The following interview with Paul Taylor of Webmarketing123 is the 5 th and final interview in our recent series about the evolution of SEO.  Ultimately, all our experts have agreed that SEO has changed dramatically over the past 10 years (about as long as the concept has existed) and will continue to change, but that it is never too late to start!  Start Now

Here we'll share a few expert insights and summarize with some small business takeaways from all that we've learned.

How have you seen SEO as a practice change over the last few years?

Over the last few years, "real estate" for organic searches has been increasingly hard to come by.  Search engine results pages (SERPs) have begun to include not just organic and paid (PPC) listings, but also real-time search results from entities such as micro blogs and Twitter.  Google even recently announced it is working on archiving every tweet ever disseminated and allowing users to search for tweets grouped by topic from specific time periods. "Twitter timeline search" is the latest in a series of moves designed to make search engines even more relevant to an individual's tastes.

Moreover, the number of pages being indexed has grown at an incredible rate; there are now over 10 billion pages being recognized.  As  result, ranking at the top of the search results is becoming more and more difficult.  Such an increase in competition as well as continual changes in search engines' algorithms requires new techniques and approaches to site optimization.  SEO is very much a living and breathing practice which must evolve as searches and searchers change.

Is search engine rank ranking on the search engine results page important? Why or Why not?

Search engine page rank is hugely important for us. Research has shown that the higher a site ranks for a particular search, the more likely users will choose to click on that result.   It is also very important to own the search results pages with your social media presence, e.g., Twitter, Facebook, blog, etc.

Over time, users have become more familiar with search engines and increasingly more reliant on them in conducting their regular day-to-day activities. Google, Yahoo, and Bing have established themselves as trustworthy sources producing useful and reliable results for any particular query. Businesses that rank higher appear more "credible." This credibility leads to more traffic, more leads, and, most importantly, a better bottom line.

Is search engine Page Rank important? Why or Why not ?

Page Rank (named after Larry Page) is a quality score that Google gives to every page on a site. This score, which ranges from a low of zero to a high of ten, indicates how popular that particular page is. Historically, this score was highly regarded and considered a strong indicator of the number of inbound links from other websites to the page in question. Recently, Google has removed this score from Google Webmaster Tools, which implies that Google is moving away from this metric.

In our real-life experience,  getting top rankings on Google for very competitive keywords for our clients does not necessarily depend on having a high Page Rank.

How do you think localization and personalization have changed the relevance of search ranks?

There are two points to address here.

From an individual user's perspective, localization and personalization of search results are great. Personalized results keep users coming back to a particular search engine because it can provide all sorts of pertinent information the user might not even know he or she wants yet.

From the perspective of a company that is trying to rank for keywords in which personalized search results show up, localized and personalized search results make the game harder.  Just like the inclusion of real-time results, it is now more difficult for organic listings to maintain prime spots on the SERPs. Google and Yahoo have proven that they will serve up localized and personalized results even for users who are not signed in to any personalized accounts (such as a Gmail or Yahoo Mail account).

As we've said before, search rankings are especially important now. If companies don't spend the time to rank as highly as possible, they will simply become invisible to potential customers.

What will be the impact of social media inclusion in search?

Over the last few years, we've experienced the impact of social networking sites and the exponential rate at which internet users have adopted these new ways of connecting with one another.  As a result, even the most trafficked search engine in the world has begun to include "real-time" search results for certain queries above the organic searches. For businesses trying to rank for terms in which real-time search results are displayed, this means that the battle to rank on the first page is even tougher.  It's no longer just a question of out-maneuvering nine other organic listings, but also of ranking highly enough that users see the organic listing at all after reading past the real-time results.

What is the most important thing an SMB can do to improve organic traffic?

Get education on the virtues of website optimization to become search engine friendly.  Once a business marketer understands the effects that optimization can have, and the return it can bring, he or she will see how vital it is to engage in SEO.  With the ever increasing competition to get to the top, getting started right away is the key to success.

Inbound Marketing Takeaways from the SEO is Evolving Series

Paul makes some excellent points, all of which point to the continued importance of SEO, albeit using new tactics to get the SERP results that your business need to consistently get found online. 

Here's a quick summary of the series highlights and what they mean for small businesses:

  • SEO is still very important, but it is only useful when used as a complement to remarkable content that people want to consume
  • Social, Real-time and Video content are critical components of today's content and optimization mix, if you aren't already employing these elements, now is the time to start
  • Don't obsess about Page Rank or the SERP number, figure out which keywords drive traffic, leads and sales; then work to improve your SERP overall - because each person will have a slightly different experience, you cannot guarantee placement - but you can measure improvements in the business metrics that matter
  • Whether you use free tools, paid tools or consultants, there are a variety of ways to create and measure optimized content - start now if you haven't, because it pays dividends over time and if you aren't doing it, you risk becoming marginalized in the modern business world

That last point is important.  For small or medium businesses who are not doing any of these things today - you can still start.  I would argue that it is imperative to your long term business success in fact.  With SMBs at the core of the US and global economy, I sincerely hope that as SEO evolves to reflect the way that people seek and purchase products and services all business owners take note, and evolve along with the new way of the world.

What will happen if your business doesn't start today?

Image Courtesy of ilike on Flickr

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Originally published May 24, 2010 5:15:00 PM, updated October 20 2016