Can Search Engine Optimization Survive Google?

How Do You Optimize For Every Individual Customer?

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The search engine landscape is ever changing. We covered that. However, while there are multiple players involved in facilitating that change, there is one that drives it far more than the rest of the competition. Obviously, we’re talking about Google.

Is there a point where adapting to Google’s changes becomes impossible? Share your thoughts.

To a very drastic extent, Google drives how the search engine marketing industry operates. With Google holding such a dominant share of the search market, it’s not hard to figure out why. While some may tell you it’s not the most productive use of your marketing time, businesses who hope to find success in driving people to their website (or even brick and mortar store) often hang on every word Google says and every change Google makes to its search engine and/or search results.

Liz Gannes with the tech blog GigaOm recently spoke with Google Engineering Director David Glazer about Google’s approach to social for 2010. And we come back to that changing search landscape. Social plays a huge role in it, and Glazer acknowledged just that. Gannes reports:

In 2010, Google plans to expose and elicit more of the social network built into the tools that many of us already use — Gmail, Google Talk, etc. If you use Google products, the company already knows who your most important contacts are, what your core interests are, and where your default locations are. Glazer said to expect many product and feature launches that start to connect that information in useful ways.

"Everything is better when it knows who I am," said Glazer, who is responsible for working on developer platforms that include social aspects — a more distributed role than he had at Google in the past, Glazer said, when he was working on social exclusively. That’s an improvement, he said, since social products are no longer siloed within the company.

What does "social" mean to Google? "Who I am, who do I know, what do I do," said Glazer. (emphasis added)

Back in October, Google released its experimental Social Search feature, which Google said would help users "find more relevant public content from their broader social circle."

Relevance of social search has been questioned though. WebProNews recently discussed search trends for 2010 and beyond with comScore‘s "Search Evangelist" Eli Goodman. Believe it or not, social search is counted among these trends, and he mentions such a lack of relevance in social search results.

The real question is: is SEO going to become less relevant? Before you get all worked up, I will acknowledge that SEO is based on adaptation and changing along with the search engines. In fact, that was essentially the topic of a recent WebProNews article. Hear me out.

Right now, search engine optimization as we know it is still very relevant for businesses, but as Google learns more about who people are, they’re going to direct them to what they think is right. Social search and personalized search are very closely related.

Think about Google’s universal search, which aims to deliver results Google thinks you might want. These results draw from a wide variety of different places – Google News, Google’s real-time index, YouTube, etc. Each set of universal results takes more attention away from the regular old organic results. How long until social search (or something like it) becomes a part of this.

And let’s not forget about mobile. Smartphones are taking the world by storm, and Google is doing everything in its power to take over this market (though it still has work to do). Google knows your location if you let it. Then you have Google Latitude. Google knows your friends’ locations if they let it. Then, what happens when Chrome OS (Google’s Operating System) comes out. It may not catch on as much as Google would like, but then again it may. It starts on netbooks, but how long until that grows into something bigger?

Google just keeps on releasing more products. More products means more opportunities for the company to encourage use of other Google products. They also keep acquiring more companies by the way, and that includes the recent acquisition of a mobile advertising agency and an attempted acquisition of Yelp (the failure of which, was quickly compensated for to some extent by Google’s release of the "Near me Now" feature).

As Gannes notes, Google has this month brought on strategists Joseph Smarr and Chris Messina, who she says are "widely known for their advocacy of the open social web." This likely will lead to more social and personalized experiences related to search.

Chris Brogan, one of the posterboys for social media, read the article too, and makes some pretty good points for businesses. Rather, he asks questions. Questions like:

– Does your company know how you are?
– Do they know who you know?
– Do they know what you do?

Questions like these are already important for a business looking to establish its identity (not to mention tell its story), but they could become increasingly important in an era of new SEO strategies.

"People expect a certain level of customer service as table stakes to the game," says Brogan. "In the new, much more wired world, I believe we’re asking for more. I want my airlines to know just how often I fly, which seat I tend to choose, how often I upgrade, and whether I normally check my bag. Think about how helpful they could be if they did something with that information."

