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Bruce Clay Interview Video

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I think that this is the most important video that you can watch to get some idea of where SEO and webmastering in general is going. I've watched it three times.


He uses the quote "ranking is dead"... I think he does that for impact but if you listen to what he says almost all of it points to the dilution of links for ranking websites.


"Engagement objects" such as video and flash are a real focus of his future view... he says that "if you don't have these you might be wiped out overnight". Again, I think he picked those words for effect but that sends a strong message - you better engage your visitors.


In summary he is pointing to the search engines collecting data on visitor behaviors that imply website quality and using them as the driving factors for "traffic" (and not necessarily SERPs).




I am curious to hear what you think about his ideas.

Edited by EGOL

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I am in general agreement that various changes are ongoing and consider it likely that Google will be or is already indefinite-beta-iteration on the factors he mentions. But I also believe (1) they haven't got an actual implimentation handle on several, (2) that his reasons for why Google is pursueing some is incorrect, and (3) there are serious usability problems left unmentioned.


Note: Being on dial-up I have not seen/heard the video. My information is derived wholely from the accompanying text.

...everybody who does a search will end up with different search results based on their prior search history. Personalization is going to be "web-wide"...


"We can't search for any term and look at rankings because I can get different results than you for exactly the same query


This started years ago with geo-targeting differences between cctld search domains, i.e. google.com or google.ca. Similarly with IP geo-targeting - being in Canada I have the google.ca choice of searching 'the web' or 'pages from Canada'. However, when I request 'the web' there are commonly differences from my same search on google.com. And when I use a proxy the results from both shift again reflecting the geo-location of the proxy server.


Now, as mentioned, individual personalisation is a growing SE interest. But there are (so far) insurmountable hurdles between all the real and persona conflicts. Multiple family members using one computer, work and home, research and personal, being in one country needing Local results from another, ad nauseum.

...a search for "java". Some are looking for programming, some are looking for the beverage, and some are looking for travel information. Theoretically, personal search will know that and provide results accordingly.


Note the word 'theoretically'.

In the real world it is never always one or the other. And the SEs are far far far from auto-magically divining which what when. Context remains elusive.


The biggest problem is that while SEOs have a fairly good idea where the SEs want to go they frequently fail to see the abyss between vision and implimentation. In many cases it still remains 'you can't get there from here'.

Bruce says this [universal search] will be the most significant factor of 2009. Google looks at soundtracks and convert them to text. They can jump into the middle of videos, scan sites to determine if you have video/images or not. There are a lot of variables in universal search, and some of these variables tell how engaging your site is.


He is much more generous than I to Google. I don't think they will give up many of those video spots to sites other than YouTube. WikiPedia aside, universal search is NOT about highlighting anything but other Google properties. And it was that (to Google) distressing dominence of Wikipedia that drove them to create Knol. Google really really wants those top five SERP (75% of clicks) as often as possible, really really wants to keep that traffic in-house.


Every change Google makes is to put more ads in front of each person. And personalisation is designed to better target ad delivery not better target results.

According to Bruce, this is all going to really help Google fight spammers. He says it will affect the way scrapers and spammers work, because if they are just scraping text, they wouldn't be able to rank.


It just means that as went text, then images, so video. Scrape and add AdSense and buy AdWords to drive quick traffic, same old now improved with someone else's vid. Google fights spammers because they pollute their algo, however, Google loves scrapers (but not publicly) because they are a major revenue stream.


I agree that SEOs need to adapt. They have always needed that ability. I totally disagree with that 'user benefit' kool-aid. Every single change is a Google revenue benefit. With a a user spin for painless consumption.


When looking at new SE (especially Google) offerings/changes/benefits look at what it does for the SE, then you will understand whether to, and how to, game the change.

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insurmountable hurdles between all the real and persona conflicts
yep, the programmers I know are really big coffee drinkers :cheers:


It's hard to tell for sure what their real capabilities are... but when they start using these things they will keep their mouth shut about exactly what they are using and then understanding the search engines will become much more complex.

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My take on the whole "what I see isn't what you see, and not even what I might see next" thing is that while true, it's not true most of the time. Most of the time, what I see is going to be the same thing that you see (in google.com, that is), and even if you and I occasionally see something different, it won't be very different. Ranking reports won't be 100% accurate, but of course they never were. So while you and I may see some things differently, slightly more often now than we have in the past - and we may see that gap widen in the future - I seriously doubt it will widen by much or very quickly. Three years from now - 5, 10 - who knows when. At that point, the differences may be enough to warrant a rankings report coffin, but in the first six months of 2009? Nah. Why? A wise, wise person, otherwise known as iamlost, has eloquently waxed on about various thoughts above that would explain it far better than I.


