Search User: Shift in Paradigm and New SEO Requirements

Last five or six years have witnessed the Internet based tools and technologies changing at an alarming pace. This has also transformed the way in which the web user searches and digs out information. These days, the information retrieval is so fast (Example: I Am Feeling Lucky makes way for multi-page SERPs browsing) and hence it requires a change in the way in which SEO Optimization is done as well.

Search User Access Points

The traditional way of searching directly from the search engine web site is still the most popular method but it has been search user paradigm shift and SEO needscomplemented well by the new channels such as:

  • Web browser Toolbars (e.g. Google Toolbar)
  • Desktop Widgets
  • Instant Messenger Clients
  • Pervasive Devices (e.g. Smart Phones)
  • Search Engine powered local site searches

The above search access channels along with the new usability aspects that control the search user behavior (in terms of ‘what he searches for’ and ‘what he does with the Search Engine Result Pages) is throwing a set of new challenges at the SEO gurus.

New Challenges and hence new SEO requirements

I Am Feeling Lucky attidude: Google did a good thing by introducing this feature because they were too quick to realize that the search users are loosing patience faster. Search users of today want results within four or five seconds which also means that nobody has time to go beyond the first (or in worst case the second) page of the search results. Hence, getting on to first page of the search results pages (and even first spot there in) is becoming even more important but not necessarily via the hottest key phrases.

Hot key-phrases may not remain hot any more: Another innovation that Google brought into search is the ‘Did you mean this?’ question in case of a potentially wrong input. This has resulted in decision making even before actual search is initiated. Even better is the new AJAX based autofill capabilities that is available with most of the search engines (e.g. Yahoo Search Assist) and toolbars these days. What this means is that hot keywords do not necessarily get searched for but whatever might attract the user in terms of the first 10 (or visible droplist items) suggestions or so get searched for more often. Challenges here are the focus on the long tail, importance of the alphabetical order and natural sequencing, focus on the first word of the keyphrase etc

Promotion and Demotion of SERPs items: Oh well, now this is the newest thing with the Google. The user now has the chance to promote his own search results making the promoted entries kind of their favorites so that subsequent similar searches list them on top. What does this signify? It only means that if the same client is searching for a particular keyphrase again, the SEO has no major role to play if already promoted entries exist. Though, this scenario is highly unlikely to have a huge impact it is definitely a trend. Who knows, probably Google is using this promotion preferences to rank search results better in the future.

Site Searches loosing importance: Google came up with the Google-enabled site search sometime back. Unfortunately, the importance of site searches is fast disappearing except for an old visitor vaguely remembering what he has seen at a particular site comes back and searches. Basically the paradigm is that you have a lot of information centrally available and hence a search hit doesn’t result in subsequent searches locally but the user goes back and searches again. However, this may be still a useful feature for huge knowledge reporitories (e.g. Online versions of Newspapers). Could internal linking – except for natural user accessibility reasons and not for searches – play a lesser role in page ranking?

Search Results Consolidation: Google’s Search Engine Marketing and integration of other services into search results means that now there’re more things to distract the search users. E.g. Sponsored links, Google App results, different forms of ads, Image Search results, Videos, Corporate information in case of a brand keyword search, stock quotes etc can together appear as the search result set. This would necessiate that SEO should be done towards optimizing all possible aspects of your brand (including images, videos, news, copyrighted brand subjects etc). This implies that on-page SEO has to be supplemented with image searchability, related tag optimizations, video marketing, stuffing similar keywords in related news & PRs (Press Releases), offline marketing campaigns etc. Just like Google, new innovative search engines such as LeapFish are evolving faster with consolidated search experience. Multi-facet SEO could be the next thing!

Natural Language queries: If there is a single thing, that can change the entire SEO paradigm and SEO related services around search engines drastically in the next few years, it is the natural language processing advancement – even via channels like voice on Mobile phones. If this happens at all, the importance of keywords might go away gradually.

