Portable Identity Management and SEO
15:34 on Mon, 18 Oct 2010 | SEO | 3 Comments
Recently I've been doing several seminars on social media marketing and specifically how it integrates with search marketing campaigns (in order to stay in my area of expertise too).
Having met a lot of SEOs over the years, most of them broadly fall into one of two camps:
The "technical" SEO types
These are guys that insist that Google is always going to have an algorithm to sort pages, therefore understanding and "exploiting" (or "fine-tuning") pages and links to these algorithm will produce the best results.
The "content" SEO types
Tend to disregard the fine-tuning / more technical aspects of SEO in favour of putting all their effort into producing top-quality content to attract links.
I'm not going to labour over "which is best" in terms of approach, but there have been notable examples, such as Michael Gray's I Listened To Google and Failed.
In my opinion, I've seen a broader range of "mediocre" success with a technical approach, but a much more spiked, total hit or total miss with the content approach. In both cases, I've also seen one let down with a total lack of the other.
What I'd like to briefly discuss is the issue of Portable Secure Identity Management online. If you haven't encountered the terminology before, it's basically what it says on the tin - a way of securely keeping your identifiable information online, ideally in one place. The benefit is that you are able to login to multiple, otherwise unconnected services online with a single login.
Especially of late, privacy online (especially Facebook Privacy) has been a hot potato subject, with some people blindly accepting the storing of more data and others calling for more control.
As lots of studies (of both the internet and non-internet type) will show, people over-time will generally always choose the "path of least resistance" (AKA "the easy way out"), freeing up your brain to do the important things in life, like watch the X-Factor. I would suggest that it is only perhaps a matter of time before a far more unified and centralised identity management comes into play online.
We've already seen the baby steps with Open Graph, Y! Connect and of course, Google slowly merging all of your service accounts into one monolithic pile of personal information. So we're only at the stage of the horses leaving the stalls and I'm positive there will be millions of pounds thrown around in a bid to secure your personal information. But why?
Likes are becoming Links
I really like the expression "likes are becoming links". I'm pretty sure I heard it from someone else and stole it, so I can't take credit for it, but it certainly rings true in the search developments I'm seeing.
Complicated databases, indexes, information retrieval and sorting aside, the basis of Google's web-page sorting mission is to basically find, reliable, up-to-date, "good" (popular) content. Historically, the best way to do this was by tracking links online, who mentioned what on their blog, forum - or shared something on their local news group.
If I find something I want to share now, like many people - I will simply post a link to Facebook. Something Google, with its original web-crawl model is going to have trouble finding and sorting. When you rollout this behaviour change to millions of people, you start to get a big problem - that much of the grassroots (or at least potential growth) in "linkers" has disappeared.
There's many sides of complexity to managing identity online, even when it comes to things we take for granted. For instance, it's commonly accepted that on e-commerce sites, products with reviews will generate more sales - as there is the added element of "mob-trust". With connected identity groups (such as Facebook), you are taking this to the next level, not only are you receiving peer-feedback, you are gathering it from a trusted source, or least a friend of a trusted source - perhaps a great reason why integrated Facebook reviews on pages may become more popular.
I'm doubtful whether Facebook will become the de-facto standard for the storage and management of identify online, but I'm positive we're going to see these systems evolve and that they will have a substantial impact on search, especially when combined with initiatives search engines are undertaking.
Should I panic now?
Something that gets missed out of many search and personalisation discussions is the importance of surprise. When you perform a search, the results need to return something you did not expect or know previously to make the search fulfilling. If search is totally powered by some quasi-mind-reading-friendship-matrix, you may as well just ask the friend.
The point of this post is that regardless of your background, whether it's a technical approach that I would put myself under, or a content-approach, you may need to broaden your horizons.
As personal identity becomes more important online, you might want to consider:
If you're a technical SEO type: It won't be as easy for you to pull links out of the ether or control rankings simply by finding a few good link sources and creating some great on-page traps for search engines. It's only going to become easier for "the mob" to sort and share content, so you're going to need some meat on the bones.
If you're a content SEO type: It might be time to polish up or get some help with the technical side. Aside from usual best practise, integrating new technologies on your websites will add a whole raft of new SEO considerations. If you don't bother, you may miss the boat entirely, if you do it badly, you're always going to have to be working harder than your competition.