flash and its buddies still don't play well with search engines.
In 2007, this trend showed no signs of slowing. If anything, we saw more requests for these types of sites with the additional requirement of the sites being search engine friendly. This is possible, but integrating SEO tactics in this way requires upfront planning and usually additional money.
Defending the SEO Craft
As with almost anything in this world, once a subject gains recognition and popularity, more people will claim to be an expert on it. In 2007, SEO was no different.
Several clients we've worked with this year (which is several more than we have in previous years) have come to us after a poor experience with an SEO "expert." Many people are quick to bill themselves as search gurus after reading SEO books and visiting Web sites such as Search Engine Watch.
Reading about SEO is not the same as actually practicing it. As I wrote in "Wherefore Art thou SEO?" you need to do your homework in order to choose the right SEO agency for your Web site.
CMOs Starting to Get It
Perhaps 2007 will be remembered as the year where clients began to figure it out. We've seen more emphasis put on search this past year than any previous year, and we're glad to see it.
We now receive RFPs that specifically state the new Web site design must be search engine friendly, which means going beyond the code, working with the user experience and design teams, and making sure you have a bona fide SEO expert onboard.
For all the advances in search last year, it's the human component that matters most, and clients are finally beginning to understand the value of SEO. Let's hope that that trend continues into 2008.