2010: the year SEO isn’t important anymore?

The writing is on the wall. Small business marketing is moving away from focusing on SEO. Why do I say that? Because, well, Google and Bing are changing the rules so often and are getting so good at figuring out the real businesses that deserve to be on pages. Search Half Moon Bay Sushi and you get real answers from sites that didn’t focus on SEO. Yeah, there are exceptions, but they are increasingly getting rare.

With other searches, like one for Tiger Woods, you’ll get a page filled with stuff that SEO just doesn’t affect much anymore. In the middle of that page is a real time box that brings items from Twitter and Google News. It no longer is good enough to be just an SEO expert to get items onto pages like these. You’ve gotta be great at creating content that gets Google’s algorithms to trust it enough to shove it onto these new hybrid pages.

But there’s something deeper going on. Google has built systems that aren’t Page Rank controlled anymore and are giving far better analytics to small businesses than they did a year ago. They know a LOT more about your behavior now other than you clicked on a link, even to the extent that they know whether you called that business or bought something and THAT is changing the skills SEO/SEM types need to have.

No longer is it about optimizing search engine results and the new breed is going beyond just search engines to provide holistic systems that find and track customers not only on search engines like Google and Bing, but on social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Yesterday I sat down with two of the guys behind a new company, coming in January, called “MyNextCustomer,” who already is working with about 50 small businesses and are getting much better results than more traditional “SEO/SEM only firms.”

Make no mistake, the two guys I sat down with, George Revutsky and Dustin Kittelson, who are co-founders of ROI.works, which is a search marketing firm, have been doing search engine and online marketing for a long time (since 1996 in George’s case) and they share their insights in this 30-minute conversations about what’s happening to small business online marketing.

I came away from this conversations thinking that SEO is getting dramatically less important and that SEM should be renamed to “OM” for “Online Marketing” since small businesses need to take a much more holistic approach to marketing than just worrying about search results.

Are you seeing the same trends in your business?

About Robert Scoble

As Startup Liaison for Rackspace, the Open Cloud Computing Company, I travel the world with Rocky Barbanica looking for what's happening on the bleeding edge of technology and report that here.

79 thoughts on “2010: the year SEO isn’t important anymore?

  1. Hmm.. nice post I think, I m not pretty sure that on 2010 SEO will useless, it might transform to more natural and “human”, The SEO company might no longer working based on contract, but they have target for their client website, for example they targetted in 3 months the website will be have pagerank 1, or one keyword with two phrase would be in the top 10 of SERP in 10 days, who knows…

    posted by : http://www.cybartshop.co.cc

  2. Hmm.. nice post I think, I m not pretty sure that on 2010 SEO will useless, it might transform to more natural and “human”, The SEO company might no longer working based on contract, but they have target for their client website, for example they targetted in 3 months the website will be have pagerank 1, or one keyword with two phrase would be in the top 10 of SERP in 10 days, who knows…

    posted by : http://www.cybartshop.co.cc

  3. 'CMS packages automatically having “decent” SEO features, etc”

    A CMS like wordpress is very cool and useful no doubt. But it cannot automatically provide you will a top 10 ranking on Google for a well targeted keyword phrase. Sure every once in awhile a blind squirrel gets a nut, but for a business that is selling a product or service and looking to generate revenues online this has to be a deliberate SEO process.

  4. Link exchanges have been irrelevant for quite some time. Real time search is new, exciting and interesting but how many business need to be found in real time search under “tiger woods affair”?

    Don't get me wrong I'm a proponent for social media all the way but the real time search and social media is still very new and evolving. It' has not matured to the level of search engine results pages. Real businesses that offer products and services and still living and dying by SERPs and PPC.

