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Interdisciplinary Research And The Future Of Seo


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#1 Evmikna

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Posted 08 January 2007 - 08:59 AM

A question that is on my mind is: "What is the future of SEO?" Perhaps, the question is somewhat shortsighted in the way it is stated. Will the noun, SEO, be around in the next decade? Yet, it is the word we have to work with now.

I have an educational background in research. My educational background does not include much marketing, but philosophy, psychology and other disciplines. I am finding that I draw on my backgrounds for unique, creative ideas that work in the field of SEO. SEO is not for the business/marketing majors alone.

My premise is: The future of SEO must involve a cooperative effort by those in various fields of study. Hence, an SEO consortium should be developed which includes researchers in all the fields of study.

Before you get bored with this post, let me get the ball rolling by identifying a couple of examples. I am looking for your input!

Anthropology: A study of man's culture. As it relates to SEO, we need Anthropologists to inform us as to how various cultures behave. That is, "Where do they go for their information?" "Where do they frequent?" The last point will have an impact on Web 3.0.

Psychology: A study of man's thinking/behavior. As it relates to SEO, we need Psychologists to inform us as to how various people think and what motivates their behavior? How effective are PPCs? I believe they have lost most of their effectiveness because they are placed at the top (in purple rectangles) and on the sides of search engine/webpages. We have learned that these are ads, so we (at least I) ignore them for the most part. For now, it seems to me top position on the SERPs is the most effective placement. What about the future? Will Google/Yahoo and MSN learn that and give paid ads more, if not dominant page coverage?

Another possible contribution from:

Educational Psychology: the study of how people learn and process information. Studies on eye tracking have been made on producing menus and flyers. How about computer screens? When people search for information on a computer, where is the concentration of their eye movements? Is it better to have first position on page one in the SERPs or is it better to be in the purple box on top (not suggesting that we should not give up on the organic positioning)? Only educational psychologists can provide us the hard data on these facts. Perhaps search engines are studying these things and putting paid ads in the more concentrated eye-reading spots, or are they.

#2 Evmikna

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Posted 08 January 2007 - 09:32 AM

Ethics: the study of morals. As it relates to SEO, "black hat" is probably one of our more popular terms. This field should research what is "black hat." Categorizations like "soft black hat" and "hard black hat" may be a part of this research. When does an SEO cross the line? Is a company really using "black hat" techniques or are they simply thinking "out of the box?" This field would do much to inform us.

Edited by Evmikna, 08 January 2007 - 09:32 AM.


#3 SEOigloo

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Posted 08 January 2007 - 06:21 PM

Dear Evmikna,
Welcome to the forum!

I enjoyed your post very much, but was not sure, at the end of it, what questions you are actually asking. Are you wondering if SEO firms will, in future, employ psychologists, anthropologists or historians in order to create and market better websites? Am I missing your point? This is a very interesting topic, and I'd like to understand where you're coming from on this.
Kind Regards,
Miriam

#4 Evmikna

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Posted 08 January 2007 - 06:32 PM

I am simply trying to raise awareness to the following premise (an expansion of above):

The SEO industry must engage various experts in all possible fields to remain relevant in the future.

Forums and blogs are awesome. I love them. However, they are filled with people who simply do not know their limitations. If an academic/scientific think-tank or repository devoted exclusively to SEO was established, then we would more definitive material to:
--predict future trends
--develop trendy, forward-thinking
--give fodder to our companies to digest and develop creative strategies to compete in an ever competitive field

I have had some interraction on this elsewhere. Very few engaged. Those who did were helpful. I came here to get more input. Thank you for posting.

The stats tell us that this is heavily trafficed. However, few are posting. This can be a fun topic! I think it gets people to think "out of the box" and forget all about those META Tags!

Edited by Evmikna, 08 January 2007 - 06:45 PM.


#5 Ron Carnell

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Posted 08 January 2007 - 07:46 PM

My educational background does not include much marketing ...

Me, either. But I've been knocking around long enough to learn a bit about it in spite of myself. And one of the things I think I've learned over the years is that marketing IS pretty much what I believe you're trying to describe. Take an anthropologist, psychologist, educator and philosopher, stir them well, and the result is going to closely resemble a good marketer.

At one time, that surprised me a bit, but in retrospect it shouldn't have. Market, after all, is just another word for people. Marketers study people, perhaps not in the same sense that a scientist studies people, but probably more in the sense that an artist or writer studies people. There is a craft to it, to be sure, but it is still more art than science.

Scientists, of necessity, pigeonhole everything. Classification clarifies focus and perhaps, in a very real sense, is almost the definition of science. It's a good thing. But Science usually doesn't offer a very good description of people, who still refuse to be pigeonholed in spite of hundreds of years of trying, and it almost never results in great novels or lasting paintings. Writing or painting to a formula doesn't work (as I suspect television generally proves).

I don't think it would work any better in marketing. The artist should certainly listen to the scientist and learns the necessary rules (craft), but inevitably must go their own way if they are to communicate meaningful truths about the human condition.

