Last Friday I dropped a flash-bang into the room saying search engine optimization (SEO) isn’t what you should be concerned about. I got one comment from a SEO person pointing out, very nicely, that I didn’t know what I was talking about because SEO is still very important. I don’t disagree with that statement because SEO is important... especially if you’re selling ink cartridges and boner pills. That still doesn’t take away from my original statement. SEO is not what you should be concerned about, especially if your business is about anything other than commodities.
When Google got going in the mid double-oughts, search was THE thing. People were still getting used to this interwebs thing and it was kinda fascinating being able to find all kinds of stuff that normally took a dozen phone books and a lot of shoe leather. It also turned the garden hose of information in our lives into a viaduct. People started applying subjective filters on where they got that information. Some people chose Google as the start-up page, which became MyGoogle. Other when to Yahoo. Some chose the sites of traditional publications like the NY Times. Then browsers started adding search widgets in the browsers themselves. Then social networks appeared. That’s when SEO went from THE thing to ONE of the things you had to be concerned about.
Social networks changed the game because now the subjective filter was not a landing page, but what your friends and co-workers thought was important. If your audience could find out about you from those they trusted, they would be more likely to buy stuff from you. That is what has made Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and all the others successful... for now. That is starting to go away. Users are starting to switch allegiances to social media platforms as often as they change phone service or cable providers, but the market, overall, has gone static, and for good reason.
The social platforms are starting to be gamed by marketers whose primary function is to boost sales by any means possible. There are many who are adhering to basic decency and trying to use social media in a non-invasive manner, but there are even more who are using unscrupulous means to get into the head of the audience. That is creating a not insignificant level of distrust in the platforms themselves, just as search is not suspect, hence the recent halt in the growth of the more popular platforms in the US. Google is entering the fray late with yet the third incarnation of their social effort with Google+, but the issues of privacy and who owns what on the network is affecting usage. Yes, they have had a lot of signups, but while the reviews are good, Facebook groups remains the active platform for now.
So we are entering into another cycle; one that will be difficult for the current players to understand. It is a cycle that will be based on ethics and trust and it is something that cannot be generated by an algorithm. This is going to take some work.
And I will talk about that next week.