Naturally, privacy plays a big role in the scheme of things, and as Brogan notes, that means opt-in. However, I think people generally trust Google (the search engine), at least to the extent that they will continue using it for the foreseeable future. I am well aware that many people do NOT trust Google, but within the broad spectrum of the general public, people trust it. Google’s search market share is evidence of that.

So, moving into the future, as Google makes efforts to tailor the user experience to a more social and more personalized one, where does that leave traditional SEO? Can it survive? It’s always been about adaptation and will continue to be, but is there a breaking point where SEO will be trumped by who users know and where they are? Who they are? Can you optimize for every individual customer? That’s where things could get tricky.

If you have thoughts on the matter, we would love to hear them in the comments.

Related Articles:

Google Launches Social Search Experiment

Optimizing for Mixed Media Search Results

Succeeding In SEO Requires Change

Can Search Engine Optimization Survive Google?
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  • http://insurancemarketinghq.com Nick

    “In 2010, Google plans to expose and elicit more of the social network built into the tools that many of us already use

  • http://inklingmedia.net Ken Mueller

    I agree with much of what Brogan says, as well as some of the pronouncements from Scoble. I think SEO has to change, and for the better. Google is too smart, and as you mentioned, controls more and more properties. Many SEO firms work on artificial link building and sales, and that just isn’t going to cut it anymore. In fact, I’m already seeing some businesses LOSE SE placement despite the best efforts of their SEO company.

    We need to get back where we started: good, relevant content. Our sites need to provide this content on a regular basis. That in turn will generate good, organic inbound links, which are much better than anything that can be done artificially. And utilizing social media properly will be a big part of this.

    There is no way anyone can keep up and outguess Google. So stick with the basics. I’ll stand by my reputation and work to get people to find me and hire me, rather than spend a lot of money to have an SEO firm do too much tweaking on speculation.

    Plus, I tell all of my clients to avail themselves of all of the different tools that Google provides. If Google is going to own the SE game, using their built in tools can only help!

    • LookingConfident

      12 months (or, so) ago, I had warned of what was to come …….. Only to be ‘laughed off’ by a couple of reasonably prominent SEO practitioners … My reply is best put within my (the following)post from over here in OZ just now, on ShareCafe.com.au …FWIW, of course….

      I had asked the following questions in my post reply [Re: 95% drop in reach] to ‘yarpie’ Dev Beeley (who came out in support of the SEO on-slaught of Looksmart at the time), but (in reality), I had predicted the end of the “business” of SEO long before, in a number of my posts.

      Q? – How has the “world of SEO” worked out for your ‘crowd’, since your “targeting” of Looksmart, in such an unfair manner?

      Q? – And how does the next two years and behond, appear to your own SEO world, I would ask you?

      And (as was predicted), it would appear that…. the SEO “crowd” are now feeling the “pinch”.

      For we now have an ‘insider’ in the very Industry asking the same question. Amazing, isn’t it?

      Can Search Engine Optimization Survive Google?? – 8 hours ago – [WebProNews.com]

      “…..So, moving into the future, as Google makes efforts to tailor the user experience to a more social and more personalized one, where does that leave traditional SEO? Can it survive?

      It’s always been about adaptation and will continue to be, but is there a breaking point where SEO will be trumped by who users know and where they are? Who they are?

      Can you optimize for every individual customer? That’s where things could get tricky.>

      The situation now is quickly becoming, can Google (itself) survive the “changes” ahead in 2010? – Let alone ……. the ‘horse and cart’ business of SEO …

      Perhaps the question now, should be……..

      Can Looksmart’s private labeled AdCenter for both publishers and advertisers best “optimize” for each and every “enquiry” (or, impression) and provide a maximum return for publisher and the very ‘best’ ROI for advertisers, in doing so?

      I guess the SEO ‘crowd’ are just starting to find out that, this will be so. As predicted, of course.


      “SEO crowd now hearing footsteps”?


