SEO Is Evolving Away From Google


Table of Contents


Introduction

I consider myself a veteran in the SEO industry. I began my career in 2003, which is pretty much when the strategy itself was born. During my years of learning the ins and outs of such a lucrative business, I always felt as if there was something more to the industry; something was missing. Eventually, I realized it lacked diversification of strong SEO practices. 

So, I asked myself, how can we use SEO tools for other platforms besides Google? 

In my search for the answer, I experimented with ways that search engines read results on platforms, such as Amazon and Walmart. Aside from playing with my friends’ small businesses, I also trekked the path of a startup myself. I bought an online casino. In my twenties, I made this slightly impulsive purchase with some poker winnings, which helped me learn a lot about such a competitive niche online.

It was quite the gamble, so to speak.

From my years of experience in the dawn of the digital age, I determined that SEO is evolving away from Google. Because of that revelation, I launched the first Amazon SEO services company: Amazon SEO Experts. I aid clients in their process to improve Amazon listings. 

Today, SEO is a universal concept. With only a few minor tweaks, it can be applied to multiple platforms and in various industries.


Search Engine Optimization Definition

Before diving into how SEO elasticity performs across multiple search engines, we need to cover the basics of SEO, or search engine optimization. In simple terms, SEO attempts to answer the neverending question: What are people searching for?

In the past, the premise of SEO was hammering the same keyword a million times on a page, leading you to rank number one on Google’s results page almost overnight. Those days of “hacking the system” are over. Google’s standards have grown in sophistication as the brand has matured. Besides Google upping their algorithm, many individuals have also discovered the elasticity of SEO.

From a broad perspective, anything that utilizes a search engine can implement SEO practices. Netflix, the App Store, Pinterest—you name it, content can be optimized. Many individuals tend to think of SEO as more of a Google-owned territory. My goal as a professional is to remove any previous misconceptions that SEO belongs to Google. The practice can stretch to multiple platforms and do the job it is intended to do, which is to increase traffic for businesses and get their name noticed.


Google Dominates the Niche

Before we find out how SEO can be applied to multiple platforms, it is vital to acknowledge the territory Google has claimed. Although other platforms are on the rise, Google still dominates the SEO niche. They will always rank number one in search engines, primarily because they are the only search engine used for global SEO—unless you live in China.

In fact, 76% of traditional searches utilize Google, which leaves little to no room for competitors. Another 15% of searches utilize Baidu, which is the Chinese search engine. 

Despite this, it’s essential to acknowledge that not all content resides on Google. Other non-traditional search engines, such as Netflix and YouTube, hold immense amounts of valuable content that can be optimized easily. Let’s get into that.


Buying Process Adaptation

SEO has adapted across multiple platforms, but the stages of the buying process have also evolved. Today, people commonly research first, look for recommendations, compare prices across various sites, make their purchase, and then review. About 10 years ago, a lot of that would’ve been done exclusively on Google, but now our process is quite different.

The time I had to fix my broken dishwasher perfectly exemplifies how this buying process adaptation is relevant in our lives. After years of wear and tear, my machine finally broke down, and I didn’t want to pay a thousand dollars to fix it. Also, I aimed to avoid sitting around all day waiting for the technician to come “anywhere between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.”

So, as any self-proclaimed handyman would do, I decided I could fix it myself. A tech and SEO expert totally has the tools to fix a broken dishwasher, right? 

To start my journey in this uncharted territory, I went online to research how to fix it myself. In phase one of my crash course in dishwasher appliances, I went to the trusty academy of YouTube to watch tutorial videos. After some time, I discovered the specific part I needed to purchase to fix the dishwasher.

After learning what part I needed to purchase, I headed over to a different search engine—eBay, as it is traditionally the cheapest. I did some price checking by browsing through both eBay and Amazon. After comparing parts, I read the reviews to ensure other self-proclaimed handymen trusted the product I purchased. I scanned the comments before it was time to pull the trigger and buy the part. 

Because I understand the importance of reviews in SEO, I naturally went back and left a review on eBay. I also threw in a couple of keywords to help with the tool’s rankings.

During that whole process in which I contracted myself as a kitchen appliance technician, I didn’t even touch Google’s search engine (besides utilizing YouTube; Google owns YouTube). My query process contrasts with what I would’ve done 10 years prior. 

Side note: If you are wondering, I was able to replace the part in my dishwasher and fix it. Maybe I can add a “Dishwasher Technician” drop-down on my website; I can now offer both SEO assistance and dishwasher repair.

