Is SEO dead? The new rules of the search engine game

What’s the future of SEO? Jeremy Schoemaker says there’s none at all.

Apparently intent on starting a heated debate, he writes:

My honest answer is there is no future in SEO. From my experiences I am seeing Google SERPS results strongly influenced by Google Toolbar data, Google User history, and Google Analytics data. Google’s combination of SEO and social voting via toolbar/history/analytics will continue to sway more in the realm of social voting. I feel this technology will only get better. I don’t think anyone can argue that core SEO has gotten less valuable over the years and I see that trend continuing.

Well, sorry to disappoint, but SEO is here to stay. It’s just going to be done differently, but for as long as there will be search engines to get ranked in, there will be things you can do to get better rankings. It’s true that traditional SEO is on the way out, but it’s not about to die. SEO is going to evolve. And very drastically too!

The shift to social voting

In the early days of the Internet, getting top spot was easy if you knew which buttons to push. Search engines were pretty primitive back then and had a hard time figuring out what your page was about. In fact, they practically asked you to tell them what keywords you wanted your page ranked for (keyword metatags anyone?) and gaming your way to a great ranking was child’s play.

Modern search engines are way smarter. A lot of the old tricks don’t work anymore and SEO has adapted accordingly to keep up. But now the whole SEO industry is facing a chasm – the shift to social voting, as Jeremy says.

In a nutshell, the people who visit your website are getting an increasingly large say in determining how well you rank in the search engines. Whether your visitors vote for you tacitly by clicking your link in Google’s search results, directly via the Google Toolbar, or endorse your site publicly by writing about it in their blogs – and these are but three examples – the search engines are going to be watching to see what the public is interested in so that they can return the most relevant search results.

Social Media Marketing – The new face of SEO

Using blogs, podcasts, video, and all the latest Web 2.0 technologies to promote your website is going to be vital for those who want to remain in the game. And the emphasis is going to increasingly be on providing the great content that your visitors want – meaning high relevancy, good writing, strong branding. Once upon a time you had to choose between optimising a web page for the Google, or for your audience. Now that the people have power, the way to search engine success is going to be through your audience – which can only be a good thing.

This new way forward is called Social Media Marketing, and Jeremy Schoemaker has unwittingly given you a perfect example of how it works.

As I write this, there are probably dozens of keyboards – maybe more – tapping away in response to the heated debate that Jeremy started with a single, craftily chosen blog post. Some will be commenting on Jeremy’s blog page itself, others in their own blogs. People will be e-mailing his post to friends and colleagues, or discussing it in fourms. And as the discussion rages, Jeremy is in for a boatload of attention and links back to his site.

Of course, as the visits, links, votes, Diggs and what not come rolling in, Google and company are going to be watching. And when they realise that people are interested in Jeremy’s site, they will reward it with more status and better search rankings.

You see, claiming in his blog that SEO is dead is actually a great bit of SEO Jeremy has done for himself!

Of course, the benefits of Social Media Marketing go way beyond search engine rankings, because it has the power to bring you a stream of visitors to your site by other means too. And on the other hand, certain elements of traditional SEO, not directly related to Social Media Marketing, that have to do with making sure the search engines have an easy time crawling and figuring out your website are not likely to disappear any time soon.

It’s not SEO that’s dead, but those websites that fail to recognise the need to keep up with the times. So the next time you’re talking to someone who’s proposing to help you with your search engine rankings, you’d better make sure they know what they are talking about and you’re not chatting with a dodo!

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