      Cheers and good luck.


  • http://www.pageonewebsolutions.com Chris Sullivan

    IMO, the be all end all of this discussion is, as Chris mentions, how much information customers are willing to give. The more they are willing to provide, the more relevancy the social products have. the less the customer gives, the less important the social aspect becomes. What evidence do we have that future customers are going to be willing to provide this in depth type of information freely and on a regular basis to their vendors and associates??

    • LookingConfident

      You asked…”What evidence do we have that future customers are going to be willing to provide this in depth type of information freely and on a regular basis to their vendors and associates??”

      Try going through those 350 million (or, more) profiles on Facebook for a clue, maybe?

      OMG !!


      • Stupidscript

        Social media, as a collection of tools like Facebook, Twitter, et al., has only been around long enough to begin to affect the rest of the web. We have no way of knowing how deep it will go, or for how long it will last.

        That being said, we see all sorts of people putting amazing amounts of information about themselves in their social applications for who knows what reasons. The big question that hasn’t been asked yet (because it’s too much fun to assume these things will go on forever) is: What will the blowback be from a truly large negative event?

        For example, what if …

        – A Twitter hack successfully compromised every account, and the purloined dataset was immediately sold to an aggressive identity theft operation? Every account is affected!

        – A Facebook worm removed all privacy flags on every account and then went much further by re-assigning data from any account to any other account, resulting in new pictures and messages on YOUR profile that belonged to a complete stranger? Every account is affected! You are now looking at boudoir photos posted by a 15-year old in the Ukraine instead of those pics you took of your privates in the pool house dressing room to send, privately, to your lover … and who knows WHERE your pics ended up!

        How long would people trust their personal details to Twitter or Facebook after such an event? How long would it take for the repercussions of such an event to ripple through the rest of the social media community? How long before NOBODY wanted to post personal information online?

        We have NO evidence that “future customers are going to be willing to provide” any information following such an event, so the question is valid. Heck, it took transistor radios more than a decade to fade into oblivion, same as will happen with the current crop of personal music players, so how could anyone remain confident that there will be no great upheaval in the status quo? If nothing else, we should all be expecting change, and lots of it.

  • http://www.eshkol.com Giora Eshkol

    I’m on the Internet since 1994 when it was first published in LA.
    The Internet to me is still a child and I remember Yahoo starting up
    so Google is going to be too complex and someone else will come up with a cure and on and on it will go it seems to me.

  • http://www.metrocrete.com Ed Winslow

    I keep marching forward assuming Google will reward quality relative content. If Google changes the game and I am no longer profitable then I guess that means I’m out. I’ll have to then find another path. Any tips, let me know.

  • http://www.simplyclicks.com Simply Clicks

    Google is, and will, remain a significant part of search and SEO. Its attempts at blended search involving web, image, shopping, news and real-time varieties of the SERPs show that its taking the disintegration of the core search market very seriously. However, search runs at Internet time. Google, as a major stock exchange listed corporation will increasingly be subject to the drag that comes with corporate giovernance. It will find that it becomes increasingly difficult to cover all the bases. Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Gumtree, Tweetdeck are all highly valuable Internet properties that have emerged under Google’s shadow and can arguably exist outside of the search derived provenance that is Google’s power.

  • Satheesh Kumar

    Even if Google or other search vendors personalizes search results based on user’s identity and usage statistics, SEO investment by businesses to enhance pageranks for their websites would still be relevant. In fact, the combination would just improve the overall relevancy of search results to individual users.

    For e.g, search engine optimized website of a trucking provider might be more relevant only to users whom Google “knows” about having affinity to trucking contacts or processes. Thus search results become more targetted as a result of the combination.

  • http://www.islandvillaweddings.com Adrian

    The thought that crosses my mind, reading all the information Google plan to try to obtain in order to personalize the information they then provide, is that if a Government were to suggest trying the same approach everyone would be jumping on the Civil Liberties bandwagon and accusing them of intrusion in personal lives. It seems we, the public, are quite happy to share our personal information with the likes of Google, or at least that is what Google believes and I am sure they have done their market research. I just wonder what happens if Government(s) decide they also want all the info Google will have on each one of us. Can Google keep it safe?

