Aggregation Aggravation, Part 5: What's next?

Ian Lurie

This is (thank heavens) the last in a 5-article series about search engines’ transition from indexes to aggregators. If you want to start at the beginning, go to part 1.

So far we’ve established that:

  1. Search engines used to be indexes, where you go search, then toddle off to the site you want. Now, they’re becoming aggregators, where you go search, then stick around to read more before they decide which site to visit.
  2. That’s a bad thing, if you practice stereotypical, grab-high-rankings-and-damn-the-rest SEO. Which very few good SEOs do.
  3. It’s a good thing if you can handle the idea that SEO is part of marketing.

So now what? Do I just abandon you, adrift in your little lifeboat, bobbing on the tide? Come now! This is Ian Lurie you’re talking about. I can barely keep my mouth shut when I’m asleep.
Like it or not, here comes some advice:

Learn about Microformats

Microformats are small bits of code that tell browsers, search engines and other software more about the information on a page. For example, I might have an address on the page, like this:
A search engine might crawl that and take an educated guess that it’s an address. But there’s nothing structural that says “this is an address”.
Enter microformats. Add a little additional code, and you get something more like this:
Point a piece of software like Optimus at a page that uses that code, and it immediately finds the tagged information:
To you, that’s no big deal. But a piece of software sees that and swoons.
Learn Microformats. Search engines don’t consistently support them yet, but they’re coming on fast. Visit to learn all the cool things you can do.

Read the Bing Whitepaper

I know. Yawn. Read it anyway. There’s some great insight in this whitepaper regarding how Bing builds rankings, how it works with Flash, and what Microsoft’s intent is (aside from world domination):
Download the whitepaper here

Change your priorities

Ian’s First Rule Of Marketing Failure: On the average web site build and launch, clients budget 1 hour of writing for every 20 hours of design.
That used to be merely misguided. Now it’s suicide. The typical website visitor pattern used to be:

  1. Do a search.
  2. Find the top 3 rankings. Click one.
  3. In the first 2-3 seconds decide if you’re staying, based on the look and feel.
  4. Then do boring stuff like reading.

With the rise of aggregator-style features, though, the new visitor pattern will be:

  1. Do a search.
  2. Find the top 5-10 rankings.
  3. Spend 10-20 seconds previewing to find the site you want.
  4. Click through to that site.
  5. In the first 2-3 seconds decide if you’re staying, based on the look and feel.
  6. Then do boring stuff like reading.

You need to change your priorities. Content quality is going to play a far larger role in clickthru. No more skimping on description tags, and no more cutting and pasting content from that print piece you did for a trade show back in 1999.
Learn good web copywriting, and focus half your project budget on it.

Keep up

Read blogs like the SERoundtable and SEOMOZ to keep abreast of changes in the industry.
Or, be lazy and wait for me to catch up. I’ll write about it here.

That’s all folks

One thing I can guarantee: The trend towards aggregation will not stop. Search engines are fighting over visits and searches by a finite audience. The logical next step is to fight for that audience’s limited attention span. That requires aggregated content.

Previously in the series

Controlling what shows up (as much as you can)
Making Folks Click: Content’s back, baby!
Opting Out
Microformats, sorting and other nightmares

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