Signals: What Relevancy Indicators are Search Engineers Watching for Today? SES Toronto Day 1

Seems befitting that one of the first sessions here at SES Toronto will focus on the future of search, and more specifically, what relevancy factors search engineers will need to look out for as the ever changing Google & other search engine algorithms continue to shape our industry. We've already heard a lot about personalization and trust measures, but what about other relevancy factors like freshness, clickstream and behavioral analysis?

What role will these relevancy factors play and how will they affect the search engine rankings in the forseeable future? Will the search engines still be able to be influenced by search engine marketing and optimization professionals - just how smart and technically advanced is Google going to get? And finally, how will this affect both paid and organic search professionals - what skillsets and techniques will be vital for internet marketing professionals as we approach the second decade of the 21st century?

After a nice introduction from moderator Andrew Goodman, in which he outlined the fact that there are over hundreds of relevancy factors that go into the algorithms, he handed over the stand to Marios. Here's a shot of them together that I got before the session started:

Dan Zarrella, and Andrew Goodman
Dan Zarrella, Marios Alexandrou and Andrew Goodman

Marios Alexandrou, SEO Manager, Acronym Media

  • Started off with a background on search engines, describing how with Altavista, it was easy to manipulate the results and oftentimes did not return relevant search results that matched the keyword or phrase being entered into the search engines.
  • Then moved on to mention Jon Kleinberg's theory, "HITS", and that at the same time Larry Page And Sergey Brin were working on Pagerank, and described how both were dependent on inbound links, which in turn created the spammers online who tried desperately to inflate the number of inbound links  in order to increase their rankings.
  • Nowadays, the biggest problems are that search engine crawlers cannot keep up with the rate of content and link creation. Additionally, users now want more than just text results - as we continue to see the shift towards the universal search results, where you get reviews, videos, articles, local results and even blogposts - hence, going forward search engine marketers will need to place an increased emphasis on the universal search results.
  • "Digital asset management and optimization" - DAM/DAO - new concept that emphasizes using alternate formats that will allow users to find your content. Plus, this way you can get additional listings on the first page and you can push your competitors off the first page of the results. So you'll get more clicks while engaging your customers in new ways. E.g. - have a a video with customer testimonials, new product reviews, etc.
  • Changes in end-user behaviour - Users are interacting differently with search engines - when you see videos on the first page of results - your eyes naturally are drawn to videos and images, no matter how keyword relevant your title text is. As a result, Google will take this into consideration and now we are seeing these image results showing up much higher, and even #1, for the search results.
  • Toolbars - one of the best relevancy trackers for the search engines, as it helps them determine relevance by providing clickstream data, and also helps the search engines identify new content that is available online, which goes back to his point that the engines can't keep up with all the content being unleashed online daily.
  • Big trend towards information-seeking on social media sites, especially twitter - with the underlying concept that you "trust" the information more as it comes from other people who are "like you".
  • If people trust these sites and vote for them, then shouldn't the Google search engine results? Yes, hence the Google Wikibar! If everyone clicks "X" on 1st result of Wikipedia, then eventually this aggregate information will tell Google that Wikipedia isn't the best result to show up #1.
  • Connected Marketing - will continue to see an increase of digital communities; these communities will counter-balance one-sided brand images and will force companies to listen to their customers' needs and wants. As a result, marketers will be forced to actively listen to their customers in order to influence their brand image and reputation.
  • Marios wrapped up his session by alluding to the many changes that will be taking place within the algorithms, and tied it back to the concepts he discussed, mainly that textbook SEO won't be enough going forward, and that you will need to wrap your head around DAO, and last but not least, get ready for "social search" and "connected marketing". He also provided insight into one relevancy factor that may start to affect the SERP's: faster loading web pages - as they will help increase visibility in the SERP'S, improve usability, along with a myriad of other benefits.

Dan Zarrella, Social Media & Viral Marketing Scientist, Dan Zarrella

  • Started off with a big shoutout to Twitter, and admitted that he is in fact a self-proclaimed scientist (I'm not technically a ninja either so I liked his styles).
  • Described how new content can often take a long time (hours or even days) before users can find the information they are looking for - hence the search engines are seriously lacking in showing "real-time" information.
  • Believes that Facebook is too closed for real API access, and has too many scoping and privacy issues.
  • His solution is Twitter - done lots of research into twitter (you can check out some of his research results here) and then showed some stats on the importance of "re-tweeting" (having someone tweet about your initial tweet)  and showed how blogposts are the most active source of re-tweets.
  • Still thinks Twitter is very underused; there are many "sock puppet accounts" -e.g. users that have no followers, have never tweeted or are not following anyone.
  • Started talking about a scientific equation that he's developed, which focuses on "retweets" and "tweeter authority" (# of retweets/# of followers) * Sum (tweeter authority = # of times mentioned on twitter). Not going to lie, was pretty over my head (even he admitted it was "kinda geeky") and I saw a lot of puzzled faces so think I'm going to have to read some of his extensive research findings so that I can get a better scope on his equation. Either way, was a really interesting discussion that definitely opened up my eyes to the kind of valuable information internet marketing professionals can extract from Twitter.

All in all was a great session to kick off SES, and highlighted some of the most important topics that are to be discussed at SES, mainly user behaviour and search relevancy, and the meteoric rise of Twitter as the King of social media sites. Now it's time for me to grab a quick bite before the next session!

Posted in SEO

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