Many of the things mentioned here are already happening though some of them are futuristic. I personally feel that Search Engine Optimization in some form or other will definitely exist. Because essentially we have to take the information seekers (e.g. search or voice users) to the right destination and tweaking those routes and destinations always have some scope.

Happy SEO and please do bookmark this post if found useful.


  1. hello,

    i have a question, is it advisable to use the geo tagging of google webmasters tool?

  2. @qarla, Good question 🙂 In fact, it really depends on your content, language and geographical target of audience. For example, if your entertainment blog is receiving 75% traffic from Philipines it makes sense to geo tag the domain (the best way though is to have a .ph toplevel domain). This gives you an edge in the search ranks for the targetted country.

    However, if you have mixed traffic figures (I see from Alexa that you have 25% traffic from the US as well) you may not geo tag it if the traffic quality is good and it’s majorly from search (and not direct traffic from global pinoy friends of yours). I suggest that you take a call based on your Google Analytics statistics to see if the traffic from US and other countries is really helping your blog in terms of subscription, low bounce rate, more reach.

    Another impact of geo targeting… If you avoid US traffic it may affect your ad income – Private ad sales as well as AdSense CPM rates 🙂

    Probably I shall write a post about this later..

  3. Mark from LeapFish sent the following comment by Email…

    Your post on Shift in Paradigm and New SEO Requirements was very intersting. I am the Director of Marketing at LeapFish and I love the name of your blog and writing style.

    I just bookmarked your page too. I wanted write to let you know that we are launching a earth shaking and ground breaking functionality tomorrow at LeapFish. It goes right along with your comment – “Search users of today want results within four or five seconds” Well we now provide instantanteous results tomorrow without using a search button. Each character typed will produce search results instantaneously.

    I wanted you to know prior to the launch at 10:00 am PST in California on January 15th. So if you would like more information or a demo please let me know.

    Thanks and GREAT Blog!!

  4. those are really nice points covered in the post. but now google is planning to change the search algo and as per officials PR will be dead. Theya are trying to implement personalized search and that will surely change the whole SEO concept. nice post buddy.

    Sky Xavier’s last blog post… Twitter Myths : Interesting research about twitter

  5. Wow really a very good post ajith… Great thoughts!!

    A small correction… in the last line of the post – “Happy SEO and please do not bookmark this post if found useful.” should be “Happy SEO and please do bookmark this post if found useful.” ??

    TechnoSamrat’s last blog post… Personalize & Create Desktop Widgets With 360desktop

  6. I have a little out of subject comment:

    This post just made me think of something. I have a big google search functionality on my firefox browser.. but its now after reading the part where you said:

    ….it has been complemented well by the new channels such as:

    * Web browser Toolbars (e.g. Google Toolbar)

    I realise that …hey why do i open the page each time I use google :S There is this shortcut there. Maybe its a habit i got to always open a page of google to search. I wonder how many people do like me.

    Kurt Avish’s last blog post… Back In Time With Friends

  7. Very well written, Ajith. Many say “normal” SEO as we have known it will eventually die because of moves like this by Google, but who knows?!

  8. This was a very informative article. I will read your blog often.

  9. Domain Marvelous :

    @Sky Xavier, you have made an interesting point “out of the blue”? Where did you get the information that Google will be changing its search algorithm in such a way that PR will be no longer an issue? Personalized search will only be applicable when you are logged into Google services, which many people would not do.

    Unless you work for Google, stating these points are mere guesses. And even if you work for Google, revealing such things are breech of your non-disclosure agreement.

    So what is personalized search?
    Some say that Google is going to take into account everyone’s search history and preferences, based on their geographic locations and their ISP histories and the search results will be different for everyone.

    Some naysayer, profit-of-doom types are announcing that this is the end of Search Engine Optimization. However, nothing could be farther from the truth. All “personalized search” means is simply that you can choose, when signing up for a Google (blogger, gmail, etc) account, to enable ‘search history’ to your own account. Once you log out, the search results will once again be what everyone else sees. You can see how Google explains it here.