    • Guest

      No company can keep that kind of info “safe” if tha ruling government want it. Any company that believes it can is arrogant beyond belief.

      Don’t forget that info won’t just contain details of US citizens but details of people all over the world.. And add to that the the US Government has a phrase that can get it anything it desires… “war on terror” ring any bells?

  • http://www.findandconvert.com/blog/ Bernie Borges

    I’ve been saying since last year that SEO is really evolving to “search optimization” or SO. People use the web in a much broader way than traditional search. And, search engines are being redefined. When you search in Wikipedia, Facebook or Twitter you are conducting a “search” but you’re not using Google.

    I’m convinced the reason Google has long been diversifying their offerings strategy is because they’ve seen this coming for years and they need to fuel their revenue engine to keep Wall Street happy.

    As marketers, we need to ensure that we can be found and engaged broadly across the web where our customers “search.”

    Bernie Borges

  • http://www.e-business.ie Ann Donnelly

    … so that it works a good as possible on all fronts — search engine performance as well as visitor experience & conversion, social media integration, mobile viewing, accessibility, etc…

    If we get too focused on only one of these aspects, it’s so easy to loose site of the rest and all are important.

  • http://www.santhos.nl/website_laten_maken/ website laten maken

    I absolutely don’t like all this stuff Google’s working on. I believe they should give independent search results. I want to stay in control of the audience I want to reach, don’t want Google to do that for me…

  • http://cleanstar-homeandgardenworld.com Clean Star

    I’m just wondering when Giant Google will try to take over and run my business. Before long I will feel like I’m sitting in a glass house and Google watches me all the time.
    I don’t like all their influence and in my honest opinion, I think they should just deliver search term related search results and leave it by that.
    Small businesses like mine, they do not have a huge amount of customers and Facebook “friends” or Twitter “Followers” will be in a disadvantage before long. A small home based business can not take care for Facebook and tweet all day long on Twitter like big companies can do. Building backlinks, adding informative content to the site, taking care for updating stock inventory, getting orders out and taking care for item returns and whatever else a business brings on the day to take care for, takes time enough.
    Maybe I’m wrong about this but that’s just the way how I see things from the point of view of a small business owner.

  • Bogo

    I just hate it when someone tries to make decisions for me.
    I hate it when Google gives me google.it when I’m in Italy, google.de when I’m in Germany and google.hr when I’m in Croatia.
    And all I wanted was google.com.

    Now they say they will see who my friends are, what kind of soup I prefer to eat, when do I go to toilet and serve me the search results based on that.
    So they think they know what I want better than I do?
    Who do they think they are? God?
    I hope some new Google will be created based on ORIGINAL GOOGLE’S PRINCIPLES.
    I’m waiting for a worthy opponent to Google.
    It’s time for a change.
    Remember: it was US who made Google great.
    They better listen to what we have to say. Or bye, bye Google.

  • http://www.discountdental4u.net Discount Dental Ken

    Be afraid. Be very afraid.

  • http://writingasaghost.services.officelive.com Denise Rutledge

    I doubt it. Here’s why. No matter how much Google may think it knows about me, when I launch into a search for a product, about the only thing in Google’s knowledge base that it is going to find useful is info like whether I prefer clicking through to local business or not.

    I am sure Google could collect other information that directs delivery of information it thinks I might prefer, but I can’t see any way to get around the fact that SEO provides a backbone for search. Where the change is going to come is in using meta tags for SEO keywords. I can see these disappearing as Google uses the content itself to determine what the keywords are.

    Depending on how Google rolls this out, personalized search metrics have the potential for decreasing Google’s usefulness for a lot of people.

  • Guest

    Google is nuckin’ futs. I don’t want Google giving me altered results because it thinks it knows what I’m looking for. And the worst part of it all is that the vast majority of end users will never know Google is collecting their information or altering their results.