I think marketing, like any other art, already comprises the interdisciplinary approach you are suggesting. It just isn't very formal and perhaps that's a weakness. Then again, that just might be it's real strength. :spambuster:

#6 Evmikna

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Posted 08 January 2007 - 08:50 PM

Cool! Someone is seeing the point as well. I am on the "soapbox" for this right now because I see the following happening:

--SEOs are humans, and consistent with humanity, we tend to swing to polar opposites. Some view the task of SEO as simply a skill set that requires tons of money. Others view the task of SEO as a game. I hope to swing the pendulum back and suggest that it is all of that but much more. We need our "geeks," "gamers" and "trendy folks," but without our "stuffed shirts," this industry will lose relevance and I dare say effectiveness.

--From my viewpoint, few SEOs take care in learning from other disciplines. Those setting trends today (like Converseon) are using principles found in Sociology. If we have an academic/scientific think-tank or repository, then we will have more information for our creative sides to apply. JSTOR has a volume on Marketing Science.

--The academic/scientific side will help us in many ways. It will help us remain relevant when the Web 3.0 generation sweeps in. It will help us in our conversations and presentations with our clients. It has many, necessary applications and relevance.

I know it is early to make this assessment, but this has not been a popular thread elsewhere. It was viewed well over 200 times within 24 hours with only four of us interracting. That is not good. For the academic and scientific side of our discipline to be ignored or underestimated leaves our industry in sad shape.

Oh yeah, another thing: Ron: "Go State" ;-)

Edited by Evmikna, 08 January 2007 - 08:51 PM.


#7 bwelford

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Posted 08 January 2007 - 08:57 PM

Perhaps another topic that swainzy started may have the answer. :nah:

#8 Evmikna

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Posted 08 January 2007 - 09:42 PM

I visited the thread. I'm glad that one of your Moderators is keeping us informed what the industry leaders are saying. I posted my thoughts there.

#9 bragadocchio

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Posted 08 January 2007 - 09:47 PM

Hi Evmikna,

Welcome to the forums.

You've started an interesting discussion.

I know it is early to make this assessment, but this has not been a popular thread elsewhere. It was viewed well over 200 times within 24 hours with only four of us interracting. That is not good. For the academic and scientific side of our discipline to be ignored or underestimated leaves our industry in sad shape.


It's not necessarily fair to try to gauge the impact of a post, or the thought that it has inspired by comparing the number of views of a thread, with the amount of folks who interact within the thread.

I'd venture that it is pretty safe to say that most of the folks who are in SEO didn't go to school to learn SEO, or perhaps even marketing. And this forum encompasses a broader cross section of those who work on the web than just search engine optimizers.

And some of the cross-disciplinary combinations that you suggest have evolved names that you may or may not recognize, yet take into account a number of ideas that may consider lessons of marketing.

Consider these fields:

Human computer interaction
Information architecture
Persuasive design
User Interface design
Engagibility
User Centered Design

I know that my training as an undergraduate English major, and then law student forces me to look for primary resources when it comes to information about search engines, so your point is a valid one.

In many ways, because of the holistic focus of this forum, which attempts to bring together people from different backgrounds, with different levels and types of experiences and educations, we've seen benefits from having different points of views.

Having members here with considerable experience and/or education in ecommerce, in design, in illustration, in music, in usubility, in marketing, in law, in microbial genetics, and in many other fields is immensely helpful. And often, we see benefits from people with fresh perspectives, who may not have as much education or experience, but also don't carry some of the baggage and deeply seated assumptions that many of us may carry.

I think Ron's spot on when he says that marketing is cross disciplinary, and covers a number of approaches, both art and science. I don't think that you need a degree in Computer Science or Information Retrieval or Law or Psychology or other fields to be an effective marketer or SEO. But it doesn't hurt to try to learn from other disciplines and other approaches.

I'd like to hear more about some of the backgrounds of people here who are now working in SEO or marketing or design or ecommerce. What did you do before you started working on the web?

#10 Evmikna

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Posted 08 January 2007 - 10:25 PM

You are correct that looking at a number of views compared to actual posts is not exactly scientific. I do think it demonstrates interest level. Oh well...

What did I do before web stuff?
I was in the ministry. I earned a B.A. major in Pastoral Studies, minor in Greek
I followed up with a M.Div. (96 hour Master's degree) with heavy emphasis in Ethics and Linguistics (Hebrew and Greek). The school I attended is known to be research oriented, so that accounts for my academic penchant.

It was 1997 when I began web development for churches/organizations/curriculum developers. I'm known for my Graphic Designing and now my Search Engine experience. I am no longer in the ministry and am making Web Development/SEO work my career. A large part of my work is to help churches and ministries achieve a web presence for which people often pay 1,000s.

I think we both understand and agree to some levels. I simply think we cannot relegate the academic/science side of SEO to a bottle we take a "nip" out of sometimes.

As you correctly pointed out, this forum has many who have achieved high credentials in their fields. For that reason, I would hate to lose the direction of this thread.

What questions from the fields of English or Law drive us to think more creatively? I gave examples from Anthropology Psychology and Ethics.

#11 cre8pc

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Posted 08 January 2007 - 10:58 PM

Studies on eye tracking have been made on producing menus and flyers. How about computer screens?


