February 11, 2014, 11:15 AM

How new search engines rules are changing the SEO game

Changes at Google and Bing mean more work for marketers, but better search results for consumers, according to a speaker at an IRCE Focus event.

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Search remains the main way consumers find what they want on the Internet, but new developments at search engines, such as more emphasis on structured data and on squashing spam, means search engine optimization is more challenging than ever, Tim Kilroy, CEO of search marketing firm AdChemix, told attendees yesterday at the IRCE Focus: Web Design + Mobile Commerce show in Orlando, FL.

In a session entitled “Keeping up with Google and Bing: The latest on the two most important search engines,” he detailed changes affecting SEO at the two search providers, though he noted that Bing gets only 20% of Internet searches.  Among those changes, Google and Bing have stopped the practice of sending back to marketers data on referring keywords—the terms consumers enter into a search box—that lead to clicks on natural search results. “This may have to do with user privacy,” Kilroy said. “Others think it is a ploy to get you to spend more on paid search.”

Still, he called it a good thing for SEO. “You can focus on brand messaging rather than SEO text,” he said, adding that  a retailer no longer needs to focus on cramming popular search terms into web page text. “You get to think like your customer rather than a search engine.”

Kilroy also called out the rising importance of structured data in SEO, touching on markup formats for structuring data developed by Google, Bing and Yahoo and published for developer use at Schema.org.  (Bing provides the search results for Yahoo Inc. sites.) While marketers generally still can continue to publish the same content, the markup is now key because it allows the engines to more easily recognize and categorize a web page’s content, he said. For example, star ratings in customer reviews are data that can be structured; if properly coded by the retailer and relevant to the search query, Google and Bing are likely to add that data to search listings.

Old SEO practices are the new spam, Kilroy added, with tactics such as link buying and guest blogging no longer considered valid SEO tactics.

SEO is just one channel in a broad online marketing landscape, he said. “If you are not engaging with your customers across all available channels, you’re not doing your job.”

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