Besides using other platforms to search, many people now have the opportunity to search from their phone. Search optimization for mobile platforms is essential in any business’s digital marketing strategy. When Google first launched, we would simply open our computers and search for what we were looking for. Those days of searching are slowly slipping away from us, making space for new ideas.


Voice searches have become popularized through the creation of Alexa, Google Home, and other voice-activated systems. In addition to receiving jokes and weather updates, you can also tell Alexa to search for something or purchase an item. 

If you look at the graph below from eMarketer, we notice that voice searches are undeniably on the rise; the graph shows a steady increase from 2017 to 2021. Applying SEO to this form of searching will be a huge component of business in the near future. 

It is predicted that in 2021 about 36.6% of the population will utilize this new search engine, offering a new and reliable way to search.


Top Search Engines by Traffic 

Besides Google, what does total traffic rank the other top-tier search engines? Earlier, I mentioned that Baidu held about 15% of the total searches. Still, when ranking by traffic, Baidu probably wouldn’t even be considered in the top 20. Sites like Twitter and Pinterest earn far more traffic than Baidu as they are used internationally. 

When ranking the top four, the first and second place medals go to Google and YouTube, which is notable because the same company owns them. They are technically competing with themselves while simultaneously dominating the search engine. The Google empire strikes again.

In third place, we have Amazon, and I consider that the big disruptor. I know I’m sucked into the Amazon marketplace ecosystem pretty closely, but they’re going into the video content world heavily with Amazon Prime and diversifying a lot of their offerings. 

Lastly, we have Facebook, which, of course, is huge.

Now, what makes these platforms worthy of our SEO efforts? How can they earn traffic from the right target audiences? Well, these platforms all have a specific niche.


Content & Information is Getting Siloed

Today, content and information are getting siloed into specific platforms. The consumer’s search intent is previously established as they now associate their question with a particular search engine. 

For example, when you go shopping for a household item, you go to Amazon. When you want a “how-to” video on setting up a TV or a dishwasher, you go to YouTube (or you can just hire me for my dishwasher services). 

A typical consumer goal is finding out where the content they need lives; they want easy access. Thus, it is the businesses’ responsibility to be where your consumers expect you to be. So, as you create videos or produce podcasts, you need to analyze your content’s appropriate niche based on your demographic’s behavior and expectations. 

Consumers can go directly to these segmented platforms to engage with the content they are looking for. In contrast, before having access to segmented platforms, they would go to one place, typically Google, and find a lot of information about their query. For example, people today tend to use Yelp for restaurant reviews instead of looking up “dinner” on Google.

In each upcoming section, I’ll describe which age demographics tend to live on these platforms and some ranking factors for each—further showcasing the elasticity of SEO.

How Does Amazon SEO Work?

Amazon is, by far, my favorite to optimize right now. Yes, I own the first Amazon SEO consulting firm, but my interest extends far past my personal business. Amazon is a pre-established, trustworthy brand that still has a lot of room to grow. 

The three main SEO factors that affect the rankings of an Amazon listing include the number of sales, conversion rates, and quantity and quality of reviews. 

Clearly, the more sales you get, the better your ranking. Amazon will pinpoint the products with the most sales by giving them the “best sellers” badge, instituting mounds of credibility, and increasing its popularity in the Amazon product database. 

Conversion rates deal with how often consumers click on a product that actually results in a purchase by the consumer. It tends to mark the end of the marketing funnel. Because consumers typically search on Amazon with the intent to buy a specific item, and less to browse around for fun, the standards for conversion rates held by the platform are pretty high. Amazon is specifically built to live at the bottom of the marketing funnel with thousands of affordable products attained with one click. 

Finally, reviews are an essential component in Amazon SEO. People spend an abundance of time and money in search of how to improve Amazon’s reviewer ranking. Amazon will track not only the number of reviews received but also their intent, star rating, keywords, etc. 

We’ve seen lots of black-hat tactics being used to increase the reviews on sellers’ products in the past. Although Amazon is not entirely rid of these schemes, they have upped the stakes when it comes to black-hat reviews. Posting fake reviews or bribing customers to leave reviews will most likely get flagged by the platform and lead toward the termination of your account. 

Now, you may notice the perpetual characteristic of the Amazon ranking algorithm. You can’t get ranked without conversions, but you can’t earn purchases without getting ranked. You can earn reviews without conversions, but few consumers will buy review-deficient products. So, how do newcomers strike gold and earn the top spots on the Amazon search engine?