  5. As the technical aspects of creating a website become less of an issue (in light of the numerous pre-built CMS's engineered to produce good markup) and article campaigns & social media become more important, the future will see more of a need for specialisation in these areas. I've written an article on my blog, partly inspired by this post at:


  6. “Yep, I've been saying this for ages. We all know that Google often fails to give us good results, throwing up tired and gamed affiliate sites (some made by me!) which don't really meet the user's search requirements. Of course Google were going to improve on this! “

  7. Danny I think you fell for some old fashioned link bait. Thank you Danny for stepping up to the plate and keep up the good work. I guess this type of “SEO dead, dyeing debate going away” debate will never end. As long as search results are provided in an ordered list. Someone will always try to be the top dog. SEO dies when a search engine stops using links that lead to other websites. When you type in a search query and your answer pops up in plain text/image/video and it's perfect, SEO will die.

  8. Good post. I wrote a very similar post on my blog about a week ago, called, “There's no future in SEO” (http://colinalsheimer.com/theres-no-future-in-seo). In it, I took a somewhat similar stance in that there's an ever decreasing need in the marketplace for the SEO specialist. More people are becoming Internet marketing savvy, and know at least the basics of SEO (enough to get them part way there, anyway). Plus, SEO friendly CMS platforms are creating less of a need to optimize code.

    Like you, I just don't see it as a viable industry or profession in the next 5-10 years. The Internet marketing game will be ruled by the generalist, who is adept at using a variety of tactics (SEO, PPC, Social, Content Marketing, etc.) to accomplish a goal.

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  10. Hi,
    “How permanent it would be..?” Not at all! 24 hours of mad, crazy buyers all after the same thing! We sold out, we had add-on sales, we made some money..then it stopped! Then I slept!
    But some have repeat purchased – yes.
    The “permanancy” needs to some from the marketing strategist who has the next idea, the next rollout ready to go. Is this the SEO? Will it hurt the SEO 's business if it isnt? I'm not sure of the answer, but I personally like it when I can call a online marketing team, with a main contact, who is 'all-over' this industry and can accomodate all types of traffic generation.

    Any day of the week, if someone says to me, I'll quadruple your traffic overnight, heres my plan, we'll do it wednesday, here's the detail, here is the target audience (etc etc) want in? I'm in.

    I dont stop the consistent SEO flow, but I certainly dont discourage clever spikes and surges in traffic either!

    Oh, thanks for visiting!

  11. Hi Drew,
    It is my opinion that the SMB will not care (ultimately) where the traffic comes from if it results in a sale & can be qualified as the source of the sale, if that is the intention. SEO is so incredibly important to each and every SMB website, but its not enough & 2010 will ram that home. We need to do more than SEO, Way more!

    You say “SEO's don't reject general online marketing”. I hope that is true. It might be grossly unfair, but they will be the first people SMB's look to and ask – what about Twitter? What about Social Networking?

    The Septuagenarian Cigar manufacturer would be silly not to consider tweeting his/her band of loyal fans, suppliers, smokers. You pose the question, “Do you think they even know what social media is…?” I think it is naive not to say yes. I think it is folly if an SEO doesnt introduce the idea to the client. People subscribe to Twitter like they subscribe to newsletters. If you find it interesting, you can do it!

    I think our own knowledge and aptitude at blogging, the speed in which we execute our opinions, and the feedback we gain from a global audience should be passed on to clients (SMB's), by SEO's. They should never stop pushing their links to the top of search pages, however, and I doubt it will ever be less important in a coming year, than a previous year.

  12. I checked my SEO and online marketing proposals from over 3 years ago and was happy to see that even back then I was offering my clients social media links, video creation and submissions, press release submissions, article and content submissions, etc.

    The point is that the more you get this stuff out there the more success your clients will end up having.

    I really boils down to exposure, exposure, exposure. If you can get your clients mentioned in the hot spots online and get them exposure to hundreds or thousands of high traffic sites they will end up getting results from that. You need to strategize how you get them there, but like any marketing the more you do, the more you get in return.

  13. Love the post. Agree with the reasoning, but I just don't think SEO will become less important. Given the integration between social media and SEO and new developments like real-time search, SEO will become more important. Now, perhaps SEO companies and vendors will become less important as organizations realize that the appropriate way to address SEO is to consistently produce high quality, relevant content.