    Obviously, no Search Engine (even Google) could create “personalized search results” for the entire world. For one thing, high schools and colleges all have computers that hundreds or even thousands of students use. Many families have a computer that everybody uses. Third world countries, if they have computers at all, have just one that the entire village might use.

    That means that Search Engine Optimization is as vitally important today as it ever was. And although great content is super important, the biggest factor in determining which site will be at the top is still going to be High Page Rank, High Quality backlinks. If you’ve got a great system for getting High Page Rank, High Quality backlinks on a regular basis, then you’re set. And of course, back links equate to PR… Simple!!! 🙂

  10. Informative stuff Ajith , it would be interesting to see LeapFish’s Technology

  11. I’m impressed with your knowledge on the subject, AP. In response to your first comment, you’ve reaffirmed my limited understanding of geo tagging. Thanks for tips anyway.


    Yan@Review’s last blog post… Get Paid to Blog – Make Money Online Writing Reviews in 2009

  12. We’re always going to have to be adapting our sites and our styles as search technology and searching patterns evolve. Those who are working to rank long term will benefit the most….

  13. @SkyXavier, I am not sure whether PR will be dead but as long as people search for information on indexed pages on WWW, there will be some or the other kind of optimization (call it SEO or something else) done…

    @Samrat, haha… thanks for pointing out that… Many people who make short quick comments actually do not read the posts completely. This is the second or third time you have corrected me in the past and it shows that you are thoroughly and completely going through my posts. Thanks buddy 😀

    @Kurt, if you have Google Toolbar installed, try using search from there… It is a lot easier and useful in terms of suggestions etc. Well, we all need a change in attitude, don’t we?

    @Article Spinning, Yes and No… SEO or optimization may be still there in some form. That’s the point I was trying to drive home

    @Alan, thanks and come back soon

    @Forsaken, thanks for your long comment. I agree with you on the fact that PR and SEO cannot be immediately taken out by Google as the whole ecosystem around it (a few billions of internet business such as SEO, Ads, services…) cannot die that fast. Personalized searches at the moment will remain in client side cookie settings only and as you said obvisously nobody can provide you completely customized search. This is because of the fact that search engines mean fast retrieval of data for anybody and not for those who have signed up and customized. They can only make best judgement based on past search pattern (via client cookie), geographics etc

    @ZK, thanks buddy. LeapFish looks cool and the advantage is that you can search on Yahoo, Google and MSN in a flash from the same page. The only problem I see is that the connection speed assumptions 🙂 Probably 60-70% of the internet users are still below 64K lines or dial up?

    @Yan, thanks buddy… I am trying to learn new topics from my readers and commenters. I am not an expert in geo-targetting issues yet 🙂

    @Niche Titans, you bring in a good point… Striving to achieve search visibility, ranks etc are good but one should not overdo it as things are bound to change… Yes, working for long term benefits makes sense.

    Thanks everyone for your views…

  14. Interesting points you have raised Ajith. Change is inevitable. Like they say the only thing that is constant is change itself. I will also mention other tools like social networking, Twitter, etc. which are a good medium for fishing information too. I have found numerous answers to my queries and people always willing to help out on Twitter and hence had no need of Google at such times. We got along fine before Google came along. Google has only pampered us and made it easier to retrieve info. Who knows how things will be 10 years or say 50 years from now? We might not even visit the internet to search for information.

  15. @Rajiv, you are right… The way people seek and dig out information may change for the years to come…

  16. Nice post ajith, you seem to study a lot on SEO side. I haven’t thought much about this before.

    Nihar’s last blog post… Browser stops working after starting uTorrent client

  17. @Nihar, thanks buddy… Trying to understand a few things and whaever I understood, I wrote 😀


  1. […] | July 8, 2009 | Cool Websites, Miscellaneous Earlier this year, I had written a post on how the search paradigm is changing while majority of the search users remain on the classic way of searching on traditional search […]

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