Amazon Ads

Amazon has a platform called AMS, Amazon Marketing Services. AMS will directly affect your organic rankings within Amazon; it influences conversion rates, sales volume, and reviews. This contrasts with Google, where the paid ads listed at the top of the engine page do not impact organic results. Therefore, you’ll see many big brands throw tons of money into AMS ads so that they rank higher in organic search listings. 

Investing in AMS ads may not be necessary for all beginner sellers depending on the quality and differentiation. Still, they are a component of Amazon SEO to keep an eye on. So, before spending the money, think about how competitive your product’s niche is and the consumer popularity of the item.

In terms of Amazon’s primary target audience, it’s really impossible to choose just one. Amazon marketplace has a wide variety of products, appealing to people of all different demographics. This makes the online retail store suitable for essentially any industry.

Amazon marketplace sells a wide array of products that range from clothing all the way to food staples. They have something for everyone, bringing in a wide variety of niches.

Now, this is not to say evaluating demographics is not important in your marketing strategy. That’s why Amazon released their Brand Analytics feature, which “contains valuable insights to empower Brand Owners to make informed, strategic decisions about their product portfolio and marketing/advertising activities.” 


How to Optimize YouTube Channels 

To optimize a video in YouTube, on-page optimization is a crucial component. On-page optimization is the practice of digitally optimizing what you can control on the actual page you’re trying to rank. 

In terms of YouTube, these on-page elements ready for restructuring include title, meta description, and tags. Adding keywords into each of these sections helps to rank the content higher on the YouTube results page.

Views are another significant part. It may be intuitive, but the more views, the more shares the better, the more likes, comments, and subscriptions. All of those quantifiable factors play a significant role in how to rank a YouTube video. 

A 2020 study by AudienceProject shows that the primary demographic on YouTube is ages 15-35 years old, as 81% of this age group uses it. However, that is not to say that the following age groups do not heavily engage with YouTube. The chart below shows exact percentages. 


How to Optimize Facebook Content

If you are optimizing for Facebook, you’ll want to take a similar approach to that of YouTube by prioritizing on-page optimization. If you want to get in front of more of your target audience, which is, of course, the point, so make sure to include keywords in the post. Again, the more followers, shares, comments, etc. will undoubtedly boost SEO. 

Because anyone can share on Facebook, there used to be a lot of black-hat SEO tactics on the platform. People used to create a Facebook note and link to hundreds of websites, then see a rise in ranks nearly overnight. As the platform has matured, they now can flag posts that are absent of quality and authenticity. 

What I consider most notable about SEO for Facebook is the target audience. Facebook tends to attract a slightly older crowd, especially with the strong emergence and growth of platforms like Instagram. According to a 2020 NapoleonCat survey, only 14.2% of people ages 18-24 years old use Facebook regularly.

If your target market isn’t living on Facebook, spending time and resources optimizing content is not the smartest move. That goes for any platform, for any audience. 


How to Optimize Netflix

Netflix, believe it or not, is an interesting platform that companies are now doing SEO work on. One example I refer to deals with the power of partnerships. Vox.com partnered with Netflix to create an informative series, Explained, and the series took off because of this partnership. Netflix was able to promote the series on its platform, adding it to the “Trending Now” or “Popular on Netflix” categories. This gives it their own badge of trust, comparable to Amazon’s “Amazon’s Choice” badge. 

Although the show obviously succeeded due to its intriguing content and perspectives from two very respective companies, SEO was also a component. Netflix is naturally going to rank its own content higher, or will recommend them more to increase viewership. Hence, it was smart for Vox to partner with the brand for their show to rank higher.

The age demographics of Netflix users found in a 2020 survey by Morning Consult are particularly interesting because they highlight both exposures to the service as well as the actual purchase of the service. All in all, it is clear that Netflix subscriptions are on the up-and-up, and almost every age group is hopping on board in some capacity. 

The graph does not show “under 18” since there are some legalities surrounding surveying minors, but I can share anecdotally from personal experience that my kids are constantly watching shows on streaming services, particularly Netflix and their original series. 


How to Optimize Amazon Prime Video

Amazon Prime Video is an interesting platform as it serves as a combination of Netflix and YouTube. Amazon Prime obviously provides many professionally produced TV series and movies. Still, it is also a platform that just about anyone can upload to. 

My wife and I were watching a show on Amazon Prime, and we’re like, “This is just someone’s YouTube video, essentially, of them hiking.” It was this couple bickering back and forth, and I thought, “I thought I was watching Amazon Prime. What is this?”

