I went to a great Search Engine Marketing course recently which raised a couple of questions about how search engines are evolving, and SEM standards are changing in response.

Some SEO standards and techniques of the past few years are becoming outdated. For example, the importance of metadata is changing – this information was traditionally used by search engines as the main reference to site content. The relevance of this data varied widely however – as some sites did not update meta data when content changed, and spamming sites stuffed metadata with irrelevant keywords. (What is metadata?)

‘Black Hat’ SEO techniques, i.e. naughty quick fix tricks to get to the top of the search engines; are still being used, and often have a positive effect on search engine rankings. But as search engine algorithms change to improve the quality and relevance of results, these sites employing SEO tricks are getting weeded out, and will often get banned. (See the Squidoo for a list of naughty SEO techniques used by spamming sites.)

As the web is becoming more interactive, users are having a much greater effect on the rankings of sites. This can only be good for the quality of search engine results, because rather than relying on technical specifications alone; The effect of bookmarking sites and tagging are feeding into mainstream search engines – people are rating, bookmarking, discussing and linking to good quality content. This is one of the main principles PushON takes into account, because at the end of the day, you don’t just want high traffic to your site, you want relevant traffic from people with an interest.

Web 2.0 is also having an effect on the way people search; for example specialized search engines are cropping up which list only certain types of content – e.g. blogs, video, books and images. Online social networking is becoming vast, and is being used alongside traditional advertising media – for example radio stations now often publicise their MySpace page.

More on Web 2.0 to come… (Apologies for using the common made up buzz word, but you know what I mean!)