In the dynamic world of SEO, where the search engines modify their algorithm every few weeks, we are always looking forward and trying to determine which factors will play the most significant role in the future.
For the past few years, the importance of social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter have been a favorite topic of discussion amongst search engine optimizers. Although there can be little doubt that the search engines are taking social networking into account in their ranking equation it is still a major point of contention as to what degree – it is certainly not as important as many were expecting.
While the importance of social networking remains a relevant topic for consideration and discussion, search engine optimizers are already starting to speculate on how its implementation will change and be refined as well as the next “big thing” which will have a major impact on the ranking algorithms. The major consensus seems to point away from simple social sharing of the past few years and towards a more comprehensive system which accounts for both relevant and personalized content.
Why is Relevancy so Important?
With so much random information cluttering up the social networking sites, the search engines are increasingly awarding the websites with the most high-quality, relevant content with greater rankings. One of the most obvious indicators that this is so is the latest crop of sites such as Gravity, my6sense, Genieo and Trapit which are focused almost entirely on personalization and highly relevant content.
Rewarding both relevance and popularity has always been a delicate balancing act for the search engines. Popular content has in the past received inflated rankings based on numbers rather than relevancy although this appears to be changing. Highly relevant content is generally the most personalized or customized, although this is not always the case and many exceptions can be found to this rule.
How Search Engines determine Relevancy?
Relevant content is always extremely dynamic because what is actually “relevant” to an individual changes depending on their needs and desires at a specific point in time. For example there are times when people are just looking for a popular story whereas there are other times when they are looking for more specific, personalized content. Trying to determine what is relevant is therefore a complicated task which can be approached in a number of different ways, none of which are “perfect”.
There have been many different methods employed over the years which have attempted to “filter” relevant content with varying degrees of success. For example, Google and the other major search engines have been making content relevance an important variable in their ranking algorithms for a number of years and are continually trying to refine the process. In contrast, other sites such as Reddit and Hacker News use a crowd sourcing approach, allowing votes from users to determine what is relevant to them.
Sites such as Klout filter Tweets using its influence scoring system as the determining factor. For Facebook’s newsfeed it uses social affinity by highlighting posts which are receiving a lot of comments as being the most relevant. In an increasingly mobile world physical location is also becoming an increasingly important factor for relevancy as can be seen in the growth of Google local maps and popular applications such as Foursquare.
As you can see, there are diverse ways to approach filtering for relevance and no “best way” which works better than the others. The most effective services will likely be those which support several relevancy filtering methods, are highly flexible and can run a wide variety of platforms.
Understanding Relevancy for Search Engine Optimization
There is now little doubt that good search engine optimization will require taking these types of relevance rankings into account. What remains to be seen is which method will be the most effective and adopted by the search engines into their algorithm.
In all likelihood many of the different relevancy based formulas will likely be used to some degree so those of us working in search optimization will be faced with the challenge of determining as accurately as possible what the search engines have done. This seems to be the way of the future for refining search results and now it is up to SEO experts to figure out exactly how the search engines have chosen to define what relevancy.