The results that can be achieved through Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) are hard to dispute. From recent efforts, I have seen a client’s Google ranking move from page 30 to page one for a targeted search phrase. In the early days of SEO – utilising the correct keywords in your metatags, key search phrases in your copy and more recently creating reciprocal links with suppliers, partners and relevant industry groups were ways to boost your search rankings in an attempt to increase the number and quality of web traffic via search engines to your site. As search engines are becoming more sophisticated in the way that they deliver search results, many of the tried and tested tricks of the SEO trade are going out the window but I see this as an opportunity for the industry.

For many years, the ‘Holy Grail’ in terms of SEO for businesses has been to rank higher than ones competitors for a popular, yet relevant search term. While this was once achievable with strong Search Engine Optimisation, industry experts are speculating that this will not always be the case. We are currently seeing a push towards a more organic search process using the power of databases and data collection. Where before, search engine only took into account the search phrase, search engines of the future will take into account variables ‘learned’ from previous interactions with users.

We are already seeing results being segmented by a user’s location, but it is expected that search engines will begin to profile their users, geographically, behaviourally and psychographically in order to deliver more accurate search results or as one industry analyst puts it “serving up the kinds of results you are likely to be interested in”. So for example, a web developer will get a different set of result for the search term “‘java'”, then a person who is a coffee connoisseur.

The effect of this, as many industry pundits are predicting, is that search rankings will soon not be the prime SEO metric, that is, your ranking will no longer be an indicator of your SEO success and which I believe will be a very, very good thing. SEO has always been a hotly debated topic in our offices, more accurately, the importance people seem to place on Google rankings. I do not have an issue with SEO as long as it is seen as the tool that it is, and not the magic wand many imagine it to be. The potency of traditional SEO campaigns are being diluted with the increased competition. Like all other marketing tools (e.g. advertising, point-of-sale, events, PR, etc) it works best as part of the marketing mix in an integrated marketing campaign where the total is greater than the sum of its parts.

The demise of search rankings, in my opinion as a marketer today, is a good thing because it forces the businesses who have been blind sighted by search rankings to focus on the other components of their online strategies and on their content. Businesses are often guilty of discounting the value of visitor experiences once they click through to their site. Where search ranking can give you a false indicator of success, I consider the content of a site to be instrumental to the success of a businesses’ online presence. Getting visitors to your site is half the battle and without relevant and engaging content, each additional visitor to a site whether it is from SEO or not becomes a wasted opportunity.