Will All You Learned About SEO Be Worthless?

Search_LightLast week, Google changed the rules of Web search with a relatively low-key innovation that I expect will permeate the search engine giant’s future strategy.

Google Social Search is an experimental program that integrates content from a user’s social network into search results. When enabled, the first page of Google search results includes a few links at the bottom to related content from a member’s social network. Google derives this information from the profiles people build when creating a Google account. It also taps into other Google tools to make assumptions about what’s important to a member.

For example, if you subscribe to blogs in Google Reader, the search engine now presumes that that content is important to you and elevates it in search results.

Social Search continues Google’s efforts – which began with a year ago with SearchWiki – to customize the search process. SearchWiki enables logged-in users to shuffle their own search results, promoting some and demoting or eliminating others. Users can also annotate their search results. Social Search goes one step further, and it’s a big step. The search engine now makes assumptions about your interests based upon your friends network.

This has tremendous utility. If I want to find a steakhouse in Dallas, I can now see recommendations from my friends directly in my search results. Google already annotates some commercial results with reviews it gathers from online review sites. It’s a small step to expect that I’ll soon be able to promote my friends’ reviews to the top of the heap.

Social Web

Last week, I had the chance to discuss these developments with Mike Moran, whose book, Search Engine Marketing, Inc., remains one of my favorite texts for understanding the Internet. I proposed to Mike that Google’s ambition was to make the entire Internet a social network. His response was that they’re already mostly there.

In his analysis, Google is extending the customization features of SearchWiki to now include input from trusted third parties. According to a post by SMR Digital, we’re already at the point where no two registered Google users see the same results for most of their queries. And this is just the beginning. For better or for worse, Google knows a lot more about our online behavior than it uses.

For people like myself who regularly use Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Documents, the company is now in a position to capture a great deal of information about what I do online because it can peek inside most of the written content I create. The obvious privacy issues aside (and I’m not a believer in Big Brother), this puts Google in a position to evolve its search strategy in a much more customized direction. Google can only go so far before the “creepiness” factor sets in, but there’s still plenty of runway to experiment in making the search experience more personal.

Search Party

For marketers, this has interesting implications. Many of us are now comfortable with the basics of search engine optimization (SEO) but what will we do when every user’s search results are unique? We could be looking at a future in which search engine performance is determined as much by opinions from people online as it is by page titles and domain names. Although inbound links already factor into Google’s search results, the relationship of the people doing the linking to the person doing the searching will be a new variable. Seo.Services itself may become a social pursuit.

Don’t underestimate the value of social search. Compete.com estimates that search.twitter.com attracted nearly 3,000,000 unique visitors in September. That’s a drop in the bucket compared to Google, but it’s up 550% year-over-year. Now that Twitter has a deal with Microsoft to deliver its search results over Bing (and speculation is that a deal with Google will follow) we are likely to see more creative efforts to integrate social content.Three years from now, the SEO tactics we’ve work so hard to learn may seem quaint indeed.

21 thoughts on “Will All You Learned About SEO Be Worthless?

  1. It’s so funny that you posted about this today. One of my long term goals is to go back to school for website development/design and I’d figured out that SEO was ABSOLUTELY CRUCIAL for me to learn. And I still think that I should learn about it. But yesterday I read this (https://www.noupe.com/trends/the-future-of-the-web-where-will-we-be-in-five-years.html) and today I read your post, and I’m fascinated by all the future of the Internet has to offer and even more convinced I want to be a part of that. Because as awesome as Twitter may be, I think it really just scratches the surface; shows us what social searching is in its simplest form.

    The article I link to here talks about Open Social from Google about halfway down, but before that it also talks about online news mediums going more wiki. I’m slowly working my way through all the other sites the article links to – it all looks so exciting.

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  3. Interesting. From a personal standpoint, it’s unnerving how much information about people that Google can get. And from a content creator standpoint, it’s frustrating to have the rules changed for searches. How do you optimize content for individuals? I guess you don’t; you try to get quality people in your target audience linking to it. It almost makes me want to throw my hands up and forget about it.

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  5. Exciting and overwhelming. The social Web is a free-for-all right now and it’s dizzying trying to keep up with all the new services. Social will change everything we’ve known about the Web. It was a good first 15 years while it lasted!

  6. SEO won’t be worthless, It’ll just become less and less relevant. I believe it’s become a ‘default’ part of any website, it comes with the design and marketing included.

    As you know getting any type of organic position on SERP’s takes a lot of work and time, that game is well over for people starting any website just like most domain names are already taken.

    We’ve reached convergence where everyone’s playing by the same rules where copying and replicating is the norm.

    The game has shifted to the ‘social influence’ space where anonymous inbound links matter less and # of shares, mentions, immediacy matter more.

    This will be more difficult to manipulate than SERP’s because you can’t replicate personal influence. Once we have enough people using these social tools, sharing will trump PageRank.

    Why wait until that happens, the time is now.


  7. I disagree that the best domain names are taken. New issues come up all the time that create new opportunities for relevant domain names. You’re right that anonymous inbound links don’t matter, but they haven’t mattered for a long time. The search algorithms were hardened against link farming long ago. You’re right that sharing will be more important, but it will simply be part of PageRank, not a new factor in the market.

    Barbara, privacy concerns have been a constant issue online since the early days of the commercial Internet, yet they have not stopped people from giving up a steadily increasing amount of information. I don’t want to dismiss the risks, but service providers have learned that it’s bad business to overstep privacy boundaries. There is a legitimate risk of privacy breaches, but I really don’t worry about Google or any other reputable company violating my privacy simply because it wouldn’t be good business for them. Hacking and identity theft are another matter, but we’re dealing with a different kind of criminal in those cases.

  8. All you learned about SEO will not become worthless – it will become an invaluable building block to applying similar strategies to social media marketing.

  9. isn’t that like putting us in a box? I still prefer browsing over what other people are also seeing right at the very same moment, like an expanded yellow pages. if I would like to laser point my search then I will just go to a particular site that caters to that kind of inquiry.

    While the objective is good, I wish it will stay separated to what we are using right now.

    thank you for the great post. 🙂

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  12. Content is, and always will be King. SEO never stops developing. I think that modern SEO is a far more subtle beast than in the past, but getting it right can still propel your site upward, so SEO is still alive.

  13. Can anyone recommend a good search engine optimization company? theres a mountain of them, some people say use who shows up first in google when you type in seo which kind of makes sense but I’m not sure. Any help or advice would be appreciated. I’ll check back regular for responses.

  14. Thanks, this blog aided me somewhat in solving some issues with the latest version, Why do they often seem to leave out vital documentation when they upgrade? It may be trivial to them but not to me. I’m sure i’m not alone either.

  15. Hi,

    I wanted to let you know that I have been watching for a few months on and off and I would like to sign up for the daily feed. I am not to computer smart so I’ll give it a try but I will need some help. This is a good find and I would hate to lose touch, and maybe never discover it again.

    Anyway, thanks again and I look forward to posting again sometime!

  16. Pretty Interesting post. Couldn’t be written any better. Reading this post reminds me of my old room mate! He always kept talking about this. I will forward this post to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing!

  17. Well, after the “farmers update /Panda update” with ezine articles losing 85% of their traffic within one day, article marketing is dead for SEO at least for now.

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