Because anyone can publish, and it is a relatively new platform, Amazon Prime is still working out the kinks of black-hat SEO tactics. It will be interesting to monitor how SEO on Amazon Prime will evolve. However, I can imagine similar tactics used on YouTube and Netflix will come into play. 

The Morning Consult’s 2020 survey regarding Amazon Prime Video subscribers mirrors its Netflix study. It proves that Netflix is currently winning the market share. It will be interesting to note how Amazon Prime Video will evolve in an attempt to dominate as the Amazon industry does. 


How to Optimize Reddit

Reddit is around the sixth or seventh most trafficked website. It’s suitable for the top of the funnel aspect of marketing, as you can learn a lot about what your target demographic is buzzing about. 

Additionally, you can segment audiences by subreddit. If you are selling non-GMO baby bottles, the Reddit stream you follow may deal with pregnant women and parents. You can save a lot of time and money by not marketing baby bottles to high schoolers. Knowing your target market is also vital for Reddit ads, as you can target the ads to specific subreddits. 

I used to work for a company, and we were a bit more covert, so we created our own subreddits. We would create a subreddit with the keyword as the name of the subreddit, and we would curate all the content that we wanted in this subreddit. That is just one example of a way that companies are questionably manipulating it, but whether or not it is considered unethical is up in the air.

Even in popular threads, you’ll see people comment and mention a brand. How many times do you think that’s an unbiased mention? Quite frankly, it’s very few. These mentions aim to increase brand awareness rather than promote conversions.

As shown in a 2020 study by App Ape, Reddit favors a younger crowd, as 64.8% of their users are between the ages of 10 and 29. 


SEO For Walmart

Walmart is probably not what comes to mind when discussing search engines. However, Walmart is on the way to being a direct competitor with Amazon. Their online selling platforms are expanding rapidly because they have already established extensive revenue and credibility through their brick-and-mortar locations. 

In fact, a 2020 study by Statista showed that while 85% of consumers bought from Amazon in the past 12 months, 45% of these consumers also bought from Walmart’s online store. The graph below visually articulates that although Amazon is still leading the field, Walmart is making strides ahead of all other competitors.

In addition, many clients who previously sold exclusively on Amazon are looking for diversification. If 90% of their sales come from Amazon, there is a lot of risk involved. 

For example, Amazon can shut down products almost arbitrarily and instead create a private label, AmazonBasics, version of the product. Amazon can take the foundational of popular products and make their own version of them with as many or as few production tweaks as they desire. This takes the traffic from the original creator by ranking their own product first and labeling it as “Amazon’s Choice.” A feature such as that Amazon stamp of approval is what drags in consumers when making a comparative purchase decision. 

This sounds like just a bad dream, but clients I’ve worked with have actually experienced this overhaul, resulting in significant tanking of income. 

Those companies tend to start looking for ways to diversify their revenue streams, and the first place they look at is Walmart. They’ve got tons of money to throw into their digital platforms and the world of e-commerce.

Other Search Engines of Note

Although I’ve laid out the importance of the major search engines above, there is certainly motivation to implement SEO on plenty of other platforms. Primarily if you target a younger crowd, focus your optimization efforts on Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. The more content you can produce on these sites, the more space you’ll inherit for optimization strategies. 

TikTok has a lot of speculation surrounding it, but whether you like it or not, the platform is overhauling the younger generation. I’ve seen internet marketers embrace the app wholeheartedly and find great success.

However, if social media is not where your audience tends to live, again, don’t waste your time. Companies have begun using SEO practices on LinkedIn, Audible, third-party podcasts, Barnes and Noble, WordPress themes, and more. As I have said before, anything with a search engine can be optimized.

E-commerce sites like Rakuten, Newegg, eBay, and Baudio have a search engine that you could try to rank to diversify your account. This way, all of your eggs will not solely be placed in Google or Amazon’s potentially risky baskets. 

If you are not producing content for external platforms, link building and content creation for your own website SEO will always be important considerations. Remember to contribute to the conversation on whichever platform you choose, but don’t be totally advertorial. 

How to Make Money with E-commerce & Diversification

As I mentioned above, my main takeaway when it comes to e-commerce is the importance of diversification. Solely selling on any e-commerce platform is dangerous. The owners could cut your profits off entirely based upon one action they perceive to be a black-hat tactic, or merely taking your product and making their own version of it. 

In December 2019, Zogby surveyed U.S. brands and found 42% of the brands reported that half of their e-commerce sales were Amazon-generated. Additionally, 8% of these brands had 75% or more of their e-commerce sales stemming from Amazon. 

