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Will Social Search Kill the Art of SEO?

Moments after it became possible to search the internet, people began trying to figure out how to be the number 1 result in those searches. This is the meat and potatoes of SEO (Search Engine Optimization), and there is an entire industry dedicated to applying what some would call tricks to help companies improve their position in SERPS (search engine results pages). Companies often spend tens of thousands of dollars to move up two or three positions in a SERP.

But is the SEO industry going to disappear? SEO guru and expert Adam Torkildson believes it will, within the next couple of years.

Ken Krouge, who interviewed Adam about SEO in March, mentions Google’s Penguin update as proof that Adam is right.

Google proved Adam right one month later (to the day) with the “Penguin release” that is a code name for the algorithm that decreased search engine rankings of companies who were using schemes to artificially increase their rankings. Google decided to change the weight of their emphasis from “backlinks” more towards social media likes, shares, tweets, reddits, and 1+ (Googles obvious favorite.) In the world of digital media the emphasis is on follows, comments, and views as well.

Now when people discuss social media impacting search results, they don’t mean Facebook; Facebook posts, comments, and likes aren’t indexable by Google unless they are public, which leaves out a fair amount of updates on the site. Twitter is, but has less of an impact on SEO than you’d expect. The real SEO juice from social comes from Google’s own platform, Google+.

Google+ evangelist and social media expert Lynette Young (a friend of mine) agrees in a recent post on her blog.

In a nutshell, I’ve believed this since last fall with the onset of Google+, and probably even hoped for it before that. I have been a fan and believer in content marketing over search engine optimization  for a very long time and with the use of (the apparently non-existant but still in use)  AuthorRank. To me, it feels like control of search results are coming back into the control of the digital publisherand the knowledge seeker. Basically, produce great and targeted content designed to benefit you and your potential reader (customer etc.) and if the search engines do what they are supposed to do bubble up the right content to the right person at the right time.

As a content creator and one who firmly believes in creating and curating great and rich content I love the idea that content will trump backlink trickery in time. But I don’t really believe that SEO as an industry will disappear; the smartest SEO experts are nubile and adaptable and will likely switch back from link buying to content creation.

I recently had the privilege of seeing Wil Reynolds speak about SEO and the recent changes to best practices in the field (including an update to Penguin that was done last week). He spoke about many things that aren’t valid SEO practices (for instance, he said, “Meta keywords haven’t impacted search results since 2006. If your SEO expert claims they do, they don’t know what they are talking about.” Uh, okay, and WOW.) He definitely agrees that SEO is rapidly changing and needs to adapt to Google’s efforts, particularly social media (mostly Google+; Wil firmly believes that other social media platforms have limited effectiveness when it comes to SEO).

It seems to me that we need the Wil Reynolds and the Adam Torkildsons of the SEO world to help us make sense, at the very least, of the constant updates that Google makes to its algorithm. And if those changes mean that they hire more content creators, well, I’m all for that.

What do you think? Is social search going to kill SEO?

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