    Anyway, I used your material and linked to your post at Marketing Trenches in a post titled “Prediction: Marketers Will Publish Lots of Lists in 2010″. Thanks again for providing high quality material and writing.

  14. Lee –

    I'm confused. I'm one of the “guys” in the video. This is the second place you've posted an almost identical message (the other is on Search Engine Land). And the second place I am responding to you.

    What do you mean, “obviously, some of the premises in Robert’s post about SEO are “off” and are marketingspeak presented by the guys in the video to distinguish their new project.”

    If you watched the video, you would clearly see that Robert did not use a single quote from us. None of our “premises” from in the video are found in his post.

    The stuff we said is common knowledge among all SEOs working with SMBs and local businesses.

    Let me say this for the 27th time: our interview itself does not agree with Robert's post – and neither do we.

    The whole idea was to have a general talk about search and SMBs, and let folks know MyNextCustomer is coming soon. That’s it. Robert decided to be provocative all on his own.


  15. Robert and George,

    Fascinating– beyond the question of what is SEO, the real issues are:

    * Transparency between agencies and clients– percentage of spend vs fee taken.
    * Simplicity– the local dentist doesn't have time for jargon
    * Performance– and that's where MyNextCustomer.com ties transparency and simplicity together to drive calls, such that we can determine cost per call and number of calls.

    I am excited to see what happens when George and Dustin public release in January– no question their product will KILL it with cost per call. My question will be how ROIworks (mynextcustomer.com) scales up and handles new channels of traffic.

  16. Hi David,
    I agree with your insights about the proper strategy for getting users engaged on a blog. I don't think you can do that through “stats and graphs” either.

    I did not make a link to make site for SEO purposes, that wouldn't make much sense – a link in a comment in Google's eye matters little, nothing or sometimes negatively; there are people who spam links to their competitors, after all. To answer your question, though, in your own words perhaps to get “direct referrals from targeted audiences” and hopefully get a handful of Scoble readers who share the “SEO isn't important” sentiment to consider the facts. If it's clamoring for attention, then, gee, yeah, guilty as charged. On that respect, that would put us all (everyone who blogs, comments on blogs, engages in social networks, etc.) before the firing squad.

    Now, if I had a website that was big money to me – my blog isn't – my chief concern would be finding where my best-converting audience is and how to get referrals from there – it could be organic, paid advertising, the radio, who knows? The point is, good SEOs don't reject general online marketing. And as Danny Sullivan notes, this isn't some radical new generalization we've invented here. But to suggest that SEO (one of many niche forms of online marketing) won't be important in 2010 is equivalent to saying that search engines won't be important. If you were an online cigar retailer, for example, would you invest your money in a Twitter campaign?? Do you think all the septuagenarian cigar smokers even know what social media is?

    So 2010 will be like 2009 and the year before and before that. For most online businesses, rankings in Google and other search engines will matter. And SEOs will keep getting paid big money for the huge ROI on this front. As a disclaimer, I'm not an SEO, I'm a software developer.

  17. Sure, Like I said above david, the traffic is certain when a high profiler does a mention of a brand amongst it's followers, however, How consistent or rather I would say How permanent it would be?

    These are some huge surges of traffic which eventually settle down within a very short time frame. To keep a consistent flow and to hold on to the surge to ride the wave as long as it lasts, requires a strong base, and SEO basics (on-page and tid bits of off-page in this case) can provide the same.

    A website http://www.my-domain-is-freakin-damn-good-than-… can surely hold great content, can surely get surges of traffic, but I highly doubt if it can sustain it for long! I for sure, can't even remember what I just typed above :)

    I agree with the lines you wrote “Google, Bing and basic SEO startegies are still alive and well” .. Just thought, they are worth more brightness than the amount of the light they are getting right now ;)

    You tempted me to visit your site, duh! Word of mouth also works ;)

  18. Hi Drew, Can I ask why you linked to your Blog?
    I think this is where the SEO game is changing. Businesses and Bloggers alike are signalling to an engaged audience who don't need Google to help navigate their path to your website. This was a tiny part of the industry 10 years ago. Today? Its huge. 2010? It will be massive. Direct Referrals from targeted audiences will be more valuable than a bunch of stats and graphs.
    Lastly, the clever (slightly aggressive) tone in your reply further indicates a push to click your link. Nothing wrong with that, but it emphasises the point as to how we are changing the way traffic is driven to our websites.

