Imagine a day when reader engagement surpasses Google search engine rankings as the number one concern for publishers. Ten years ago this would have been unimaginable. However, with new platforms that enable consumers to more easily discover great content, the time has come for content creators to stop obsessing over search rankings. After all, search engines can drive people to content that they’re already on the hunt for, but if the content isn’t up to par, the reader will abandon the site after the first page view and head elsewhere. And, as Outbrain CEO Yaron Galai said, after his presentation at Digital Media Europe in London: “That second page view is magical.”

For more on why publishers can stop preoccupying themselves with search engine rankings, see Yaron’s post-presentation interview below:

Q: I’m talking to Yaron Galai, co-founder and CEO of Outbrain. He gave a talk on issues with search engines and discoverability of content. What was the subject?

A: I talked about the old world of how publishers got traffic from search engines and SEO and worrying about search engine rankings and where I think the world is evolving to, of keeping people engaged on the site and helping people discover the content. That’s not necessarily where search engines were:  keeping people engaged on the site.

Q: What must one do to overcome this problem?

A: To some extent the way search engines interact with our publisher sites it’s a little like the weather, so it’s a little difficult to worry about it too much because it’s really not something that any specific site can fix. I think being discoverable on search engines is important [but] I think obsessing over SEO is not as important today. I think Google has done quite a few changes in their algorithms, the Panda change, that deemphasizes the old SEO game and the tinkering of keywords and tinkering of search results. And so I think good advice for publishers would be: focus on developing great content for human beings that people actually find engaging and want to come back to and worry less about developing content for search engine spiders. That would be my advice.

Q: If you do solve the problem that you outlined, what are the benefits?

A: The benefit I talked about in my talk was focusing on that second page view, not necessarily the first page view you get from the reader, but rather that second page view.  If the person that came through a search engine or from anywhere on the Web actually decides to stay with your site and consume a second page view, that second page view is magical. The benefit for the publisher is they get to engage with a reader that generated a free page view and gave them get permission to put advertising and interrupt a little and get revenue. So I think by focusing on that second page view and making pages more discoverable and engaging, publishers will gain a lot in terms of revenue.

Q: So you’re saying we’re worrying about things that really we shouldn’t worry about too much?

A: To some extent I think the past ten years worrying about SEO and search engine rankings has been a valid concern. Google was moving a lot of the traffic and you had to be there and obviously a bunch of companies that do well in SEO have been the big winners. I think Google is cognizant of that and making changes to their algorithms that value or reward publishers that create content that people find to be engaging. I think playing the new SEO game would be: How do we engage our readers rather than how do we obsess over being the first ranked on Google?

Image Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/srhkthln/7021140497/