Evidence of the Maturation of Search

By Al Kao, Natural Search Supervisor, Content Solutions

Search engine marketing - advertising and optimization - has been around for years and each year, evangelists claim that companies are "getting it" and "seeing the value" of SEO. Most pundits cite the growing spending on search engine advertising as evidence of the growing acceptance of search as a marketing platform.

But for SEOs, search engine advertising spend does not correlate to growing acceptance of search engine marketing. In fact, for SEOs, search engine optimization is more than just "top natural rankings". The work involved in SEO, from keyword research to site architecture to content development and link-building encompasses multiple disciplines. SEOs also often have to be both the doers and the evangelizers of the service.

So what is the evidence of the acceptance and maturation of search for the SEO? The true indicator of the maturation of SEO is in the growing value placed on "search engine visibility", or rather, the disaster of NOT being visible.

Recently, the New York Times accelerated the merger of the Times with the International Herald Tribune (IHT) in a well documented SNAFU. The NYT intended to merge the IHT website (iht.com) into the NYT website. Instead of carefully redirecting visitors from iht.com to a new location on nytimes.com in a 1 to 1 redirect, the Times simply redirected all page traffic to the same NYT landing page.What resulted was ridicule not just from the SEO community but also from a journalist!

Thomas Crampton, a journalist who worked for IHT and NYT, blasted the NYT for their callous implementation in a written piece on his own website titled, "Report to NY Times Publisher: You Erased My Career". Mr. Crampton continued with several more written pieces on his website, detailing his continued travails.

His plight was picked up by several tech-oriented websites like Search Engine Land, Gawker, Techeme, and others. Gawker chuckled at the NY Times calling it "Times Nukes Itself on Google". Jimmy wales, founder of Wikipedia, chimed in calling the NY Times "boneheaded" because Wikipedia.org has over 9,000 inbound links into IHT stories.

One SEO blogger even estimated that the loss of traffic from ill-conceived redirect probably costs the NY Times $100,000 a month. This was based on the blogger's estimations of visitor volume and the cost to generate that amount of traffic.

Mr. Crampton could probably care less about inbound links or pagerank as his interest lies in getting his body of work back online. But his reporting and summary of what pageRank (or Google rank as he calls it) is and how it's calculated along with the SEO basics is impressive.

The NY Times has since announced that they are doing the proper site migration to restore the archived IHT articles. The ridicule raised by Mr. Crampton as well as others seems to have influenced the Times' decision. As an SEO, it's nice to see the general public - reporters and otherwise - get more savvy about websites and inbound links. Maybe this is the result of SEO evangelizing. Or maybe, this is just evidence that search, as a platform for marketing and media consumption, is maturing.


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