    I’m switching to Bing.

    • Guest

      This guy has been beating me over the head with the hammer he has in his hand.

      I’m switching to this other guy because he hasn’t beat me with the hammer he has in his hand, yet.

      Bing? Google? Are you serious? It’s called “behavioral targeting”, and EVERY search engine is doing it. If they are not, they are going out of business.

      And besides, if Microsoft (Bing) doesn’t have quite as much personal data on you as Google has (and let’s not forget who built and “Automatic Updates” the operating system you use even when you are not on Google), don’t you expect they will be trying harder to get it?

  • http://www.bodylinemall.ro bodyline

    Google optimizat gooo

  • http://www.suplimenteshop.ro Guest


  • http://www.body-line.ro bodyline

    Equipment sportswear for fitness and body building. Google send to me 2

  • http://www.marketing-jive.com Jody

    Chris, great post. The fact is search marketers should not fear things like personalization or algorithm changes. Online marketing is more than SEO and optimizing to “manipulate” search engine results. It’s about providing the right content to the right audience at the right time.. which is why social works so well, it’s on the users’ own terms. Moving forward in 2010 and beyond, it is more than search engine optimization, it is about things like engagement, understanding, relevancy, content and attribution.

  • http://www.shop.body-line.ro Guest

    Protein for Google , and i thanks for 1

  • http://www.centrusolar.ro bodyline

    Solarium for Google

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    yes sure

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    google slim

  • Guest Alan

    I don’t text. I don’t tweet. I don’t facebook. I don’t do social networking. I am not at the top of search results for this? Does not make sense. I sell products made in America yet the top SEO results are held by companies selling Chinese goods. www.motorcyclejackets.com

  • http://seovengeance.com Donny Lyons

    It’s true that consumers are getting smarter and people do a lot of research before making a purchase. This serves the community well, soon it will be about how many conversations your apart of as opposed to how many backlinks you have coming in.

    Google has already implemented a few social features in the search engines on some keywords.

  • Guest

    The problem with Google is that the company is owned by shareholders, and over time, those shareholders will do with Google what corporate shareholders have always done with companies.

    Google is becoming too powerful, and one day the people who founded Google will no longer control or run the company and it will be owned by and controlled by shareholders and executives who’s one and only motto is “make more money for me at any cost” as we saw happen with newspapers over the past thirty years.

    Those shareholders and their bean counters are no doubt already having a growing behind the scenes influence over the direction that Google is taking.

  • http://www.bestsinceretrade.com Guest

    i surf on internet just in two years,but google is not so power in china,we know the search engine have effect company perfomace muchj,i dont hope google monopoly the search markets.

  • http://www.a1floridavacation.com Paul

    Yes surely Search Engine Optimization will survive because, as per my knowledge every search model based on good and relevant search results. and mostly guys work Search Engine Optimization as spammer to build links everywhere….that is wrong and in future search engines will sure find artificial links..

  • Guest

    I don’t know if anyone else has noticed, but the results Google gives are becoming more and more irrelevant to the search terms used.
    If I search for ‘Septic tanks’, I don’t want news results, local government sites, images, etc. and I certainly won’t want any results for the rubbish tweeted on Twitter!!
    Google has lost the plot.

    • Guest

      I agree and have given up on Google searches. I use Bing now and find the results are much more relevant.

      What is the attraction of Twitter anyway? Most of it is rubbish.

      • Guest

        What garbage Twitter is!! If I ever feel like commiting suicide I think I will go on Twitter first just to get the final incentive.

    • Bill Brocklebank

      I cannot imagine why any serious search engine would bother about the results from Twitter. Most of them are mindless comments about nothing by people who don’t have enough to do.
      If the Aliens’ first contact with us was via Twitter, they would be certain that there were no intelligent life forms on Earth.

    • http://www.seo-dublin.com SEO Dublin

      Ive definetly noticed that and I understand Google are moving away from promoting businesses directly in the organic results and pushing businesses to advertise on PPC. The screen realestate is diminishing for the organic results and a recent study showed that the organic screen realestate is now approx 30% meaning 60% of the screen is local business, Sponsored links etc. However the opportunity to include a site 3 times on page 1 now exists and this alone can be of huge value if used correctly.

