Forget keyword tricks and your overpriced SEO strategists — they won’t matter anymore. So says Stephen Arnold, a voracious Google watcher (and former employee) who addressed New York’s digirati this morning at the latest iBreakfast. Instead, Arnold says, Web content producers who want the most traffic from Google’s search engine will have to feed the beast, not game it.
Arnold says new algorithms and data crunching techniques on the way from Google within the next 18 months could end the current “popularity contest” ranking system that can favour spammers and those who game the system. Instead, a new way of categorising and displaying search data may benefit companies willing to feed extra information to Google.
For example, If you’re looking to sell digital cameras and want to be high in Google’s e-commerce results, you might have to code new XML metadata into your pages about the manufacturer and other features, using specific tags that Google understands. Ignore these new rules, Arnold says, and your business may suffer.
Today’s iBreakfast crowd also heard from startups hoping to break Google’s search chokehold, including Melek Pulatkonak, chief operating officer of New York-based Hakia. Pulatkonak talked about “meaning-based,” or “semantic” search, whereby Hakia uses linguistic cues and word meaning to potentially improve search results.
Dozens of companies like Hakia are vying to crack new frontiers in search. The challenge is that Google, if Arnold is correct, is still moving fast to keep its lead. Companies like Hakia and Jason Calacanis’ Mahalo are fun to watch, but unless they get acquired or focus on small, defensible niches (a tried and true way for Davids to compete with Goliaths), few will survive.