Autor: Terry Heath under Social Media
Traditional search engine optimization techniques have focused on changing a website’s coding and content to target specific placement in search engines like Google, Yahoo, and MSN. As long as search engines remain the primary road people use to locate information on the web, then SEO owns a secure place as a relevant industry on the web.
Search engines are the Yellow Pages of the internet. It used to be if you wanted to find someone who sold widgets, you would look for a store in the Yellow Pages. Now millions of people turn to search engines first, but search engines still operate under the Yellow Pages mentality; to find widgets through a search engine you still must flip through a few pages, it’s just done electronically. The Yellow Pages are online now too, still operating under the old mentality.
Word of Mouth
Long before the Yellow Pages were first published people found out about widget stores through word of mouth. If you wanted to find the best widgets, you asked a friend where they bought theirs. But as the world grew bigger and faster, word of mouth couldn’t keep up. It became quicker and easier to look in the Yellow Pages.
But the Internet is making the world small again and word of mouth is reclaiming a practical edge. Search engines can be manipulated, they’re not necessarily dominated by the best sites, and you’re visiting a site without knowing if it is reliable. Just as importantly, you might have to wade through a few websites to find exactly what you wanted and these days that’s too slow. In contrast, if someone you have even a cursory relationship with tells you a website is reliable, then you’ve just saved the time and trouble of finding one on your own.
Human Search Engines
People have become the new search engines, indexing and categorizing websites with an intricacy search bots could never replicate.
Search engine optimization has long been considered an essential part of marketing for any website. Traffic from search engines is free and therefore competitive, and its competitive nature has spawned the search engine optimization industry. But as people return to word of mouth through sites like Digg, StumbleUpon, Delicious, or any among the multitude of social bookmarking websites, will SEO loose its relevance?
Sites Are SEO Out of the Box
Search engine optimized websites are quickly becoming a commodity. Any number of content management systems can quickly be implemented to build a variety of websites and most of them are fairly search engine friendly right out of the box. Any of their SEO shortcomings are fairly easy to fix. Even if search engines remain the primary means of finding information on the web, how much SEO training does the average blogger or webmaster really need anymore?
The focus of SEO already seems to be moving from technical concerns to the manipulation of content. But as long as SEO chains itself to optimization for search engines and their search bots, SEO practitioners and the related industry are placing their bets on what could be a dying horse.
Rohit Bhargava has been credited with coining the term “SMO”, but this hasn’t matched “SEO” in familiarity. SMO is generally regarded as a child category of SEO and SEM, but is it positioned to inherit the farm? And do we really need another acronym?
It seems to me if SEO is to survive it has to embrace the concept of SMO. If Google, Yahoo, and MSN recognize social media as an emerging new guard, and their involvement with MyBlogLog and YouTube seems to indicate they do, then as an industry which caters to search engines SEO might be wise to do the same. But instead of turning to new acronyms and printing new t-shirts why not use what’s already in place?
Couldn’t SEO evolve as well and someday be thought of as “Social Engine Optimization”?
A Rose by Any Other Name
Whatever you choose to call it, bloggers and webmasters who choose to ignore social media are choosing to live in obscurity. Sites that put all their eggs in the search engine basket subject themselves to periodic egg smashings; they are placing their future in the hands of a powerful few. Those who put some of their eggs in the social media basket not only acknowledge and encourage the web’s human element, but they serve a more predictable master.
As I write this, the blog you’re reading just turned two months old. More than 500 people have subscribed to the RSS, there have been more than 95,000 unique visitors (almost 190,000 page views), and one post has made it to the front page of Delicious. Although it’s placing well in the search engines for its targeted keywords, search engine traffic accounts for less than .1% of our traffic to date. The lion’s share of traffic has come through social media.
Same Rules, Different Game
As search engines come closer to replicating human judgment, their rules are becoming strikingly similar to those of social media. It’s increasingly about content and scanability. It’s not about how many keywords you put in an article, but how you use them.
So if the rules are the same, social media is the Internet’s heir apparent, and you don’t even have to print new t-shirts (”search engine” and “social engine” share the same monogram), doesn’t it make sense for SEO to court a new master?