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January 28, 2008

Blended Search Eats Legacy Rankings

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A great, great post by Jeffrey Smith over at SEO Design Solutions warns sites against getting too comfortable at the top and we couldn’t agree more.

There’s a natural tendency to think that once you’ve earned your top rankings for your competitive keywords, that you can sit back and marvel at your own success. As if your competition has bowed down to your superior SEO skills and will happily live in perpetual runner-up bliss. Please, get serious.

As Jeffrey explains, this is some seriously dangerous thinking:

Resting on the laurels of yesteryear is a sure fire-method to find your "once relevant results" that ranked as if they were the very fabric of search engines (until now), replaced by more pertinent or relevant information from a savvy competitor or sophisticated new kid on the block who are hungry for a piece of your market share."

Ah, yes. The quickest way to lose legacy rankings is to do nothing.

It’s the same discussion we’ve had a million times before, only this time it’s centered differently, and for good reason. Typically when we talk about search engine optimization as being an ongoing process we frame it in the argument that without constant tweaking, you leave yourself vulnerable to attack and for your competition to rise up and overtake you. And while that’s still the case and a very valid argument, now we have this whole blended search thing to contend with. Sites have to be even more proactive about staying up-to-date on their optimization efforts and must continually raise the bar in terms of what they’re offering to customers.

As the article suggests, blended search will change the way users interact with search engines and the kind of information and relevancy they’ll demand. You’re no longer taking up residence in the SERPs with the same old faces you’ve grown accustomed to and tolerated seeing. There are going to be new faces to deal with. If you want to beat these young whippersnappers, you can’t sit back and marvel at your static Web site. Not when they’ve integrated videos and images and blog entries and news stories that tie back to their core theme. You want to identify the sites that will cause you trouble and figure out how to become more relevant. As legacy as your rankings are, you have to start defending them with smarter search engine optimization. Otherwise, be prepared to lose them, Mr. I Haven’t Updated My Site In 10 Years.

The good thing about blended search is that it will encourage searchers to use the whole SERP. However, that’s also the bad part, depending on where you sit. Users are being re-taught to take advantage of that scroll bar they forgot was there in hopes that there may be a funny YouTube video hiding just below the fold. When they go hunting for it they may discover a cleverly written Title tag written by the site ranking below you and decide to click on them instead. Blended search is going to change that golden triangle where the first two sites listed got all the eyeballs. Attention is going to spread. If you’re that site ranking 7th or 8th for your keywords, this is good news for you. If you’re the top dog, it may not be.

And it’s not just new competition you have to think about. You have to keep in mind the new kind of users who will be searching for you, the one who will expect more, who will use different language in hopes of triggering a blended search result and who is looking for a niche specialist. Your search engine optimization campaign should take all of this into consideration.

And all of these elements are completely independent of the day-to-day algorithm pushes the engines are doing. You have to stay on top of things from a blended search perspective without forgetting your core search engine optimization goals. This means that you will never, ever be able to rest. Search engine optimization does not end after the first glimmer of rankings and page edits. Sites must continue to add fresh content, while experimenting with it in completely different forms. They must continue to go after expert links, while also pushing their content out to social media entities. They have to strengthen the theme of their site, while leveraging media in a new way. You’ll have to continue to do keyword research, now working in blended search-friendly search terms.

As Jeffery notes, it’s time for site owners and search marketers to look for increasing opportunities to leverage new media in a way that builds a bridge back to their brand. (Hey, have you seen our SEO Training video?) The puzzle is getting bigger and more intricate. I don’t ever want to read another thread of Search Engine Roundtable about search engine optimization is a one time deal. That has never been the case, and it’s definitely not now that blended search is here to stay

[Don’t forget, we need your SEO Charity contest submissions by February 11th in order for you to be eligible for more than $5000 worth of search engine optimization training!]

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3 responses to “Blended Search Eats Legacy Rankings”

  1. Jeffrey Smith writes:

    Lisa:

    Thank you so much for the mention on your blog, we are truly honored to have received such an endorsement by such as esteemed SEO company such as Bruce Clay.

    Unfortunately our host was not prepared to deal with the traffic onslaught that ensued, having multiple stumbles and 2-3 pages going hot at Sphinn left our host at a lack of capacity.

    As a result, our site is down in the water and we are taking every step to recover the data and get back in the saddle. Not to mention names here, but let’s just say it rhymes with “Schmoe Addy”. We expect the situation to resolved within 24 hours, so kindly leave the post intact and it will return as well. Once again, thanks.

  2. Dan Perry writes:

    Although I agree with the articles (yours and Jeffrey’s), I also know from first-hand experience that doing nothing is sometimes an acceptable option. I have a site that I haven’t touched for years (honestly, at least 24 months), and it still ranks #3 in Google for the main term (which isn’t included in the domain).
    I also know that, working for an SEO company, you need to say that regular tweaking is necessary. I think that for the majority of sites that holds true, especially for the more competitive verticals, but I wouldn’t agree that it’s necessary in all cases.

  3. Jeffrey Smith writes:

    @Dan:

    I agree completely that this is not a one size fits all approach. There are always exceptions to the rule. The main ingredient here is two elements (1) website authority and (2) internal links aging and (3) competition.

    I liked the point that Lisa made about search legacy and that one applies, if someone where to truly challenge you for that position, you may in fact have to press back a bit, but point taken.



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