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Why SEO is just sooooo 2009. Is social media the future of internet search?

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I was over in the States last November at an Information Marketing Seminar — and they were saying the same thing. SEO is doomed. In the format we know it, at least.

Their (these being guys who’ve been in Info Marketing for 30 years and on the internet since it all started) thoughts were that SEO is now competing with social media in terms of people looking for stuff… and in my experience, they’re right.

I used to Google hairdressers, plumbers, cafes. Now I ask my Facebook and Twitter connections who to go to, because a personal recommendation tells me a lot more than someone’s website can.

Further, as soon as I start posting about needing hairdressers in Melbourne, suddenly I see a whole bunch of smart ads telling me about… hairdressers in Melbourne! How did they know?!

There’s a lot of talk about the ability of Facebook to take over from Google as the top search engine.

As Mashable’s Josh Catone wrote last year in The New Search War: Google vs Facebook:

“About 15 months ago, Paul Buchheit, the founder of FriendFeed, actually wrote that the human link data at sites like Facebook ‘could ultimately be more valuable than the link data from the web’ that Google’s search engine is based on — someone just needs to mine it.”

Of course, not everyone is on social media — and many of those who are at the moment are business people who only use it to spam their crap and would never do something as money-making as actually interacting and asking for advice. *rolls eyes*

That said, SEO can’t last forever — just like email can’t last forever. Things change. And it seems that technology is very much moving to the social platform (Wave, Facebook, Twitter) — this is all still in its infancy in terms of how it’ll end up, I’m sure! Who knows where it’s going to go next…

But I think it’s fair to say that if you look at the way the internet has been used for business up until now, it’s kinda like TV in the old days — all broadcast. If you want to advertise something, you put your ad together and pay someone to broadcast it for you to whoever is watching.

Then the internet came along and changed that. All of a sudden Google allowed us to manage our metrics and go after a niche. Facebook advertising is even MORE niched, allowing you to choose who sees your ad based on geography, gender, age, education level, interests, marital status (there’s been a lot of complaints from Facebook users that dating sites appear to be targeting their advertising at people who are recently engaged and married).

The world freaked out in August 2008 when YouTube passed Yahoo as the world’s second most popular search engine.

YouTube has maintained this spot and is growing month-on-month, while Yahoo declines.

What does this mean for businesses?

Well, clearly you need to be on YouTube for your top keywords (I’m amazed how few businesses are utilising video marketing effectively!).

More importantly, it means we need to be thinking beyond SEO. Whether that’s to social search or not isn’t really the point.

People (even business people) have a bad habit of assuming that stuff will keep working the way it has been working and then getting totally blindsided by changes that “no one could have seen coming!”.

Like email (You know, right, that kids aged 16 and below don’t email each other? They think of email as a “way to contact old people”.), SEO has a limited lifespan. So what’s next? If you’re staying on top of the game, you’ll have already realised there is a next.

Expert consensus seems to point to social search, but whatever. Back something. Do something. Because it’s the early adopters who always profit …

Leela Cosgrove is Managing Director of Business Writers Anonymous, focused on sales, marketing and business development. She is also a firewalker, has a black-belt in Tae Kwon Do, a penchant for tattoos, and enjoys bands such as Rammstein, Li Bach, Marilyn Manson, Pennywise and Bad Religion.

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