SEOs – Your Days Are Numbered

I’ve had a feeling for the last year at least, that the “SEO game” is due for a radical change.  I didn’t know exactly what it would be (still don’t exactly) but I’ve felt all along that it would be related to “personalized search results”.  In other words, each individual searcher getting their OWN set of results that is unique to them, and influenced by their past activities rather than just by some algorithm in a black box.

Based on some of the recent things I’ve seen change when I use Google (my search engine of choice), and by some information I’m not at liberty to discuss, I’m more convinced than ever that the “end of SEO” is coming.  Here’s why I think the way I do (based on things I can legally discuss):

1.  As Google goes, so does the rest of the (SE) world.  Every time Google implements something, everyone else follows suit – eventually.  So I’m using Google in all this discussion but it will apply equally to other SEs, just delayed.

2.  Google has been making search results more personalized for some time already, just by things like Geo-IP location detection.  In the last year, I was on the phone with a friend and we were trying to look something up together.  It was maddening because we COULD NOT get his results to match mine, because our IP addresses were returning different data.  This was true both of the actual search results, as well as Google Suggest.  Everything was localized to our individual areas.

3.  Google is constantly fighting the “black hat SEOs” who are trying to game their algorithm, so it’s in their best interests to stop them from ever being able to game any single algorithm.  Personalized searches would stop (nearly) all current BHSEO tactics cold.

4.  Google makes money from advertising.  The better the response to the ads for their advertisers, the more Google can charge for them.  Advertising is a quality vs. quantity game for Google.  I saw some recent metrics on how much money they make from their “big budget” advertisers vs. everyone else… it was staggering.  A tiny minority of their advertisers are responsible for the VAST majority of their revenue.  The more they can do to push the “little guys” out of Adwords, the better it is for them as a company.  Personalized searches should give even better results for the big players, and make it that much harder for the little players to work their way into the organic OR paid results.

5.  With the introduction of Google+, Google has a huge wealth of data they can mine.  Once people adopt this platform (assuming of course that they do), then Google will begin knowing things about you that they can use to tailor your search experience way further.  They’ll know things about your friends, about which of your friends you are most similar to, who’s taste you most likely share, etc.  Add to this the new “+1” concept, and Google has an incredible amount of information about things you like, and therefore are most likely to want to see related items come back in your search results.  Eventually over time they’ll be able to build some sort of relational map between different search results and the people who liked them, and more precisely target individuals both for organic search results, as well as paid advertisements.

I could probably come up with more, but I think that’s enough to get the point across.  All of these things together, mean that the days of being able to SEO for a specific term and get that term to rank universally for everyone – are soon to be gone.  How do you SEO a term when there is absolutely no guarantee that the same search term will return the same results for any two people?  And how do you check your rankings when they’re now meaningless?

I think SEOs had better start changing their ways – and FAST – or they’re going to find themselves overnight, the victims of a complete and total loss of traffic to their sites, with absolutely no way of recovering it.


6 thoughts on “SEOs – Your Days Are Numbered

  1. While i agree with the general idea of the post… I am not 100% sold on this altogether. The reason is first of all the death of seo has been touted for a while. I remember people saying that paid search would be the death of seo… well it is not.

    As for IP… well that too has been around for a while., .com, and all those, all give different results. Google has improved on this even more and you can now get local results immediately just typing in general terms like “movie times”.

    This is of course why local seo is such a hot commodity right now.

    The thing to remember however is not everything is local and google also realizes… I woudl assume… that forcing local specific results for everything will remove the chance for finding the best deals.

    For example, the term “improve memory” is not one that really is location specific and so, chances are it would be a shared result across different locations.

    That however does not take into account about google+… which is obviously going to be worked into the algorithm as facebook likes and tweets are currently being used.

    What in my opinion this means is, you are gong to need to know your market and how google ranks. You had better also integrate social variables like google+, twitter and facebook PLUS you had better have good content. Now does this mean that backlinks will be discounted… of course not. Just reduced in authority… but not removed.

  2. Yeah you’re right, everything has seen its “death” already probably more than once! LOL

    I probably should’ve made that point clear… it’s not that SEO will go away (where there’s an algorithm, there will be people trying to twist it to their advantage), but I think it’s going to change SO MUCH that today’s methods will basically be gone, or reduced so much in effectiveness as to make them a waste of effort.

    I’ve no idea when this is coming, I don’t think it’s going to be super soon like in a few weeks or anything. I think we’ll see a more obvious shift probably by the end of the year, but who really knows.

    I wish I could give more details but I can’t… suffice it to say that I’ve seen some things that required me to sign an NDA, so I feel pretty confident in my statements. I think it’s going to ultimately go way beyond even just needing to incorporate social into your SEO.

    But time will tell us for sure! 🙂


  3. I have a question. If these changes do come about, where does this leave all the companies with websites that rely on non-local traffic to survive? There are many websites, companies, that need customers from all over the world to stay in business, any ideas?

    • That’s a fantastic question Darrell… and I doubt anyone really knows the answer for sure yet!

      My belief is that these changes don’t actually mean the “death” of all SEO, just that techniques are going to change – a LOT. Businesses of all sizes are going to need to adapt in order to keep traffic coming to them for their product or service. It’s going to be a challenging period for sure, but new methods (and undoubtedly tools to support them) will emerge and those who jump on them and implement them the soonest, stand to reap the rewards more quickly.

      This just means that the days of simply optimizing your on-page factors for a given keyword, and getting plenty of backlinks with that keyword as anchor text, aren’t going to cut it as much. Sure those things will probably still matter to some degree, but of much more importance to determining what you see on in search results, will be what you’ve “liked” (literally and technologically speaking) in the past, as well as what you’re “friends” (as determined by your Google+ circles for example) have liked in the past.

      Much beyond that though… my crystal ball is in the shop! LOL


  4. Google are at least consistent. They state repeatedly that they are all about creating a better user experience and they obviously believe that tailored results will yield that. I’m not sure as a consumer that I want to be classified as predictable or just like anyone else I know. Having said that, when I ask/search for something, I want Google to give it to me with a minimum of scrolling and clicking. There will probably be an amalgamation of the two – local, tailored results together with the regular search algorithm.

    • Yep I’m inclined to agree with you Jill. And if you think about it a bit, it makes sense that whatever they do for individual results, they CAN’T avoid “generic” results completely. What about searches by people who aren’t logged in a google or google+ account? They’ll have to still server regular results in those cases, and I’m sure there will be plenty of people who fit that description.

      But I think those who SEO for markets that are more likely to be a part of these types of social networks (and obviously Google is gunning for Facebook with G+) is going to get a lot harder.

      Time to focus more on 2nd tier and lower engines perhaps?


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