I swore at my computer the other day (sorry Mom). You see, I had just seen a tweet that led me to this page:
That, of course, is the current Airbnb homepage, where they announced that they have built out neighborhood pages, such as my neighborhood of Boerum Hill.
I didn’t swear because they launched something that I wanted one of my clients to launch. I swore because they did it so damn well. These pages are beautiful. They have local knowledge, large photos (which is rare for travel, but makes so much sense), and they don’t talk about themselves – rather, they let people see the area and qualify themselves, with only a call to action at the end.
This marks, in my mind, the final step in a move towards the visual web – these pages are going to rank because they are so useful and beautiful (though they do need to work on SEO on these pages) and they will naturally attract links.
The web is becoming visual; SEOs need to get on board.
Why I Say This
Just look at the growth of Pinterest over the past year, which is really just images:
The most successful ecommerce shops online are also becoming increasingly visual. Check out Fab (though they get only 2% of their business from organic):
And how about Etsy (protip guys – women love Etsy):
I’ve shared Uncrate before with their beautiful typography and imagery:
And even the tech site TheVerge, which is not your typical tech site from a design perspective:
And by the way, their organic traffic since launch is like a hockey stick:
The web is increasingly becoming visual. This move shouldn’t be an SEO play either. Look at the statistic cited earlier that only 2% of Fab’s sales come from organic. They could do a better job of SEO, sure, but will it really move the needle?
Will telling them to put more content outside the login wall, or that they need more text on the page, really help them? It may a bit, and they have opportunities there, but is this really what their business is centered around?
My Own Thoughts
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking recently about the future of SEO. As I see Google moving into more and more areas and pushing organic below the fold, I wonder about the future of SEO. Check out this search, which has half of an organic result above the fold on my 15″ laptop monitor:
I see Google revoking data access by removing access to their AdWords API, and I see (not provided) climbing ever higher in every vertical in which Distilled has clients. I don’t see Google as being friendly to SEOs – Google is monetizing everything, and the only way they can monetize organic listings (even though that is what they built themselves on) is through ads, so they’ll increasingly be more aggressive with ads while also moving into other areas.
We don’t have a choice but to build brands now, at least with the size of companies that I am working with now. Others, such as SMBs, have more space in organic and rankings matter a lot more. In the verticals that I have been working in, organic is being squeezed out and Google is taking over, or they are simply broadening the number of areas for optimization (local, images, etc) that don’t see as good of conversion rates, or still lead people to a Google property.
So what is the future of SEO, and what does this have to do with my opening examples?
People like good design. With good design comes a lot of trust that the company is legit and knows what they are doing. Good design is pleasing and therefore people feel pleasure. They keep coming back to the site, and buying, because it is a good experience for them. And while they are not searching for [diy easter eggs] to find Etsy or Pinterest, they are going to those places because they know they can find what they want there instead of on some random blog somewhere.
Build a brand, win online. We can still do SEO on these sites to get a bit more traffic from the search engines, we can still collect email addresses so that we can remarket people that way (the travel industry does this very well). In my opinion, though, links are becoming less important in a lot of areas, and other avenues are becoming more important.
What do you think? Am I on the right track here? Or just ranting?