Search engine optimization, boiled down, is the process of making sure a web page ends up highly ranked on search results, for searches relevant to that page. A merchant selling "Columbia Traverse Men's Hiking Shoes," for example, will want to optimize its product page so that searches on Google — or Bing, or Yahoo! — for terms like "men's hiking shoes" return the merchant's "Columbia Traverse Men's Hiking Shoes."
That process is straightforward when a merchant has just a few products. But what about merchants with thousands of products that are relevant to hundreds of thousands of search terms? How can that merchant devise a system to optimize all of those product pages and match them with the hundreds of thousands of relevant, constantly changing, search terms? Such a system would have to be easy to manage, and scalable across thousands of products and search terms.
That's the purpose of SEO platforms. They attempt to make search engine optimization more scalable, effective and efficient — across thousands of products and hundreds of thousands of search terms. Many measure different SEO metrics — such as raw traffic, conversions, and time on site — and offer recommendations for marketers to improve them. Some platforms actually implement some SEO tactics automatically. But there's one platform, BloomReach, that debuted this week with a very interesting SEO solution: its "Web Relevance Engine" and "BloomSearch" service.
BloomReach’s head of marketing, Joelle Kaufman, was quick to say that it is not an SEO platform. It's about “creating the most relevant user experience possible on any page,” she told me. The new platform is focused on improving user experience and conversion by exposing content — such as descriptions on a product page and user reviews — and algorithmically improving its relevance to search terms. Essentially, what BloomReach does is suck hoards of data from a merchant's site, web analytics, product feeds, social media streams, competitors’ sites and more into its Web Relevance engine by means of an API. BloomReach semantically analyzes the data, determines relevance, decides which pages need additional content and links, and deploys the appropriate content algorithmically to the appropriate pages through its three services: "BloomSearch" for SEO, "BloomLift" for PPC, and "BloomSocial" for social media marketing. The infographic below makes the process a bit simpler to understand.
That’s smart enough already, but that’s not all. The platform also monitors the optimizations it has made, determines which are successful at driving additional traffic and conversions or how they could be more successful, and alters the optimizations that have been made accordingly. Sounds like SEO nirvana, right? I’m inclined to be optimistic based on what I can see from the outside but until I see it in action on a site I work with and get my hands on the analytics, I can’t say for certain whether it actually is SEO nirvana or not. Here’s what I can say.
BloomSearch as an SEO Technology
First off, it’s the smartest technology I’ve seen yet for SEO. Its goal is to harness “the power of big data, machine learning and large-scale systems science to match relevant products and services to consumers at scale.” Basically, it’s a platform that increases relevance to improve customer experience and usability by exposing the content that customers are looking for. Assuming it does that well, the result for merchant sites would naturally be increased traffic and conversions. And because BloomReach has a pay-for-performance business model, the risk to the client site is essentially nil, apart from the time to set up and implement. In fact, Kaufman did stress that clients began to see incremental traffic and conversions almost immediately.
How is this possible for an SEO platform when it’s well known that rankings take several weeks to adjust and an SEO strategy can take months to mature to full benefit? Well, BloomReach is not an SEO platform precisely. It’s a usability and relevance platform. So on day one regardless of the channel or path customers use to get into the site, they will see the optimized content and it will potentially impact their desire to buy or explore more. The customer may come in via organic search, or paid search, or a bookmark or a link from another site or a prompt from a direct mailing. Whatever that customer’s path into the site, that customer will see those optimizations and potentially be impacted by them. This applies to the search engine crawlers, too, of course.
All About Humans
The most promising part of BloomReach’s technology is that it becomes a part of the site for customers and search engines. It’s not a traditional SEO technology that caters to the search engine’s needs by means of generating content that humans aren’t really meant to focus on. Humans are most definitely meant to see and interact with the BloomSearch content, because it’s focused on improving usability as well as organic search traffic and conversion. That’s a solution that the search engines are sure to like. In fact, Yahoo! is a customer of BloomReach, not to mention the many former Googlers and Yahooligans filling up their staffing rosters.