Natural Search: SEO Boffin Changes His Spots

January 2, 2009

The crackle of gun fire echoed through the hollow this morning. I am not sure if my neighbors are celebrating the new year or just getting some squirrel for a mid day burgoo. As I scanned the goodies in my newsreader, I learned about a type of search that had eluded me. I want to capture this notion before it dribbles off my slippery memory. Media Post reported  in “Search Insider: The Inside Line on Search Marketing” that 2009 is ripe for “natural search”. The phrase appears in Rob Garner’s “Measuring Natural Search Marketing Success” here. The notion (I think) is that content helps a Web site come up in a results list. I had to sit down and preen my feathers. I was so excited by this insight I was ruffled. For me the most important comment was:

For starters, think of an investment in natural search as a protection for what you are currently getting from natural search engines across the board. Good natural search advice costs are a drop in the bucket compared to returns from natural search, and the risk of doing harm only once can far exceed your costs, and even do irreparable damage. I see clients with returns coming from natural search at over one half-billion to one billion dollars a year or more, and one simple slip could cost millions.

I must admit that I have to interpolate to ferret the meaning from this passage. What I concluded (your mileage may differ) is that if you don’t have content, you may not appear in a Google, Microsoft, or Yahoo results list.

What happened to the phrase “organic search”. I thought it evoked a digital Euell Gibbons moving from Web site to Web site, planting content seeds. “Natural search” has for me a murkier connotation. I think of Tom’s toothpaste, the Natural Products Association, and Mold Cleaner Molderizer.

My hunch is that Google’s tweaks to its PageRank algorithm places a heavy load on the shoulders of the SEO consultants. I have heard that some of the higher profile firms (which I will not name) are charging five figure fees and delivering spotty results. As a result, the SEO mavens are looking for a less risky way to get a Web site to appear in the Google rankings.

Mr. Garner is one of the first in 2009 to suggest that original content offering useful information to a site visitor is an “insurance policy”. I don’t agree. Content is the life support system of a Web site. You buy insurance for you automobile and home.

Stephen Arnold, January 1, 2009


One Response to “Natural Search: SEO Boffin Changes His Spots”

  1. Rob Garner on January 8th, 2009 6:41 pm

    Hi Stephen,

    What I meant is actually quite different from your interpretation. Over time, most large enterprise sites gain equity in search. Knowing and managing “what you are getting” from natural search costs much less than having to go back and fix damage, especially when you are reaping $100’s of millions from natural search, like many of my clients do.

    Many enterprise businesses make a mistake in blowing off technical natural search advice due to (nominal) cost, at the expense of what they are getting from natural search. Time and time again, redesign projects without search optimization input will override and eat into these returns. In other words, a mistake can kill years of inbound links, search history, revenue from search, crawlability aned indexability of pages, etc. – all things that can impede search performance.

    So the point is this: If you have an enterprise generating $1MM plus from natural search (there are many many who do), invest at least a fraction back into experienced search consulting/inhouse/agency to ensure that nothing is done to harm this return. Or get really crazy and actually try to build on what you already have.

    It was a huge leap at best to extrapolate the meaning of the passage towards “content.”

    I also admit, I was reading search blogs on New Year’s Day too – no rest for those who can’t get enough search info I suppose : )

    I appreciate your work, and actually bought a patent CD from you a while back. Happy New Year.


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