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Unearthing Your Hidden SEO Gurus

This is the most recent column penned for MediaPost’s Search Insider; it continues in the extended entry.

HOW MANY of these actions have you conducted in a professional
capacity for your company or a client?

* Posted a video to YouTube with a few tags and a remotely
descriptive title.

* Rated your company’s video on YouTube (or related video sites from Google,
Yahoo, or MSN).

* Submitted a press release to some online newswire (or a traditional newswire
that also posts releases online).

* Tagged photos on Flickr (owned by Yahoo).

* Posted an event to Upcoming.org
(owned by Yahoo).

* Added a local listing to Google Base.

Okay, maybe you haven’t done any of this, but if you serve in a marketing role,
you probably will before long, and all of these actions can provide greater
exposure for your Web presence in the major engines.

That’s because of the
impact of universal search (the term Google gave it) or blended search, which
refers to how the engines pull in content from a range of other sources
(including the engines’ own databases) into the main body of natural search
results. Another version of this is modular search, pioneered by Ask.com, where the different types
of content (images, video, local listings, etc) each appear in a separate field
beside the main body of natural listings. (Thanks go to colleague Chris Humber,
my in-house SEO guru, for shedding light on the nuances).

The twist here is that if universal, blended, or modular search becomes the
long-term standard rather than an engine fad (another personal guru, colleague
Eric Richmond, noted that it’s too soon to determine users’ preferences), it’s
likely that there will be a much larger group of people contributing to a
site’s search visibility than ever before.

The concept itself isn’t totally new. Press release optimization, local search
optimization, and social media optimization have been bandied about for years,
to name just a few of the subdisciplines. Yet universal search allows all those
"___ ___ optimization" specialties to come together. It’s all search
engine optimization, and it includes a retail store manager updating a local
business listing, an events manager posting a public function, a marketing
assistant publishing clips on a video site, a marketing director ghost-writing
a C-level executive’s entry on a corporate blog, and everyone in the company
who participates in any way — rating the business or YouTube clip, adding the
blog to an engines’ feed aggregator, RSVPing to an event, or taking some other
action. All these actions can signal that the content is relevant and helps it
rank higher in natural search results.

That doesn’t create less work for the true SEO masters. While
everyone in an organization can make a small positive impact, it’s also likely
that most people will have no sense of how their actions contribute to SEO and
thus impact a company’s sales and brand. That means much of the optimization
potential will be wasted. These professional SEO experts must then emerge not
just as technologists but as evangelists, educators, and shepherds.

As for the congregants, pupils, and flocks,
you’re now ready to enter your never-ending SEO training. It’s one more way
you’ll be able to contribute to the future success of your business.

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