Hence, it is certainly important to acknowledge most brands do place heavy emphasis on their Amazon sales. Recognizing the dangers that accompany this risk is critical in developing a crisis response plan. 

When I do client work regarding e-commerce, I try to rank for longer-tailed keywords. Long-tail keywords are more specific words or phrases that tend to have a lower search volume. For example, a short-tail keyword may be “soda,” while a long-tail keyword may be “cherry vanilla diet soda,” as it’s citing a specific product. 

If the market you’re entering is saturated or competitive, go for long-tail keywords and build up authority for that niche first. Then, as your brand grows over time, you can try to rank for broad keywords. 

Where Search Technology is Heading

So, where is this all heading? I like to consider the possibility and future of technology in the next coming years. I am interested in the adaptation of previous networks and the new ideas to come—the flying cars of SEO in the future.

Predictive Search

Predictive search is on the radar of every search engine. Engines would love to present to you the item you want when you realize you want it, accelerating the buying process for consumers. 

For example, you may want to buy someone’s shoes you saw while walking around the grocery store. You said, “Oh, I like those shoes. I’d love to buy those” to your friend. The search engines then want to communicate, “Here are the shoes. You can buy them right now,” placing them in your advertisements and on your search engine results pages. 

You’ve probably asked yourself, “Is Google listening to me all the time?” And, in a way, they are. The more intrusive they can get into your lives, the more deals they can potentially close. 

Social Search

Another consideration for future technologies is social search. Social search aims to gather data from your social media profiles, online friends, and other human-related resources. By using insights from these networks, rather than a computer algorithm, social search can provide consumers with a more meaningful and relevant search engine results page.

By receiving results that correlate with the community you are a part of, you not only have a customized shopping experience, but you can follow popular trends within your circles. This causes you to purchase items based on community preferences and popularity, thus completing these social search engines’ goals. 

These search engines essentially use peer pressure by providing you with recommendations based on your online social presence. However, peer pressure isn’t always bad, as long as the suggestions are true to you.

Health Records/Vitals

One of my favorite upcoming technologies to follow is implantable tech, which can better watch health records and offer new ways of catching illnesses early on. For example, I’d gladly accept the opportunity to put a chip in my arm in exchange for an extra 10 years of my life. By having health professionals know everything about me, they can ensure they take the necessary precautions. But, the eternal question remains: Is it smart to make this trade-off? 

I want to say I would accept this implantable tech now, but I have no idea what I would be giving up when this technology surfaces. Although it seems inconceivable, we are not far from having to make such a decision. 

We have an example of this tech making an indent in our world today. Recently, a friend mentioned to me that their dad has a pacemaker. If something triggers the pacemaker to start working, it sends a message to an emergency system to come to take care of the user. The advancement of implantable technology is closer than we’d like to believe.

Virtual Reality

Another fascinating new technology is virtual reality. Virtual reality can easily be used by search engines to help promote purchases in consumers. For example, say you’re in a virtual reality simulation, and you put on some fresh new sneakers, and you love these sneakers. When you come out of virtual reality, the search engine will be ready to help coerce you into buying the product.

This tactic may seem a little controversial, along with many other strategies in advertising; is “tricking” a consumer’s subconscious into craving a specific product wrong, or does it simply point them in the right direction of a product they’ll love?

Trailblazing New Platforms

Unfortunately, when new platforms are emerging, and you’re an early adopter of it, there are few resources out there to guide you. So, you have to take on the trailblazer role and test the waters with new tactics.

Although initially daunting, being the first in a category puts you at an early mover advantage. Because you were present in the platform’s rapid development, you ideally figured out what works for you in absence of saturation. That’s how you can compete against these big brands, like Amazon, creating a name for yourself. 

Resources are out there to help guide you on specific questions, but sometimes when going into uncharted territory, you have to learn as you go. I have always found it best to experiment hands-on in order to understand what you are up against.

Conclusion

SEO is adapting to many platforms and networks in regards to search engines. We can no longer say SEO is a practice merely reserved for Google; SEO can be used on everything ranging from Netflix to Barnes & Noble.

SEO is continuously developing, and just when you think you’ve mastered the craft, Google will release a new update, a new platform will emerge, or a new medical chip will be issued. No matter what business you work in, or what platform your audience resides on, I’m sure your goal is to gain traffic and earn profits. Using SEO to shorten the buyer’s purchase funnel is undoubtedly a successful method.

Want to watch my speech at WordCamp Seattle? Thanks to WordPress.tv, you can watch “SEO Is Evolving Away From Google” below. My slide deck is also available (click here).