  19. re: SEO in 2010
    Its my blog, your blog and everyone elses blog. its my facebook, yuor facebook, my twitter, your twitter, its the dozens of content rich & relevant links on the social networking and blog pages that are changing the game (for me anyway) When a high profile columnist in Australia twittered her followers about my website, the traffic went through the roof – like NOTHING I have seen before on a google analytics report. It all changed for me right then. Google, Bing and basic SEO startegies are still alive and well but a good link on the right social networking page – or on the end of a big tweet – is a game changer.

    Regards David Lithgow
    http://www.FashionAddict.com.au – Director

  20. You say tomato, I say to-mah-to. Same difference.

    Good search marketers know SEO, are expert at technical aspects of competitive web publishing, know how PPC and advertising play along with natural (direct traffic) and organic seo. They understand the roots of social media (word of mouth advertising plus publishing tools suitable for the masses, plus syndication in various forms, including verticalization of audience). They know keywords better than anyone, and they understand Google and Bing.

    I'll grant that no one on earth understands Yahoo!, but that's a separate question.

    The best search marketers also understand messaging, issue framing, and market shaping… Where Google points, the search marketers go (often in advance). Right now Google is messing around with everything.. it's of serious concern to search marketers.

    Argue any aspect of SEO vs. “Social Media” as you like… you're a media talking head.. it's what you do. But when the chips are down, and you state that you want clarity and want to inform your readers of the right path, you should point them to known, respected, and capable competitive web publishers who understand all of these components of the online marketing picture. You'll invariably find them at search marketing meetings and in search marketing forums.

  21. 2010 most certainly isn't the year that SEO isn't important anymore, less important? Perhaps, but this replaced by knowledge and action of the factors that are taking greater precedence .

    For as long as search engines offer businesses a route to valuable low cost traffic through knowledgeable engagement w/ factors that help them get there, then the providers of such services will continue to flourish.

    The game is most certainly evolving and yet I suspect that companies and individuals who offer the best insights and tools that help businesses make the most of all channels, through holistic understanding of how they all work together, will continue to be the best to work with.

    SEO isn't going anywhere, it's still a part of the bigger picture, just as is dispaly, and affiliate and ppc. Old school seo techniques may further decline as the risk to reward factors are re-evaluated. Investment in factors that search engines assign increased importance will continue to grow. Businesses that engage socially will succeed, while businesses that don't will fail. It's exciting times for search, the means of succeeding organically continue to change as the signals used to measure them are increasingly aligned to buzz, activity and authority. Which I guess is how it ultimately should be…create value, create conversations, get people talking about you. Similar to how you have here Robert with your linkbaity title ;)

  22. Robert, have you considered going into consulting and telling bloggers how to write on topics they don't have any knowledge of and with little or no citations and still get loyal readers? Seriously, there could be some money in this game.

    Here's my own reaction to your post: http://quaternion.posterous.com/2010-is-the-yea

    Please, by all means, do a little bit of research before blogging. Or just stop.

  23. The problem that I am seeing with a lot of comments is that SEO and SEM, although semantically different, are pretty much the same. What I mean by that is, if search engines begin to use social media to help with ranking, wouldn't using social media help “optimize” where a company shows up in that search?

    And as for comments such as Blogercise's, “Yep, I've been saying this for ages. We all know that Google often fails to give us good results, throwing up tired and gamed affiliate sites (some made by me!) which don't really meet the user's search requirements. Of course Google were going to improve on this! ”
    If you weren't optimizing to meet the needs of your client's customers and were just optimizing to get the website up for as many keywords as possible, then you were doing a disservice to your clients and wasting their money. It has never been about the best way to reach the most people, it is about the best way to reach the right people, the highest conversion rate and the lowest bounce rate.

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