Bing’s Duane Forrester spoke at SEMpdx’s Member Appreciation event last night. Forrester has a rich background as a webmaster and SEO project manager for all kinds of big brands and companies and is the author of a few books on creating valuable web and search content.

He gave the group some insights as to how social is “poking at search.” I much more enjoyed the emphasis that he placed upon provisioning resources for great content that “does the right thing for the user.”

To do the right thing for the user, Forrester recommends his own little hierarchy of web content optimization needs. It basically went something like this:

"Content > Social > UX > Link Building > SEO"

Yes, a successful SEO guy ranks everything else before SEO.

Forrester demystified search engine roles and what the user is actually doing as also great way to hammer in some points about SEO that even a newbie like me could understand.

Making the most out of "sessions."

Forrester points out that one in four search queries ends in success. The other three fail and become search sessions, where the user starts to refine what they’re looking for. This leads them to content that either causes them to continue refining the search, or content that gives the user some answers.

Some of these search sessions can be anywhere from that quick search during your lunch hour, to extensive sessions that last for days. Forrester reports that 44% of search sessions last as long as a day or more. That’s a lot of shopping.

As content strategists and creators, it should be our mission to create content that makes these sessions worthwhile. Or, to create quality content that lets search engines increase their success rate of fulfilling queries.

The search engines are doing their job, as are the users.

Users are looking for something. Search engines are trying to find them that stuff in the most efficient manner possible. The search engines can’t help us if we have terrible web content on our sites. The users can help us, however.

Doing what’s best for the user in terms of SEO isn’t too far from the content strategist’s goal of optimizing web content to be experienced fully by our users. Even if a business objective may not be to be “found on the web with SEO,” doing what’s best for the user is still a key principle.

A few other "ohh" moments:

The changing web of objects is expanding. Search engines are trying to pick out the best objects for user’s queries (their searches). Web professionals need to acknowledge this and create, manage, and optimize content to be considered “the best,” aka what’s best for the user.

Humanity is leaving crazy amounts of traces on the web. They’re liking stuff all over the place, plussing things, retweeting stuff– it’s nuts. Search engines are beginning to take these traces very seriously. Traces means relevancy, and relevancy solves most search-based problems, right?

It’s a little scary though– web content that’s not worth socially touching may get left behind.

This was definitely food for thought coming from a small business mindset. It makes me, and perhaps any other small content budget people out there, wonder how to make the most of our dollars. Of course, with the right people and intent, we can always make something remarkable.

Big thanks to Duane Forrester and the SEMpdx crew for holding the event. It was great and a nice refresher on what’s going on in the world of search.