Standing on our own professional feet
Here’s my response to the Google move away from technical SEO towards a content-oriented search – it’s good news for smaller professional firms and mature professionals. All it does is place the emphasis where it belongs, in the deep wellspring of your own expertise – your highly honed ability to communicate with clients. It elevates word of mouth, and word of mouth is where you have the opportunity to shine. Not only can you continue to leverage that advantage with well written website content, but Google is now running right alongside boosting those efforts!
Maybe, just maybe, it’s a long-overdue switch to a new form of user insight that may prove to be far more useful than keywords. Elise Gould
An intelligent search engine
The movement away from keyword analysis is also a move from a “dumb” search environment to a smart one – think your old Nokia compared to your iPhone or Android. This is a move towards a search engine culture where Google looks to discern the intent of the searcher.
“Context” is also now a factor – where are you located? On what type of device? What are your local issues? This emphasis on intent and context underlies a lot of what Hummingbird seeks to accomplish. This is search that is more relational, sometimes called the semantic web. Think of Google as wanting to conduct a conversation with searchers – in other words, search is becoming more conversational:
In an article in the Guardian, Google’s CEO Larry Page said that they are trying to reduce every possible friction between the user, their thoughts, and the information they want to find (Josh Smith).
It is also an acknowledgement that the search environment has changed. Where once searchers typed one or two word search queries, they now ask questions, or use the search box to narrow their own ideas of what they want. Isn’t that what you do, too? So clearly you need to be able to discern your reader’s intent and write for that. That’s great, because that is precisely what professionals already do. How many times has someone walked into your office unsure of what they really need? After a short time together, how often have you explained to a client that they need something other than what they imagined? We might call this your “intent research”. You help them discern their intent, it’s the essence of a good client interview.
The downside for professionals
The bad news? The attraction of SEO was always that it was a technical fix. You could pay someone to do it for you, which usually meant a few keywords and a lot of dubious links. Those avenues are now largely closed. Though a content strategy is therefore paramount, and content marketing is at the fore, it is not the quick technical fix that SEO companies previously offered.
Those who let themselves be defined by Google can now be seen scrambling to redefine themselves. “Inbound marketers” is one term being used a lot. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course, although you’d be hard pressed to call it Search Engine Optimization. It’s PR. It’s marketing. It’s content production. The side effect of such activity might be a high ranking in the search engines (wink, wink). It’s like Fight Club. The first rule of Fight Club is……(SEO Book).
I think this is a good thing, because it forces professionals to answer the questions that turn their minds to the best way to communicate with clients in the age of the internet – what is your ideal client profile; what makes your firm unique; what exactly is our business?
As well, it coalesces nicely with the relational aspects of marketing for professionals. We are selling our services, not a physical product like a car or a dishwasher, and the changes to Google appear to make the process more human.
In Part Six we’ll finish our series with a glance towards thge future. .
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