Search engines react to behavior of its users and site owners. Search engines measures these behaviors to deliver value to each, but ultimately to serve the search engines’ best interests. At first, search engines used what they could by implying relevance and rank by link behavior. But as the web evolves to the social web, social media connections are going to have an increasing weight on search result relevance. Let’s face it: social media strategy is going to cannibalize black hat and some current white hat SEO strategy. Social media strategy is the new way to do SEO (figure out how to give value to your client’s web strategy). It is Matt Cutt’s job to figure out how to measure this relevance, and he is seeing that it is social media.
Right now, there are a bunch of SEOs listening to what Danny Sullivan has to say about social media strategy because they trust him. But some SEOs refuse to re-evaluate what brings value to their clients, (note: this Sphinn user was not in attendance) even saying that Jason should not be allowed at conferences. These sentiments just prove to him that what he is doing is right. It is innovators dilemma. SEOs got where they are today by being great at SEO strategies. Asking them to adopt social media as a new strategy is new and foreign. As Danny tries to lead his followers to new territory, some think he is betraying them and the strategies that made them the stars they are today. Some might be too afraid to go back to their clients to tell them they are going to try some new strategies to help their clients succeeded. They should remember that this does not mean the work they did in the past did not allow for successes or was a bad idea. SEO definitely has been one of the main ways to help clients succeed on the web for the past 10 years. But, there is no need to defend past actions with future ignorance. They need to redefine their metrics. The longer they wait, the more likely they will get their lunch eaten.
Thus, the knee-jerk reaction to Jason Calicanis’s rhetoric that SEO is a dying or bad strategy. Yes, let’s admit that Jason loves to agitate people by rubbing strategy decay into SEO’s faces, bad Jason ;). No one is going to tell an SEO that they are not giving value to their clients using SEO techniques. It just that the tactics they are using need to evolve.
Less attention is going to be paid to traditional SEO because (especially in the creation of static pages) now it is so much easier and valuable to create site with an open source blog, CMS, wiki or other application platform that may or may not rely on search engine traffic. Sure, even with these there are some ways to tweak them from an SEO perspective, but not as much as you might have needed to do 10 years ago. This is disruptive technology, bad news for the traditional SEOs that build sites from scratch, sprinkling in their elusive, magical SEO code. But, the developers of these open source CMS apps have figured out how to do the complicated SEO work for you (why else would Matt Cutts speak, attend, and endorse Wordcamp?). Here (along with social media application designers) is where good SEO needs to happen, and smart web strategists will realize that this is where it should continue to happen, because it scales and eliminates redundant work. You just need to wait for the search engines to spider your site. Now, traditional SEOs (which should now be called web strategists) should have more time available to add additional types of value for their clients by either engaging in social media on their behalf, or teaching them how to engaging with their prospects in a way that will help them efficiently meet their goals over the web. This is done by creating “meaningful relationships” (for lack of a better term) with people. At this point, SEO is just one of many tactics used by a web strategist. So calling a person an SEOs or SEM will soon be a way to show how outdated or limited that person’s strategy toolbox is. SEO competes with other value-adding strategies if all you do is SEO. Thus, SEO people see social media strategy as a threat. Being a web strategist is where it’s at.
Update 4/25/08: Oh yeah, add semantic web to the list in the title.
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