We are all experts when it comes to digital marketing – even if we don’t know we are. Just about every web page we visit and every app we use will be either selling us something or telling someone somewhere something about us. And whilst we all know this at some deep, semi-conscious level, most of the time we are prepared to let the marketers do their thing whilst we carry on shopping, surfing and browsing. Sometimes we’ll respond to an ad – most of the time we won’t. It’s just the way it is. We are what in a different settings are called ‘experts by experience’. It is a term borrowed from clinical care, but one that sums up perfectly who we as users know what we know).
But our casual approach to the other side of the internet is not shared by everyone. Digital literacy used to mean simply being able to cut and paste and send an email. Now, intelligent users of the net are increasingly interested in what is happening to shape the digital space we inhabit online. As the spats that Vodafone and Apple are having with UK and US governments show, there is a political backdrop to this fundamentally commercial scenario.
SEO is getting serious
But whilst grand notions of freedom of speech and national security are publicly debated, the more fine grained business of corporate marketing quietly continues to filter into all our online behaviour. As journalist Mia Rouphael observed recently, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) has become one of the buzz-phrases of the decade. It has become almost a mystic spell, as marketers seek ever more sophisticated means to link pages together in order to have their brands promoted up Google’s rankings. According to market analysists, Statista.com, 12.4% of the UK’s GDP of $2.275 trillion is now transacted online – the importance of SEO is growing all the time.
Now, according to digital marketing specialists from Greenlight, the future of link building and SEO is up in the air. They point out that Google’s famous search algorithms determine their results on the basis of multiple triggers. Backlinks (links back to your site from elsewhere on the web) and keywords may have been a staple of the art for the past ten years, but, the article insists we are now entering a different phase of the game.
Only Google knows the answer
That sentiment is founded on the widely reported comments of Google’s trend analyst, John Mueller, who suggested last February that link building’s days are numbered. Instead, he said, the best way to get your brand message promoted by Google is to get it recognised and shared by actual human beings. According to others, such as Quicksprout.com’s Neil Patel, the goal should be excellence in user experience. It is the appeal to actual people rather than electronic algorithms that is the common thread. Only a handful of Google engineers really knows.
An open question
Perhaps not surprisingly, a simple search for articles on the future of SEO will throw up more question marks than your average Whodunit? In the meantime, those of us who are less intricately concerned with the mechanics that deliver search returns when we browse the web will continue to adapt to the way Google presents its findings to us. And if, in the meantime, online marketing efforts result in more interesting, more amusing, more usable and less disruptive content, then so much the better. No-one said expertise by experience shouldn’t be entertaining.