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Marc Baumann is a San Francisco based Web Strategist and Ex-Journalist with a passion for content and a 15+ years background in interactive and print media.
I am a San Francisco based Web Strategist and former Journalist – currently employed as SEO & Content Lead at Square Inc. I believe in making a difference and helping people and businesses succeed. My passion is web strategy, and showing entrepreneurs how digital can open new opportunities.
Digital StrategyMy passion is strategy and showing how digital can open new opportunities for brands. Social Media MarketingI have a proven record of driving brand awareness and consumer engagement through the intelligent use of Social Media. In my blog, I am musing about all things internet, including online media trends, web journalism, content, social media, SEO, ASO – and much more.
Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to work  for small and large (B2B and B2C) from a wide range of industries – e.g.
Trying to get the site optimally listed on Google or other engines should be the priority exercise at every juncture.
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The optimization strategy for this search environment was self-evident: ensure your web documents appear highly in those search results, so that your web documents are the ones suggested to searchers.
That is, the “search results” now contain a mix of traditional document references as well as direct answers, with the proportion of the latter gradually but relentlessly growing. However, as what I want to explore today is optimizing specifically for the data part of what’s returned in response to a query (or, as we’ll see, some other trigger), I want you to join me in a thought experiment I’m going to use to frame my talk.
Rather than dwell on this premise I want to get to meat of the matter it’s intended to highlight – being successful in search in ways other than driving search-to-website traffic.
But I will note that I recently wrote a piece that explored this premise in detail, which I invite you to read at your leisure, as an ever-so-exciting prequel to this presentation.
For much of the information that we care about, websites, in fact, might just turn out to be an artifact of the early days of the web, a necessary bridge as we figured out how to better create, store and share information over the internet.
Well, in the course of putting this deck together I stumbled across, and reacquainted myself with, a post by Mike Arnesen written more a year earlier that contained a pretty similar sentiment. I believe that the document-based web was simply a limitation of our thinking at the time; it was hard to imagine a web of data at first, much less architect a way to allow data to be interchangeable and meaningful over such an astronomical scale. I commend this excellent piece to you as well, not only because it is shorter and less meandering than my own, but because Mike does a great job of articulating the difference between documents and data – something to which I’ll be returning to time and time again today.
The response from many search marketers to the evolution of search engines, and in particular to the appearance of direct answers and data verticals in the search results, has been to abandon search marketing. So I pledge that as I explore with you data-driven approaches to search engine optimization that I will endeavor to keep the focus on how you appear in search engines. Because the fact that the SERP-to-website-traffic basis of SEO is waning doesn’t mean that search engines cease to be a part of the internet ecosystem. Just because your website may no longer be at the heart of your presence in search results doesn't mean you can ignore search, because you will have a presence in search whether you want to or not. Declare data even if it doesn't provide you with a rich or structured snippet (though rich snippets are still highly desirable even in the absence of referral traffic, as they compactly convey information themselves). Doing so will ensure information that's displayed about your phone number, your address, your products' prices, your products' availability, your company's social media profiles and your official website is correct – and those are just some of the types of information that Google officially supports publishers providing about themselves and their wares.
A common complaint is that by providing your data to the search engines you’re “giving away” your data, and that doing so hurts you because you providing the means by which the search engine can answer a query without referring a visit to your website.
But most of all it hurts you because you’ve excluded the possibility of having your data linked to other data, which it how data becomes useful.

If the string read “Acme Widget Supreme is less than 5.00 pounds” there’s still ambiguity because a “pound” can be a unit of currency or of weight, and even if you say “less than five pounds sterling” you’re still forcing Google to extract a piece of data from a bunch of text, and still forcing it, ultimately, to guess.
Providing Google with structured data removes that ambiguity and improves the chance that the Acme Widget Supreme will make some sort of appearance in Google’s universe. I’ll talk more about Google now later, but you can see how unambiguously identifying your entities with sameAs can help connect Google users with your data, even if they’re not searching for things. I bring up GTIN specifically here in part to highlight the fact that there are other vocabularies besides But because it is a formal vocabulary that uses URIs as names for things and employs standards like RDF, it plays nice with, as does, for example, BIBFRAME, the vocabulary for libraries. Another advantage of using standards to provide data to the search engines is that it can also be made available to other data consumers as well – either directly in the same form, or with readily-made syntactic modifications. Once you’ve made the decision to make data about yourself available, think of who else besides the search engines might find your data useful. This can include social networks, content aggregators, business partners, and internal data consumers like your site search and analytics. And if the mapping of properties and their values is well-executed, the resulting consistency demonstrated will help build trust in your data – especially for the search engines, increasing the likelihood that they’ll surface your data and associated web documents when it’s appropriate for them to do so. In terms of analytics, my co-presenter has come up with a method of using data to populate Google Analytics reports. The Arnesen Method is a major conceptual breakthrough, because it necessarily conceives of content as a type of data, rather than as a bunch of test.
This in turn allows the meaning of web pages to be correlated with other metrics like exit rate, or pageviews, or conversion rates. The Arnesen Method is still about search because it’s a way of judging how well topics are performing in the not-provided world, and actually has many advantages over those defunct keyword reports.
Which is a good time to talk about content with reference to another SearchFest speaker, Facebook’s Jonathon Colman.
Throw out content that requires a website visit and doesn’t, in itself, satisfy any of these needs.
If you have content that’s valuable your users, your fans, your customers then you’ll want to do what you can to connect them with that content. There is no linear distribution model because everybody has a different device, and they’re all going to come to content in different ways.
