Seasonal Search Shifts and SEO

  |  June 22, 2005   |  Comments

Prepare for those seasonal shifts in search.

Yesterday was the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, marking the beginning of summer. For search engine marketers, the summer solstice marks the time to change gears yet again in tandem with seasonal search shifts. While searches for polo shirts and iced teas rise, searches for parkas and hot chocolate fade. As students and teachers enjoy their summer breaks, search engine marketers ready back-to-school campaigns for next month, refreshing last year's keyword research and retooling for the latest search trends and buying patterns.

Pay-per-click (PPC) campaign managers have anticipated these seasonal search shifts for months, analyzing last year's performance to fine-tune this year's campaign strategies. Seasonal search shifts make managing PPC campaigns much like preparing for print ad venues. You've got to be ahead of the curve with planning, working in unison with buyers and brand marketers and ever mindful of the metrics and returns on investments (ROIs).

PPC campaigns beauty is their fluidity, a quality organic search engine optimizers envy because algorithmic winds change with little warning. Like picnic-goers seeking shelter from a sudden summer storm, organic optimizers are flooded with torrents of clients seeking to regain top positioning when major algorithmic changes occur.

Gimme Shelter

Those on the organic side of the search engine marketing (SEM) industry have long sought relief from algorithmic storms in weather reports issued by the major search engines. We received the first search forecast ever issued by a major search engine on March 31, 2005, when Tim Mayer, of Yahoo Search, announced Yahoo would release a new search index that night. (A second one was released on June 20, 2005.)

Organic marketers rushed to their computers to ferret out and analyze any changes in results for their clients sites, much as meteorologists hurriedly scrutinize adiabatic diagrams to interpret thermodynamic influences in the atmosphere.

GoogleGuy (a Google rep who posts anonymously) followed Yahoo's lead by offering advice about the May 2005 "Bourbon" update via posts on WebmasterWorld forums. These quickly made their way to Searchblog and On June 1, GoogleGuy counsel to marketers was pragmatic:

Take a break from checking ranks for several more days. Bourbon includes something like 3.5 improvements in search quality, and I believe that only a couple are out so far. The 0.5 will go out in a day or so, and the last major change should roll out over the next week or so. Then there will still be some minor changes after that as well. So my "weather report" along the lines of would be a recommendation that rankings may still change somewhat over the next several days.

This was sage advice for marketers whose clients were griping that their top listings had all but disappeared a few weeks earlier. Unfortunately, "ride the storm out" isn't counsel that's readily accepted by impatient clients and executives.

Issuing weather reports about algorithmic flux is a welcome change in the relationship between search engine marketers and search engines. But in the end, these reports only confirm what most search experts already know: change is in the air.

Walking on Sunshine

Fretting about rankings is a full-time chore for some marketers. I recommend, as do most so-called "white hat" SEM experts, that clients focus on creating a great site with unique content and that they follow the fundamental rules for organic SEO (define) -- make the site easy for spiders crawl, focus your indexed results on profitable keywords and keyword phrases, and know which search engines have the greatest effect on your bottom line.

Successful organic SEO requires continuous monitoring and can needs a lot of tweaking for stable results. Get used to the idea of regularly evaluating the results of your organic optimization for targeted search terms. Search engines are constantly updating their algorithms to make their results more effective. Seasonal reviews to ensure your site is up to date with the latest algorithmic shifts are the best way to guarantee sunny days ahead.

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P.J. Fusco

P.J. Fusco has been working in the Internet industry since 1996 when she developed her first SEM service while acting as general manager for a regional ISP. She was the SEO manager for Jupitermedia and has performed as the SEM manager for an international health and beauty dot-com corporation generating more than $1 billion a year in e-commerce sales. Today, she is director for natural search for Netconcepts, a cutting-edge SEO firm with offices in Madison, WI, and Auckland, New Zealand.

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