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January 18, 2010

SEO Priorities Survey: The Results

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A week ago I asked blog readers to fill out a brief survey to analyze the SEO community’s priorities in 2010. The results are in.

First, some background on the survey and its goals. With a new year comes a new start — an opportunity to establish priorities and reevaluate strategies. Part of strategizing for the year ahead involves keeping an eye on emerging trends in Internet user behavior, competitor tactics and technological developments. Once the projected future is understood, a search engine marketer can choose which trends to capitalize on and decide which tactics are needed to do so.

The survey listed 13 Internet marketing tactics and asked respondents to indicate the relative importance of the tactic in their overall marketing efforts for the year ahead. From “not important” to “vital in 2010″, SEOs rated each tactic, and some telling results have emerged.

In the week the survey has been open, 22 Internet marketers in at least 9 different countries have submitted their responses. Here’s the break down of survey respondents:

survey respondents

Next, let’s get into the responses. Several of the tactics did not clearly fall into the category of important or not important and instead responses were across the board. For these I’d be willing to bet that much of this variance was due to the different demands of particular industries in which respondents specialize.

One such example is the tactic of creating a mobile-friendly Web site. While I believe that it will become increasingly important for businesses to make their Web site available in a simple and easy to use mobile version, in the coming year a mobile site may not be a priority for a business where conversions are complex and not regularly done on a small mobile device.

On the other hand, some tactics were clearly considered important or unimportant by the majority of respondents. It’s these tactics that I’ll analyze in further detail here.

local business listings

Local business listings
More than half of the respondents indicated that the optimization of local business listings is important or vital in 2010. Last April SEOs noticed that Google had begun returning local results for queries without geo-modifiers. Google now analyzes a query to determine if there is a local intent, even if it isn’t specified. For instance, Google recognizes that there’s a good chance a search for “pizza” is an attempt to find local pizza restaurants. With Google’s increasing emphasis on local results and with users’ increasing use of mobile devices, local search listings can’t be overlooked.

link buying

Link buying
Again, more than half of the respondents indicated that link buying is a tactic that is not important or is merely somewhat important over the next year. Google has cracked down on link buying over the last year, and the tactic is a risky one for almost any business. Most businesses can’t afford to face the penalties exacted by Google when link buying is detected. While generating inbound links remains a goal of any SEO, buying links is one tactic that will generally be avoided this year.

link building through strong content

Link building through strong content
Rather than buying links outright, more than half of the respondents reported that when it comes to link building it is important or vital to generate links by publishing strong content. Attracting links through valuable content is a long-term link building strategy, however the links gained are typically long-lasting and originate from highly relevant sites.

on-site optimization

On-site optimization
Here the message is clear. All respondents indicated that on-site SEO is important in 2010. An optimized Web site is the foundation of Internet marketing, and on-site optimization is now a basic requirement of doing business online. Not a single respondent marked on-site SEO among the two lowest priority levels, which was unique among all other tactics listed.

siloed site architecture

Building or rebuilding a site with siloed architecture
The tactic of siloing, or theme-based site architecture, was a unique tactic in the survey because both extremes — not important and vital in 2010 — were represented equally among responses. I attribute this to the fact that siloing remains a misunderstood SEO tactic. Logical site architecture that groups pages into related themes with a strong landing page at the top of the silo is not only user friendly, it also demonstrates to the search engines a site’s subjects of expertise.

targeting a new demographic

Targeting a new demographic
The most popular response for the tactic of targeting a new demographic was “not important.” I take this as a hopeful sign because it suggests that SEOs understand the importance of creating content and targeting keywords based on the intended audience, to the point where it is no longer a priority in 2010. However, Internet marketers should not close their mind to the fact that finding new user niches for their product or service can be an effective way to grow a business.

You can find the results of all 13 questions in the Bruce Clay, Inc. Flickr set SEO Priorities Survey.

All charts created with Create A Graph.





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4 responses to “SEO Priorities Survey: The Results”

  1. Martial writes:

    Virginia,
    I agree with you 100% about people not understanding Silo’s. But, why should people be required to understand it when it follows common sense logical order of a sites structure? I believe the term ‘silo’ was just created to be an SEO term for what is a natural flow of a site. Maybe I don’t understand Silo but why should I? Search engines are spidering my site exactly the way I would want them too, why modify a site just so it can be referred to as “Silo’d”.
    Thanks and very interesting post,
    Martial

  2. Seo Services writes:

    Great Read.

    What I found particularly interesting is Link Buying and or a little worrying. I totally understand what search engines are trying to do and of course “content is king” which can be used in a social media startegy and build strong links that way.

    However can someone answer this to link buying.

    I use a small company occasionally when I need to generate some good links. I usually procure about 10 at a time PR3 and above on reletaivly relevant pages. The links take about 8 weeks to be delivered and are from unique ip addresses. They have never failed to give me a couple of pages boost.

    I have not used this year because of all the hype out there about link buying.

    Can someone explaine how search engines would say, my links or those ten were purchased ?

  3. Virginia Nussey writes:

    Thanks for your comment, Seo Services. It sounds like the links you’re purchasing have a pretty natural footprint if they’re boosting your rankings and are varied in quality. However, even those links could be considered risky. Last October I attended the Ask the Link Builders session at SMX East. During that presentation, link building expert Rae Hoffman said: “Whether or not you believe Google can detect bought links, humans can. And they will report you. There’s a way to fly under the algorithm radar, but if someone reports you, you’re still going to get burned. Right or wrong, detected or not, you have to be prepared to get banned. And don’t whine about it.” So definitely proceed with caution when it comes to paid links.

  4. Virginia Nussey writes:

    Hi Martial, I get the feeling you may not understand siloing. To silo a site is to make each subject matter area of your site clear through linking and directory structure. Where the logic comes in is knowing how a visitor traverses a site when looking for a topic, and making sure these major topics are all supported with a landing page and supporting pages. If I’m a senior citizen visiting a health insurance Web site, I want to see “Medicare” right in the navigation so I can explore that themed section of the site. Sure it makes common sense, but I’m always shocked by how many Web sites I’ve run across that have all their content themes mixed up across the site, making things impossible to find by humans and the subject expertise less clear in the eyes of the search engine. It certainly makes no sense to do something for the sake of doing it, and I wouldn’t suggest siloing a site just to say so. Instead, silo a site so that the full benefit of the site’s content is understood and can be located by humans and engines alike.



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