  • http://www.mcware.co.uk/ SEO2010

    SEO started mainly by trying to get search results on top in google and in trying to do so, SEO has become a big business on its own now. Today SEO is all around the world in forms of tools, strategies, conferences, etc all trying to make money. As long as search will continue on the web, SEO will be there, whether its on google or any other search engines or social media sites which are used as much as google.

  • http://www.acceptic.com Sean

    I’d even say a harsh post. Well, it looks like the reality for SEO is becoming harsh too.

  • http://www.snkoutlet.com Fred

    Google dominating search results! In turn, google controls your online business. When I search for for a product, I want to see the search results of online stores who offer the product! Not news articles, Tweets or all the other irrelevant stuff!!

    • http://howilivefrugal.blogspot.com Andrew Serrano

      If you are looking for product results then you normally wouldn’t be using Google’s search results anyway. You should use Google’s product search feature, or another comparison shopping engine, if you are looking for products.

  • http://www.jewelrybycustomdesign.com Joyce Aldawood

    I, too, am amazed that quality content, great product- made in the U.S.A.- and true value for your dollar just aren’t going to cut it alongside 140 character comments. We make high quality, custom jewelry that we design ourselves. We give our customers so much more than they would get from a retail store. And, now I am told that what someone tweets about going to the grocery store for a loaf of bread is going to be more important than my well thought out article giving tips for selecting an engagement ring- real information- not just some ad that says come to my custom jewelry design studio- Well, if so, then lots of people will miss the opportunity to meet a real jewelry designer and have a great piece of jewelry designed and created at a fair price.

  • http://www.gulmargski.org Fayaz Ahmad Badyari

    I can understand the ferocious nature of improving one’s business by over taking every thing else. But it is human nature to adapt to every difficulty. This is a signal to others who have same aims, that we the people who live here will not easily give up. We surely have fear but we will not loose. Google is gathering an army to make roads on which it wants every one should walk. But all new modern roads are built on the old paths which were used centuries ago. So i suppose unity can make change, Google has to make its roads where we choose the path to be. SEO today is just a way of improving your the rank of your websites on search engines by gaining more & more links to increase the popularity of your website by submitting, Articles, Blogs, Press Releases, Classified ads, Forums, Url, Link Building, Video , Listing in Directories. Looking for the relevant keywords that match your business, Putting an article on your pages that attract search engines to make your website to rank higher on as many key words. How to come out of Google sand box effect within a month or two. The most effective way is how relevant you make your website, that people & goole looks at it. This is just a hour process daily 5 days a week for every one. If seo is so easy then the ways google is trying to explore how long would it take us to work on it 1hr 30 min or 2 hrs. Google is more robotic & will get even more robotic, which is understood that it can easily be outsmarted. And even if it uses humans then we should be happy, we have been in competition with fellow humans since we were born & still we are surviving & ARE HAPPY. If we unite Google will be just a competitor. This comment is written not to offend any one, If some one feels ofended, I appologise.

  • Stupidscript

    If you expect Google to give you a hand during the end of the world, and maybe helping you lug your stuff out to your car so you can escape to somewhere where life is not ending, you will be disappointed. Your friends and neighbors probably won’t be much help, either. I hope this doesn’t come as a surprise to you.

    (I know … don’t feed the trolls … but this one is so SHINY!)

  • http://spartanseo.com Furniture SEO

    Regardless of what search engines do, SEO will always be needed since content will always be judged by its words and references. Think about it.

  • http://www.websites-seo.gr Chris

    I don’t think that there will not be the need for SEO. I want to believe that we need to adjust with new facts and move to new strategies

  • http://www.semjava.com/ seo packages

    SEO helps add potential customers and the number of quality leads to your website as well. In fact, most organizations can adopt Internet marketing and advertising strategies to generate better business.

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