There's a lot of research done on this. Jakob Nielsen continues it, 6 years later. Here is one of his links - Eyetracking Study of Web Readers.

Eyetrack III

Eyetracking by Enquiro, on Search Behavior

to name a few.

For behavorial studies:

Jared Spool

Futurenow for persuasive architecture. (How we buy after we find in search.)

Human Factors - the granddaddy of research on how humans interact with computer technology

There are a growing number of persons like me who branched off from SEO to focus on the human response side of the equation. The data is out there and already being applied :)

What do you wanna know more about?

#12 Evmikna

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Posted 08 January 2007 - 11:01 PM

Perfect! Thanks.

#13 Kal

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 03:12 AM

Kim beat me to the eye-tracking stuff, but this search results heat map example and the one from Google should also help you.

#14 rmccarley

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 04:58 AM

Welcome Evmikna! ;)

My mom is currently working on her mDiv. I'm very proud of her.

The future of SEO is specialists. You'll have the broad catagory guys (like me) that see the concept of SEO as just plain marketing though the "customer" is the viewers of search engines. And you'll see some really tight specialties develop like keyword researchers, link builders, etc. Most people will fall in the middle somewhere. I think SEO is really a school of thought. Flash guys have their philosophy. New web designers with degrees (and no sense) have theirs. We have ours.

#15 Evmikna

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 09:28 AM

McCarley: "My mom is currently working on her MDiv. I'm very proud of her."

Awesome! Continue to be proud. Did you know that many theology schools now offer the professional route (M.A.,Ph.D.) for the same amount of effort she will put toward her M.Div.? She chose the right course!

"The future of SEO is specialists"
Exactly. Just like we see with the example of Converseon. They have taken what they know about Sociology and have developed a niche, giving them an awesome portfolio.

For those who want to dismiss the academic side, I see it this way: All SEOs will continue (for the time being) to use all of the common SEO tasks. But, what will keep each SEO companies more effective than others are the niches they fill. Take a dip in the academic stream once in a while and when you do you find a niche that will give you the upper edge–one you could not see standing on the banks.

For example: The eye tracking thing. It was not the only thing for which I was looking. I simply stumbled on it by asking the questions. Now that I found some scientific research, I am going to take that information and apply it to my webpage layouts. Rocket science? For the eye trackers "yes." For me, I'm not letting academic/scientific information scare me. I'm just asking the right questions and hopefully, gaining an edge in my industry. That's what it is all about.

Edited by Evmikna, 09 January 2007 - 09:49 AM.


#16 mugshot

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 09:30 AM

I think the first step towards this interdiciplinary effort would be to get designers, engineers and SEOs working together in unison - that alone will bring the industry one step closer to what we are discussing here, i think ;)

It's good to know that there are people who think there is more to SEO than title tags and descriptions - cause those days are dead, and if not, they should be. What we once knew as the difinitive SEO strategies like H1, H2, <b>, meta tags, etc have now been a "best practise" for most sites - it's time to move on to new things.

Companies are getting smarter - and ranking a site in G, Y and M - is no longer the ultimate goal, although most SEOs might still say that it is what they live and breathe. It is becoming more apparent that clients are more interested in performance of their site, once there is traffic (paid or natural). Because - at the end of the day, ranking #1 on Google does not make the money, it is what happens upon a click through that makes the dollar.

I'm not saying its useless to try and gun for top positions, but too much emphasis is put on rankings and little or none placed on marketing to the visitor when they land on the site....i digress.

In a nutshell, I feel that SEO as a service will die, much like web design, if it is offered as a standalone service. And the thread is moving in the right direction - how long will it take to get there...years...probably. Since we're still talking about dup content, cookies and dynamic site optimization...as we did 4 years ago...

#17 Evmikna

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 10:10 AM

"I think the first step towards this interdiciplinary effort would be to get designers, engineers and SEOs working together in unison - that alone will ring the industry one step closer to what we are discussing here, i think"

YES!!! How do we go about that? This forum is awesome and indispensable toward that effort. My initial thought is: develop a not-for-profit, non company sponsored repository where the academic/scientific information is gathered. Is there one? If not, I opened up a webpage yesterday afternoon to collect documents and provide fodder for graduate student's theses/dissertations. If something like this exists, let me know, I'll close shop. I have too much to do anyways.

http://wwwresearch.org

If that does not work, try:

http://205.209.124.135

Of course, if the Administrators here want to develop this, I certainly would not take offense, but would gladly like to see the concept gain a foothold.

Edited by Evmikna, 09 January 2007 - 10:48 AM.


#18 Evmikna

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 04:44 PM

"A prediction here, then, is appropriate. While focus on keywords has been the law of the searchland, SEO professionals will have to more diligently and acutely focus on the end user - every unique end user - mulling scenarios, personalities, and motivations, which makes SEO more akin to traditional marketing, where a firm grasp of psychological concepts is as necessary as the technical acuity of keyword targeting." From the article SEO Is About To Change, Jason Lee Miller

Exactly what I am talking about. Effective, future SEOs will have an academic/scientific side.



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