I should probably add that I used to worry about this very subject a lot more - about 2 years or so ago. Back then, I was probably pulling my hair out about it. Now? Nope. It's obvious how slowly this change will take place. Of course, I could be wrong. Time will tell.

Edited by dazzlindonna

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understanding the search engines will become much more complex.



I actually see SEO expanding to becoming a broader Traffic Acquistion Optimisation of which SE results will be but one part of the puzzle. The TAO of the web :)


Of course, many of the 'leaders' are already doing so, that is why they are leaders :); it is the SEO mob (all those who behave as WoW mobs, doing as programmed without independeant thought :)) who remain stuck in some bygone era.


I forgot to sort of agree with the "ranking is dead" statement. :)

I really don't pay much attention to ranking, just to traffic. If page traffic from a source, i.e. Google, is increasing or steady I don't have time to investigate. If it is declining, especially if it drops suddenly, I'll take a look. But that is log analysis not SERP fixation.

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"Ranking is dead," says Bruce, recalling his words from his presentation.

Okay. Let's assume for a minute that Bruce is right?


He thinks if the top ten sites don't have video, they may lose their ranking over night.

That funeral didn't last long, did it? :D


Bruce has a brand new reason for declaring the death of rankings ( a reason which has its own weaknesses, I think), but he's coming to the game a little late. Rankings have been dead for years, at least according to many experts in the industry. Ever tried to pay the rent with a high ranking in the SERPs? Many, many people have been decrying the importance erroneously placed on high rankings. Some, like iamlost, think we should look at traffic, not rankings. For most experts, though, the new buzzword seems to be conversions. Rankings don't matter, they claim, and even traffic is ultimately useless, without those precious conversions.


They're right, too.


Apparently, however, being right isn't enough because -- just like Bruce Clay -- everyone goes right back to talking about rankings three heartbeats later. Rankings are dead! It's a real shame, isn't it, that they're so damn useful? :)


Rankings, indeed, don't pay the rent. Neither does traffic. And I know it's going to bum out a whole lot of people, but the truth is that conversions don't pay the rent, either. If you want to sell ten dollar bills for $5, you can rack up high conversion ratios all day and still be broke when the sun sets on your short-lived business venture. The only thing that has ever mattered in business is profit. It is the final destination, and everything else is just a signpost on that winding road to success.


Last winter, I spent a week driving from a very cold Michigan to a much warmer Nevada, a trip that would have been very difficult had I decided to ignore all the signposts along the way. Those signposts kept me from getting lost. Okay, the GPS helped, too.


The only thing that matters is profit. But profits are influenced by conversions. Conversions are influenced by traffic. Traffic is influenced by rankings. None of those signpost will, by itself, get you to your destination, but every one of them can help you steer a successful course. Rankings will never be dead. Even when they grow less and less accurate (which is what Bruce is actually arguing), they will still be used as one of the first signposts available on what can be a very long journey. Like most tools of business they will be misused by many, if not most. Those with too little experience will forget that every page on the Internet ranks well for "something," but not every "something" necessarily leads to the next signpost. It still takes good judgment to navigate the road. It takes human skill.


I think we should all keep our eye on the end game, on profits, on money in the bank. You can't get there, though, without paying attention to conversions. And you can't meaningfully get there without traffic. And I'm sorry, Bruce, but you can't get there without looking at rankings. Should rankings become more blurred, as perhaps seems inevitable, that simply means it's going to take greater skill to read them accurately and usefully. Then again, I suspect it's always taken more skill than most realized. If the journey was too easy, it wouldn't be worth making. :)

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SE rankings are important in that generally SE derived traffic is directly proportional to the ranking for that query term. If that connection did not exist ranking would have no value beyond bragging rights. I say generally because title and description variences can generate a ctr that in effect, if not list order, promotes a lesser SERP above a higher. The human scanning and discrimination factor.


As such, Ron is correct, SERP will never 'die'. Given the current trend, however, only 25%-50% of actual query traffic will be sent outwards from Google search, the rest being siphoned to other Google properties which may, after a couple of invitations to ads, finally direct the person out to a nonG site.


As query results splinter down geo-location, IP, google account, and other personalisation lines watching the SERPs becomes a moot point. Whose SERPs? When a given query by different people can return the same page here, there, or not at all (which, as Ron says has been true for some time) tracking SERPs becomes a promotional exercise rather than a practical one. And all that is left, that is concrete, is that today [ mysecretterm ] SE query delivered the same, more, or less traffic than yesterday/last week/month/year.


