Once upon a time, attempting to get on the first page of search results in Google and Yahoo! meant adding keywords to title tags and meta data, eliminating dupe content, updating body copy to include relevant keywords, avoiding Flash, and regularly submitting a sitemap to search engines. (In the interest of time, I didn't mention all of the tactics.) With that in mind, think about the search engines objective: To deliver the most relevant search results for a keyword or phrase. Well, if I am Google, how am I going to do that? Here are a few of the many ways I would do it...
- Index social networking site content: The first iteration of Facebook functionality didn't have me wondering as much about social media's affect on SEO, but as Twitter came about and grew by 1,009% within one year from September of 2008 to September of 2009, it was only a matter of time before smart search engines would begin to depend on it as a source for what is popular among web users.
- Pay more attention to real time updates: While Twitter offers a real time feed, it probably isn't necessarily viewed by most as the most credible source of news, so I'd also include real time feeds from NY Times and other trusted news sites at the top of my results.
- Give higher page rank to sites that offer content in a variety of ways: If users can take in a website's content by choosing to either read the text, watch a video or listen to a podcast, they'll be more likely to enjoy their experience which leads to backlink opportunities, increased chance of repeat visits, and increased chance that the site will be referred to a friend when relevant.
- Remain mindful of sites with high traffic that also have mobile apps: Mobile apps can mean that in time a popular site seeming less popular when considering web traffic alone. But, that doesn't mean that the site shouldn't still rank well. Sites that have meaningful mobile apps are aware of their audiences needs (getting back to a previous bullet point).
- Only keep directories on the first page of results when they have high levels of traffic and frequently updated content: Nothing is more irritating than to click on the first search result and come to a page for a restaurant in an online directory - that has no content! Only online directory pages with frequently updated content (i.e. customer feedback is available and constantly changing) should be on the first page of search results.
- Implement something called the "sidewiki" to allow users to comment on individual websites for other site visitors to see: I'm not saying that Google's sidewiki is a completely fair addition to their ways to find out what users want. Recall that this list is intended to discuss the things I would do to keep delivering results that search engine users are looking for and the sidewiki can be a valuable contributor.