November 06, 2013 - Comments Off on Witnessing the change in the SEO and UX landscape

Witnessing the change in the SEO and UX landscape

Silos are for grain – not agencies – or so the modern mantra of the Creative Industry has it. And as a result of that, what stands out in the landscape of one part of the agency impacts on the others. Of course, some might say that grain silos are also an effective means of execution as seen in Witness with Harrison Ford. We will ignore those people for now.

Any agency which works cross discipline will have noted that people in the SEO departments have started to act strangely – or stranger than they normally do at least – renaming themselves and their wares (paid, owned, earned, gifted, animated…) concluding that the output of their efforts should no longer be the “dark arts” of keywords and instead  become “Content Marketing”.

Content Marketing is creating material that engages users with interesting things which they are going to want to share.  All of this sounds very familiar to people  who have been doing User Experience for some time.

As Raskolnikov could have said: “Welcome to the revolution. It has been going on some time.”

User Experience has found a common ally in this new movement of Content Marketers. Every person or persona  that sits at the heart of the projects we work on is now a potential target for content marketing  – and, in a way, this revolution is a return to the original Garden of Eden the web promised; that the Internet is a wandering garden of things that seem to have been piped through your connection, just to interest you.

This is the world of the curated web.

Going back to the first decade of the World Wide Web, search engines curated the material that could be found on the web. They did it in an imprecise way – think disinterested and lazy librarian – but theirs was a human attempt to group together things that were of interest. If you wanted to know how the Amish would put someone to death, or what the guy who played Han Solo did after Return of the Jedi, there were directories ready to tell you, like DMOZ or Yahoo,  which had been compiled – in some small way – by the human hand.

And while Google’s number crunchers got better at crunching, the task of finding things online started to move into the burgeoning social movement on the web. Before the idea of sharing on Facebook  became a measure of how off the pace you were (“It’s 11:03, that went viral fourteen minutes ago!”) there was Digg and there was de.licio.us. Digg aggregated news across categories and filtered articles, bringing the most sociable collateral to prominence. de.licio.us was sharing the bookmarks of pages you enjoyed with other people who might enjoy the same.

It was the curated web – brought together by you and your friends, for you and your friends. But because of the inward looking nature of peer group sharing, and as the Internet grew, people’s sphere of the Internet seemed to shrink. The information inbreeding needed fresh genes for the pool and so people turned to Google.

Things gave way to a more algorithmically based search Internet in which Google’s mathematics ruled.  You sought, Google found. And so the idea of optimising to get the best response from those mathematics emerged. Google became the head of a Conga line, with everyone dancing behind. Now that Conga line dances towards good content.

In User Experience we create interesting content for people that will convert them. Previously it had been that search engine optimisation was used to allow people to find that content.  What was SEO is now creating Content Marketing material and immediately there is a question as to how that material will be found. Through sharing, probably –  and so we return to the ideas of Digg and del.ico.us. and peer group sharing. Retweets, likes on Facebook, word of mouth. This is how content marketing spreads.

In the end it comes down to you and your friends passing around “things” online; to a curated web tended by a human hand. The future, perhaps, for content marketing, is to become a part of that curation.