I absolutely agree with Ron that profit is THE most important business factor, the final result, that decides win/lose and how well/badly. However, there are many conversions that do not immediately impact the bottom line, i.e. branding, so conversions remain important beyond profitability. And not all sites are designed or even meant to make a profit. So long as they are fit to purpose they are working.


But that was not an issue in play. Rather it was where and how best to quantify SE success. And my opinion is that ye olde SERP is dead, and has been for some time, for purposes of determining term optimisation because there are now multiple mutable variable SERPs. And in SERPs place is ye olde log file analysis. No more frantic chase after #1 or top-5 but whether the page query term traffic is static or up or down.


And then comes conversion optimisation. Which has never been about SERP or traffic but about percentages and absolute numbers doing that thing you want them to do so well. Which may or may not mean moolah under the mattress.


Just as an after thought - I disagree with Bruce on the video as a make or break in the SERPs. G will show one or two and likely one or both will be YouTube. Which tells you something if you want to play that game.


And another: all those SERP scraping/ranking tools - I wonder if there is a legacy profit motive behind all the SERP as the decider hype?

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Since Google launched it PPC network and then did very many dances, rankings have been dead. The key message for webmasters boils down to "make your website interesting", and make your content engaging (smells a bit like like "write good content"). The suggestion is that that a website with a AV content and one without will find the AV content version listing above. I find that a bit of a joke, because that's like saying that a video is always better than words, something which is clearly not the case. Are we about to see Wikipedia drop off the index overnight? I very much doubt it. What's clear is that Google wants to be known as having the most interesting website's in its indexes, and "engaging" is being defined in terms of interactivity, and not necessarily content.


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Very interesting.


Putting more weight in how engaging and popular a site is good but nothing new. To speculate that having video and other rich media's in you content will make or break your ranking is I think a little OTT. I'm sure there are many people who write brilliant and extremely relevant content but do no have the facilities or the want to do videos or sound or flash.


What this made me think about is how social networks could be killing the importance of ranking. If you want to know about Java coffee you get revered to coffee groups who have a list of suggested sites which have been voted in due to webmaster (2nd gen SEO'ers) participation and creating popularity in those groups (you obv need a great site to do this which would be totally decided by real people within these groups). This could then almost cut out the importance of Search Engines. This would necessitate a higher level of social network integration which we are seeing with this social openID.


Search Engines run a risk of targeting the search results to much and delivering results on assumptions and assumption is the mother of all mess ups. Like Geo targeting is rarely relevant to me. i find myself fiddling with the url to change .uk .za or whatever to .com only to have it default back to geo targeted results... I dont want this. Id like to choose it but i defiantly dont want 1984 search results thank you.


Imagine getting SE result that are targeted by sex, age bracket and browser history of the machine that you are searching from... no thanks!


Even if they have the semi-correct info about me I dont want it to be targeted according to the sites I went to in the last 3 months or by geo or demo or any XYZ-graphic data they may have. For me it has nothing to do with privacy because I have nothing to hide but I want to search on topics not on the fact that I am 2.3% this or that. When I start to notice a theme of results, perhaps themed by my historical, behavioural or xyz-graphical profile, I will start looking at alternative ways to find data/sites with the goal of working around this profile.



Edited by saschaeh

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The way I see it, there will still be a diverse selection of relevant results. Maybe for some search keywords / affiliate industries they will see a fall, but if Google do not provide a varied selection of results then people will use other engines.


Also, I think some of this has been around for a while. I was discussing earlier with a pal on why some say that a fast site is better for SEO. The idea of bots getting impatient just seemed daft. THe conclusion we came to was that Google monitors user behaviour (more so on those with Analytics) and determines if a site is good by the depth / variety of pages views / length of time on site.


Those affiliate landing page sites are most likley to suffer. Pages rich in content should be OK still. Although I have always said that content is king. A picture paints a thousand words, and video, I dunno, 10,000?


I would be interesting to see what happens to wikipedia over the next year though. Popular because people link to it, usually after copying parts of it. Without links wikipedia is just a text document.


Anyway, I am banking on the fact that YouTube embedded on my site will suffice for now! Better get some more channels set up.

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This year's PubCon was the first time that I've heard multiple speakers declare rankings dead. I really do think we're going to see more of a shift toward search analytics, and it's high time. Ron is dead on - search traffic should be measured like any other traffic: are you making money or not?

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