For distribution of creative works think about how revenue streams can be attached to the content, rather than requiring a website visit. If you’re not in the business of actually selling content, does your current conversion strategy rely on a user making a way-stop at a particular piece of content on your website? Then it’s time to take a fresh look at that strategy, and the rigidity of the funnel it implies.
In other words, if your organic search conversion strategy hinges on a user navigating from the SERPs to a specific page, that strategy is increasingly at risk.
And I think AVG is actually a pretty good example of thinking beyond the web page conversion funnel. Because of Google Now (and analogous technologies being developed by other search engines and social networks) a user’s search environment now also includes their inbox, so treat your email as part of SEO as well. For some time Gmail has supported something called “Actions in the Inbox” which, using a combination of Actions and JSON-LD, allows action labels to appear next to email messages in Gmail, or to connect Gmail messages with other Google products. I know Gmail doesn't have a commanding share of the email client market, but I’m still shocked why Actions in the Inbox aren't more widely used. But not as shocked as I am about how few apps avail themselves of app indexing and, by extension, deep linking.
In a nutshell app indexing allows content within your app to be accessed directly from a search result. The long-standing “app-or-website?” question becomes increasingly less pressing as app content is made available through search (and now in social media too as, for example, Twitter App Cards also support deep linking). Driving traffic to your app rather than your website, even a mobile-friendly website, is likely to support a higher conversion rate because your app is designed to be the best performer in a mobile environment (otherwise, why do you have an app)? Highlighting the principle that, in the new search environment, you need to optimize for conversions where they’re likely to occur, rather than only where you want conversions to occur.
Google event markup that incorporates third party ticket-purchasing links shows the principle of optimizing for conversions where they take place. Both the Google third party ticketing link for an event and the Bing “order online” link highlight changes that require us to rethink and rework SEO success metrics. There’s neither an easy nor a single solution to the problem of measuring search visibility that isn’t tied to referred search traffic. I have no solution, but I think it’s important to point out that SEO success metrics have to evolve along with SEO strategy, or buy-in for SEO is going to drop off steeply.
Many of the newest opportunities for data optimization in search rely either on JSON-LD, Actions or the two together, and both are relatively recent additions to the semantic search marketer’s toolbox. JSON-LD is a method of providing structured data to a data consumer without the requirement for marking up web page text that’s visible to human.
JSON-LD and Actions together are extremely powerful, and their union supports the development of flexible linked data APIs.

No, but it’s technical enough that, unless you’re a technical wiz yourself, you’re going to need to turn to your developers for aid and support.
In any case, its important that you formally introduce your developers with whatever markup protocols they’re going to be working with, which may include but are not limited to microdata, RDFa, JSON-LD and Acitions, and possibly more exotic animals like Turtle and SPARQL.
Unless you’ve got some god-like power in your organization that I don’t possess, ensuring your developers have the information they need to be effective in support of your search marketing efforts is going to mean pushing forward initiatives where that knowledge is required and using the opportunity to foment professional development.
I hope you’ve started to get the sense through my presentation that the sort of things I’ve been talking about are quite a lot different than the mainstays of “traditional” SEO: link acquisition, content strategies designed to drive traffic to websites, duplicate content handling, penalties and their remedies.
Well, they’re obviously quite a lot different because all those traditional SEO approaches have to do with websites, and I’ve specifically been exploring visibility in search other than document references – that is, other than ten blue links. But while website traffic will always play a role in the web ecosystem the website model is waning, and it is waning disproportionately quickly in search, because the search engines have multiple reasons to answer queries directly rather than sending users to websites whenever they can. Yes, they can expose the user to more search ads by doing so, but for Google that’s very much secondary to user satisfaction issues, and especially in the environment that’s driven the search engines to evolve to direct answers, and for that what’s driven the search engines to employ semantic technologies and create things like the Knowledge Graph and
On a mobile device it’s simply a better experience not to force a user to visit a site for specific information. Whether or not this is “good” for website owners is irrelevant, because for Google satisfying the demands of searchers will always trump the desires of publishers.
Certainly, as you indicate in your argument again and again, the landscape of search is changing dramatically and many people seem not to see this change. The lines between marketing and development are blurring much more rapidly than most marketers and executives understand and highlights why marketers should have a slush fund for weekly beers with the development team (it’s the most effective way to change dev priorities in a timely manner). Won’t it be great when we can just highlight and tag large portions of web data straight into google analytics and define everything by a single standard. I’m convinced that the most effective way for businesses to connect with target audiences is through the creation of engaging, useful quality content.
In my 10 years in the Internet industry, I have developed and lead strategies for companies from a wide range of industries (including publishing, retail, finance, healthcare and travel) across the entire digital ecosystem, from the web to social and mobile. Throughout my career, I have developed and managed successful Social Media Marketing programs and achieved strong, visible social media presences for companies of all sizes and across all industries. Having worked for various innovative brands, I am lucky to have helped to exceed business goals by initiating and co-managing cross-channel marketing projects, collaborating in multifunctional teams.
1 Digital Marketing PriorityIf you would have thought that digital strategies in the age of Social Media would have shifted to Facebook, Twitter & Co. This should be part of the growth strategy of any online endeavor that is seeking ultimate success. If you need assistance with an order or the publishing process, please contact our support team directly. Please note that you will be liable for damages (including costs and attorneys' fees) if you materially misrepresent that the material is infringing your copyright.
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When you throw in the growing complexity of the ad stack ecosystem, there’s a huge need for developers to sit under marketing.
The list includes companies where I’ve worked In-House Manager as well as enterprises for which I’ve provided internet marketing consulting services on the agency side or as owner of my own Internet consultancy firm.
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